I can't find the thread that I started back in summer 2011. A recap is I was driving home on the NJ Tpke got to exit 7 and eagerly flipped on the radio to FM 101.9 and my 80-90 & today alternative rock station had been replaced with little fanfare by a news station:
Transition to Merlin Media and FM News 101.9
On June 21, 2011, it was announced that majority ownership of WRXP was acquired by Merlin Media LLC, a new entity headed by veteran radio executive Randy Michaels. The sale, which the FCC approved in September 2011, included two other Emmis-owned stations in Chicago, WLUP-FM and WKQX. At 5PM on July 15, 2011, WRXP's rock format ended with the playing of "Long Live Rock" by The Who. WRXP's website (MyRXP.com) continued operation after the station left the airwaves, continuing to offer its music format via streaming online audio and later a Spotify playlist (with occasional new songs added) until Merlin acquired the domain name (see below).
"101.9 FM New" Logo
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After 5PM on July 15, WRXP (whose call sign was changed to WEMP on July 21) switched to a stunt of Adult Contemporary music branded as "101.9 FM New," a stunt that served as a transition to the station's new format. "FM New" featured a live morning show that began at 6AM on July 18, hosted by veteran New York City radio personality Paul Cavalconte (who has been with 101.9 since 1998), with Jeff McKay (formerly of Shadow Traffic and WINS) providing weather and traffic updates. News reports and news blocks were gradually introduced beginning with a 3PM newscast on July 25, 2011, anchored by Dave Packer and Mike Barker.
Logo for "FM News 101.9"
On August 12, 2011, the station ended its Adult Contemporary stunt and went full-time all-news as "FM News 101.9," following in the footsteps of its Chicago sister station WWWN (the former WKQX and the current WIQI), which flipped to all-news on July 29. As conceived by Merlin's then-COO, Walter Sabo, "FM News" was what Sabo considered a "redefining" of the all-news format; the on-air presentation was generally looser and conversational in tone, while an emphasis was placed on lifestyle, health, and entertainment features. The initial news staff at WEMP included those with experience in New York radio, including WINS alums Catherine Smith, Alice Stockton-Rossini, and Brett Larson, as well as former WCBS anchor Therese Crowley and WRXP holdover Paul Cavalconte.
Over time, the "FM News" approach on WEMP would be adjusted: The reliance on lifestyle and entertainment features was decreased; the station turned towards a tighter, polished on-air presentation; and several new features were added, including "ten minutes of non-stop news," the "top 5 trending stories" leading off every hour, and hourly sports and business updates. Coinciding with the on-air changes was a major promotional push, including television ads and promotions that tweaked WINS' longtime "22 minutes" slogan, with WEMP proclaiming "Give us 10 minutes, we'll give you the world." (After CBS Radio sent a cease-and-desist letter to Merlin Media, WEMP dropped its its "world" slogan.)
WEMP and its all-news format struggled to make gains in Arbitron ratings; for example, in the period ending January 4, 2012, Arbitron rated WEMP at a 0.5, far behind both of the CBS Radio-owned all-news stations in New York, category leader WINS (rated at 3.2 in that January book) or WCBS. (WEMP's share was lower than one of the last ratings books for WRXP, a 2.6 share in July 2011.)
Transition from news back to rock
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I have made do with CBS-FM and 101.4 which plays too much Led Zeppelin, with a spinkeling of pop ( do they ever play anything but Adele?) ever since.
Imagine my delight when I recently hit that 101.9 button in the car and I had alternative music coming out of the speakers! WooHoo! With just as little fanfare new rock is back in New York. Not the same format, I have yet to hear Ramones, etc. but perfectly fine for my driving purposes. I really like the way they back call after each song giving you artist and title
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By Summer 2012, speculation persisted that Merlin Media would convert WEMP to a news/talk hybrid, similar to its sister stations in Philadelphia (WWIQ) and Chicago (WIQI, which was also struggling in ratings with all-news and had added its own talk programming). Instead, Merlin had other plans for the station. On July 17, 2012, at 10AM (ET), a joint meeting was held with Merlin management and the news staffs of both WEMP and WIQI; while the meeting took place, a newscast on "FM News 101.9" was abruptly cut off and replaced by the reporting of one final story — an announcement that "FM News" was ending immediately. After a brief period of dead air, WEMP then returned to an alternative rock format under the "New Rock 101.9" branding, with "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys the first song played. (At the very same time, WIQI transitioned from all-news to adult hits.) In a press release, Merlin CEO Randy Michaels called dropping all-news from both WEMP and WIQI "a difficult decision to make" but one that had to be made in light of "minimal audience engagement." Several "FM News 101.9" staffers were released by Merlin, with a handful retained by the company to likely serve as reporters for Merlin's WWIQ in Philadelphia.
"New Rock 101.9" ("New Rock for New York") features a playlist that includes current and recent alternative rock songs and artists; the presentation includes an irreverent attitude and the "backselling" (identification of artist and song title) at the end of many current songs. To coincide with the format change back to rock, Merlin Media made two noteworthy moves: It filed a request with the FCC on July 18 to revert the station's call sign from WEMP to WRXP (the calls were officially changed on July 25), while also obtaining WRXP-related domain names from the station's previous owner, Emmis Communications, including MyRXP.com (which now redirects to the NewRock1019.com website). "New Rock 101.9" is currently running with limited on-air talent, with some of the previous RXP staff possibly being invited to rejoin the station. Brian Phillips returned to WRXP on 8/8/2012, broadcasting during the middays.