7 episodes

Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey is a six-episode limited podcast series from Your Public Studios.

Hosted by noted storyteller and actress Maria Broom, and featuring interviews and archival tape, the podcast will take listeners on a journey from public radio’s early days to now. Listeners will learn about the evolution of WYPR, WTMD, WEAA and WBJC, how the stations responded to major news stories, featured local and national musicians, and how they found their place in Baltimore’s current radio scene.

Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey WYPR

    • History
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey is a six-episode limited podcast series from Your Public Studios.

Hosted by noted storyteller and actress Maria Broom, and featuring interviews and archival tape, the podcast will take listeners on a journey from public radio’s early days to now. Listeners will learn about the evolution of WYPR, WTMD, WEAA and WBJC, how the stations responded to major news stories, featured local and national musicians, and how they found their place in Baltimore’s current radio scene.

    Local stations respond to The Uprising

    Local stations respond to The Uprising

    This episode of Wavelength explores local public radio stations’ coverage and response to the Baltimore Uprising following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.

    Production and support for this podcast was brought to you in part by PNC Bank.



    Transcript: 

    [WEAA newswrap] Beverly Burke: Taken from the day’s headlines, national attention is turning to Baltimore as the justice department looks into whether police violated the civil rights of a man who died after he was arrested. Baltimore Police arrested Freddie Gray on April 12. He died from a spinal cord injury a week later. Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended while the investigation goes forward. 

    Maria Broom: This is Wavelength: Baltimore’s Public Radio Journey from Your Public Studios, a monthly podcast series made possible by PNC Bank. I’m your host Maria Broom. 

    You just heard the voice of former WEAA host and anchor Beverly Burke. On this episode, we’ll hear how local stations covered the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent uprising. 

    Gray suffered a severe spinal injury in the back of a police van on April 12, 2015.  He died a week later. Baltimore radio stations devoted newscasts, hour-long shows, and online stories to Gray’s death and how it was impacting our city.

    Former WEAA news director Carla Wills and former WEAA General Manager Michele Williams say the station’s coverage plans evolved the day of Gray’s funeral, April 27.

    Carla Wills: The dean of the school at the time, who was Dewayne Wickham, also a veteran journalist, had decided that we, because we were WEAA, needed to be at the funeral of Freddie Gray. 

    Michele Williams: Carla Wills, Marcellus Shepard “The Baseman”, Sean Yoes, Marc Steiner, Anthony McCarthy, Martha Jews, we all were contributing because everyone had a position on the field. If this was your home, you already had a position on the field even though you may not be active at that moment but if this is your home, then you already have a perspective about when things like this happen. You have a point of view. We cobbled together equipment and with Carla’s direction and guidance, we went out and figured out if we have three of these, we can put a person here. If we have one of these, we can put a person there. We didn't have a lot of equipment, but our chief engineer, Ed, at the time made sure that we could get sound back to the studio. 

    Carla Wills: We thought we were going to just do maybe an hour or two of the funeral. We're talking with Beverly Burke outside of the church. She was our news anchor at the time.

    [WEAA live coverage] Beverly Burke: We are going to be bringing you the commentary inside and outside of the program going on today. You’re inside the Marc Steiner Show. And Marc, as I bring you into this, let me just tell you that after the arrivals of Jesse Jackson and several other dignitaries as I saw come into through this particular entrance…including NAACP City President Tessa Hill Aston, everyone really carries a very somber look. This morning’s news as you probably will recall, pointed to comments made by justice department people and Congressman Elijah Cumings about the coming investigation. Everyone wanting this to be a day of peace until a report is released and that’s supposed to happen later this week. 

    Carla Wills: And we ended up covering all 4 hours. And then afterward, along with talk inside the studio, that was moderated by Marc Steiner at the time. 

    [Live coverage] Marc Steiner: So anyway,still here in the studio with Dominique Stevenson and D. Watkins and we’ll get some final thoughts here I guess as we’ll be rounding out here in a few minutes, maybe we can get a call or two if we can but if not, we’ll just come in here. Ya know, this is–I’m glad, first of all, that the station made the decision to cover this funeral with such depth for all this time. From our show at 10 in the morning and all the w

    • 31 min
    Radio pirates

    Radio pirates

    Since WJHU was the precursor to WYPR and this is WYPR’s 20th anniversary year, indulge us as we focus on the station’s early years in this episode of Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey. A lot went on…

    Production and support for this podcast was brought to you in part by PNC Bank.Transcript

    MUSIC: "Dire Ghost" by Blue Dot Sessions.

    Marc Steiner: It was 2001 and there was a general manager search going on, and there were three final candidates. And just as the staff was about to interview the candidates, we got a notice that the search had been called off–postponing it is what they said. So I knew something weird was going on. And so I called one of the vice presidents at Hopkins and said–who was overseeing the station–and I said ‘so you gotta tell me what's happening. This either means you're selling this station, or you're closing the station. So what's going on?’ He said, ‘it's not for publication, but we're selling the station.’

    Maria Broom: This is Wavelength: Baltimore’s Public Radio Journey from Your Public Studios, a monthly podcast series made possible by PNC Bank. I’m your host Maria Broom.

    You just heard the voice of former WJHU, WYPR, and WEAA talk show host Marc Steiner reflecting on Johns Hopkins University’s decision to sell WJHU.

    Since WJHU was the precursor to WYPR and this is WYPR’s 20th anniversary year, indulge us as we focus on the station’s early years in this episode. A lot went on…

    So, as Marc Steiner was saying, in 2001 WJHU was up for sale. Former WJHU jazz host Andy Bienstock and others pick up the story.

    Andy Bienstock: Johns Hopkins had decided that we were not part of the university's mission and that it would be better to sell us to someone who did have a mission for public radio. We had other public stations come and look at us. I was on the transition committee at the time. And we were visited by WBUR in Boston, by WETA in Washington. I think from WAMU in Washington. We also knew that Maryland Public Television was interested in acquiring us. And of course there were lots of religious groups that wanted–that would have paid a lot of money to have us become a religious station. And to give the university credit, they made it clear that was not what they wanted to do. They wanted to keep it as an NPR station or as a public radio station. So as all this was going on, Marc Steiner was our talk show host at the time, and Marc started putting together a group to try and buy it and keep it as an independent radio station.

    Marc Steiner: The only staff member that really joined the effort was a woman named Martha Ruski, who was then the marketing director for WJHU. And she and I formed the Maryland Public Radio Corporation, that was incorporated as a nonprofit. We knew we had to raise $5 million dollars and how we were going to do that was the question.

    [“Hash Out” by Sunday at Slims begins.] Song courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions.

    Marc Steiner: Hopkins would not let us use the membership list to raise money to buy the station so I had a list of 500, 700 odd people who I had been in touch with over the years who were listeners, maybe more even and I had that list of names and so I put that in our database and started writing everybody. So we–well the first people– two people who came in first: one was Bill Clark, the other was the Daniels family, and then was the folks at Town Creek Foundation. They supported it too. So we had this initial burst of serious contributions. And then we went after other contributions from, from listeners. And so we ended up with three quarters of a million dollars, which was not enough to buy the station. But it was a significant down payment. (laughs.)

    Andy Bienstock: So Marc was put in touch with Tony Brandon, who was living in Baltimore and Tony had a string of commercial stations.

    Tony Brandon: I’m Tony Brandon. I was the general manager of WYPR from 2002 to 2019. I had been in the radio business for

    • 32 min
    Stations flip formats

    Stations flip formats

    The 1980s and 1990s were a time when many local radio stations were coming into their own. Building, reorganizing, working out the kinks. It was also a time when many stations changed formats. You’ll hear more about that on this episode.

    Guests: 
    Dr. Baruti Kopano
    James “Big Jim” Staton
    Isisara Bey
    John Wesley
    Jonathan Palevsky
    Andy Bienstock
    Ellen Beth Levitt
    Bob Benson
    Jim Armstrong
    Wendy Williams

    Production and support for this podcast was brought to you in part by PNC Bank.Transcript

    MUSIC: "Dire Ghost" by Blue Dot Sessions.

    MARIA BROOM: This is Wavelength: Baltimore’s Public Radio Journey from Your Public Studios, a monthly podcast series made possible by PNC Bank. I’m your host Maria Broom. 

    The 80s and 90s were a time when many local radio stations were coming into their own…building, reorganizing, working out the kinks...It was also a time when many stations changed formats. You’ll hear more about that on today’s episode.

    Last month we looked at how stations provided opportunities for emerging talent in 70s. That’s also true about WEAA in the 80s says Dr. Baruti Kopano , chair and professor of Morgan State University’s Department of Multiplatform Production. He says the ability to get hands-on experience prepared a future generation of media professionals, several of whom you may be familiar with. 

    DR. BARUTI KOPANO: We look at a person like an April Ryan, who most people know her as a White House correspondent. An African American woman who was my classmate, we were classmates at Morgan. Literally we sat in the same classes together. She spent time at WEAA. We look at a person we can find in the D.C. market now on air–that’s been on the air for many years–Earl Fisher. Earl Fisher was on WEAA when I was at WEAA. A lot of people don’t know this but the playwright and filmmaker Dave Talbert also had a stint at WEAA. WEAA recognized that we want to train our folks to go out all over the world. And I just really want to emphasize that historic role and how important it was to providing us quite frankly with some of the most important media players even today. It was not uncommon for commercial program directors, mostly program directors, but commercial radio station program directors to tune into WEAA to find out who's the next person that’s ready out of that station.

    BROOM: As Dr. Kopano mentioned, he was a Morgan State University student and in 1985, he got his shot to go on the air.

    KOPANO: WEAA announced that it was having quote on quote try-outs. This was my first semester at Morgan. And I guess back in the day they just put up flyers or something along those lines before all the digital stuff was here, that’s what we did. And indeed I went out to the audition and these were all undergraduate students and I knew most of the folks who were there. And a few of us were offered positions and I was blessed to be one of those who was offered a position on-air, immediately. I was an on-air announcer, I had a show, it was one day a week. It was called The Last Radio Show from 7 PM until midnight. And it was an eclectic taste of music, but it was mostly music-based, jazz-based, format. And then also I was the producer of some special content based on some of my interests. So one of the things I did was produce a radio feature, a long form radio feature, a documentary on Malcom X. And I was a board op for the Left Bank Jazz Society along with other folks. I wasn’t the only one, there were many of us who board opped. The Left Bank Jazz Society was one of the most famous jazz organizations on the East Coast and they were really committed to preserving the music and culture of jazz. So WEAA extended an opportunity to The Left Bank Jazz Society members to come in and not just play the music but to talk about the music. Sometimes to invite those folks who actually were producing the music on, into the studio, on the phone to talk about. So it was no thing for us to see a Gary Bar

    • 28 min
    College stations create radio proving grounds

    College stations create radio proving grounds

    WBJC, WCVT, WEAA, and WJHU have a lot in common: the era in which they were founded, voices that were heard on more than one frequency, and all of their roots run back to local academic institutions. On this episode of Wavelength: the evolution of student stations in the 1970s.

    Guests and voices heard in this episode:

    Lamont Germany

    Steve Curran

    Sandi Mallory

    Clint Coleman

    Jud French

    Maria Broom

    Edmund Newman

    Dr. Jason Loviglio

    John Patti

    Jim Armstrong

    Stu Lumsden

    Isisara Bey

    Paul Hartman

    Ward Kemp

    Thank you to John Patti, Joe Evelius, Steve Curran and Stu Lumsden for sharing airchecks with us for this episode.

    Correction: John Patti is incorrectly cited as the voice of the WBJC sign-on at the 4:24 mark. If you recognize the voice, please let us know by emailing podcasts@wypr.org.Transcript

    Lamont Germany, WEAA: When I finally got to college, there was a radio station being born on campus so I, along with a lot of other students at the time, walked in the door and asked ‘What do I need to do?’

    Steve Curran, WCVT: Everyday was an adventure. Every day was fun. Everyday was a challenge. Every day the fire bell rang, so to speak. You know, there was an emergency of some kind. But it was always fun, and it was always exciting.

    Sandi Mallory, WEAA: You know what, it was the type of station that you felt like ‘I make a difference of what I’m doing.’

    Clint Coleman, WBJC: I call it a spawning ground for really talented people. I wasn’t one of them (laughs) but I’d like to think that I trained quite a few.

    Jud French, WJHU: You know, I felt like we were leaving a lasting legacy to the community.

    Maria Broom, host: This is Wavelength: Baltimore’s Public Radio Journey from Your Public Studios, a monthly podcast series made possible by PNC Bank. I’m your host Maria Broom.

    Over six episodes, you’ll learn the origin stories of WYPR, WTMD, WEAA and WBJC, and hear how they became trusted sources for news, music, the arts, and more. Plus, we’ll look at what’s next for local public radio.

    As you’ll discover over the course of this series, these stations have a lot in common: the era in which they were founded, voices that were heard on more than one frequency, and evolutions in programming and call letters. And all of their roots run back to local academic institutions.

    Dr. Jason Loviglio, Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, stresses the importance of college radio.

    Dr. Jason Loviglio: College radio is such an important story, and it’s not as well told as it should be. It was such an important proving ground for so many people who’ve gone on to become journalists on-air, personalities, talent, in radio, television, and other media. College radio had the virtue of being accessible. A place to experiment. But it also had the great fortune of being able to invent formats that the current commercial and public landscape of radio wasn’t doing justice to. It just simply wasn’t enough new music, cutting-edge music being played on the air in most metropolitan areas. So not only were students learning on the job how to be real media professionals, but they were teaching the industry something and I think we may be in a similar moment with podcasting where a group of dedicated amateurs have helped to create something that has now been discovered by large corporate interests to be remarkably popular and incredibly valuable.

    Maria Broom: We’ll hear more from Dr. Loviglio later in this episode and from station employees from the 70s who are going to tell the story of local college radio.

    But first, let’s take it back to 1951.

    ‘Too Young’ by Nat King Cole was at the top of the charts. I Love Lucy was on many Americans’ television sets. The Korean War was in the news. And WBJC hit the airwaves. It broadcast classical music and arts programming from the campus of Baltimore Junior College, now Baltimore City Comm

    • 42 min
    The early days of radio in Charm City

    The early days of radio in Charm City

    On the first episode of Wavelength: Baltimore’s Public Radio Journey, learn about the origins of radio in Baltimore. You’ll hear about a broadcast from a bedroom, a radio transmission from a train, and a station once owned by the King of Soul, James Brown.

    Correction: The audio at the beginning of the episode is a recreation of KDKA's first broadcast.  

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 17 min
    Audio trailer

    Audio trailer

    Get a preview of what you'll hear on Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey, a six-episode limited podcast series from Your Public Studios.

    Hosted by noted storyteller and actress Maria Broom, and featuring interviews and archival tape, the podcast will take listeners on a journey from public radio’s early days to now. Listeners will learn about the evolution of WYPR, WTMD, WEAA and WBJC, how the stations responded to major news stories, featured local and national musicians, and how they found their place in Baltimore’s current radio scene.

    Coming February 23, with new episodes the last Wednesday of the month.

    Learn more at yourpublicstudios.org

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 2 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

Gary Levine ,

Wavelength

The wavelength podcast is a wonderful look backAt the history of public radio in Baltimore and Maryland. It will be a fun look at the evolution of a great journalistic organization

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