WPAZ goes radio silent

Journal Register file photo

Journal Register News Service

UPPER POTTSGROVE -- WPAZ radio abruptly went off the air Thursday morning after an announcement by station ownership that the business was closed and is for sale.

Mitchell Scott, CEO of Great Scott Broadcasting, owner of the station, said the decision to close the local radio station and sell it was a "tough call."

"Hopefully it's only temporary," said Scott, a Lower Pottsgrove native who currently resides in Ocean City, Md. "We're talking to buyers every day. We're hoping someone buys it."

Scott made the trip to the Maugers Mill Road broadcast facility Thursday to inform the station's four full-time and two part-time employees that the station is closing and they are losing their jobs.

Great Scott Broadcasting owns nine radio stations in the Delaware area, Scott said, and "dealing with 'PAZ" several hours north in Pennsylvania "was not as productive."

"WPAZ was the smallest of our stations. It's a fabulous station, with fabulous people running it," Scott said during a phone interview Thursday, "and the Pottstown community is a fabulous community. This area needs a local radio station.

"I hope this is only temporary."

Scott added that eliminating the jobs of six people was difficult.

"Anytime people have to be let go is horrible," he said. "It's one of the worst feelings a person can have."

General manager and on-air personality Jay Warren, a 26-year employee of WPAZ, said the news of the station's closing came without warning. Warren was on the air Thursday morning, just before 10 a.m., when he was called away from the microphone to an urgent meeting with Scott and his chief engineer.

"They told us that the Pottstown radio station -- although it was their first -- was no longer part of the corporation's plan, and that it is currently for sale," Warren said.

It was at about 10 a.m. that the station's signal was truncated by the GSB engineer. There was no time to explain to listeners or to say goodbye, according to Warren.

"You expect it to happen in this business, but you're never really prepared for it. It was kind of a shock because we had a pretty good fall," Warren said. "As far as the numbers were concerned, we thought we were doing OK."

The station's local focus emphasized sports coverage and had recently completed covering the Pottsgrove High School football team's outstanding season.

"It was difficult to really think about this after coming off that high," Warren said, noting coverage of local high school sports -- especially baseball, basketball and football -- was a mainstay on the 1,000-watt station, which could be heard at 1370 AM on the dial.

In addition to the station's paid employees, several local on-air personalities -- including Nick Lawrence, Frank Roberts, Bill Krause and The Mercury's Tony Phyrillas -- volunteered their time on various radio programs.

"We did a lot of nonprofit community interviews in this room," Warren said, referring to the ground-floor studio at WPAZ. "We were unique in the fact that we could provide a lot of local coverage."

The toughest part of the station's abrupt closing, Warren said, is not being able to say goodbye to the loyal local listeners. "I think the community will miss us as well," he said.

Ross Smith, WPAZ on-air personality, also said he will miss the listeners.

"At a small station like this, you get a chance to touch base with your listeners. I will miss that chance to make that connection with the listener," he said. "This (closing) really hasn't hit me yet. It will hit me next spring when I don't have a baseball game to broadcast."

Echoing that point, when asked what he will miss most about working for WPAZ, Warren said, "My favorite part of this, the thing that I love, is being on the air, the interaction with the people." What he'll miss the least: "Getting up at 3:15 a.m. and working holidays."

Warren also said he enjoyed working with the late Bob Eppeheimer, a former general manager, when he was learning the business.

"What Bob said, that was it. There was no left and no right. I didn't push Bob, and eventually he started taking me to games," Warren recalled. "He was indeed a personality. I really miss him. I'm sure that wherever he is in this point in time, he's not smiling

today."

To the WPAZ listeners, Warren said: "I appreciate the many faithful listeners we've had over the years. I do regret that we didn't have the opportunity to tell them goodbye. I appreciate them listening."

WPAZ was started by Mitchell Scott's father, the late Herb Scott, in 1951.

The company grew over the years, moving after 20 years from its original High Street location on the second floor of the former Lamb Music Building to the current two-level building in Upper Pottsgrove.

Following Herb Scott's death in 1984, his widow, Faye, remained in the area. Mitchell Scott ultimately took over the family broadcasting business and grew it by adding stations in the "Delmarva" area: a 100-mile radius from Dover, Del., to Pocomoke, Md., according to the Great Scott Broadcasting Web site.

"WPAZ will get back on the air again. This is only 'til I find a buyer, and I hope that will happen shortly," Mitchell Scott said. "(WPAZ)'s a great property."

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