In his introduction to the new book Ithaca Radio, broadcaster Keith Olbermann ’79 calls Cornell’s hometown “the biggest small radio market in the world.”
“I was in Ithaca from August 1975 through May 1979,” writes the former host of “SportsCenter” and “Countdown,” “and the collective concentration of talent and opportunity and ambition has never been exceeded at any stage of similar length in my career.”
Published in August as part of the “Images of America” series, Ithaca Radio features dozens of historical photos. They’re divided among four chapters, each devoted to a station: Cornell’s WVBR, Ithaca College’s WICB, and two local outlets (WHCU and WTKO, which has since changed call letters) that are now part of Cayuga Radio Group.
The WVBR section includes vintage images of bygone studios, program guides, playlists, print ads, and more. The many staffers pictured—often sporting the coiffures, fashions, and facial hair of the Seventies— include Olbermann, Peter Schacknow ’78, Gary Kaye ’70, and Glenn Corneliess ’78. Olbermann supplied the book’s authors (a pair of WICB alumni) with an image of himself and Corneliess smiling in suit jackets and shiny ties; it had run in the Cornellian over the caption “Siamese Twins. Joined at the Ego.” When the star broadcaster gave a major gift toward the purchase of WVBR’s new studios on East Buffalo Street a few years ago, he asked that the facility be named in memory of Corneliess—who passed away in 1996 at age thirty-nine—and his own father, Theodore.
“There was a kind of serious rivalry in town between the collegiate broadcasters, the strange Hippogriff that we were at VBR, and the pure professionals,” Olbermann recalls in his intro. “My professor Don Martin [then general manager of WHCU] once accused me of ‘trying to take the bread out of the mouths’ of his employees by seeking the rights to broadcast any Cornell sports events he didn’t want to carry. I told him that if his employees took some of the bread out of their mouths, WHCU wouldn’t sound quite so stuffy, and he laughed uproariously.”