Hundreds of broadcasters from across the country attended a retirement sendoff for WTOP vice president of news and programming Jim Farley at the Newseum Wednesday night.
The evening’s tone was mostly flattering to Farley’s contributions and accomplishments, but not without a jab or two from his staff.
“Jim has accepted dozens of awards on behalf of WTOP over the years and he always says the same thing,” said news director Mike McMearty. “He says, ‘I’m accepting this award on behalf of the hard-working men and women in the WTOP newsroom,’ which makes me wonder why we’re all here honoring him. It’s like pinning a medal on the guy at the front of the boat screaming ‘row!’ ”
Farley told the audience he has gotten credit over the years for many things he didn’t do.
“Mostly what I do is sit in my office and play solitaire. That’s what I do on my computer,” said Farley.
Really, though, he probably had little time for playing solitaire over the years.
Farley, who came to WTOP as news director in 1996, has shepherded the radio station through three ownerships and overseen programming changes that took the station from No. 14 in the Washington market’s rankings to the consistently top-rated radio station, and has more than tripled its listenership.
His accomplishments have included persuading its owners to reinvest profits — and they have been large — back into newsroom operations, expanding regional coverage of news and improving ratings by pouncing on audience-grabbing events, like snow.
“I love snow,” Farley said.
Farley also oversaw the station’s transition from the AM dial to FM, a first among all-news stations, boosting its following among young listeners.
Farley’s trademarks that are more apparent to listeners include coining familiar phrases, including “the glass-enclosed nerve center” and “Your favorite radio station doesn’t play songs,” both aimed at making the station memorable in the minds of listeners with ratings diaries.
Before moving to Washington, Farley spent two decades at ABC- and NBC-owned radio network operations in New York, and started his career as a copyboy at New York City’s all-news radio station WINS.
Farley officially retires at the end of December, but will remain a consultant for two years after his retirement.
WTOP is the Washington Business Journal’s broadcast partner. (In 1996, I was a weekend anchor at WTOP, and it was Jim Farley who suggested that the Washington Business Journal hire me to do the station’s twice-hourly business reports, a job I have now held almost as long as he has headed WTOP.)