Bob Ryan – The Weatherman Pushes Back

Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

Bob Ryan is a weather fixture in Washington, DC. He’s been on the NBC owned station for around 30 years. Today he is my hero. On this pre-blizzard day when his station will probably show huge viewership he’s in the news.

From the Washington Post:

A dramatic change may be ahead for Washington’s weather forecasts. And it has nothing to do with Friday’s much anticipated snowstorm.

Bob Ryan, the most-watched television weather forecaster in Washington and a fixture at WRC (Channel 4) for nearly 30 years, is considering leaving the station and jumping to rival WJLA, people familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

bob-ryan-dc.jpgDon’t get me wrong. I am not happy because Bob may be leaving WRC. Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

The trend in my business has been falling salaries, not rising. This is the first I’ve seen where that trend might be bucked!

What boss or owner doesn’t want to buy the same thing for less? Bob’s station is owned by NBC which has been very aggressive in that regard.

Some of the cuts anchors and reporters have were huge. Often they’ve been accompanied by added responsibilities and/or reduced benefits and security. All the cuts have been taken with impunity.

Bob Ryan is pushing back against bosses who’ve forgotten that can happen.

Granted, we’re talking about a guy who should receive no sympathy over compensation. If Bob Ryan isn’t making 7-figures he’s certainly in the high hundreds of thousands per year. As a longtime AFTRA member he’s got a very nice pension plan. This is not about whether his family will eat or not.

There will never be another Bob Ryan in Washington. The kind of following he has, built over years when TV stations had much more commanding audience numbers, just can’t happen today. He knows that. They know that.

I will be very curious how this turns out. So will every other high profile on-air performer. It’s more than idle curiosity.

Harry Wolf

She was an amazing catch and Harry knew it. She loved him unconditionally from day one.

harry-debby-andy-wolf.jpgIra Ludwin called me tonight. I haven’t spoken to him in a while. Our mutual friend Harry Wolf was killed in a car crash. I hadn’t spoken to Harry in a while either.

Harry and I, to use the term currently in vogue, palled around in the 70s. We were friends through ham radio. I knew Harry when he met, moved in with, then married Debby. They were married 32 years. They had a son and daughter–both in their twenties now.

Harry was an off-center kind of guy. Bald early, Harry wore glasses and was never confused with an athlete. He was a smart guy who knew a lot about a lot of different things. He ran a self-financed talk show on a little station in Jersey. I understand he was teaching recently–at Temple, his alma mater.

His relationship with Debby was the best part of the story. She was an amazing catch and Harry knew it. She loved him unconditionally from day one. It is difficult to conceive a more nurturing relationship.

Tonight on the phone Debby reminded me of July 4, 1976. I was living in the Philly area. Harry and Debby, along with a few other friends went to Washington, DC for the Bicentennial fireworks.

We sat on a small hill overlooking the Mall. Our section applauded loudly when, from our vantage point, it looked like a shell would hit a plane. I know that sounds awful today, but we knew it was just an optical illusion. It was a good natured example of homogeneous crowd personality. It was a memorable day all around.

What do you say at a time like this?

This is the part of life they never explain when you’re growing up.

The Numbers Are In

Nielen ratings are in for last night’s debate

The Nielsen ratings are in for last night’s debate. I’m confused by the list of stations aggregated which doesn’t include Fox News and MSNBC, both of which would add significantly to the final total.

If these overnight numbers stand, the ratings are well below other recent debates.

OK–I’m a little surprised. I thought for sure there would be a lot more interest considering all the buzz.

DMA Rank Market RTG Rank RTG SHR (000) 21 St. Louis 1 52.1 82.0 649 48 Memphis 2 49.5 67.0 330 26 Baltimore 3 47.1 66.0 515 9 Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 4 44.6 68.0 1030 29 Nashville 5 44.0 66.0 424 46 Greensboro-H.Point-W.Salem 6 42.2 61.0 285 32 Columbus, OH 7 41.5 63.0 377 43 Norfolk-Portsmth-Newpt Nws 8 41.4 59.0 298 58 Richmond-Petersburg 9 40.3 55.0 211 18 Denver 10 39.7 65.0 586 24 Charlotte 11 39.3 54.0 426 7 Boston (Manchester) 12 39.3 58.0 944 22 Portland, OR 13 39.0 74.0 450 31 Kansas City 14 37.7 61.0 350 16 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 15 37.2 52.0 573 38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 16 36.4 55.0 282 27 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 17 36.2 54.0 377 51 Buffalo 18 36.1 54.0 230 25 Indianapolis 19 35.3 59.0 379 53 New Orleans 20 34.8 48 209 11 Detroit 21 34.3 55.0 661 59 Knoxville 22 34.3 51.0 185 61 Tulsa 23 34.1 55.0 178 45 Oklahoma City 24 34.0 55.0 231 40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 25 33.5 48.0 245 52 Providence-New Bedford 26 33.5 50.0 211 15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 27 33.4 59.0 569 19 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 28 33.4 52.0 479 62 Ft. Myers-Naples 29 33.3 51.0 164 28 San Diego 30 33.0 59.0 349 50 Louisville 31 33.0 48.0 218 17 Cleveland-Akron (Canton) 32 32.9 55.0 505 37 San Antonio 33 32.9 48.0 261 20 Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 34 32.7 55.0 454 4 Philadelphia 35 32.1 51.0 941 44 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 36 32.1 50.0 218 23 Pittsburgh 37 32.1 51.0 371 6 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 38 32.0 62.0 779 13 Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 39 31.7 49.0 569 49 Austin 40 31.6 52.0 201 36 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 41 31.5 46.0 265 64 Dayton 42 31.4 50.0 161 1 New York 43 31.3 48.0 2317 8 Atlanta 44 30.9 52.0 714 3 Chicago 45 30.7 51.0 1067 14 Seattle-Tacoma 46 30.3 58.0 541 30 Hartford & New Haven 47 30.2 45.0 306 47 Jacksonville 48 30.0 47.0 196 33 Salt Lake City 49 29.9 63.0 261 35 Milwaukee 50 29.2 49.0 262 34 Cincinnati 51 28.3 49.0 256 42 Las Vegas 52 27.9 46.0 196 5 Dallas-Ft. Worth 53 27.7 46.0 671 2 Los Angeles 54 26.4 50.0 1484 12 Phoenix (Prescott) 55 24.8 47.0 448 10 Houston* 56 0.0 0.0 0 Weighted Avg. of 55 markets* 33.2

Bob Leaves And Gets Honored



WASHINGTON, DC – NAB announced today the finalists for the NAB Marconi Radio Awards honoring radio stations and on-air personalities for excellence in broadcasting. The winners will be announced on September 18 at the NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner & Show held during The NAB Radio Show at the Austin Convention Center.

The finalists are:

Network Syndicated Personality of the Year

Glenn Beck, Premiere Radio Networks

Bob & Sheri, Greater Media Charlotte

Neal Boortz, Cox Radio/Dial Global

Steve Harvey, Premiere Radio Networks

Kidd Kraddick, Yea! Network

Amazing Technology

My friend Farrell is moving from Washington, DC to California. Currently, he’s somewhere close to nowhere – in New Mexico, just east of Gallup. There’s a lot of nothing in New Mexico. Some of it is beautiful nothing, but it’s nothing nonetheless.

Farrell and his wife, Vered, are driving cross country. Maybe I’m getting too old. I don’t hear of friends doing that anymore, as I did when I was in my twenties.

They left DC and headed to Memphis. From there it was off to Amarillo. Who knows how far they’ll get tonight before stopping and resting.

Here’s what makes this so interesting for me. We’ve been talking for much of the trip. Sometimes it’s on the phone. Mostly it’s on Instant Messenger.

Farrell has a Blackberry (aka – Crackberry) permanently affixed to his hip. So far, reception’s been good.

Between the Blackberry and satellite radio in the car, he has all the advantages of travel without the really awful parts – horrendous local radio and no communication.

He’s probably near one of the few places I was ever stopped for speeding. It was on I-40 in Quay County, NM. I was moving from Phoenix to Philadelphia, so 1975 sounds right.

I was stopped for doing 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. Of course, before the ‘gas crisis’ of the early 70s it was a 75 mph zone! Farrell tells me it’s a 75 mph zone again.

This October, Helaine and I will also be driving through New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. My chats with Farrell have further gotten me in the mood.

I’m hoping there’s a statute of limitations, because I’m not sure I paid that speeding ticket.

Weather Opening

Tony Perkins is leaving Good Morning America after seven years. He’s returning to Washington, DC to do weather and stories.

OK – I’ll admit it, that is my ideal job. I can say that in public, because I’m sure even my bosses know. They also know how unlikely it is to ever come true.

The GMA weather position is very different from local weather. I used to fill-in there and remember hearing joking references to 50 states/60 seconds. But, it was loads of fun and is probably more so now with the addition of interaction with the Times Square crowd.

Just in case you’re Ben Sherwood&#185, reading this, wondering who to choose… here I am.

More than likely my heart will be broken. I have been without an agent for years. There was no reason to have one, considering I’ve been at one station for 21 years. I don’t think a submission ‘over the transom’ would even be considered.

However, I can still dream.

&#185 – Ben Sherwood is executive producer of GMA and probably ultimately responsible for making the hire.

My First Car

The five of us went out this afternoon for a quick shopping trip. First though was a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee. It was there I spied the green Volkswagen.

As it turns out, there’s a guy in my town who has a business refurbishing these tiny cars.

The car I saw (and the car in the picture here on the web) is a ’67. Mine was a ’60. There is a lot of difference internally&#185, but from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s the same car. In fact, mine was the same color green, albeit faded and pock marked with rust.

Looking at that old Beetle brought back a lot of memories. With its narrow tires the VW moved around the road as if it were in a dance contest. There was no way to keep it in one lane as long as there was any breeze at all!

There were no seat belts, air bags nor any other kind of modern safety equipment. The dashboard was metallic and not padded. To make matters worse, the gas tank was under the hood, sitting pretty much on top of your feet.

Speaking of under the hood, that’s where the trunk was… and also where you filled the gas tank. I opened the trunk of the car at Dunkin’ Donuts and instantly was reminded the body had the thickness and resilience of an Altoids box!

With its little air cooled engine, it could accelerate 0-60 mph in a week or so. Actually, mine could barely get to 60 mph (I think I once got it to 63 mph). On a steep grade, even when starting at highway speed, you’d have to downshift to maintain. That meant a top uphill speed under 50 mph!

While cruising at top speed, I remember trying to throw my weight forward, as if it would help accelerate the car.

Since there was no radiator (it was an air cooled engine after all) the heater/defroster was challenged. It was always cold in the winter and anything that fell from the sky stuck on the windshield. The little wiper blades were totally ineffectual.

Did I mention I loved this car.

I bought it from what I thought was a private owner. As I later discovered, I bought it from someone who had purchased it after a wreck (let’s use the southern vernacular) and redid the body.

More than once the master cylinder, which powered the braking system, failed. I drove around for weeks at a time using only the emergency brake. What a stupid thing to do. I’m not proud. In fact, looking back, I am appalled. What was I thinking?

I bought the car with the intention of bringing it back to Boston where I was going to school. I paid my money, but didn’t know how to operate a ‘standard’. The Volkswagen had a ‘four on the floor’ manual transmission which had to be coordinated with proper use of the clutch. Two feet for driving and only the left hand dedicated to steering, with the right throwing the shifter.

The car’s seller sat in the front seat and gave me a lesson. We drove around my neighborhood of six story apartment buildings in Flushing for about five minutes. I hit no one. That was it. Lesson complete. Within the next half hour I was on my way north!

As I remember it, I stalled the car while leaving the toll booth on the Whitestone Bridge.

Having a VW was great for Boston. It could fit into nearly any space, legal or not. In that pre-computer age I collected parking tickets issued by the Boston Police Department and strung them together like a string of pearls.

Even today, 35 years later, I worry they may still be looking for me – somehow establishing a waiver to the statute of limitations since I owed enough to bail the Commonwealth out of any financial jam.

That little car that I bought for $400 meant so much to me. It was an integral part of my growing up. When I moved to Florida, it was the VW that moved me there – everything I owned and still room to pick up a hitchhiker on the way to Washington, DC.

Seeing this green car today meant a lot to me. I know I stayed and gabbed and slowed everyone else in the family down. I called Steffie over to look, but it was meaningless to her. You had to be there, back in the 60s when the VW Beetle was a symbol of the counterculture.

Today, again, for a few moments I was.

&#185 – All cars now, and the car in the photo above, have 12 volt electrical systems with negative ground. My 1960 Beetle had a 6 volt system with a positive ground. All it meant was it was impossible to find anything that worked in the VW that wasn’t specifically designed for it.