At the turn of the 21st Century, the radio industry was enduring its iffiest period since the 1950s with the development of the internet, satellite radio, and mobile device streaming. Yet WSB remained a vital, competitive utility for the Atlanta metro, as most powerfully demonstrated during events which bookended our last two decades. “Atlanta’s Morning News” was nearing signoff on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 when News Director Chris Camp interrupted with an alert at 8:53 AM: a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York--”if you can believe it,” Camp added, incredulous as his listeners. At 9:09 AM, Scott Slade reported “At this point, folks, we can only surmise that these two aircraft were run into those twin towers on purpose”. Anchor Bob Coxe interviewed an eyewitness whose riveting account was possibly the first of any outlet in any media to report people jumping from World Trade Center windows. As WSB covered the second “Day of Infamy” in its history, a stunned metro leaned on Slade’s expertise as a pilot; Jamie Dupree’s long experience in the nation’s capital, where the Pentagon had also been attacked; Clark Howard urging calm; and steady news voices including Marcy Williams, Mike Kavanaugh and others.
Businessman and political insider Herman Cain joined the WSB talk lineup in 2008, leveraging his popularity for an improbable—and, for a time, front-running–Presidential campaign in 2012. WSB’s annual Care-a-thon began at the turn of the century, and over its 21 years has raised more than $28,000,000 to fight childhood cancer through the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In January, 2014, station staffers joined their fellow Atlantans stuck for the night when the “Snowmageddon” ice storm stranded thousands wherever they happened to be, including in cars along the interstate. WSB abandoned its regular programs to provide coverage which turned into an all-night vigil; during the wee hours, having otherwise run out of things to say, host Erick Erickson read his Sunday School lesson aloud.
Some recent milestones have been unhappy ones. Producer and host Royal Marshall died unexpectedly in 2011. The death of our beloved Captain Herb Emory in 2014—falling ill as he’d stopped to help at an accident—stirred a near-astonishing groundswell of citywide grief and tributes; the Georgia 400-Interstate 85 flyover ramp is named in his honor. Herman Cain died of COVID-19 in 2020, and lung cancer took talk radio pioneer and titan Rush Limbaugh in 2021. Atlanta said an on-air goodbye to meteorologist Kirk Mellish, who retired from his day-to-day duties in 2021, succeeded by meteorologist Christina Edwards.
The near-unprecedented addition of an FM simulcast in August, 2010 boosted WSB’s reach, and the 50,000-watt AM signal also continues to beam what’s now known as “95.5 WSB Atlanta’s News and Talk” to what is, by some measures, the largest news-talk audience in the country. And that other bookend: the Coronavirus pandemic arrived in Georgia with Governor Brian Kemp reporting the state’s first cases on March 2, 2020, and the state soon locked down—schools, businesses, churches closed, a “shelter in place” order in effect. Again proving a bedrock of the Atlanta community, over the next several months WSB attained its largest audience in three decades--providing airtime to state and national leaders for urgent announcements; delivering calm, steady news coverage which included three-dozen award-winning specials; and engaging in public service aid programs on-air and social media which supplied food, health, employment assistance and human connection to struggling Georgians.
WSB moves into its second century with a daily schedule of “Atlanta’s Morning News”, with a 4:30 AM start; Eric Von Haessler’s “Von Haessler Doctrine,” now in its seventh year; “The Erick Erickson Show”, which succeeded Rush Limbaugh at noon; Atlanta radio alum Sean Hannity at 3:00 and 7:00 PM; “Atlanta’s News and Talk” with Mark Arum at 4:00 PM; and “Word on the Street” with its predominantly African-American cast led by Shelley Wynter, MelaniKai, and Scotty B at 9:00 PM. It is a tribute to everyone whose skill and commitment are detailed above that after 100 years--and despite tremendous change in both Atlanta and the broadcasting industry—WSB remains a consistent #1 in audience ratings, was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow award in 2019, and in 2021 was named the Marconi “Legendary Station of the Year”. More importantly, our listeners continue to return that commitment with donations of millions of dollars, toys, blood, school supplies, disaster relief, anything asked of them. That bond between institution and audience has endured for a century and continues, strong as ever, into a second. Welcome South, Brother…and Depend On It.
FROM THE ARCHIVES:
WATCH: WSB television commercial from 2011:
WATCH: WSB television commercial from 2015:
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