Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Michigan Radio celebrating 65 years of public broadcasting

In 65 years, Michigan Radio has established itself as the state's most listened-to public radio service, as it helped pioneer a news and information format that draws more than 500,000 listeners each week across southern Michigan.

"While many media outlets have cut back on their reporting, Michigan Radio has expanded its service and coverage of issues affecting the state," says Steve Schram, who oversees Michigan Radio as director of Michigan Public Media.

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Players perform a radio production in the early days of WUOM-FM, which debuted July 5, 1948. Michigan Radio celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. Michigan Radio studios originated in Angell Hall, moved in 1949 to the former Administration Building (now home to LSA), then in to 2003 to the Argus Building on West William Street. (Photos courtesy Michigan Radio)

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Schram says the station is dedicated to helping listeners better understand their state, nation and world with an awarding-winning team of reporters, and news bureaus in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Jackson and Grand Rapids.

WUOM began broadcasting in 1948 from its original site on Peach Mountain in Dexter. It is one of the three station transmitters that now comprise Michigan Radio. The others are WFUM in Flint, added as a satellite station in 1952, and WVGR in West Michigan, in 1961. The stations simulcast identical programming from WUOM's Ann Arbor studios in the Argus Building. The programming also is available to a global audience as more than 100,000 people monthly listen via Internet stream and smartphone apps, Schram says.

In the station's 65-year history, some on-air personalities rose to regional and national prominence. Bill Flemming, who broadcast U-M football on WUOM and served as sports director, became a prominent national network television sportscaster in the 1960s on ABC's Wide World of Sports.

Hazen Schumacher became known for "Jazz Revisited." The half-hour program produced at WUOM was a celebration of jazz recordings made between 1917-47, and was carried by more than 100 stations. Schumacher, 86, resides in Ann Arbor.

The station on Oct. 14, 1960, recorded presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's three-minute impromptu speech before thousands of U-M students who waited in the cold to hear him speak.

"Fortunately, WUOM had committed to covering the Kennedy speech no matter the numerous delays that caused his very late arrival to the Union. This recording has been accessed many times over the past 50 years and is a foundation of documentation to the inspiration for the Peace Corps," Schram says.

The station counts as a key accomplishment the creation in 1996 of The Great Lakes Radio Consortium, the first successful regional environmental news feed for public radio stations. Now named The Environment Report, Schram says it has since come to be recognized as a national leader in environmental broadcast journalism, earning more than 100 awards for journalistic excellence.

"The mission is to reveal the relationships between the natural world and the everyday lives of people," Schram says.

In keeping with the station's mission to inform, educate and entertain people about Michigan and the world around them, the station last fall established its newest offering, "Stateside with Cynthia Canty" at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The one-hour program covers Michigan news and policy issues, and culture and lifestyle stories. Guests have included Gov. Rick Snyder, writer Mitch Albom, blues singer Bettye LaVette, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.