Long Island Radio Legends Gather On Campus

By Jignesh Majmundar

Many legendary household names of Long Island Radio gathered at Ammerman Campus on April 6, 2016. This was a first-of-its-kind on-campus gathering of 10 radio icons. Legends of Long Island 005

The icons present on the  college stage, from left to right, were Mark Daniels, Cindy, Donna Vaughan, Jay Letterman (aka Charlie Lombardo), Steve Harper, Bruce Tria, Rob Miller, Wendy Wild, and Jarrett “Skywalker” Galeno. Among these icons, Cindy, is a proud SCCC alumnus, Steve Harper is a graduate of SCCC and Bruce Tria had also taken some communications classes at SCCC before opportunity knocked on his door in 1976. These icons have worked their entire life and vested their careers in radio broadcasting. They have not only helped evolve Long Island broadcasting from a smaller radio market to one of the largest markets in the country but have also shaped the industry in such a way that it is a distinct “niche” in today’s radio broadcast business.

The event was co-sponsored by the Suffolk Broadcasters Club and Long Island Radio and Television Historical Society. The event was webcast live on Sharks TV through college’s website at www.sunysuffolk.edu. Alan Bernstein, Assistant Academic Chair and Professor of Radio and Television production here at SCCC was the host speaker who introduced these radio legends.

“The point of this whole exercise is to take these people who have been a part of the life of Long Island Community for the past 20 to 30 years and put them together on the same stage to discuss the evolution of Long Island as a radio market,” Bernstein said in his opening remarks. He also added, “Being brought up in Flushing, Queens, I am a city kid. But when I moved to Suffolk County in 1974, I had a fascinating experience of listening to Long Island Radio. I had never heard such a localized, community spirited radio as the one on Suffolk County that has obviously evolved quite a bit over the years.”

Later on, while sharing their stories, each radio icon agreed that Long Island Radio, although much evolved, is still pretty localized and family friendly as opposed to New York City radio market.

While on the stage, these icons shared their stories of how they got involved with LI radio broadcasting, their unique career experiences and challenges they faced. They also discussed the Long Island radio and broadcast market.

“I think the first thing that comes to my mind is to remember and make sure that we are the mirror image of our listeners, may be not necessarily in terms of what they look like, but in terms of their life-styles, their parenting, about the challenges of living on long island. Some of the funny things that we call ‘Long Island’ that only we know, and just present something that they are already familiar with. So in designing the show, we try to stay as local as Long Island only that we possibly can. We think that that has helped keep people interested in ‘WALK’ because it is like we are part of their family, their radio family,” said Mark Daniels of breakfast club morning team at ‘WALK’.

“I grew up in Nassau County and moved to Suffolk when I started working at ‘WALK’. It was always kind of a culture shock because Nassau is kind of Western Suffolk and everything that people really listen to are New York City radio stations. New York City Radio is not very family centered, it is very edgy and trendy where as in Suffolk County, the radio stations are very local, family and community centered. This move took a little bit of ‘getting used to’ for me personally. That was kind of intimidating for me initially and it was a lot of responsibility, too, to walk in sort of the last frontier for radio news because a lot of radio stations were cutting back news to the point where it was almost non-existent and ‘WALK’ still has weekly news, afternoon news and evening news. That was a lot of responsibility to keep the news local to Long Island,” said Donna Vaughan, the news director responsible for keeping news local to Long Island, of ‘WALK’.

“It is the connection with the morning audience and the feeling that they are relevant. I think that is why a lot of us still love radio. We are just relating people to what has happened before and things that are happening in real-time. We get to convey that to people.” said Steve Harper of WBLI morning show when asked about what was so special about morning audience.

“It is all about the locality. You can not just take my radio station that serve the Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens Community and drop it down somewhere in Long Island,” said Miller, the programming director of iHeartmedia.

All of them stressed the importance of knowing the community they serve and being relevant in order to satisfy their audience needs. They all have a common goal of becoming a specialized radio station in the region and being successful. This is critical to keep the audience loyal to their program broadcast. It shows how focused and community centered they have been in shaping the Long Island region into a distinct “niche” in the radio broadcasting business and helping it evolve from a traditional smaller radio market to one of the largest technologically intense markets in the country.

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