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WYBG celebrates 55 years on air, 25 years under local ownership

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MASSENA — Radio station WYBG 1050 AM signed on to the air 55 years ago this year, and for the past 25 years it has been under the local ownership and operation of Wade Communications Inc.

Today, the station that started as WSTS in the former Slavin’s building and played music for several years is housed on Andrews Street and offers a talk format. And, owner and general manager Curran Wade said, it is still live and locally owned and operated.

“We keep people in our studio all the time,” he said.

Wade Communications purchased the station in 1988 and kept the former music format for a while before deciding to make the switch.

“In ’91 or ’92 we decided we’d better do something different,” as some stations were playing the same types of music, Mr. Wade said.

Listeners to WYBG will find talk shows hosted by Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Roger Hedgcock, as well as national, regional and local news coverage.

The station also features sports, including Syracuse University football and basketball and Major League Baseball, as well as live weather updates 12 times a day from the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt.

There are also shows about history trivia, automobiles, computers, homes, pets, travel and health.

Mr. Wade said over the years, the owners have been heavily involved in promoting the area.

“When we first bought the station we started a Massena High School report,” he said. “We pick one high school kid from Massena every year. She or he comes over and does a two-minute report every Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. They talk about anything and everything, and sometimes they bring guests.”

“Several of the kids have gone on to do really good things,” Mr. Wade said.

A cooking show was also part of the programming. The former P&C supermarket provided gifts and another company supplied baked goods.

“People came in and did cooking. We had a whole bunch of ladies come in,” he said.

Sports have also been a big part of the programming. Mr. Wade said they used to carry professional games such as the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League and local sports such as Little League Baseball in Massena and Louisville and high school basketball games.

“This year we’re carrying professional baseball,” Mr. Wade said. “Seven of them are Yankee games and the rest are coming from other places.”

Mr. Wade, an Alabama native, graduated from the University of Alabama and is a former Gouverneur mayor.

He got his start in the media business when, as captain of a football team that went 28 games without a defeat in 1953, he was asked to take part in a sports show on the Montgomery, Ala., radio station WJJJ.

“They interviewed us. A lot of people heard us and said we had a personality for radio,” he said.

Mr. Wade attended the University of Alabama to study communications and later took a job at an educational television station in Alabama.

“I worked my way up through the educational station and ended up operations manager,” directing about 26 shows a week, he said.

Following a stint in the Army in which he broadcast sports, weather and a children’s show for the American Forces Korea Network, Mr. Wade worked in Mobile, Ala., and a station outside Chicago before taking a job at a television station in Jamestown. That station, however, was on the UHF dial and did not do well before shutting down.

Eventually Mr. Wade and his wife, Dorothy, who served as a producer and host at WYBG, found themselves in Gouverneur, where he was advertising director for Kinney Drugs before starting his own advertising agency.

And, when WYBG became available in 1988, the Wades decided to purchase it and haven’t looked back.

Among their accolades are the New York State Broadcasters Association Award in 2007 for an hourlong salute to veterans. It featured 11 local veterans talking about their military experience in Korea, World War II and Vietnam. The association named the show the best public affairs program.

“It’s the first time I know of that anybody has won north of Watertown,” Mr. Wade said.

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