It’s become a constant complaint around the area – people upset about the Press-Register throwing bags full of advertising pre-prints and unrequested newspapers into their yards each week.
As the new city litter ordinance kicked in this week, Councilman Joel Daves and City Attorney Ricardo Woods paid a visit to the paper’s HQ on Water Street to let them know the unsolicited paper tossing would soon bring fines.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s spokesman George Talbot confirmed two meetings between Daves and Woods and the P-R, one with management and one with the paper’s attorney.
The P-R can still throw their various products – the newspaper, Bargain Finder and Yes – to people who want them, but they’ve been warned to discontinue the habit of throwing them where they’ve not been requested.
Both Daves and Woods said one of the city’s main concerns is that P-R delivery people have consistently been throwing into the yards of empty houses and vacant lots, where they pile up and become a big litter issue.
City leaders say the issue of the P-R throwing ads and papers in places where they were not requested is one that has come up time and again in community meetings, and that it is a major source of litter in the area.
Most everyone I know has talked about having to take the wet sack of ads out of the yard each week to throw in the trash can.
Insiders at the P-R say there are constant calls from people demanding that nothing else is thrown in their yard, but frequently within a few weeks it’s happening again. One local man apparently has even taken to collecting them and dumping them in front of the P-R each week, according to a P-R employee.
What this will mean for the P-R isn’t clear, as it’s not known how many papers and advertising supplements are actually being requested at this point. But P-R insiders say the Bargain Finder alone is thrown in more than 200,000 spots in Mobile and Baldwin Counties and generates significant revenue. The Yes supplement has also been counted in the newspaper’s circulation figures.
Efforts to get a comment from the P-R were unreturned prior to press time.
The Big Station has a big birthday
For many within the reach of its 100,000-watt signal, it’s known simply as “The Big Station.” And for four decades now, WBLX-FM has been one of the most dominant players on the local dial.
Celebrating its 40th year on the air, WBLX has been not only a radio station, but a community leader and trendsetter for much of the area.
“Our big focus is to make sure we’re relevant in the community and make sure we’re constantly giving back,” said Cumulus Marketing Manager Angel Brown. She pointed to the station’s involvement in things like the Cardboard City, which raises money for Dumas-Wesley Center, and it’s 40 Future Leaders, which highlights successful area high school students.
Carmen Brown, who first came to work for WBLX in 1978 as an on-air personality and later served a stint as the station’s program director, echoed those sentiments. She recalled that the station’s first general manager, Larry Williams, always pushed community involvement from the beginning.
“BLX received numerous awards and was always a community-oriented station. We did blood drives and other things like that when it was not usual to do so. And BLX led in this community the push to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday recognized as a holiday,” Brown said.
Brown believes some of the station’s success was born out of it being the first FM station in this part of the state catering to a black audience. Its big signal also brought BLX’s music to areas that previously hadn’t been served by a station aimed at an African-American audience.
“In the ‘70s FM was making its name. Once people discovered FM they started leaving AM in droves. It also reached into rural areas we hadn’t been able to get to before,” she said.
But there’s one trend Brown believes played the biggest role in WBLX becoming dominant in the market – it is routinely one of the top two or three rated stations – and that was disco. As BLX started playing disco before most other stations, Brown says it attracted a huge audience of disco-loving listeners.
“Before the emersion of the rest of the world in disco BLX was a black station. When we beat WKSJ in ratings, 40 percent of the audience was white.”
Brown recalled how much of the format was determined by whatever disc jockey was spinning the vinyl at that particular time, giving the station an eclectic nature. She remembered one DJ, Sonny Love, who played mostly romantic R&B songs. Station GM Wilson had a show in which Brown says every song had to be less than three minutes in duration.
“Mobile has always been a second-tier market, but we broke records,” Brown said, referring to the station being among the first to popularize songs locally that later became national hits. “We supported local musicians too. Somebody would come in with a demo and we’d say ‘Sure, why not?’”
Brown says the station was owned by the Beasley Broadcast Group out of North Carolina when she arrived in 1978. Cumulus Broadcasting bought WBLX in 1997.
One of the other things the Big Station had going for it in its infancy Brown said was that it was a vehicle for delivering news to the black community. Having lived in other markets before coming to Mobile, Brown said it was a different thing to see how much the station’s listeners relied upon BLX for news.
“Something I hadn’t seen before was the dependency of the black community to get their news from a radio station,” she said. “We had this horrible news feed full of technical problems – it was snap, crackle and pop – but it was the only news of the black communities outside of Mobile. People loved it. It was news you didn’t hear anywhere else.”
Over the years WDLT has siphoned off some BLX listeners longing for a little lighter fare, but it has kept to its core programming and still draws huge ratings. Over the years BLX has been home to many on-air personalities who have made names for themselves both locally and nationally. Ray Ray, Sonny Love, Alex Gavin, Skip Cheetum, Gina Brown, Al “Mighty” Weeden and Michael J. Alexander, are among those who cut their teeth at the station.
“This is a crazy, wonderful city. We’ve got some great music and everyone doing it is pouring their hearts out for it and I absolutely love it,” she said.