YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – NewsRadio 570 WKBN is 90 years old on Monday, but has come a long way since then.
The first broadcast in 1926 was produced by founder Warren Williamson in his house.
“September 26, he set up an antenna from his house to his garage in the back of the property, this was on the south side of Youngstown, and he put his transmission equipment in the bathroom of the second floor and ran cables down,” said Bill Lawson, director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
The historical society houses some old memorabilia from the radio station including transmitters, microphones, dials and tapes. Lawson says it’s unique for a small town like Youngstown to have such an extensive and well-kept archive of media history.
“What is so important about the collection is that it has, in many ways and sometimes the only way, documented our history here in the Mahoning Valley in the 20th century, going back to 1926.”
The Mahoning Valley Historical Society has opened the media and business archives of WKBN Radio for public display.
Dan Rivers, the program director and an on-air personality for 570 WKBN, says that even though the technology looks different now, not much else has changed.
“It’s kind of interesting in that radio hasn’t really changed all that much for the general public, because the general public still consumes this radio station the same way they did.”
Bob Hotchkiss, the market president of iHeart Youngstown, says that working alongside Warren P. Williamson at WKBN is something he will always cherish.
“If you’re my age, we actually got to work side-by-side with a pioneer of an entire industry, and that doesn’t happen in many lifetimes.”
That first radio broadcast 90 years ago led to WKBN 27 as the first TV station in the Valley, then to FM radio, and later to cell phones for Williamson’s company.
Rivers says despite the rise in other forms of media, he’s confident that radio still has a role to play.
“You have digital radio, you have iHeart and all of these different ways to consume it but in my mind, I always think that terrestrial radio will go on and people will tune in to us for good programming.”
As for the future of WKBN Radio, Hotchkiss says that it’s working well and should be left as is.
“I would say the five, to ten, to 15, to 20, to 25-year growth looks the same. We want to remain a pillar of the community.”
The Williamson family got out of the broadcasting business in 1997. Bud Williamson, Warren P. Williamson’s son, called to congratulate WKBN Radio on its 90 years and to wish them many, many more.