`Junkies' moving in, `Fan' moves back

Media Watch

April 22, 1999|By Milton Kent

If they awarded frequent-traveler points to sports radio talk show hosts based on the number of stations where they've worked, Stan "The Fan" Charles would have enough to make 10 round trips to China, but he's about to make a move that is not necessarily of his travel agent's making.

WJFK (1300 AM), where Charles is stationed, is about to move him out of the early-evening time slot he's been in since he landed at the station two years ago today, back to the 10 p.m. slot he left.

The station intends to begin syndicating "The Sports Junkies," a Washington-based "sports entertainment" show that will air nightly on WJFK-FM, starting May 18, right after the also-syndicated "Don and Mike" show. The "Junkies" will start somewhere around 7: 30, with Charles' show coming on the air around 10 or so.

Charles said yesterday that he was "in negotiations" with station management about working the later hours, as well as doing some weekend and Ravens work.

"Right now, I'm in an information-gathering mode. I need to sit down and discuss some issues with Gary Balaban [station operations manager] and Ken Stevens [chief operating officer] before I sign off on this," said Charles.

It's worth noting that when Charles left WCBM (680 AM) two years ago to come to WJFK, one of his stated reasons was that he had grown tired of the night shift, a position he reiterated yesterday.

"It [the late shift] is something I had done since 1985. At that point [two years ago], I was pretty fried and burned out. I thought we had made some inroads, but the station feels that they want to allocate their resources in another way," said Charles.

Charles' ratings in the 7: 30 time slot have been, for the most part, below what he was getting in the late night, and the move could be good for him professionally, and for the station, because it will get in the "Sports Junkies," a product that is less expensive -- because it's already produced elsewhere -- in an area with more listeners than the late slot.

The move means that there will be no locally generated sports talk show in the early evening to run against Orioles programming, but Balaban, operations director of WJFK-AM and WLIF (101.9 FM), said the "Junkies" will discuss the Orioles and Ravens as well as other topics during their program.

Besides, said Balaban, the Orioles aren't all that fearsome an opponent to program against.

"The world does not revolve around the Orioles exclusively," said Balaban. "I should think that in a town this size that we could air a local talk show in spite of the Orioles. Not everybody feels that way, though."

Balaban said the station's "Monday Night Madness" program with Charles, Tom Matte and Bruce Laird will continue in the early evening, meaning the "Sports Junkies" will air four nights a week.

Recognizing greatness

During a conference call yesterday to promote an upcoming NBC baseball special, Bob Costas, one of the best baseball announcers of this generation, tossed a verbal bouquet to one of the great baseball announcers of any generation, Ernie Harwell.

Costas, who lives in St. Louis, recalled that, on a recent car trip with his 12-year-old son, he happened to pull in a broadcast from Detroit, where Harwell was toiling. Harwell has called Tigers games since 1960, after he left Baltimore as one of the original voices of the American League Orioles in 1954.

"I said to my son, `Listen to this guy. He sounds so much like he did when he was doing the Tigers and Cardinals in the World Series 30 years ago,' " said Costas. "His enthusiasm is still there, the quality of his voice is still there. I don't see him making mistakes, which would indicate his faculties had fallen, and when your faculties fall off, then you've got a problem."

Not too proud to beg

Local media types are chuckling over the reprimand extended this month to Channel 13 by Nielsen over a rather ham-handed attempt by weeknight sports anchor John Buren to influence the February sweeps.

It seems the "sports guy" issued an on-air thanks to viewers at 6 p.m. on Feb. 25 for watching the previous night's prime-time programming and then staying tuned to the 11 p.m. news.

Then Buren, whose station was locked in a tight battle with Channel 11 for sweeps supremacy, said: "We need you tonight especially our special viewers, and you know who you are, with that little box on the back of your set," referring to the people meters attached to televisions that are monitored by Nielsen for ratings measurements.

Buren went on to pledge -- we presume jokingly -- that the 11 p.m. show that night would have the "truth about the Kennedy assassination" and a live interview with an alien.

In a memo to stations, Nielsen expressed its "opposition to any attempt by stations to exhort the public to cooperate with station audience measurement services whether over the air or by other means because of its possible biasing effect."

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