making radio waves
As leader of the DVE Morning Show weekdays from 6 to 10 on 102.5, RANDY BAUMANN is the college buddy who can always crack you up. The Clear Channel Media & Entertainment station’s morning show is a perennial favorite. Its lineup includes Baumann, Scott Paulsen, Val Porter, Bill Crawford, Mike Prisuta and a cast of beloved sketch comedy characters. “Doing what I love is a privilege,” Baumann says
Raised in Erie, Baumann graduated from Penn State with a business degree and got a job as an accountant with KPMG in Pittsburgh—an odd vocation for a born musician who played keyboard in jam band Plato’s Cave and toured with Rusted Root.
The accounting job didn’t last. Baumann landed a job on the Rocket 101 morning show in Erie and then in 1999 got the dream offer from rock DVE—a huge jump from radio market 151 to the top slot at the 19th biggest radio market in the country. It still seems to surprise him: “It’s been a great honor to work at one of the great radio stations in the country.”
The bachelor moved to Mt. Lebanon because some buddies lived here. But you won’t find him home much. Whether it’s concerts or sports events, he says being out in public helps him become part of “the conversation that the city is having.” Now in his early 40s, he says he has a case of arrested development: “I think I’m 22.”
He doesn’t live in the office either. He, Paulsen and Crawford meet for an hour after every show, then work and communicate from home studios. He loves writing sketch comedy and never really considers what other people might think is funny. “You know it’s good if it makes you laugh,” he says. He appreciates the “complete autonomy” the station gives him and says he’s as critical of himself as a boss would be: “I beat myself up pretty good.”
Baumann is proud of his work with charities, something he first realized he loved while participating in Penn State’s student-run Dance Marathon. Last year, The Association of Fundraising Professionals named him Volunteer of the Year. Among his favorite causes are Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Auberle in McKeesport, Cystic Fibrosis and Special Olympics.
What makes the DVE morning show an institution is its ability to “tap into the attitude of the city. Pittsburghers are pretty good at laughing at themselves,” he says. The show stays relevant because “it has the ability to be a mirror for the city,” he says, thanks to authentic, real Pittsburghers working at DVE.
“Radio is local,” he says. People may want to listen to national personalities like Howard Stern on satellite, “but then you want to talk about the Steelers losing and the Pirates winning and traffic.”
Anyone still working in uber-competitive radio world is there because they truly want to be, he says: “I love it. It consumes all of my life.”
JACK BOGUT, cozy in his basement studio, cues up a tear-jerking spoken essay he’s working on for a CD about the Civil War. For Bogut, it’s all about the story.
If you lived in Pittsburgh in the 1960s and 1970s, you listened to Bogut in the Morning on KDKA… because he made you laugh…because you wanted to hear if your school closed during a snowstorm… because you wanted to hear about “farkleberry” treats distributed as he broadcasted from Kaufmann’s window during the Children’s Hospital holiday fund drives… because everyone else was listening.
The Montana native took a radio job while enrolled at Western Montana College of Education. After working in Salt Lake City, he moved to Pittsburgh in 1968 to take over KDKA morning radio from Rege Cordic. Bogut and his wife, Joanie, have lived in their current Mt. Lebanon home since 1988. They have three grown children.
Bogut left KDKA in 1983 for a stint at WTAE-TV, and later, radio station WSHH, before taking over afternoon drive at 1320 WJAS in 2000. He was promoted to mornings three years later, and he’s been in that slot ever since.
Along the way, Bogut, now 77, was Mayor of Pittsburgh for a day in 1975 after winning a bet with Pete Flaherty. He received the key to the city and was named to the Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2011. His studio wall is lined with all manner of accolades, from pictures of billboards to awards for Joanie and him from the charities they’ve supported for 50 years.
He knows WJAS may appeal more to the silver sneakers set than the throngs he used to address, but he doesn’t care because the quality is there.
These days many stations are corporately owned and controlled, but WJAS is locally owned by Renda Broadcasting and operates like a mom and pop with a limited budget. “We’re a dinosaur,” he says. “There aren’t very many radio stations in America that play music.”
He says he “Narrowcasts” his show. “I speak only to one person,” he explains. “I’m talking directly to you.” ˙
Having fun on the air is important, he says, because, “Good times rub off.” Also important to him is connecting with people in an era when many people would rather text than talk. He predicts an eventual return to the days of stream-of-consciousness radio.
“It’s the nature of things to change. It isn’t that things are bad now. There are only so many ideas in broadcasting.”
Bogut is modest about his success. “Radio has given me an opportunity to be really useful,” he says.
Perky SHELLEY (HOULLIAN) DUFFY from Butler loved her 11th grade speech class; her teacher, Dr. Leonard, loved her voice and told her she ought to do something with it. From that point, she was on a path. She graduated from the University of Dayton in 1984 with a degree in broadcast communications and had a boyfriend named John Duffy, whom she would marry and take his last name. After several jobs at small radio stations, she got a call in 1987 about a part-time job as a fill-in newsreader at B94. She took it and became full time after the 1990 departure of Liz Randolph, who left after winning a high-profile defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit against the station.
Twenty-six years later, B94 may be gone, but Duffy is still with the station’s parent company, CBS, working as one-third of the Bubba Show weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m. on 100.7 Star, which plays “hot adult contemporary” music, and hosting three lifestyle segments for KDKA radio.
With Bubba Show, Shelley and fellow co-host Melanie Taylor are foils to Bubba’s antics, a formula that has kept the station jockeying for the lead ratings in the morning show battle.
Being a woman was an advantage, says Duffy, 51, because there were very few women competing for radio jobs: “I was very blessed. Very, very lucky.”
With a husband who learned to style ponytails and dress their two daughters, and a babysitter here and there, she could slip out for work while the rest of the city slept: “I had the perfect, perfect job. I was home by noon. It’s what every mom dreamed of.”
The Duffys picked Mt. Lebanon primarily for the school district, but both stayed here even after their amicable divorce and the girls’ departure to college. “If I can help it, I’ll never move,” Shelley says.
Radio gave her more than just a day job. She has many freelance voice gigs: That’s Duffy on TV telling you “Way to Shop” inside Macy’s stores, or pitching Treasure Hunt. She hosts a show on Fox’s sister channel, My Pittsburgh TV, and works on PCNC’s Edgar Snyder Show.
“I think [radio] has given me confidence to challenge myself,” she says.
The only person more frightening to have on your doorstep than 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft is MARTY GRIFFIN. Griffin, 54, has demanded answers for 10 years as a reporter for KDKA-TV, a local CBS affiliate. But from 9 to noon weekdays, the kick-boxer in him comes out as he hosts The Inside Story on KDKA Newsradio 1020. “I’m blessed. If you hear me complain about this job, I need counseling,” he says.
Griffin is as opinionated and emotional on radio as he is forthright and unbiased on TV, where he has “layers of editors” who don’t allow any editorializing to cross over. Not only is it do-able for reporters to express opinions in other media, says Griffin, but the blurring of the line between objectivity and subjectivity is “a new media monster” and the wave of the future. “I try desperately to do the right thing, “Griffin says, “and if I don’t, I’m very apologetic about it.”
While it seems people have become more confrontational, tossing civility out the window, Griffin says discord is nothing new. “C’mon. Look at the Crusades,” he says. “People have always been angry.” Talk radio may be the most engaging medium for [angry] people, he notes, because it encourages them to morph from listener to participant.
He chalks up his own blowups at listeners to his Italian temper and admits, “I’m a work in progress. When I screw up, I know it.”
Griffin grew up in Shadyside and graduated with a journalism degree from Ohio University. He worked in TV in Oklahoma and Los Angeles and Texas. It was in Dallas that he started moonlighting on Clear Channel-owned KRLD radio in a late-night talk show that he describes as “in your face.”
He attributes his work ethic to his father, who worked three jobs and taught Griffin to “get there first and stay there last.” He understands that radio offers him a “powerful voice that you have to be responsible for. You have to learn to handle it… You have a forum.”
Ten years ago, he married KDKA-TV news anchor Kristine Sorensen, and they’re now raising three children in Mt. Lebanon.
He gets it all done by not sleeping much— he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and gets home about 7:30 p.m. “Guys like us are crazy,” he says, adding that he feels blessed to have had the opportunity to do what he wants for 30 years in the city that nurtured him. “This is it!”
Temple University’s two TV stations lured TED SOHIER to Philadelphia, but it turned out to be radio that spoke to him. A Concord, Massachusetts native, Sohier put himself through school on the G.I. Bill, earning a degree in communications. After working at several stations in Pennsylvania, he came to jock at WDSY, “Daisy,” Pittsburgh’s country station (now known as Y108) in 1978, where he also was program director.
In 1984, he left for the air staff of KDKA’s FM station, WPNT, before leaping to TV news on Channel 53. Five years later, when the station became a Fox affiliate with no plans for local newsgathering, Sohier left to be Classical WQED 89.3 FM’s 4 to 10 p.m. weekday host. He also is the station’s operations manager.
WQED is run by a non-profit, which makes raising funds and generating memberships critical; life doesn’t revolve around ad sales and ratings. “It’s all about TSL (time spent listening),” Sohier says—not getting huge numbers of people to listen but getting fans to listen longer to the classical tracks, which run from 10 minutes to 40 minutes (punctuated, of course, by the occasional pledge break). Sohier says WQED is one of the most successful classical music stations in the country because they get out in public, record live performances and promote local artists as much as they can. “The connection to the cultural community is really important to this station.”
Sohier, 68, is a little sad about how radio has evolved. “When I got into radio, it was something that everybody used. It used to be a vital medium. It’s feeling less vital.” When he was in school, he says, everyone listened to the same station creating “a kind of bonding… Radio was kinda cool.”
Yet he lauds the technology. No longer beholden to things like 10-inch reel-to-reel tapes, editing splice tape and cart machines that play audio on an endless loop, entire shows can be recorded digitally, allowing him to go home for dinner while his show plays without him.
He loves the intimacy of radio’s one-on-one communication. “I don’t think anything in the new offerings of media is even attempting to do that,” he says, “And that’s a shame if we lose that.”
Looking back on his career, Sohier says, “ I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I have felt a great satisfaction. I don’t know that you could ask more than that.”