Live from Lower Manhattan it’s WOR


By Ellen Keohane

You don’t have to adjust the dial on your radio to find WOR New York, but you do have to look a little further south down Broadway.

After 78 years in Midtown, the AM talk radio station moved from 1440 to 111 Broadway on February 28, although it wasn’t until April 20 that the station first broadcast from its new location, said Tom Ray, WOR’s vice president and director of engineering.

The station, which is located at 710 on the AM dial, is privately owned by Buckley Broadcasting and is home to various talk radio hosts including psychologist Dr. Joy Browne, financial expert Jim Cramer, journalist Ed Walsh and consumer advisor Joan Hamburg. WOR also carries shows hosted by FOX News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and right winger Michael Savage, although their shows are recorded elsewhere.

WOR’s coverage includes the tri-state area, but the station also streams over the Internet, so listeners can tune in from all over the world. Many of the station’s shows, including Browne and Cramer’s, are also syndicated throughout the U.S. and Canada. Aside from the station’s “Big Bands, Ballads and Blues” program, which airs once a week, WOR is just talk. Most shows have open phone lines for listeners to call in to ask questions or discuss issues with the shows’ hosts.

The station, which employs 100 people full and part time, is now the only commercial AM station located in Downtown Manhattan, and is the first media company to move Downtown since Sept. 11, said Paul Siebold, WOR marketing director.

Last year, WOR’s lease at its Midtown location expired, so executives started looking for a new space. “We looked at number of possible new locations for the station. What tipped the scales [towards Downtown] were the incentives the city and state were offering to bring new businesses to the Downtown area,” said Bob Bruno, WOR vice president and general manager.

The station’s new space is on the third floor of the Trinity Building at 111 Broadway, which is one of two Gothic-style towers built side-by-side in the mid-1900s. The space is the same size as their old office, but now everyone is consolidated on one floor instead of two, Bruno said. Although they renovated the entire third floor before moving in, they tried to maintain the character of the building, said Bruno while pointing to the leaded glass windows in his office, which overlook Trinity Church’s historic graveyard courtyard.

The biggest challenge in moving was minimizing the disruption for listeners, said Ray, who was responsible for the instillation of the new facilities, including four new studios, a production room, a newsroom and the master control facility, which have all new equipment. Because the studios face Thames St. alley, outside sound is amplified, he said. So they had to install half-inch plate glass between the outside windows and inside the studios to deaden the noise.

Since WOR moved Downtown, talk show host Joan Hamburg has been busy exploring the neighborhood using walking guides on tape, which her daughter gave her as a gift. “I’ve been wandering all over,” said Hamburg, who has noticed a lot of changes in the neighborhood, including more baby carriages and dog walkers on her early morning walks to work. “It’s becoming very residential,” she said.

Hamburg’s weekday show, which airs on WOR from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., offers information and consumer advice. So on her walks, she’s been keeping her eyes out for different and inexpensive places to eat in the neighborhood, including Ho Yip Chinese Restaurant at 3 Dey St. Grabbing the restaurant’s menu off her desk, Hamburg pointed at a list of $4 and $5 entrees that the cafeteria-style restaurant serves for lunch.

Hamburg and morning traffic reporter George Meade have been on the air at WOR the longest, at 27 and 30 years respectively, said Bruno. The station’s newest talk show host is chef Rocco DiSpirito, who many may recognize from the NBC’s reality television show, “The Restaurant.” DiSpirito took over the mid-day “Food Talk” program from Arthur Schwartz last fall, Bruno said.

WOR first went on the air in 1922 from Bamberger’s department store in Newark, New Jersey, Bruno said. The station later moved to New York City in the late 1920s. During the station’s colorful 83-year history, various presidents and movie stars have visited the station including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra, he said.

In addition to their change in location, WOR is planning to implement some changes to its morning news program hosted by Ed Walsh. Based on listener feedback, they want to “lighten up” the content, Bruno said. “[We’re] trying to keep people informed and entertained without getting them worked up into a lather on issues—we do that later in the day,” he said.

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WWW Downtown Express