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West Central, Michigan

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"