• Frank Sterbenz

  • Frank R. Sterbenz labored behind the scenes for nineteen years at CBS -- and was on the ground floor when WCBS-AM switched to all-news. He offers this account to the WCBS Newsradio88 Appreciation Site.


    Just recently (6-13-2016) I became aware of "Memories of WCBS Newsradio88." And thought that is a good p1ace for an explanation of the origin of the word, "Newsradio." I should know, because I'm the person who first coined the word nearly half a century ago.

    My name is Frank R. Sterbenz and I worked at CBS from June 1957 until the end of 1976. Here is the history.

    In the mid-1960s I was the Research Manager for WCBS AM/FM and the Research Department was part of the Sales Department.

    Our Sales Manager at the time was Bob Hosking, an incredibly excellent executive who had no equal.

    One day he sent me to visit various communication executives to ask their thoughts about the information-education explosion. And when I interviewed Bill Jovanovich (of Harcourt, Brace, World (later Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich), he said he could talk to me for two weeks straight about the information-education explosion.

    Instead, he asked me to tell him about what radio could do. So that was a 180-degree turn from the plan. BUT SOMETIMES A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM CAN ARISE WHEN AN IDEA IS TURNED THE OPPOSITE WAY. That thought stuck with me forever.

    At that time, we were located in the "49" building just around the corner from CBS' main building at 485 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Later all the offices were moved to "Black Rock," CBS' new skyscraper at 51 W 52 Street.

    On the evening of November 9, 1965, as I was preparing to leave work, the lights began to flicker and that was the start of a massive electrical blackout that extended from Canada to New York City. At that point there was no way I was going to attempt to go to my home in New Jersey, so I decided to remain at the radio station for the night.

    The emergency generators came on and the news staff switched from its planned format to straight news to cover the emergency. Kenneth Banghart, who lived nearby and had gone home, returned to the station and went on the air.

    The news people did an outstanding job: and William S. Paley, who founded and controlled CBS' destiny, and never liked the idea that 1010 WINS had adopted an all-news format a few years earlier, decided then and there that WCBS AM/FM would promptly become an all-news radio station, and he would make it superior to WINS,

    On 8-28-1967 WCBS AM/FM became all-news, and Joe Dembo, its Editorial writer, became its General Manager.

    About that time, Joe Dembo called us all together and told us that our advertising agency had come up with the umbrella title, "The newsman's news station." We all cringed and he then said that if anyone had another idea for another title, he would be interested.

    At that point, I thought to myself, "Why should I be the one to do that? There are other people who get paid a lot more than I do, and that is their field, anyway."

    However, my subconscious would not sit still and I began to think about some kind of generic term. And for some reason, I happened to think about the fact that Bob Hosking and Pat Summerall used to carpool to their respective homes in north Jersey. At that time I also thought about when I was a youngster, my parents, in New Jersey, used to listen to WOR Radio News. THEN THE l80-DEGREE FACTOR STRUCK ME: TURN RADIO NEWS INTO NEWS RADIO. Then there would be Newspapers, News magazines and Newsradio! Generic. Easy to say. Easy to remember.

    I told Joe Dembo I had an idea for the title and we met in his office accompanied by Naomi Andrews from the radio network side. When I told Joe my word, he laughed and said he had just received a postcard from a station operator in Oklahoma who congratulated Joe on his news radio station. He said he didn't see the concept the way I had. What he saw was News Radio Station: what I said was Newsradio Station.

    Shortly thereafter, I went on a brief vacation; and when I returned he said they were going to use my word and that the lawyers added the "88" and had it copyrighted.

    That was almost a half a century ago; and since then others have picked up on the concept. There was a situation comedy called Newsradio and a local television station in Florida has used the term, "News Channel 2."

    I thought you might like to have this for your collection of memorabilia about WCBS Newsradio 88 since it is an integral part. Frank R. Sterbenz.


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