While I’ve been on an extended sabbatical since April, my coworkers haven’t and I’m sad mostly for them – and some for me too.
In May of 2015, I went to WNAV because of a shoe drive I organized in the memory of Barbara Smith-Cox, a much-loved news director at WNAV who died suddenly and way too soon. I came out with a job offer. Radio? Broadcast journalist? How would this ever work I kept asking myself. I tell stories in photos and written words – I’ve done this for a long time. And so began my time in this new media known as AM radio. Okay, maybe AM radio wasn’t new media to other people, but it certainly was to me.
WNAV is WKRP and I mean that in the best way possible. We are a family at WNAV. We celebrated together, we mourned together, we built memories together and this happened over and over again with different people though the 72.5 years of the station – all of this happened while the music, sports, news and weather played on. My memories over these past years are cherished – even the ones that maybe weren’t funny at the time. I had a fire marshal in for an interview who said he was glad he was there for an interview and not an inspection because there’s no doubt we would’ve failed. All of those places we broadcasted from – the Naval Academy for Blue Angels Day and Commissioning Day, the Pennsylvania Dutch Market and the fairs and festivals. So many.
There was so much laughing with Announcer Terry Alley and that’s not to say we didn’t argue because we did that too. Like Barbara, Terry also died much too young. I miss both of them – I’m so grateful for the friendships and the time with both. There were so many people that came into my life because of WNAV – people I worked with, those I interviewed, those I met out and about. So many memories. There was the time when I stepped out of recording a show with Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann just as the song, “I Shot the Sheriff,” came over the speakers. How did that even happen? The Sheriff laughed and told us he was excited to be there – he said as a kid he would call in in for every contest. All of this was WNAV. A station people knew, loved – a true member of the community and one that kept the community informed about local news, weather, traffic and sports as the music played on. “Your hometown station. The information you need… The music you know!” I hope it still will be all of that, but starting January 1, the voices of the people you know will no longer be on-air at WNAV.
Back to those memories – there was the the time I got a call from our General Manager Steve Hopp asking if I had the van. I didn’t. The van had been stolen. The old van, with WNAV plastered all over it – the one I was convinced would break down on Rt. 97 on my way back from broadcasting at the opening of a Goodwill store and again on the road into Camp Letts. Who would steal it? This is the stuff you just can’t make up.
People would call into WNAV and ask for traffic or weather information. They’d call for songs. They’d call to ask questions about you name it. They’d call to let us know about accidents. They’d call just to talk to us. When we showed up at events, people knew us by name even if we hadn’t met them before. I once admitted on-air that I hadn’t tried Natty Boh. Within fifteen minutes, a higher up in the Anne Arundel County government delivered two cans of Natty Boh to us – one for me and one for our announcer.
I’ve always likened WNAV to The Little Engine That Could – we would never be the Acela train, but we just kept chugging along at our own pace. Much of the broadcasting equipment at WNAV is state of the art – with state and art being subjective words. And that’s what lent to the beauty of WNAV. This group of people made it work with what we had as the music, sports, news and weather played on.
I carved out a space for myself at WNAV that hadn’t been a space before and I’m grateful for those that allowed me to do that. That allowed me to be me. It allowed me to tell the stories that wouldn’t have been told otherwise (A LOT of animal stories). It allowed me to continue telling stories with photographs, videos and yes, the written word – for an AM radio station. This allowed me to grow so much as a journalist – I don’t know of another place where I could’ve done that.
On March 17, 2020, because of growing concern about the pandemic, I decided not to work at the studio anymore – I’d still work, but remotely. I left that day and have since been back maybe two or three times. At that time, I had two shows already recorded which gave me enough time to figure out how to record a show remotely. The first few attempts weren’t great, but I figured it out. A year later and, for several reasons, I needed to put a pause on everything. At the end of March 2021, I started my sabbatical. What I didn’t see coming was the sale of WNAV. Yes, I knew it was always a possibility – we all did. I thought when I left WNAV in the beginning days of the pandemic, I’d return to record my shows at some point. Even when the sabbatical started, I thought I might return. What I didn’t see coming was the choice wouldn’t be mine.
A week before Christmas we, the on-air staff, were told it was over for us. WNAV will go on. The past will be cherished for the friends and memories made at WNAV. This place that holds 72.5 years of Annapolis history is a special one. I’m hopeful the new owners will recognize how special it is and that the memories that I have there are only those of one person. Through its history, including currently, WNAV has had so many talented, hardworking and dedicated employees. I hope the new owners will bring back the local voices when they’re able to – that means hyperlocal news, traffic, weather and sports about Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties and not piped-in voices from afar with information about other places. There were many who slept in the studio during blizzards, some who used it as springboard to other jobs, some who returned after working at other jobs and all who hold memories of our time at WNAV and all who made it hyperlocal. All of us who’ve kept that little engine chugging along while the music, sports, news and weather played on. “Your hometown station. The information you need… The music you know!”
If you know of job openings for our announcers or news personnel, please let me know. I’ll pass them along.