Growing up in southern Cayuga county in the 60's, the long bus rides to and from school were made more entertaining by what came out of the AM radio speakers, pulled from the dashboard of some sedan and mounted along the interior roof line of the school bus. At some point in the late 60's, our bus driver got tired of WGVA in Geneva and switched over to 62-WHEN. It was a moment of triumph for great radio and opened up a whole new world of music, personality and news from Syracuse. The Cummings kids quickly discovered the powerful, 5000 watt signal at 620 was also the place to keep the transistor radios parked for good music and radio fun all day and into the evening. Sweet Dick, Jack Mindy, Jerry Morgan and all the others became part of our lives in those formative years...along with that dependable, top of the hour, five minute newscast.
Fast forward to April of 1978. I was two years out of college and working my third radio news job, at WTKO in Ithaca. I pick up the phone in the newsroom one day, and on the line is 62-WHEN News Director Bill Carey, offering me a job at the station I had always dreamed of working for. By the end of that month, I was on the job, anchoring midday news Monday through Friday and Sunday early mornings at one of the best radio news operations anywhere. Phil Markert was working his final week (of his first stint at WHEN), and I was working my first week. My first tour of duty at "Newswatch 62" ran from that Spring of 1978 through mid-summer of 1981. I got the chance to learn from the master (that would be Bill), and got to know a great bunch of young colleagues in news and music programming. The summertime softball with the Basebreakers (and late nights of celebration that followed the games) were a highlight of those years, indelibly printed in my heart and soul. Just as much as the news stories I reported and anchored, the music also sticks in my mind. The hit songs from that era will always be rooted in the memories at WHEN. It was also during this era, when we evolved the morning drive top of the hour newscast from 5 minutes, to ten minutes.
After spending two years getting my masters degree at Cornell, I was unable to resist the chance to rejoin 62-WHEN, again at the request of Bill Carey. In late 1983, he had an assignment editor opening, and I took it with nary a second thought. This time, my service at the studios along Old Liverpool Road would be shorter. I joined Newschannel 9 (then WIXT Eyewitness News) in December of 1984, more than ready to make the move to TV after my years on the street and on the air at 62-WHEN.
Under Bill's leadership, the news and public affairs programming at WHEN radio soared to a market leadership position. Those who toiled at that "other" station's radio newsroom, WSYR, might want to recall otherwise, but ratings, history and a long list of awards will testify to the dominance and the quality of the trademark local newscasts that all of Central New York came to rely on from 62-WHEN.
There will always be a sense in which radio news is broadcast journalism at its most pure, unadulterated best.
I often bemoan the decline of radio news in Central New York. but I also proudly recall the days when I had the opportunity to be part of something special at "Newswatch 62." The work we did together, and the friendships we made, will never be forgotten.