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Entercom cuts staff; economy blamed

Broadcast giant Entercom laid off the news director at WBEN AM 930 earlier this month, as the company trimmed staff in several cities in the wake of its shares trading near record lows.

Monica Wilson had been news director at WBEN since 2001. She had formerly held the same position at WNED. Callers were told that Wilson's employment at the station ended last week.

Calls to WBEN requesting comment were referred to Entercom spokeswoman Emily DiTomo, who offered this statement: "Due to the challenging economic conditions, we have made a few difficult, yet necessary and prudent decisions to selectively trim expenses."

Nationally, Entercom -- which owns seven local radio stations -- has been cutting staff in October, according to reports in industry guide Radio & Records. Layoffs among on-air talent and producer and technician ranks have been reported in Boston, Kansas City and Milwaukee.

According to the Radio Ink trade journal, Entercom CEO David Field told employees in a letter last week that there will be more "necessary changes" in light of conditions, and that the company is suspending its matching contributions to 401(k) plans until "after the economy recovers."

Entercom owns KISS FM 98.5, WLKK 107.7 and three other Western New York stations in addition to WBEN and WGR.

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>New to the airwaves

Local writer Christina Abt has taken to the airwaves with Buffalostyle, a talk show broadcast Saturdays on WECK 1230 AM.

Last Saturday was her first broadcast on the radio, but Abt has been building an audience for a year already, while broadcasting her show on the Internet.

Abt says her show will focus on the positive aspects of life in Western New York and inspirational stories of people making a difference in local communities.

"While I would never suggest that the Buffalo Niagara region is problem-free," said Abt, "I also know, from living away from this area for six years, that every community has its good points and bad, and they all endure challenges that define their quality of life."

Abt, a veteran free-lance writer, blogger and town activist, says there's enough coverage of things going wrong, and enough shows permeated with negativity.

She's going a different way: "I am encouraging listeners to share their positive stories about the people, places and events that make WNY such a great place to live, work and play."

Buffalostyle is on WECK AM 1230, 8 a.m. Saturdays.

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>Spooky anniversary

This Halloween marks the 40th anniversary of one of Buffalo's classic radio memories, WKBW's 1968 version of "War of the Worlds."

On Halloween night in 1968, WKBW, then a 50,000-watt station that could be heard along the East Coast at night, launched its own version of the 1938 Orson Welles classic.

Program Director Jefferson Kaye coordinated a re-enactment of a Martian invasion, with WKBW staff including reporters Jim Fagan, Don Lancer and Joe Downey, plus disc jockey Sandy Beach and television anchor Irv Weinstein.

Calls from panicked listeners jammed the station switchboards despite periodic announcements that it was merely drama.

The date was marked at Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame dinner in September.

Making radio waves? Send radio news to agalarneau@buffnews.com.

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