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Talk show host likes to listen to callers

Talk show host likes to listen to callers

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WHEATFIELD -- The man behind the mellow morning voice on WJJL-AM 1440's live call-in show, "Viewpoint," has interviewed personalities that include Mario Cuomo and Billy Martin.

Tom Darro recently let Niagara Weekend ask the questions, and here's what he had to say:

>How has radio endured throughout the decades, despite all the distractions?

I've been in the media business for over 40 years in one form or another, and I've found that people in this area especially like to voice their opinions regarding local issues. One of the reasons that "Viewpoint" has lasted so long is because it offers residents of Niagara County and the surrounding area a chance to be heard about issues that affect them. That's not always the case with regional or national talk shows. Here at WJJL, we've given them a chance to respond to issues around Niagara Falls, where they can't do it elsewhere.

>What are your goals?

My goal is, first and foremost, to offer a quality product on the air without a slanted view, offering the listener an opportunity to tell what they feel, without the host slanting the views.

>You don't have opinions?

Don't get me wrong, I have opinions and offer them on the air as any talk show host would do, but I also allow the callers to tell me what they think. Our show is fair and offers the listener/caller a chance to talk without time limits in most cases, so they have an opportunity to voice their entire opinion. We have dialogue.

>How did you start your radio career?

I started doing what they called record hops in 1963 at local dance halls in the area. The Beatles were just coming out. Over the years I did many record hops on my own and did a few with the late Rod Roddy, who was at WKBW at the time, also with Dan Neaverth, Tom Shannon and a few others. I started on radio in 1966, and I did a record show on WJJL in the summer until 1969.

>Who else did you work with?

In those days, I worked with some top-notch people, including the late Bob Wells, a mainstay in Western New York broadcasting for many years and one of the first guys I worked with. During the 1960s and 1970s at WJJL, I worked very closely with Jimmy Thompson, who was the news director and a very close friend of mine for many years until his death in 1993. Jimmy, as you know, was not only one of the top broadcasters in Western New York since 1948, but also the Niagara County correspondent for The Buffalo News for over 30 years. This man taught me a lot, and to this day, whenever I speak at a dinner or a public function, I always recognize his memory and what he meant to the Niagara area. He was one of the top people in the reporting field. I still miss him.

>How did you start hosting "Viewpoint?"

The morning show at WJJL became available in 1969, and when offered the position, I took it without hesitation. I did the morning program at WJJL from 1969 to 1975, when I was named news director. It was then that I first began hosting "Viewpoint."

"Viewpoint" was the nation's first two-way telephone talk show, which started at WJJL in 1956. At that time it was called "Party Line" and evolved into "Viewpoint" in the '60s. During my years at WJJL, we were able to start the careers of many popular voices on Buffalo radio.

>Like who?

Joe Chille, Tom Bauerle, John Murphy and his wife, Mary Travers. As a matter of fact, John and Mary met in my newsroom back in the mid-'70s, shortly after they both graduated from college. Tom Bauerle lied to me, he told me he was older -- he was only 16.

>Tell us about the broadcasting break you took.

My broadcasting career paused in 1981 when the former Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau offered me a position of vice president of communications. I accepted and spent 22 years in tourism promoting Niagara Falls. The NFCVB was dissolved in 2003, and the current Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation was formed with all new staff. All members of the NFCVB and the Niagara County tourism agency were released, which left me looking.

At that time, I went to work for the City of Niagara Falls as events coordinator. I spent two years there, before the Niagara Falls City Council eliminated the position.

You have to be resilient.

>Then -- full circle like a record -- you went back to radio?

After a few other assignments, I was called back to radio, and it's been great ever since. WJJL contacted me in 2006 and asked me to return to the "Viewpoint" program. In November of that year, I did, and it's been successful.

>What do you think of Rush Limbaugh?

To be honest, he's not one of my favorite people. He offers his opinion way too often. But then again, I never listen to other talk shows.

>Never? Really?

I may listen on occasion, but not often at all.

>What are your future plans?

At this point in my life and career, I'm very satisfied to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm comfortable, and I've spent many years doing the hard part. Now it's time to just enjoy what I do and continue providing a service to the local listeners.

I had a heart attack not too long ago and had stents put in. I feel OK. I credit my wife, Annmarie, helping me through it.

>How old are you?

I'll be 61 this summer and hope to stay on the air for as long as my health will allow.

>Your station's been located in The Summit mall. How have you been dealing with that?

We've been planning a move from the mall. In November, we were moved to a different location in the mall, which proved to be unacceptable. For the past two months or so, we've been searching for a different location. About a month ago, we found one. We just signed an agreement with the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, and we'll be moving in there [soon].

Have an idea about a Niagara County resident who'd make an interesting question-and-answer column, or an issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240 or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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