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West Central, Michigan

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 ...some thoughts.

I don't get to write these blogs very often, much less than I'd like, but it seemed appropriate we all think of the things for which we are THANKFUL. If my three readers enjoy it, the writing is worth the effort.

Yesterday, though I'm far from WION, a call was forwarded  to my cellphone, and it was a call of "Thanks." From a small business in Ionia, who heard us mention them in what we call our "listening business list" of which regular listeners are well aware. What a nice call to have forwarded on the eve of Thanksgiving.

I don't often get away from the studio, and I, am thankful for small breaks now and then, which you, our listeners have allowed me to have a few times this autumn.  
This particular short getaway brings me to the home of some dear friends, "cashing in" a Christmas gift from last year, that gift being the invite to join them for their family/friends' Thanksgiving gathering.  Could there be a better gift? I don't think so.  Even though I'm still working while away, the invite is being very much enjoyed.

Other things for which to be thankful for me this year? For one, how about  WION growing!  It's now 10 years of Ionia County accepting us as your local radio station! Another thing to be thankful for:  This year, we're starting a new effort at Christmas which we call "Treasures for Troops" which is, by no means, new in it's concept, but it is new to us, and with the help of some new and already strong partnerships, we hope to be filling a sponsor's truck a few times over with items that our overseas members of the military would like to receive as "packages from home."   This new project is helping to put our staff and friends into the Christmas Spirit. You can tell in the voices of all our announcers. 

It's very easy for me to add to my "thanks" list. Looking ahead, once again this year WION will be producing "A Christmas Carol" from the original 1939 Campbell Playhouse script, as performed when Lionel Barrymore was Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Orson Welles produced the program. I'm billing this one as performed by the  "Friends of 1430 Players" this year, because each year seems to bring both "new" voices and some old friends (personal and WION-related) to the production.  Last year our show starred our support staff of Engineers, Lawyers, and others. 

This year, the gift of friendships takes center stage. Both the long term ones, like my friends who invited me to visit this Thanksgiving, and the new friends as well.

This Christmas Eve we'll have our new friends from (another) AM 1430 in Durand Wisconsin, Brian and Karla Winnekins of our "adopted" sister station, WRDN starring as Bob and Mr.s Cratchitt. in the radio play I just mentioned, "A Christmas Carol."  I've come to know these new friends as people devoted to small town radio, passionate about their town it's well-being, it's people,  and I'm proud to call them friends. We met twice this year in their town, and you can tell the town respects them. I can't wait to have them in our show.  Some friends of mine, (in fact my hosts in Maryland as i write this)  will play the "young" Scrooge and Belle this year, and our plan is to have longtime WION voice, and good friend to our station, Mr. Harry Boyes return to our microphones this year.  He worked as News Director for WION for many years in the 1960's, and remains supportive of our community efforts.  Harry also played the ghost of Jacob Marley two years ago and allowed us to use his performance again in 2013.  This year he is rehearsing to be our Mr. Scrooge, and we're glad to have him.   So, once again this year, I'm proud to include close friends in the Christmas story which has become my favorite story of all time. The show will debut on the air Christmas Eve morning during our special "Christmas" morning show with friends,  as it has in years past.  I have to say, it's genuine THANKS I give for friends' participation in this show.  A fun gift from WION to you, our listeners.

Then, there's the THANKS to the  "support people" of WION.  Clare Colwell of Mercantile Bank was out  at our studios recently and observed while hearing of our wonderful team of many talented engineers that WION is the "perfect example of good relationships." We try!  Our engineers that maintain our sound, our streaming, and our whole station are remarkable. I'm, again, THANKFUL that many of these relationships have lasted since I was a young announcer in Jackson, MI and are now part of the day to day operations of WION. 

The list goes on and on....of people to be THANKFUL FOR when considering WION's success and growth. The list goes on and on of organizations we've been able to help thanks to our listeners' and advertisers' support.   The list goes on and on of people who show up at our studios at just the "right" time with offers of food for us, coffee, help with events, and just to support us or say on a "bad" day, "you're doing fine!"  THOSE are remarkable people with equally remarkable timing. Then there are the friends with talents to lend in a crisis, who know much better than I how to mend fences (literally) and rebuild antenna tuning units, change generator batteries, and do all the things which come unexpectedly.  I'm THANKFUL for every one of them, every time the station is in need.

I'm THANKFUL for my circle of friends, new and longtime, and how each of them has become part of WION.  They all make radio FUN and they get me, and WION through the tough times, too.  It's even more fun when we all share in the GOOD times.

At the top of my list of things to be thankful for this year are all my "WION People" ...who are the people who make my life worthwhile. My adopted family.

I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving 2014, and that it is a gateway to a wonderful Christmas season for you and yours. 

Jim Carlyle

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We beat all the office pools, and WION celebrates in September!

That's right, WION beat all the "wagering" by (some) locals against our survivial!  We won with our team of radio pros, who bought and revived WION in 2004.  Many folks didn't think small-town radio could survive, let alone THRIVE in this modern digital world! 

Before we get too far in to this post, let me apologize for not writing more blogs of late, my (few) readers know it's been a long time.  Radio's kept me, and the whole WION team busy!  

It'll be ten years on September 1st that Jim Aaron and I threw the "official' switch turning the station back on (legally)....and, actually, truth be known, the license had not been "reinstated" during the morning show, but was "ok'd" in person by an FCC official to the attorney representing the seller within minutes of the end of the morning show.

That show was scary for Jim and I, a new venture together in business, both of us very familiar with the radio industry, with similar stops around Michigan and Indiana learning the ropes from some excellent mentors, program directors, and owners.  Rumor is that we played Charlie Dore's "Pilot of the Airwaves" for the first official song on WION, though during transmitter testing I recall our engineers asking me to put something on so they could tune up the old tube monster. If memory serves, it was Jimmy Buffet, but given the condition of the pile of equipment in OUR early WION, he sounded like Anne Murray at the bottom of a well, singing an AC/DC song while having a bad cold. Yes, the sound of WION was less than we had hoped but we got it on the air.

Over the  next weeks and months, with the help of great engineers including Michael Bradford (whom I credit with pointing me in the direction of Ionia, sometimes with more blame than credit on days where radio seems an odd career choice) Ed Trombley,  and the other radio engineers at the firm of Munn-Reese in Coldwater, MI, along with  Ralph Haines, we gathered enough equipment to kick the sound (and the signal) in the pants, and get a stronger sound out there for our listeners,which was by this time growing in numbers every day!  Still broadcasting in Mono and limited by our equipment and startup budget, we moved forward. 

Along the way, however...there were a few setbacks. A storm in June of 2005 took our old Continental transmitter off-air for a few days (A bad thing for a new company to experience, especially when trying to improve WION's image in the community.)  Insurance at the "upper" levels fought our claim, but, they brought in an independent engineer not associated with WION to look at the issue who said, "yep, it can be fixed, but there's more damage done AFTER the lightning bolt, so your best bet as insurance carriers is to REPLACE the whole box, and have less overall claims."  With that said, a new 45 thousand dollar transmitter was installed, and we paid only for a rather large surge supressor on the power input.  It was a bit of  good fortune  for us. Since then, the new transmitter has not had any bouts with lightning. The independent engineer was correct!  With that new transmitter came better range, better sound, and....eventually AM stereo...but we'll get to that soon.  Literally, that lightning bolt was a gift from God himself.  We even overcame the well going dry, the roof being at the end of its life on the studios (a new lifetime metal roof is in place)  and other various small "emergencies" that happen to any 24/7 business, and always come out of each situation in better shape, thanks to the talents of our WION family and our advertisers! 

The first major thing we had to do was improve and enlarge the AM signal! WION alway pointed it's signal north. We fixed this and moved the daytime AM signal to a "round" pattern with the help of the great engineers we've mentioned in this blog!  That was around 2008-2009. Now you can enjoy the over the air AM from Lansing to Grand Rapids along I-96, and for a good distance of the way going north and south, too! During this upgrade, we also installed a generator that keeps us at FULL POWER and ready to bring you information during any power outage or local emergency when cable, DSL and other communication means are not working!

Then came the NEW FM STEREO 92-7 with it's clear, VERY stereo, excellent sound!  It covers most of our county 24/7, and fills-in where the AM can't (mainly at night, due to the laws that make us lower our power at night) and this signal quickly became a favorite of many business owners, and "local" homes and drivers.

Next on the list came our improved AM "sound" with the addition of AM stereo! Many HD radios and cars with years up through the mid 2000's have AM stereo built-in, but...we also did this to show the world how GREAT AM stereo can sound!  And how did we do this, you ask?  By the next of the miracles for our small station:

STREAMING!  WION launched our streaming service officially on the morning of the station's 60th birthday!  We're now known (and heard) worldwide, and we're known as the leader in quality AM sound!  If you've tuned-in to our stream, you know how great it sounds, and guess're listening to AM STEREO directly from  the AM stereo tuner you see at the top of our website.  Yes, it's AM, and YES, it's STEREO!  You can now take WION anywhere in the world, with our online player, our apps in Google Play and I-tunes, through the Tune-In Radio app, and even on new 'smart TV sets" with the tune-in app! (and boy, do we sound GREAT through home theater systems!!)

Programming has evolved over the past ten years. Many a guest has joined us at the round table.  We've added more songs, features, and some special shows that nobody else carries!  Randy Edwards' show each weekend called "Edwards' Archives" and his daily "Turntable Trainwrecks" are produced just for us!  We were an early affiliate of the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, and still have them today! Weekends also include the "Lost 45's" with Barry Scott, "Retro Stars, the 90's show" and Pastor Ken Harger's weekly message from the lighthouse. Certainly these, and others represent  a huge variety of programming when mixed with our hourly music and information!  

Looking back on  10 years of great music, informing our county, providing employment and paying local taxes, we also can celebrate many other things, like:
Donations to Big Brothers/Big Sisters each year through broadcasting the Chili Dawg Challenge;  Donations to the Bertha Brock Improvement Fund;  a "Time Capsule" buried at the park;  Many successful food drives; Thousands of Dollars given to the local "Relay for Life" in Ionia; 4 years of re-creating the 1939 radio version of "A Christmas Carol" and selling copies for charity; Remote broadcasts and interviews from the Ionia Freefair; Funds raised for winter heating of the Blanchard House; promotion of the IPS Empty Bowls program,  and most recently, WION teaming with the I-M kids 3rd meal program with WION's 10th anniversary.  I'm sure I've left many a fundraiser out!

Through the generosity of the Ionia Moose Lodge hosting us, and by their donating the pig to roast, we'll continue our tradition of giving back,  by 100 percent of all (suggested) $5 donations for lunch going to help feed youngsters who may not normally get a supper when they head home from school!  Please join us on September 13th from noon to 5 PM for our celebration of TEN GREAT YEARS serving Ionia!  Yes, we beat all the office pools who said, "It couldn't be done!" And, we're very proud.

In closing, thank you to our advertisers.  To those who don't know, radio like WION pays its bills through advertising, and we want to advertise YOUR BUSINESS on our airwaves. We'll show you how creative radio advertising from people who care about YOU will grow your business!  And, guess's AFFORDABLE. May we ask for your business as a WION advertiser, please? We love having our listening business list grow, but we'll continue to grow and contribute BACK to Ionia County the more clients we have!  Hear some GREAT creative ads, and even see our new "self serve" online form for ordering one-time event advertising by clicking HERE and, see our advertising package inviting folks to FALLFEST by clicking HERE! We give $50 to the Bertha Brock Park improvement fund for every package sold! 

Thanks for 10 great years, and here's to continued growth....with the help of GREAT listeners, and GREAT advertisers!  Read here what people say about WION. We're very proud of the compliments!


Jim Carlyle, Co-Owner and Morning Host
WION Radio

and on behalf of Jim Aaron, Music Director and Co-Owner,

"America's Biggest Little Radio Station"

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Everywhere you go..."the weather" is the topic these days. 

Michigan is FINALLY getting a winter worthy of our position in the upper Midwest, and those of us "of a certain age" remember winters like this, while those younger are amazed, amused, and wondering how many days they'll have to "make up" at the end of the school year.

The radio station has kept me busy...and, because of that, I've dropped the ball on writing here more often.  I hope that in the near future, we can at least update this blog and visit once a week.

Bob Flynn was our guest co-host on the morning show on Friday the 31st of January, and was so much fun that we ran the show an extra hour.  Bob has become known to WION listeners and our county as the host of our many interviews each year at the Ionia Chamber Expo. (This year on March 15th.)  Bob's a great host, and also drives a great distance to be our guest announcer at expo.  His Friday visit was a fun chance for you, our listeners to get reacquainted with him! 

We'll continue throughout winter with our regular visits from co-hosts including Penny Beeman with the IM KIDS FEEDING PROGRAM to provide the 3rd meal for young students who may not otherwise get it! She's my Wednesday morning co-host.  We also welcome our Ionia DDA Director Linda Curtis the first Tuesday of each month.  On the schedule are visits from some of our interesting listening businesses, their owners, and more!  Tuesdays (weather and schedule permitting) we have Bill Lynch as co-host, and our Friday Round Table show continues as well!

I'm curious as I finish writing these morning show random thoughts, (and per a discussion we had on the air...) Is it now true that the new "old" is if you're a person who can remember the famous Michigan "Blizzard of '78?"  I was in upper middle school then, and can remember them sending us home from school halfway through a day, and having (at least) one full week off school!  My how things have changed. Walking home, (no kidding here) we were in nearly knee-deep snow.  I had a paper route then for the Jackson Citizen Patriot, and we didn't even get the bundles delivered to us as carriers for over a week, as the drivers couldn't get from Jackson to Addison!  Yes, I remember it well, but I'm not even 50 years old (yet)...does it really make those of us who remember that storm "the new old?" I hope not!  I also don't believe for a minute that the weather we have been getting since Christmas is anywhere NEAR as bad as 1978 was!  Sure we have some ice and lots of drifting, but today's  public closings come more from a "CYA" aspect then a genuine need to close in my humble opinion!  We're such a 'blame everyone else' society that we don't dare take a chance.  No, I'm not saying schools SHOULD have been open in the past six weeks,  but in my memory, back in "the good ol days" we seemed to attend more (school)  in snowy weather, and cancel less. 

Perhaps we were more prepared back then, since this degree of weather severity has not occurred in many a year. That may explain it.  

In any case, snow doesn't stop the morning show, we hope you're enjoying tuning-in, and...I promise...I'll try to update this blog more often. it's always my pleasure to write, (whether I have one reader or tons...doesn't matter)...and, we always welcome your ears to the show, and your keyboard to respond!

See you on the morning show! (which I'd still like to rename)....