In 2015, Hubbard Radio’s “The Mix” 101.9 in Chicago raised $1,316,404.55 for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, thanks to the station’s annual Eric & Kathy Radiothon.
From left: Paul Webber, Dave Karwowski, Eric Ferguson, Mary Ellen Kachinske, Teddy Harris, Kathy Hart, Susan Wiencek, Greg Solk, Dianne Sharp and John Gallagher. WTMX(FM) morning show hosts Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart have been running that event for the past 16 years, during which they and WTMX have raised a total of $27 million for this Chicago hospital. That is a major social contribution by any radio broadcaster’s standards.
Hubbard Chicago Market Manager John Gallagher is understandably proud of the radiothon’s multimillion-dollar fundraising success. But he emphasizes that much of WTMX’s charitable work, while done on a smaller scale, is just as important to the staff and ownership.
“We do a lot of lower-profile fundraisers to help out our listeners; be it for a family who has lost a mother or father, a young cancer patient who needs support in paying for treatment, or someone else who needs financial and human assistance in our listening area,” Gallagher said. “Such efforts don’t always garner the attention and accolades that a big campaign like the Eric & Kathy Radiothon does, but they matter as much to us.”
WTMX’s long commitment to social contributions big and small is why the National Association of Broadcasters is presenting the station with the NAB Crystal Heritage Award at the spring convention.
This honor recognizes radio stations that have won a total of five Crystal Radio Awards for exceptional year-round community service efforts. The NAB Crystal Heritage Award will be presented to WTMX management during the NAB Show Radio Luncheon Tuesday, April 19, in Las Vegas. Only five other stations have received this honor since the Crystal Radio Awards were launched almost 30 years ago.
“Winning the Crystal Heritage Award is a great achievement, which I credit to the dedication of our staff and the civic mindedness of Bonneville International and Hubbard Radio, our past and current owners,” said Gallagher.
“Both companies have a strong tradition of giving back to the community, which has allowed WTMX’s people to keep up their good works, even while going from one owner to another.”
The Eric and Kathy Radiothon raised another $1.3 million this year for a local children’s hospital.THREE PRIORITIES
WTMX’s social contributions are guided by three priorities: “Our audience, our brand and our community,” Gallagher said. “We do our best to serve all three equally and faithfully in our community efforts.”
The station’s many charitable campaigns are listed and updated on its Events Web page, http://wtmx.com/events.
For example, in February, WTMX was promoting the Anti Cruelty Society’s Pour Your Heart Out Fundraiser to help protect animals; the Fox River Shiver polar plunge into the frigid Fox River to benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; and the Leprechaun Leap 5K/8K Run to raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Also on the WTMX Events calendar was the Good Life Race to raise money for the Collaboration for Early Childhood and the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry; and the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser, among others.
“We’re always taking part in something to help the community,” Gallagher said.
As part of the Hubbard Chicago group, along with WDRV(FM)/WWDV(FM) and WSHE(FM), WTMX encourages local listeners to volunteer in community organizations through Hubbard Radio’s Make a Difference page, http://vvf.hubbardradiochicago.com.
“This site is dedicated to helping people in Chicago find great organizations, events and volunteers committed to civic engagement,” reads the Make A Difference home page.
“With the help of this site our goal is simple … to help everyone find a great place to volunteer and rely on the generosity of people like you to help transform people’s passion into action. Take a few minutes, look around and know that donating a little time can mean a lot!”
While visible community service is a part of the repertoire of many radio stations, “What makes WTMX and our other Hubbard Radio stations different is that top management is actively and strongly supportive of these efforts,” said Gallagher. “It isn’t just a matter of our on-air staff doing their own charitable activities in isolation. The company backs them up with human and monetary resources to help them make things happen. We all work together to make Chicago better.”
This active corporate commitment to good works is something he attributes to the values of mid-sized broadcast groups such as Bonneville and Hubbard.
“Although the biggest groups do what they can, they are so big that they sometimes become distant from the communities they broadcast to,” Gallagher said. “In contrast, we have never lost touch with what we stand for, and the people that we serve.”
The following stations are past recipients of the NAB Crystal Heritage Award.
WLEN(FM), Adrian, Mich.
2014, 2010, 2005, 2001, 1998
KNOM(AM/FM), Nome, Alaska
2012, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1987
KUZZ(AM/FM), Bakersfield, Calif.
2011, 2008, 2006, 2001, 1998
KBHP(FM), Bemidji, Minn.
2010, 2007, 1999, 1997, 1994
2007, 2001, 1998, 1996, 1993
GOOD FOR BUSINESS
WTMX has been nominated for the Crystal Award 12 times.
Apparently Chicagoans and local advertisers approve of WTMX’s efforts as much as they like its hot adult contemporary music format. The station rated third in the Chicago market in listeners 6+ in January, behind WBBM(AM), all news, and WVAZ(FM), urban AC. Meanwhile, Chicago media watcher Robert Feder has reported on www.robertfeder.com that WTMX earned $31.9 million in 2015 ad revenues, up from $30.9 million the year before.
There is no doubt that visible community service is good for business when you’re a local radio station. But WTMX’s charitable efforts go beyond the requirements of marketable public relations; especially considering that so much of what station staff does is unsung in the press.
“WTMX’s heart and soul is truly committed to the city of Chicago,” said John Gallagher. “This is why I am so pleased that our people’s efforts are being recognized by the NAB Crystal Heritage Award.”