24-Hour Latino Radio Arrives in Richmond
The friction between fans of the two formats dates back to 2001 when Mazursky’s 5,000-watt WVNZ 1320-AM, the home of Floyd Henderson’s popular “Music of Your Life” program, turned Sunday afternoons over to “La Primera,” a program that began serving the metropolitan area’s exploding Hispanic community with news, talk and a wide variety of Latin American music.
After the “La Primera” team, seeking greater editorial control over their operations, bolted for an FM station in Petersburg in early 2002, Mazursky kept Sundays Latin at WVNZ with music and other prepackaged programming.
Then, earlier this year, after a chance meeting at the Argentine-owned Cornicello’s New York Delicatessen on Midlothian Turnpike, Mazursky invited a new team of hosts anxious to break into local radio to revive and energize the “La Selecta” format. The show was well received and in May, after listener phone traffic grew to an impressive 200 calls an hour, it was expanded. It now runs from noon Saturdays to midnight Sundays.
Mindful that Hispanics are now the nation’s largest non-European ethnic group and the Richmond media market is theirs for the taking (Virginia’s only other Spanish-language radio stations and newspapers are based in Norfolk and Harrisonburg) Mazursky and Jeff Beck, the former Richmond DJ who became Radio Richmond’s operations director earlier this year, endorsed the “La Selecta” team’s wish to expand to 24/7 programming. “With WVNZ we hope to create a real radio station to serve the Hispanic community,” Mazursky says.
Mazursky is a fan of “narrowcasting”: He also runs the all-gospel WREJ 1540-AM and three hours of Asian programming on talk radio WLEE 990-AM every Sunday morning.
Under the new format, WVNZ’s weekday broadcasts will start at 6 a.m. with three hours of news, talk and music hosted locally by current “La Selecta” hosts Demetrio Flores, a former radio personality and producer from El Salvador, and Ray Oyola, a New York-born muralist. For the time being, the remaining 21 hours each weekday will be filled with local news briefs and network music and talk-feeds from Los Angeles-based Radio Visa. (The team is contemplating an afternoon talk show on local issues and national issues, but no firm decision has been made.) The remaining “La Selecta” hosts, Ismael Torres, Juan Ruiz and Selvin Paredes, will host and produce on the weekends.
“Radio Richmond has been awesome to grant us this opportunity,” says Oyola. “We hope to have a long and lasting relationship.”
In the meantime, starting next month, fans of Floyd Henderson can find “everything from Al Jolson to Janis Joplin” a few clicks down the dial at WHAP 1340-AM, Henderson says. The 67-year-old veteran of numerous local radio stations says he has “mixed emotions” about his latest move; his commute to work will be shorter, but he’ll be losing listeners in the West End and in Henrico County. “One day, I hope we can get more power,” Henderson says. Until then, “I’ll go with the flow.” — Tim Loughran