Me, Mike "The SchloMan" Schlote and engineer Jon Burkholder, 2003
Almost two years ago...when I had been working at radio station 101QFL (WQFL) for 28 years...we got the word that the stations (including our sister station Radio 91) had been sold to a national company. (The stations had been owned by a local church for many years.)
I remember sitting in the meeting thinking, "So what does that mean to our jobs?" and then realizing, "Oh, duh. We will most likely be losing our jobs" and feeling, as the British say, gobsmacked.
A few months later, Radio 91 was no more. As they had indicated they would, the company left QFL a local station for the time being.
I was able to stay on, hosting a midday show, for another six months, then I too had to go. I now do mid-day news on News/Talk 1440 WROK.
With Joe Buchanan
Charmel Jacobs, Ron Tietsort and me on the day we said good-bye to Radio 91
This past week I learned that 101QFL will be no more. Henceforward it will be Air One, a division of the company that bought the stations.
I am glad it will still be a Christian station. However, I can't deny that I am VERY sad that it will no longer be a local, community station.
My final co-host at 101QFL, Darren Marlar, wrote this on Facebook today: "
My best radio was hosting mornings with Cindy Garrett Swanson and hanging with Rick Hall at Positive Hits Wqfl in Rockford, IL. I don't know if God has a return to radio in my future or not - He has me pretty busy with stand-up comedy and TV right now, but regardless I will look back on QFL with fond memories. Rest in peace, 101QFL: 5/2/74 - 4/8/11."
Me and Darren Marlar--working with him on his morning show was sheer fun!
Susan Tyler, a long-time colleague at both 101QFL and Radio 91, wrote:
"... QFL will always hold a special place in my heart. It was station that sparked the desire in me at 13 to want to be in radio. It was the station that gave me my first job. Who would have thought, that 11 almost 12 years later, that I would be given the honor to be it's last & final Program Director? God knew. He knew that this place needed some one who cared and had a passion to see it go out in the highest form of dignity that it deserves. It will be greatly missed, but think of all the lives it touched and how many talented people passed through here. Each of us laid the brickwork for God's Kingdom and now it's going to be a mighty force, more than it could ever have been on it's own, as it joins the AIR1 Radio network..."
Susan Tyler and me--and Hammy the Hog!--at an event in 2010, not long before I was let go
Cue "Memories...pressed between the pages of my mind..."
On the occasion of my 25th anniversary at the station, I blogged about it, and included some thoughts and memories:
"*When I first came here, I typed my news stories on a manual (yes, MANUAL!) typewriter. I remember being thrilled when the newsroom got an electric! I now have a computer complete with AP news and SounDesk as well as the Internet.So many other names I could have added: Ron Tietsort, Wes Bleed, Paul Youngblood, Rick Hall, Charmel Jacobs, Susan Tyler, Stan Brengle, Jon Burkholder... the list could go on and on...
*We recorded our interviews on reel-to-reel and transferred them to cartridges. My soundbites are now all recorded onto my computer (from mini-disc if necessary.)
*I sat through lengthy county board and city council meetings in order to garner a few minutes of soundbites. 101QFL is now a music-intensive station whose focus has shifted away from a heavy emphasis on news, so such coverage would no longer be a wise time investment.
*I used to truly enjoy covering murder trials and calling in reports to the station. One of the most exciting things that has happened to me as a reporter was when I was covering the trial of accused murderer Ray Lee Stewart. At one point, he escaped from a guard on his way to the courtroom and was shot by law enforcement authorities before being on the loose for a few hours. I and a TV reporter were the only people in the courtroom at the time, waiting for the trial to resume after a recess, and we got the story to our respective stations before anyone else.
*When I first came here, the station was in a residential neighborhood that wasn't close to any retail or food places. We had to travel a ways to even go to McDonald's, and what is now a major thoroughfare (Riverside Boulevard) was just a two-lane road. Now, the station is in prime real estate surrounded by every sort of business and eatery.
*Brian Wright and other staffers used to do their best to crack me up while I was on the air. I usually managed to make it through the newscast, but then I would completely lose it as soon as the mic was turned off!
*I started working on March 23rd, 1981, but I was scheduled to go on the air for the first time on Monday, March 30th. However, a certain event called a presidential assassination attempt pre-empted me! Yes, that was the day President Reagan was shot. We went with ABC Network News, and I never made it on the air that day.
There are a lot of great--and not-so-great--memories. General managers who were complete jerks, and a few who were wonderful. A long list of DJ's and support staff for whom I will always feel affection. Many colleagues--like Mike Marino, Mike Schlote, Joel Griffith, Randy Adams, Joe Buchanan and Chris Carmichael--who I still miss to this day. Others with whom I'm now working, like Darren Marlar, help make radio a continous joy for me."
Only eternity will tell...
I think we'll never know the true magnitude of the impact WQFL made for the kingdom of God until we get to Heaven. I know I've heard many testimonies from people on how it changed their lives, saved their marriages, stopped them from committing suicide, or even just got them going to church again, but I would imagine all the stories I've heard are just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the most special things about the whole experience? The listeners. Getting to know them. Seeing them at events and concerts. Telling them what was going on in their town, on their street, in their church...what the weather was going to be like in their neighborhood.
It IS the end of an era. And I want to echo Susan: THANK YOU. Thank you for a time that will live on in my heart forever.