Monday, December 11, 2006

A Listener's Message to WINA

This post is of particular concern to readers in Charlottesville, and even more specifically to those in Charlottesville who, like me, stay up late into the night listening to the radio.

It is a message to the programming department at radio station WINA-AM: Bring back Joey Reynolds!

You see, I learned last week that WINA has replaced its long-running overnight program, The Joey Reynolds Show, which originates live from WOR-AM in New York City, with a pre-recorded piece of pap called The John and Jeff Show.

I realize that WINA -- like most radio stations -- has few listeners in the middle of the night, so the programmers are unlikely to hear from many of us regarding the programming change that took effect this week.

When I turned on the radio early last Tuesday morning, I thought an engineering error had resulted in a different program from The Joey Reynolds Show being broadcast. So I let it pass. When I tuned to WINA as soon as I passed Airport Road on my way back from Washington at around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, however, I had the shock of learning there was no mistake -- something that was confirmed by checking WINA's web site.

I wrote to program director Jay James, to whom I described my reaction as both shocked and disappointed. I told him I have been a faithful -- essentially daily -- listener of The Joey Reynolds Show since moving to Charlottesville in 1999 and finding WINA. (So far I have not received a reply to my email.) To have the show canceled, with no warning, was distressing to me.

The Joey Reynolds Show brings a sophisticated mix of talk, music, and entertainment that is sorely missing from most talk-radio stations. He actually has lively conversations involving multiple participants, not just interviews with the author- or celebrity- or politician-of-the-day. (Though interesting and informative interviews are part of his format, too.) These conversations ramble, go off-track, explore the nooks and crannies of their subjects (when they have one!), and -- because of or in spite of all that -- are wonderfully vibrant.

Listening to Joey Reynolds is like being a guest at a dinner party, with many regular participants, including legendary guitarist (and inventor of the electric guitar) Les Paul. Other frequent guests are biographer (most recently of Jimmy Stewart) Marc Eliot; Broadway producer (Hairspray, The Wedding Singer) Adam Epstein; borscht-belt comic Mickey Freeman (Pvt. Zimmermann from the original Sgt. Bilko show with Phil Silvers); The Amazing Kreskin; and David Randolph, the nonagenarian conductor of New York's St. Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra. UVa grad Jack Donahue, an actor, nightclub singer, and theatre director, has also been a guest on The Joey Reynolds Show, in addition to up-and-coming Broadway stars like Raul Esparza, Alice Ripley, and Melissa Errico.

Joey, with the help of regular Myra Chanin, books guests you simply don't hear on other programs: young poets, artists, and musicians who are playing their first gigs in New York; playwrights, psychologists, psychics, and policy analysts (yes, Tim Carney of CEI was there to talk about his book, The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money); and people with engaging stories to tell about their lives, from inventors of gadgets to survivors of genocide.

The Joey Reynolds Show is a rare island of urbanity in the otherwise vapid sea of talk radio. It provides the sort of civil conversation so prized by WINA's afternoon chat host, Coy Barefoot -- just in a different, less lucrative time slot.

Joey Reynolds himself has a great story to tell. Once the most highly-paid DJ in the country during the rock-and-roll '60s (he helped discover Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons), he later got into the backstage side of the film industry, attended the same Southern California church as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and returned to radio after a rocky relationship with drugs and alcohol. (His own memoir, Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella...But Don't Get a Mouthful of Rain, provides the details.)

My point is, The Joey Reynolds Show is the kind of programming that best suits discerning insomniacs.

I hope that the radio station's management will reconsider this programming change and bring back The Joey Reynolds Show to WINA. It will take some work to do so, with listeners who care about this making their views known. So, if there are any Joey Reynolds fans reading this, please call Jay James at WINA's office (434-220-2300) or send him a fax (434-220-2304) or email (jj@wina.com) with the simple message: Bring back Joey Reynolds!

As I told Jay in my own message, I tend to stay up late nearly every night, and if the current change becomes permanent, I'll just turn my dial to another station (probably WVTF-FM to listen to classical music) or search the Internet for a station that streams the Joey Reynolds Show live. Without a reversal of this decision, the upshot will be that WINA will have fewer dedicated, night-time listeners.

1 comment:

K said...

First off, I know Jay James very well and it is very unlike him not to respond to a listener inquiry or complaint so I am confident you'll receive a response from him.

Secondly, before rushing to judgement on the motivation behind the Joey Reynolds Show being removed from WINA and having a "petition" of sorts to bring it back, why not wait to find out exactly why the show is gone.

If it indeed because of failing ratings or content issues, a petition is certainly a great way to make yourself heard.

But bear in mind that whoever syndicates the Joey Reynolds Show could have given notice that they were moving it to a different station....the price of the show could've shot up dramatically forcing the show out WINA's budget...it could be a host of other reasons that may be beyond WINA's control.