The other black radio station in town: WNOV up to the challenge
There was a summit meeting of sorts on black radio Friday.
At the WNOV-AM (860) studio, located at 2003 W. Capitol Drive, morning host Sherwin Hughes welcomed his onetime rival Eric Von to the program to talk about the current state of talk radio in the African-American community.
Von was released from his previous job at WMCS-AM (1290) in a shocking move by the station that eliminated most of their regular programming.
There's no more talk on WMCS, but over at WNOV the forum for intelligent discussion of the issues was still in place.
At one point, after talking about the loss of talk shows on the competing station, Hughes actually cracked a joke to listeners about the eventual switch many black radio audience would make to his show.
"Where else are you going to go?"
Other guests included Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley, who talked about the importance of upcoming spring elections that usually had a low turn-out.
Mosley also addressed the chronic problems he sees with young people in Milwaukee who come through his courtroom, mainly traffic or driving license related offenses that end up curtailing their ability to drive in search of work or school.
Von addressed his leaving from WMCS, providing listeners with more clarity about the business decision by his former employer to end talk radio.
He also talked about his new venture, a health-oriented website for African-Americans called "Brain, Brawn & Body" that he started with his wife, Faithe Colas.
In some circumstances, a meeting between two media personalities who competed for the same audience would have been tense, but at WNOV the mood was easy and laid-back.
Part of that comes from Hughes, a former community organizer and political consultant who has been working at WNOV for the past eight months. His show is a mix of the political and local news interest fare that drives talk radio.
The familiar studio on Capitol Drive is in the heart of Milwaukee's black community and Hughes is aware that his show now becomes a must-stop location for black politicians and other leaders who want to bring information to the airwaves.
Hughes told me that he wasn't actually ready to become the leading voice in black radio so suddenly but was prepared to live up to the responsibility.
WNOV was the home of the last really big name in black radio, former alderman Mike McGee (the father, not the son) who regularly made waves and rankled egos during his years as host of his own radio show on the station.
McGee got into trouble for crossing the line with intemperate and insulting remarks about various personalities in town.
After McGee left WNOV in 2007, the station lost an identity but has rebounded recently by providing a fresh perspective to an audience starved for the kind of conversations that are hard to find anywhere else.
"The truth is that we end up giving money to people who don't respect us too much in this community," Hughes said at one point during a caller's question about the need for African-Americans to support their own businesses more.
He also reminded folks that more listeners needed to hold politicians in town accountable for many of the decisions that negatively impacted black residents.
He could have been talking about WMCS's decision to take away important voices on another station but it applied to other economic realities in town as well.
Black radio took a hit this week but over at WNOV, the voices are still being heard.
That's a good thing for sure.
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