Longtime local New York broadcaster and raconteur William O’Shaughnessy has died at age 84.
O’Shaughnessy was a fixture in Westchester County for six decades as the president and CEO of Whitney Media, the parent company of WVOX(AM) in New Rochelle, just outside of New York City, where his on-air editorials were a familiar feature.
He was the general manager of WVOX starting in 1965, and in 1968 he acquired the station, “building it into what it is today, Westchester’s Soap Box, the last great community station in the nation,” according to its website.
He also owned an FM station, WVIP, which plays Caribbean music.
O’Shaughnessy was a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, which this weekend described him as “legendary” and “a man of influence.”
David Donovan, president of the association, said in a statement, “Bill set the gold standard for local broadcasting in New York with his many editorials and commentaries. Throughout his life WVOX and WVIP remained true to their mission, serving the local community. … He was the epitome of a local broadcaster and will be missed.”
He was a vocal supporter of the First Amendment, and whenever a Howard Stern or other radio personality made headlines with an unsavory comment or was criticized for pushing the usual boundaries of on-air discourse, O’Shaughnessy could be counted on to circulate a commentary reminding the industry that even unpalatable speech should be protected.
He was also a chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, former chairman of public affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters and chairman of the first NAB National Radio Conference.
“Bill O’Shaughnessy was a passionate public servant who left an indelible mark on broadcasting through his leadership, dedication and prose,” said NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt. “His commitment to his community and our profession reflects the very best of broadcasting. Further, his incredible dedication to the Broadcaster’s Foundation helped countless lives.”
O’Shaughnessy was an inveterate networker with a huge smile and distinctive shock of white hair who loved to invite friends and colleagues to dinner at Le Cirque restaurant. He was well connected with numerous local and national politicians across the political spectrum but was particularly close with former N.Y. Governor Mario Cuomo, whom he quoted and interviewed often.
When Cuomo died in 2015, O’Shaughnessy wrote on Facebook: “My mind drifts back many years to the day New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo came by WVOX for an interview. I’m afraid I kept him waiting for about 20 minutes (something he always kidded me about and never let me forget). During that interview he looked across the microphone and, to make a point, said, ‘Look … even a Republican who doesn’t wear socks should be able to understand this.’”
A recipient of public service, editorial and media awards and a popular public speaker, O’Shaughnessy wrote six books based on his on-air commentaries, including “AirWAVES,” “It All Comes Back to Me Now” and “More Riffs, Rants and Raves.”
The Yonkers Times quoted Westchester County Executive George Latimer saying, “[H]e was the chronicler and compadre of the famous in this county. He knew them all, interviewed them all. He waxed poetically about them all. He reported on their comings and goings, and especially their final departures. He knew, perhaps alone, the impacts they had on his home heath. And now, he is with those he knew so well from Hughie Doyle to Alfred Benedict DelBello, hoisting a beverage in remembrance of a Westchester now gone, but not yet forgotten.”
In the same article, Dan Murphy, editor in chief of Rising Media Group, wrote, “He was the only person I knew that loved and admired Mario Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo [yet who] later in his life was 100% in support of President Donald Trump.”
The New York State Broadcasters Association said O’Shaughnessy’s wishes were that contributions be made to The William O’Shaughnessy Memorial Tribute Fund, c/o Broadcasters Foundation of America, 125 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019.
O’Shaughnessy never stopped speaking proudly of his radio stations and their role in the community. The photo at the bottom of this article is taken from the station website and also appeared on O’Shaughnessy’s Facebook page. He captioned it, “The New York metro area’s last great independent stations at night!”
[Read a selection of William O’Shaughnessy’s commentaries.]