June 19, 2009

The Struggle for Black Radio in Pittsburgh

Larry Glasco of the New Pittsburgh Courier reports on the history of WAMO and Black media outlets in Pittsburgh including the Courier, the Black newspaper, and radio stations WHOD and WILY.
Along with providing information about radio host Mary Dee and her brother Mal Goode, the first Black network news reporter for ABC News.

The sudden demise of WAMO radio may seem shocking to many, but the station’s trials and tribulations stem from a decades-long struggle to maintain a strong community identity that at the same time would attract sufficient White listeners (and advertisers) to survive and grow. During its “glory” years from the 1940s through the 1970s, Black radio in Pittsburgh emerged as one of the most powerful voices of the community, capturing and reflecting the music and culture of its residents as well as providing a forum where they could discuss public affairs and rally for racial justice. During that era, WAMO, as the flagship of Black radio, maintained listener loyalty and turned a decent profit. For a people steeped more in the oral than the written tradition, the case could be made that during those “glory” decades, WAMO was at least as important as Black Pittsburgh’s other media giant, the Courier. Read more

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