Archie Morgan and his gang over at WIXE-AM (1190) in Monroe were kicking the question around the other day: Who is the longest serving broadcaster in the region?
That seems like an easy one, I thought.
I thought wrong. More and more veterans came to mind, and figuring out their tenure was complicated because theyve moved around.
Morgan, with 25 years in the business (including 22 at the Mighty 1190), turns out to be a relative newcomer, a mere babe. In TV and radio, where longevity in a town is often measured in months, Charlotte has many long-timers.
Among reporters, there is Don Griffin at WSOC (Channel 9), who just marked 30 years. Newsroom colleague Mark Becker is one year behind him, and Jim Bradley is two.
WBTV (Channel 3) has some talent with deep roots here, but they come into the history book with an asterisk. There are reporters Steve Crump with 26 years and Steve Ohnesorge with 31, but both had breaks in service to work elsewhere before returning. (In dog years, Im dead, says Ohnesorge.) Anchor Paul Cameron started in sports 31 years ago at WBTV and has been there ever since. Sportscaster Delano Little has 23 straight years at WBTV.
At WCNC (Channel 36), Larry Sprinkle counts 40 years in broadcasting, 27 years of it doing weather for the NBC affiliate. Before getting into TV, he did radio in Charlotte. Other meteorological notables are WBTVs Eric Thomas at 25 years in August and Al Conklin, who hits 20 years in March.
Don Russell at WBT-AM (1110) has been doing radio in Charlotte for 39 years, off and on, and still does the weekend edition of Charlottes Morning News. Jim Barroll has been in the WBT news department for 26 straight years.
In the longevity for radio shows, its tough to beat Johnny John Boy Isley and Billy James, who have been at it for 32 years, minus a few months in 1986 when they sat out when moving their morning show from the old WBCY-FM to WRFX-FM (Fox 99.7).
Charlotte native Beatrice Thompson on WBAV-FM (V 101.9) is one of the citys best-known veterans. She started at WBTV after graduation from college in 1977 and went on to 11 years at WCNC with an executive job at Duke Energy in between.
Jack Daniel, program director and host at WEND-FM (End 106.5) has been in Charlotte radio for 37 years, with a short break in 1994. Paul Schadt, morning host on WKKT-FM (Kat 96.9), has 31 years, about half of it at rival country station WSOC-FM (103.7). Mike Collins, who does Charlotte Talks on WFAE-FM (NPR 90.7), started at WBT, went on to WBTV and will mark 30 years in Charlotte media next year.
Mike McKay is another WBTV-radio hybrid. He started at Channel 3 in 1967 as a teenager doing weather and reporting on entertainment and stayed there 28 years. He later became the morning host at WDAV-FM (89.9) in 1997, giving him 43 years in the business here.
In terms of continuous service, I think we give the trophy to Bob Lacey. He started on the night shift at WBT in 1972, went to mornings, launched PM Magazine with Moira Quinn in 1979 and has been paired with Sheri Lynch on Bob & Sheri for 20 years on WLNK-FM (Link 107.9). He has 40 years of unbroken airtime.
For stem-to-stern seniority, I recommend Robert D. Raiford, who started at WEGO-AM in Concord in 1944. After jobs elsewhere, he joined WBT in 1952, where he got fired in 1956 for disobeying orders and speaking out against an on-stage attack by white supremacists on Nat King Cole in Birmingham, Ala. Raiford went on to jobs at CBS and NBC and anchored at Channel 36 for eight years. Hes been doing commentary on John Boy and Billy for 26 years. Hes been on the air here one way or the other for 36 years.
Been a pretty good run, grunts Raiford, who turns 85 this month. Im trying to keep ahead of the grim reaper, but I know the SOB is right behind me.
Who did I forget?
Jay Sparxx took over the evening shift at WNKS-FM (Kiss 95.1) this week. Sparxx comes from a station in Memphis, Tenn. Off the Record with host David Rhew (whos coming up on 30 years in local media himself, mostly at Channel 3) will move to 8 p.m. Fridays on WTVI (Channel 42) beginning Jan. 4. School superintendent Heath Morrison will be the first guest of the year.
Changes coming in the WFAE-FM (90.7) schedule. On Dec. 31, the station is dropping the 3 p.m. hour of Talk of the Nation and replacing it with The World, a global BBC newsmagazine. Dale Spear, WFAEs program director, says the second half of Talk of the Nation attracted the smallest audience in daytime programming. Based on the ratings, I dont think most people will be disappointed, he said. For fans of Ira Flatows Science Friday, though, WFAE will repackage that hour and air it at 1 p.m. Saturdays as Sci-Fri Matinee, replacing WhadYa Know?
Lorne Abony, CEO of Charlotte-based Mood Media, will be featured on Undercover Boss, 8 p.m. Jan. 4 on CBS. Overdraft, the PBS documentary on federal debt produced by Charlotte-based Susie Films, won a CINE Golden Eagle award. Scott Galloway was director and Eric Davis executive producer.
Viewers of Vampire Diaries on the CW network, may have recognized Micah Parker on episodes in recent weeks. Parker, a Charlotte native who has appeared in local productions at Theatre Charlotte and UNC Charlotte, had recurring roles as Adrian. A state-of-the-art Solid State Logic broadcast truck, a control room on wheels, will be on display at the Carolina School of Broadcasting, 3435 Performance Road, 2-5 p.m. Jan. 10 and will be open to the public, says school president Alyson Young.