The goal, in the latest format change among local radio stations, is to become “the go-to station for news, weather and traffic” in the Hartford market. WPOP, with a lengthy local history that features incarnations as a pop music station, all-news station, and sports talk station, has again assumed the moniker of “NewsRadio 1410 WPOP”, last used nearly two decades ago. Owned by iHeart radio, which has hired a new program director due in the Capitol City from a major market in the coming weeks, the newly rebranded station aims to make the transition to a news format that responds to and reflects the preferences of the local audience, according to Dave Symonds Sr., Vice President of Programming for iHeart Radio in Hartford.
“There is a huge upside to the format change. We did a lot of research and there was a high degree of dissatisfaction with the non-sports news talk programming” available in the Hartford market, Symonds said. Regional Market President Steve Honeycomb added"It’s been almost 18-years since the all-news format was heard on WPOP 1410AM. We’re excited to bring back News Radio 1410 WPOP, an iconic brand and station focused on News, Traffic and Weather to serve the Hartford community, in the iHeartMedia line-up.”
The new WPOP-AM line-up will, at the outset, include mostly syndicated national programs including a daytime focus on financial news and The Vinnie Penn Project, which has been heard on WELI in New Haven since 2011. The program will now be heard 6-9 AM on both stations, with an additional hour, 9-10 AM exclusively on WPOP.
“There are a lot of shared issues in New Haven and Hartford,” Symonds points out. The program will originate in New Haven on some mornings, in Hartford on others. iHeart radio stations in Connecticut, formerly Clear Channel stations, include KC101, KISS95.7, The River 105.9, Country 92.5, 97.9 ESPN, and 960 WELI and WAVZ in New Haven.
The new station's programming line-up will include: The Vinnie Penn Project 6-10 a.m. The Financial Exchange 10 a.m-12 p.m. Bloomberg Radio 12:00p.m.-3 p.m. Howie Carr 3-6 p.m. (based in Boston) Mark Levin 6-9 p.m. America Now 9 p.m.-12 a.m.
Most recently, the station had aired a sports/talk format including Fox Sports Radio content. Years ago, from 1956-1975, it was a pop music station, the inspiration for the station’s call letters. The station routinely battled WDRC for the rock’n’roll music audience, before FM radio came to dominate that format. In August 1972 it was announced that TV entertainer Merv Griffin's company, January Enterprises Inc., was buying WPOP for $2.75 million. Griffin, who came to town to visit the station, took control the following March, according to published reports. Just a few years later, the music died on WPOP. On June 30, 1975, WPOP abandoned music programming in favor of the new (and ultimately short-lived) NBC Radio News and Information Service. But a news station in Hartford was born.
The station maintained an all-news format, which included local news/talk programming, for more than two decades, before the switch to sports talk programming in 1997 (first ESPN, than FOX in 2012). Among the local newscasters who spent time at WPOP in its all-news heyday are Gerry Brooks, Scott Gray, and Joanne Nesti, whose careers blossomed at other radio and television stations in the market. Numerous WPOP veterans went on to broadcast news careers around the country.
Those interested in hearing the new format can tune into News Radio 1410 WPOP on the station’s website, www.newsradio1410wpop.com, and through the iHeartRadio mobile app. Hartford is part of Nielsen radio market No. 52. WPOP is a 5 kW day/night station on 1410 kHz.
The Hartford market currently has other locally originated and syndicated news and talk programming. Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media purchased a group of stations in the state including the WDRC-led “Talk of Connecticut” stations, anchored by the weekday morning locally originated Brad Davis Show. The remainder of the broadcast schedule on WDRC-AM (as well as simulcast on WMMW Meriden, WWCO Waterbury and WSNG Torrington) consists of nationally syndicated programs, including Kilmeade & Friends, Dave Ramsey, The Savage Nation, The Schnitt Show, The Lars Larson Show and Overnight America.
WTIC-AM 1080 broadcasts the local Ray Dunaway show and Jim Vicevich program weekday mornings, before moving to nationally syndicated programs, including Rush Limbaugh, for the remainder of the broadast day.
WNPR, part of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, has locally originated talk programs including Where We Live, weekday mornings at 9 a.m. hosted by John Dankosky, the Colin McEnroe program each afternoon, and Faith Middleton’s long-running talk program weekday afternoons.
There is no word yet on whether WPOP will have local news reporters, as WTIC and WNPR, or news programming beyond local newscasts during the syndicated talk shows. Those decisions will be made, officials say, as audience feedback to the new format is evaluated and the new program director settles in. Although iHeart Radio has news and talk formatted stations in other markets across the country, Symonds said the approach taken for WPOP will be “customized for Hartford.”
[Logos for WPOP in its news formats - new logo above left, 1980's logo lower right.]