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Published: Monday, 9/3/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

WJZE finds change can do it good

RoboRadio is alive and well, at least financially, in Toledo.

WJZE-FM (97.3), which has automated programming 20 hours each weekday and 24 hours a day on weekends, cannot be called a ratings success. Then again, it's only 13 months into its latest format change - to classic hits.

That's not to be mistaken with classic rock, says Daniel Haslinger, chairman of RASP Broadcasting Enterprises, Inc., which owns the station.

“There's classic hits and there's classic rock,” he said.

The subtle difference between those terms -- classic hits is considered slightly mellower than classic rock -- is just one reason why WJZE has a futuristic feel. The automated voices between songs convey a sense of professionalism -- to the degree that the station seems to be all business.

Haslinger, 45, makes no apologies for focusing on the bottom line. After all, the station was struggling financially when he and two partners purchased it eight years ago.

The station has had a variety of formats -- including jazz (1993-96), classic rock (1996-98), and alternative rock (1998-2000).

“We took a station that was in debt, that was not going to make it, and [as of Aug. 1], we are debt-free and will probably make a 400 percent return on our investment,” Haslinger said.

The original investment, Hasingler said, was more than $500,000.

An advertising sales agreement with the local Clear Channel stations has proved to be a financial bonanza for the station. The seven-year agreement - which began on Aug. 1, 2000 -- calls for Clear Channel to sell advertising on behalf of WJZE.

Clear Channel has a vested interest in making WJZE a success because, ultimately, it will hurt Cumulus-owned WXKR-FM (94.5).

In some ways, WXKR, with its virtually continuous live programming and its own sales force, is the antithesis of WJZE. About the only thing they have in common is their “classic” music.

Again, Haslinger makes no apologies. “We're business people and those we deal with at Clear Channel are business people.”

In Arbitron's spring survey, WJZE ranked 16th out of the 26 stations in the Toledo market for listeners age 12-plus. WXKR was No. 8.

WJZE rarely refers to itself by its call letters. Instead, it goes by “Fox 97.3.”

The station's only live programming is from 6-10 a.m. weekdays. The morning show is hosted by K.C. Palmer.

MOVING ON: WTVG-TV, Channel 13, reporter Kareen Wynter is headed to WEWS, the ABC affiliate in Cleveland. She makes a big jump in market size, going from No. 68 (Toledo) to No. 17.

Meanwhile, WTVG's assistant news director, Andrew Vrees, has accepted a similar position at the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M. (Market No. 48).

NEW HIRE: WNWO-TV, Channel 24, has hired Richard Sharp as a reporter. He is currently working in Odessa, Texas (Market No. 154). WNWO news director Lou Hebert said Sharp will start in mid-September.

Russ Lemmon's column on the local media appears Monday. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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