original call letters
ON THE AIR!
History & Times
of a Legendary Radio Station
History of WCBS in
The Airwaves of New York
by Bill Jaker, Frank Sulek, Peter Kanze
click to enlarge this water view
WCBS (then called WABC) announces its 'Columbia Island' Transmitter Tower in Fortune Magazine, 1941. To read about it and see other photos click HERE
click to enlarge this aerial view
BEFORE ALL NEWS...
...there was JACK STERLING
WCBS's JOHN HENRY FAULK |
1950s WITCH HUNT VICTIM
Long before Newsradio88, Texas humorist John Henry Faulk, later a fixture on TV's "Hee-Haw," was a star on WCBS Radio -- until he was blacklisted during the right-wing communist witchhunts of the 1950s. After his ordeal at WCBS, which he wrote about in his book Fear on Trial, Faulk recorded a delightful Christmas story for National Public Radio. Click HERE to read and listen to it. Back in Texas, Faulk failed in a bid for elective office. He died in Austin on April 9, 1990. Hear Faulk discuss how WCBS Radio's former management caved in to the far right. Go to the AUDIO FILES PAGE.
KENNETH BANGHART: WCBS RADIO'S
PREMIER ANCHORMAN BEFORE ALL NEWS
Same ad, different approaches, different venues, six months apart.
click to enlarge
Print ad from the July 24, 1962, issue of The New Yorker magazine. Note the great names of CBS journalism cited in the ad. Banghart left CBS in 1967.
|| Print ad in the January 28, 1963, issue of Playbill for the opening night of "An Evening with Maurice Chevalier" at the Ziegfeld Theater, Manhattan.
CBS BROADCAST LEGEND JOE WERSHBA
While Joe Wershba, who died in 2011 at the age of ninety, earned his reputation as a producer and reporter for Edward R. Murrow and later with 60 Minutes, he was also a News Director of WCBS Radio (before it became all-news). In the film Good Night and Good Luck, Wershba was portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. More on Wershba's life and career at CBS News.
For an excellent ten-minute interview with Joe Wershba and his wife Shirley about the Edward R. Murrow days at CBS, check out the estimable NPR broadcast On the Media of May 20, 2011. It includes both the transcript and the complete audio. Go to: ON THE MEDIA
| |Joe Wershba
l-r: George Clooney as Fred Friendly, Robert
Downey, Jr. asWershba, David Straithairn as Murrow
Note from Don Swaim: Joe Wershba, a dedicated book collector, was a casual friend of mine. While on a trip to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1983, Joe found a copy of Of Mice and Men. Knowing I admired the author, John Steinbeck, Joe mailed the book to me. It was in German! (Von Mausen und Menschen). At the time, I wasn't sure I wanted an inscription in the book, but, now, Joe's inscription means much more than the book.
OLDE TYMES AT WCBS
WCBS Radio Newsroom, 52nd Street & Madison Avenue, ca 1962. L-R: Jerry Melamed, director; Jim Brooks, writer (later co-creator of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; Harvey Hauptman, producer & head-writer; Ken Banghart, anchor; Sis Aurelius, assistant. More details at Hauptman Remembers.|
1980s NEWSRADIO88 TV SPOTS
A WCBS staffer unearthed these short back-to-back TV commercials for Newsradio88 from the 1980s on YouTube. The first features Yankees manager Lou Piniella, the second actress Sally Struthers. Announcer's voice is Jim Donnelly. Runs thirty seconds. Click on image to play.
|THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Long-time WCBS anchor Robert Vaughn
remembers his first days at Newsradio 88
Robert Vaughn, Jim Donnelly, morning drive, 1986
Winner, New York's Best Radio Team Poll in 2012 at fishbowl.ny.
THREE BROADCAST LEGENDS
Election night, New York, 11/7/06
Rich Lamb, WCBS; Stan Brooks, WINS; Mitch Lebe, Bloomberg Radio (ex-WCBS)
Combined broadcasting experience: 130 years (rough estimate)
ONE CLASSY JOINT
Don Swaim's two-part mp3 interview with Lou Dorfsman HERE
click to enlarge
The paper goods at CBS were part of the design unity created by Lou Dorfsman, Creative Director of Advertising and Design for more than forty years. Even the Black Rock cafeteria's (51/20 Club) coffee cups and sugar packets displayed the famous CBS typefont known as Didot, as well as the stationery and interoffice envelopes.
WCBS LOBBY, BLACK ROCK
click "88" image below to enlarge
Longtime staffers will remember the huge decorated plywood "88" (another Lou Dorfsman creation) in the WCBS lobby on Black Rock's 16th floor. For a while there was a receptionist. Later, an in-house phone was installed next to the door, so visitors had to call someone to be allowed in. Because of demonstrations, sit-ins, and bomb threats WCBS became locked as tight as a drum. Each staff member was given a key, later a digital ID card, which served as a key.
NEW YORK MAYOR ED KOCH
NEWS WITHOUT THE NOISE?|
In 1993, WCBS launched its worst promotion campaign ever, something to do with slapping down competitor 1010-WINS with a flyswatter. Lost on listeners and the public alike, it did nothing to stop Newsradio 88's abysmal slide to its lowest ratings level since going all-news.
Read about The Great Flyswatter Promotion HERE
Alas, you can also hear about it. LISTEN and weep. Those bugs and slapping noises you'll hear are supposed to represent the competition, notably WINS.
LAST DAY AT BLACK ROCK|
In 2000, WCBS Newsradio 88 abandoned its historic (but cramped) newsroom on the sixteenth floor of Black Rock, the world-famous CBS Headquarters building at 51 W. 52 St., for fresh quarters at the CBS Broadcast Center [the station is now relocated to Hudson Street -- see below]. Anchor and archivist Wayne Cabot, assisted by reporter Rich Lamb, fashioned a super, nostalgic video of the last day at Black Rock -- posted here for the first time.
WCBS RADIO MOVES TO HUDSON SQUARE
The CBS flagship station joined five other CBS O&Os (WCBS-FM, WINS, WFAN, WWFS, and WXRK), in relocating downtown to new facilities at 345 Hudson Street on Friday, December 1, 2011. The station's original home was at Steinway Hall, 113 W. 57th. In 1929, it moved to 485 Madison Avenue [description by Harvey Hauptman HERE] and remained there until the completion of the new CBS headquarters building [Black Rock] at 51 W. 52 St. in 1965. In August 1967, WCBS became Newsradio88, and operated from Black Rock until 2000 when it moved to the CBS Broadcast Center at 524 W. 52 St. Anchor Wayne Cabot Describes the New Home of WCBS
I don't think any of us were keen about leaving the Broadcast Center with all of its history and all those legendary people walking the halls. But that melancholy evaporated the minute we walked through the glass doors and saw the elegance and class that went into every detail of our new newsroom. The studios and workstations let us create and air virtually anything from anywhere. We can even record sources from the air console as needed during breaking news.
| |345 Hudson St.
The newsroom design is intelligent, comfortable and full of redundancies should phone lines or systems fail. Tim Scheld, Rob Bertrand, Steve Swenson, Rob Sanchez, Barry Siegfried and some very smart people I'm just now meeting poured their hearts into this.
The decor is a work of art. The newsroom wall facing the air studios features a floor-to-ceiling panorama of the Manhattan skyline taken from the Empire State Building by Martin Untrojb who, when he isn't playing an urban Ansel Adams, is newswriter by morning, Spanish voice-over king by afternoon.
Cabot in new studio -- photo by co-anchor Steve Scott
The opposite wall is wrapped with historical photos of newsrooms, newsmakers and news reporters past and present. These are heritage shots: a bank of teletype machines at Black Rock; a shiny old 88 mobile unit; our High Island tower that would get knocked down by a plane on August 26th, 1967 - the eve of our first day as Newsradio 88.
A third wall has an image of Edward R. Murrow that, like the legend himself, is larger than life. The founding father of CBS News can be seen holding radio copy, tilted to reveal his timing calculations scrawled on the back.
Inspired by a proud past, built for a promising future. The entire newsroom is walking a bit taller. --Wayne Cabot
- To hear Wayne's on-the-air salute on the occasion of the move, with many famous WCBS voices: LISTEN
For an account of the move to Hudson Square by FishBowlNY go HERE.
WCBS's UNLUCKY PHILLY SISTER STATION
REST IN PEACE
Renamed WPHT as a far right-wing talk station, it fails the Tiffany test, and is an embarrassment to the once-great CBS image. [Of course now that it's been acquired by the Intercom group, it's not CBS, so I guess it doesn't matter anymore.]
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