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The Class of 2018 includes recently retired WGRZ-TV morning show anchor John Beard, longtime disc jockey and current Star 102.5 announcer Roger Christian, Buffalo native Tom Langmyer, who managed some of the largest radio stations in the United States, broadcast engineer Tom Atkins and 97 Rock Program Director John Hager. Former Western New York radio executive the late Mary Lounsbury will be honored with the Broadcasters Memorial Award.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame Dinner is Thursday, September 27th with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and the program starting at 7:00 p.m. in the studios of WNED-TV. Inside Edition’s Senior National Correspondent Les Trent and Tiny House Hunters Director Susan Hunt are the MCs. Hon. Penny Wolfgang and Steve Monaco are this year’s event chairs.
“The Class of 2018 has a distinct national flavor to it. Most of the inductees have made their name in broadcasting both locally and nationally,” said Steve Reszka, president of the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. “We are honored to recognize and welcome them into the Hall of Fame.”
John Beard provides a combination of journalistic credibility with Hollywood flash to this year’s class. The former news anchor with WGRZ and prior to that WIVB has a recurring role, playing himself, in the television show Arrested Development.
He began his broadcasting career in radio in his hometown of Saint Pauls, N.C. and continued on air work through the first two years of college. After serving four years as a Navy Corpsman with the US Marines, Beard returned to college and switched to television, reporting and anchoring at WITN-TV in Washington, N.C. while going to school full time.
At WITN, he began as weekend anchor and full-time reporter. After just two months he was promoted to anchor of the station’s top-rated 11 o’clock newscast, which he also wrote and produced. During that time, John won several state AP awards for breaking news coverage.
Upon graduating from East Carolina University, John anchored and reported at WXII-TV in Winston Salem, NC for one year; beginning as weekend anchor and quickly being promoted to 11 o’clock anchor.
In 1977, John was hired as 11 o’clock anchor and reporter at WIVB-TV in Buffalo, NY, one year later he was promoted to 6 and 11 o’clock anchor.
Beard moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to KNBC where he anchored winning newscasts at 4, 5, 6 and 11. He is especially proud of the 4 PM show, which was a start-up newscast with few resources but became number one in six months. At KNBC, Beard anchored and reported in the field on the El Nino storms, the Baldwin Hills fire and the LA Riots.
After a terrorist bombing destroyed the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Beard traveled to Lebanon to cover the Marines there from Southern California. After finishing the story on the Marines, John was trapped in Beirut when the airport and harbor were closed. During that time he was able to facilitate the release of a Lebanese orphan that had been adopted by an LA couple who couldn’t get him out of the war-torn country. In a surprise move, Beard brought the infant home with him and presented the little boy on Dec 20th to his new family with the message: “Merry Christmas from Beirut”.
Burbank turned out to be more dangerous than Beirut one afternoon when a gunman took over the KNBC studios during a live 4 PM Newscast. John also anchored National newsbreaks in NBC and filled in for Bryant Gumbel on the Today show.
In 1993, Beard was hired by a floundering KTTV to bring credibility and stability to their 10 PM newscast. The ratings climbed immediately and the station became the dominant 10PM newscast. Beard won numerous Emmys for reporting, including a half-hour special on Americans missing in Nuevo Laredo Mexico, live Hurricane coverage on the Gulf coast, gavel-to-gavel anchoring of the OJ Simpson criminal trial, the LA Bank of America shootout, dozens of brushfires and the Northridge Earthquake.
Beard was the viewers’ choice as favorite news anchor in nearly every newspaper poll taken in LA over 25 years and enjoys a reputation as one of LA’s most trusted newsmen. When KTTV began a series of cutbacks John’s contract was not renewed and he returned to Buffalo in 2009 to co-anchor the WGRZ morning show Daybreak with Jodi Johnston and later Melissa Holmes from 2009 until he retired early this year.
Beard also plays himself in the comedy series Arrested Development which now appears on Netflix. John says, “The best thing about playing yourself is…nobody can take your place.”
Roger Christian began his radio career as a teen disc jockey on WYSL-FM (103.3) in 1964. He went on to attend Franklin College in Indiana where he became the Station Manager WFCI-FM, the college’s radio station.
After graduation, Roger returned to Buffalo and WYSL in 1970 as the overnight jock. Three years later in 1973, he joined a new start up Top 40 station, WGRQ (96.9), where Roger was both a DJ and the station’s Music Director. In 1976 he joined WBEN/WBEN-FM (Rock 102) as Music Director and later was promoted to Program Director, and Morning Man in 1984.
Just three years later Roger helped the station navigate a change in its call letters to WMJQ (Majic 102, then Q102). Shortly thereafter he became Music Director shortly and mid-day host, which he has held ever since, 41 years and some 7 companies later.
The Buffalo Bob Smith Award recipient is Tom Langmyer, who has spent more than 40 years in the broadcasting industry in a career working in a broad range of roles – leading legendary stations in major markets, serving in corporate positions and consulting.
His interest in media began as a child. At just 8 years of age, he visited the studios of WBEN-AM/FM/TV and decided right then that broadcasting would be his life’s work. On his 14th birthday, his parents took him to the Federal Building in downtown Buffalo to test for his FCC Third-Class License. Within a just a few weeks, he was heard on the air on a radio station in Linesville, PA, the town where his grandmother lived.
During his time at Sweet Home High School in Amherst, he interned at WKBW Radio in engineering and he worked at WBEN/WBEN-FM in programming. During his college years, he worked simultaneously at WGR, WJYE, WIVB and WJJL. He also served as General Manager of WSAJ AM/FM at his Alma Mater, Grove City College, at WEDA in Grove City, Pennsylvania – and at radio stations in Youngstown, Ohio.
After college, he continued at WGR for several years, becoming the station’s airborne traffic reporter, while also working in program management. Known as “Captain Tom,” Langmyer is remembered for an emergency landing on Buffalo’s Delaware Park Golf Course in 1985. After that event, he obtained his pilot’s license, so he could fly the plane, too.
During his time at WGR in Buffalo, Langmyer, also worked on the air on weekends at WTAE in Pittsburgh, sometimes flying himself between the two cities.
In 1986, he left Buffalo for Syracuse, where he served as Operations Director of WSYR and WYYY for six years.
Langmyer joined CBS in St. Louis in 1992 as Program Director of KMOX – and was later promoted to Vice President & General Manager, maintaining the station’s number one status during his entire 13-year run. He also served as National Vice President of News/Talk Programming for CBS Radio. His broadcasting and management experience also consists of consulting both music and news/talk/sports radio stations across the country, including New York’s WNEW and for professional sports teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2005, he joined Tribune Company as Vice President & General Manager of the legendary WGN Radio in Chicago, a position he held for eight years. His accomplishments included bringing the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks to WGN – and overseeing sales – setting a record in revenue achievement as Chicago’s top-billing station. He also co-produced a televised food segment, Sky Dives, for Tribune’s national cable brand, WGN/America.
He is currently Vice President of News/Talk/Sports for E.W. Scripps Radio Division – and he serves as Vice President & General Manager of WTMJ-AM and WKTI-FM in Milwaukee. He is also President of Great Lakes Media Group, LLC (media consulting, executive coaching, acquisitions and publishing).
During his career, Langmyer has been honored for his work in broadcasting and in the community, including the NAB’s Radio Wayne Award as General Manager of the Year, R&R’s News/Talk/Sports General Manager of the Year, The Good Samaritan Award from the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, multiple Radio Ink awards for America’s Top General Managers, Corporate Programming Executives, Top Programmers and he received an Alumni Achievement Award from Grove City College.
A history author and Great Lakes enthusiast, Langmyer’s book, Lake Erie: History and Views, published in 2010, was written to educate readers on the history of Lake Erie and the surrounding region.
The Buffalo Bob Smith Award is given to an individual who is either a native of Western New York, or worked in this market, but made their mark on the national stage.
John Hager will be inducted in the Al Anscombe Award category. Growing up in East Aurora listening to WKBW, Hager always knew he wanted to work in radio. He graduated from East Aurora High School and Ashland University in Ohio. During college, he began his professional radio career working at stations in Hornell, Dansville, and Warsaw, NY during the summers.
After graduating from Ashland with a degree in Radio and Television, John was hired as the Program Director and morning host at WCJW-AM in Warsaw, also working weekends at the “Beautiful Music” formatted WJYE-FM in Buffalo.
In the fall of 1981, while still at WCJW, John was hired by WPHD-FM as an on- air weekend host. He eventually moved to WGRF-FM, “97 Rock.” In 1983, he was promoted to a full time on-air personality at 97 Rock— first as an overnight talent, and then in afternoon drive.
After the station abruptly changed formats in January 1985, John was hired as an on-air talent and Research Director at WCMF-FM in Rochester. One year later, he accepted the Program Director and afternoon host positions at WPHD-FM.
In the summer of 1988, after John played the now legendary April Fool’s joke of bringing back 97 Rock programming to the air for one day at WPHD, David Rich contacted him to relaunch 97 Rock as its new Program Director.
97 Rock actually returned to the airwaves with great fanfare in September 1988, and Hager has served as its PD without interruption for the past 30 years. During that time, he’s overseen the creation of many of the station’s and Buffalo’s iconic promotions, including Larry Norton’s record on-air marathon, the original Wingstock, the Memorial Day Rock and Roll 500, the 97 Rock Ball drop on New Year’s Eve, and the annual Make-a-Wish Radiothon, which has run for 24 years raising more than $2,000,000 to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses in Western New York.
The Al Anscombe Award is presented to a broadcaster who made a lasting impression in a management position.
The Behind The Scenes Award honoree Tom Atkins has been an integral part of the Western New York broadcasting community, having successfully served as Chief Engineer of WYSL AM & FM, (later WPHD); WBLK; WKBW (WWKB), WKSE (Kiss 98.5), WGR, WWWS, WBEN and WTSS (Star 102.5).
He began radio career at WUSJ, Lockport, working part time while attending college. He served in a number of capacities including news, air personality and assistant to the chief engineer. In 1975 became a full-time staff member as the station transitioned format and the changed call letters to WLVL.
In 1976, Atkins joined WYSL AM & FM, Buffalo as an air personality. During the infamous Blizzard of ‘77, he was one of only four staff members able to get to station and keep it on the air. Shortly after that he was promoted to Chief Engineer and also provided engineering services to WBLK-FM 93.7 on a part-time basis.
In 1978, he joined WKBW as a part time air personality, while also retaining a full time position as Chief Engineer of WBLK. He played a major role at WBLK in planning and executing WBLK’s move and technical upgrade to new facilities.
After a brief stint as a disc jockey at WGR, Atkins returned to WKBW as Assistant Chief Engineer. He became Chief Engineer of WKBW shortly after that. In 1986, Price Communications purchased WKBW and WKSE and Atkins moved the Kiss operation from Grand Island to Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. In early 1988, he was named Program Director of WWKB, while retaining the position of Chief Engineer of WWKB and WKSE.
Later in 1988, after WWKB moved to satellite delivered programming, Atkins joined WKBW-TV as an engineer. Then in 1991 he returned to WWKB and WKSE as Chief Engineer.
After Keymarket purchased six radio stations in the Buffalo market in 1995, they named Atkins Director of Engineering of it Buffalo radio properties.
After several ownership changes, Entercom Communications eventually purchased what were the Keymarket stations. Between January and June of 2000 Atkins and his team moved all six stations into one facility on Corporate Parkway in Amherst, where the stations remain today.
In 2002, Atkins joined Backyard Broadcasting as Corporate Director of Engineering, which he held through 2014. Since then, he’s served as Corporate Director of Engineering for Saga Communications overseeing and coordinating the company’s 67 FM and 32 AM radio stations in 26 markets.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Memorial is awarded to broadcasting trailblazer Mary Lounsbury. She was a pioneer in Buffalo broadcasting, a trailblazer — a woman General Manager at a time when radio management was almost exclusively male.
Lounsbury began her broadcasting career in 1956, at the age of 29 at WNIA in Cheektowaga. She was one of the first hired, and because it was unheard of to have a female General Manager in radio, her official title was “Office Manager”.
As the general manager of a popular and distinctive suburban radio station, Lounsbury faced extremely difficult odds. While WKBW dominated the airwaves with 50,000 watts, and most of the other stations in Buffalo were operating with 5,000 watts, WNIA attracted a competitive and loyal audience with a daytime signal of just 500 watts and a nighttime output of a mere 250 watts. Despite having a fraction of the power and reach of the other stations in the market, WNIA was a successful presence in the Buffalo market. Thanks to her guidance and programming skill, the little suburban station attracted a significant audience and maintained a competitive ranking in the market.
Lounsbury was committed to placing new music into the playlist on WNIA, and tried to program just-released records on the air, often before they were played by her competition. She gained a national reputation became known as a manager who was willing to take a chance on a new artist and/or record.
Long before there were social media, Lounsbury perfected various techniques to engage the audience with the station. Gordon Brown, the owner of WNIA, refused to allow a live on-the-air telephone call-in system, so she developed programing that encouraged listeners to mail in dedications and requests on postcards! As archaic as that sounds in 2018, it was a highly successful way to build loyalty for the station in the ‘50s and 60s. “Melody Corner” was a Monday through Friday block, scheduled from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, in which the requests received via U.S. Mail were played on the air. It was enormously popular, back in the day, and kids would tune in and wait for “their dedication” to be played. The show began shortly after the station’s sign-on in 1956, and continued until 1974.
Lounsbury carefully supervised the programming of the station. She developed a reputation as a tough businesswoman who guarded the license and format with resolve. Despite her strong exterior, she possessed a genuine warmth that immediately put people at ease.
Perhaps her greatest legacy lies in the fact that she provided that all-important “first job in radio” for countless aspiring disk jockeys in the area. She took the time to nurture talent she hired, providing a combination of constructive criticism and personal encouragement. Almost every person she hired has found success and fulfillment in broadcasting or a related career area, and most have treasured “Mary stories” about how her influence and support helped them grow and advance in their profession.
Mary was just 66 when she passed in 1994, but she was a true pioneer — the first female GM of a popular and successful Buffalo radio station, from 1956 and continuing until 1980.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Memorial Award is given to a deceased broadcaster who made a lasting impression in the broadcasting industry.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held on Thursday, September 27th at the studios of WNED-TV in Buffalo. Cocktails and dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony starts at 7:00 p.m. Ticket are $75 for Buffalo Broadcasters Association Members and $100 for non-members. They are available at www.buffalobroadcasters.com.