It's the Talk Radio War

September 11, 2012

Long-established WGMD – 97.7 – is being taken to the mat by upstart WXDE – 105.9. Two of WGMD's talk-jocks left the station and magically are on air again. They never hinted they were taking new jobs with Delmarva Broadcasting Co. when they left the airwaves of WGMD.

Dan Gaffney, the most recognized radio personality in the area, and Jared Morris, who has a strong following, are soldiers in this war for domination of the airwaves. Gaffney takes the chair from 5:30 to 10 a.m. and Morris is on the air from 3 to 7 p.m. at WXDE.

The first shots have already been fired as the new station went on the air right after Labor Day. WXDE has taken the Friday live show at Jimmy's Grille in Bridgeville away from WGMD. Gaffney hosted the show with a series of sponsors for years at his former employer; now he's doing the same show with many of the same cast of characters – including Jimmy's owner Alex Pires and Jim Weller – coming on the air.

To counteract the move, WGMD is starting a live broadcast on Wednesdays from one of its main advertisers, Atlantic Cellular.

I've been listening to both stations and have recognized some of the faithful voices from WGMD are now showing up on WXDE. The one I was most surprised to hear was the voice of Frank Knotts, one of the most prolific callers to WGMD over the years. Knotts has an opinion on just about every topic, and he's anxious to share it.

Last month, WGMD literally imploded after Gaffney announced he was leaving. It was like musical chairs for a few weeks until the current lineup took hold. Bill Colley, who hosted the afternoon-early evening show, has taken over the early-morning show, sharing air time with veteran newswoman Kelli Steele. He has had to tone down the political rhetoric he is known for because most of what he talked about in the afternoon is too intense for people just getting out of bed.

WGMD's Mike Bradley – from 9 a.m. to noon – and Jim Rash – from 3 to 6 p.m. – seem to appeal to a lot of people and talk about interesting topics. Bradley and Colley have strong sports backgrounds, which seems to be an important topic among their listeners. I don't see much of that coming from WXDE, which gives WGMD a little edge.

WGMD still has the king of talk, Rush Limbaugh, every weekday for three hours and has added Mike Savage in live format from 6 to 9 p.m. Savage may not appeal to all listeners, but I like to listen to him because he gets so passionate about the topics he discusses. My only criticism of Savage is that he cuts most of his callers off before they have a chance to engage in a discussion.

WXDE starts out with Gaffney, followed by Susan Monday, who says she is living in a Dover hotel, and an hour of news with Alan Loudell of sister station WDEL. Monday comes back on the air from 1 to 3 p.m. followed by Morris, who calls his move from mid-mornings to late drive-home time a move up. Syndicated financial talk show host Dave Ramsey is on WXDE from 7 to 10 p.m.

I have to admit I like to listen to most talk radio. I don't like it when talk show hosts belittle callers for having opposing views because the exchange of ideas is what conversation is all about.

How will this war of the airwaves turn out? Only time will tell. I was once involved in a battle with a competing newspaper in a small town that was ugly at times. My company threw a lot of money at promotion to beat down the other newspaper and eventually ended up buying it and hiring its employees.

Is there room for two talk-show stations in southern Delaware? Now, that's a great topic for callers to chime in on.


  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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