WTTR flips dial from talk shows to oldies music Radio station in Carroll still carries local news

July 05, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The voice of Carroll County just got older.

Westminster radio station WTTR-AM replaced its lineup of talk shows last week with oldies music programming, but the station will continue to broadcast local news and sports reports, station officials said.

The format switch is part of a shake-up initiated by the station's owner, Shamrock Communications of Scranton, Pa.

In spite of the changes, WTTR has a strong commitment to local programming, said Dwight Dingle, the station's longtime general manager. Dingle has been reassigned to the post of station manager, but said he will continue to oversee daily operations.

"The essence of the radio station hasn't changed a bit as far as local news and local information, and in the long run it's going to serve the community even better," he said.

Listeners tune in to WTTR at 1470 for local coverage of everything from Carroll politics to the daily cafeteria offerings at county schools.

"We've been the voice of Carroll County in the past, and we will be in the present and future," said Dingle, who joined the station in 1974 and had been the general manger for 14 years.

Dingle will return to the air as host for a 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. show. Sports director Brian McLean will oversee sports news, but his job as business director will be absorbed by staff at WGRX-FM at Hunt Valley, WTTR's sister station, also owned by Shamrock.

"People come to us for stuff about Carroll County," said Jim Loftus, Shamrock's vice president of East Coast operations. "In our traffic reports we don't even talk about the [Baltimore] Beltway."

WTTR added the talk show format three years ago. Programs included "Dr. Laura," the "Dolans," "Joan Rivers" and "Sports Overnight America."

The elimination of talk shows and the shift to oldies music is an effort to target the station's older audience and to bring more consistency to programming, Loftus said.

"We looked at marketing and planning demographics and decided the best way to serve Carroll County was to put more elements into the station that target adults 35 and older," he said. "Other than Orioles or Ravens games, it's mostly older adults that listen to the radio station, and we thought oldies was the best format choice."

Dingle said he hopes that the modified format will attract an audience that stays tuned in for longer periods of time, instead of listeners who "pick and choose" among the talk shows.

"They'd hear Dr. Laura talking about family and relationships, then they'd turn us on [at a different time] and hear somebody talking about the NBA draft or how to plant pansies," he said. "This certainly broadens our audience."

Since the format switch Tuesday at midnight, listener response has been varied, Dingle said. The morning audience was overwhelmingly in favor of the change, while afternoon talk radio fans registered some complaints.

"Granted, we're going to give up some listeners that love 'Dr. Laura,' but by the same token we'll be picking up a lot that tuned out for that time," Dingle said.

The reorganization is an attempt to consolidate some operations at WTTR and WGRX-FM.

"We just realized there were some resources and assets we were not taking advantage of," said WGRX general manager Jeff Laird.

Laird, who began overseeing both stations last week, said the seven-person WGRX sales staff and the five-person WTTR sales staff have been combined into one department. Account executives now sell air time on both stations.

Jeff Adams and Mark Woodworth will remain in their positions as program director and news director at WTTR, respectively. But the station's sales manager position has been eliminated. Laird's staff will oversee WTTR sales.

The changes at WTTR follow programming modifications at WGRX that have occurred since Laird became general manager there six months ago.

Most notably, WGRX abandoned its "froggy" format. Laird said the "froggy" designation -- in which DJs made repeated references to frogs -- is a marketing approach used nationwide by country music stations. But the concept did not do well against WPOC, the dominant FM country station in the Baltimore area.

"It was considered juvenile by people listening to country music on FM," Laird said. "We defrogged it. Now we're 'New Country 100.7.' "

Pub Date: 7/05/98

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