Monthly Archives: October 2009

It’s not about performance, it’s about money

Happier times, before I lost my job because of Clear Channel's financial situation. Photo courtesy of Iowa Broadcast News Association

Happier times, before I lost my job because of Clear Channel's financial situation. Photo courtesy of Iowa Broadcast News Association

There are many signs that the U.S. economy is still faltering. I learned that up close and personal in April when I lost my full-time job as a news anchor and reporter at WOC Radio.

“It’s not about performance, it’s about money,” is the way the general manager put it.

According to industry sources, the station’s owner, Clear Channel, is in a shaky financial position that was compounded by the economic downturn.

I was one of nearly 2,500 Clear Channel employees who have been released since January.

Many large media companies, both electronic and print, are having a rough go of it right now. Some analysts say not all of them will survive.


There aren’t many benefits to being released from a job you love, but I did find one. I’m now part of a select group of people, former employees of WOC Radio and WOC-TV (now KWQC), who get together once a month.

These folks, most of whom are retirees, have some great stories to tell about their years in broadcasting, a topic I’ve been interested in since I was a kid listening first to a crystal radio then a transistor radio.


A further sign that the economy is still hurting is the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive, something we’ve enjoyed since the 1980s. It’s a wonderful event, held the first two full weekends each October in Fulton County, Ill.

There are a dozen and a half stops, mainly communities on the drive, each with something to offer visitors. There are arts and crafts fairs, flea markets, demonstrations, music and a variety of food.

But we noticed last year that there were fewer vendors and visitors in some locations, particularly the smaller communities. That was even more pronounced this year.


A friend reminds me about a DeWitt company that makes air fresheners. That comes after my complaints about an air freshener we bought that — surprise — was manufactured in China.

I checked its source because of the way the directions are written: “1) Rise up to the top, to open. 2) Upward the top, to adjust for desired amount of freshening.” Huh?

The local air freshener company my buddy mentioned, Car Freshner Corp., is headquartered in Watertown, N.Y., and has a plant in the DeWitt’s thriving industrial park. Nearly 100 employees there make scented air fresheners shaped like Christmas trees for cars.

According to their Web site,, the product comes in 6,500 languages and goes to 195 countries. And I’m betting the instructions with those little trees even make sense.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 15, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Guest blog: Good-bye to the Youngster


A more recent shot of Dic Youngs at KIOA's Iowa State Fair booth with Dr. Jeff Stein, communications professor at Wartburg College. Photo courtesy of Jeff Stein and Brian Allen

Note from Phil Roberts: Following is a guest blog written by my friend, Brian Allen of KSFY-TV, Sioux Falls. He writes recently of the death of Dic Youngs, “the Youngster,” a Des Moines rock radio legend. Although I didn’t know Dic, I feel like I knew him because I listened to him when I could for so many years. That happens in radio. After a while, though you’ve never met, you get to know the announcer whose voice comes through the speaker day after day. I admired Dic for staying in the business so long; that’s no easy task.

It’s sometimes odd what occurs to you in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep. It is tough when your heroes die. To know that their good works have come to an end and their voice has been silenced.

Early this morning, one of my broadcasting heroes lost his life.

His name was Dic Youngs. If you’re old enough, you’ve probably heard of him. He was a legend, spending more than 45 years in broadcasting. Most of that time was spent behind a microphone at KIOA in Des Moines. He WAS rock and rock in the 1960s and 1970s, eventually growing into the role of “radio grandfather” in the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond. He was a mentor to so many broadcasters, directly and indirectly. Those fortunate enough to work with him benefited from his direct involvement. Those who benefited indirectly were provided with a road map on how to respect yourself, others and the business of broadcasting.

Every year, Youngsy would broadcast live from the Iowa State Fair. His booming voice audible even without the big speakers KIOA would set up. He was like Santa Claus in the Summertime; always quick with a joke or a smile or a pat on the back. I am 36 and have missed only a handful of Iowa State Fairs, so I had many opportunities to sit down and talk with Dic. But I never did it. Not really.

Every once in a while I would approach him and start a conversation but then almost back out of it. He wasn’t intimidating, not in the least. I just think every time I would try I would end up having a “you’re not worthy” moment and not finish what I had tried to start. But I would always admire from afar and be amazed at how well he knew people and how well he knew the music.

That was the thing: Every time Dic Youngs was on the radio you KNEW he loved the music. That he was particular about playing songs with strong lyrics and attention-getting guitar licks and bass lines. It was always a party with Youngsy — at least that’s how he made it appear and that’s why he was so fun to listen to.

For years, Dic hosted a Saturday night oldies show on KIOA. When I lived in Des Moines…and eventually when I moved away but would come back for visits…I would always turn the show on and listen. It always made me smile. What a master of the radio dial!

Which brings us back now to today and the horrible news which greeted me this morning. Dic had been hospitalized for a while now at Mercy in Des Moines. This morning about 1:30, his body apparently had enough and he passed into history. Going forward, it will be odd to think and talk about him in the past tense.

He made the world a better, more tolerable place….one record at a time. His jokes, sometimes corny, could bring a smile to your face and make you temporarily forget about your woes.

He was a big man in size and a big man in heart.

Of all the people I know who have worked with Youngsy, I have never heard one of them gripe about Dic and that is saying something. Broadcasting can be fairly two-faced and has it’s fair share of back stabbers. That being said, Dic Youngs was respected but more than that he was loved. And when someone you love dies, it’s tough to take.


Statement from KIOA (more, including audio clips of Dic, at

93.3 KIOA and the Des Moines community have lost an icon. Richard “Dic” Youngs has passed away after a long illness.

Dic will always be remembered for his reverberating baritone, the way he helped entertain and inform Iowa and his quickness with a wink and a smile. Youngsy always wanted to have a good time and take his audience on the same ride.

Youngsy could spin a tale with such style that, even if he only had a few details, you listened closely and begged for more.  From the start he had one desire – give the audience a good time. And whether he was spinning discs at a sock-hop or counting down the top 10 on the radio, people danced and had the time of their lives.

But Dic was also able to help listeners through the tough times as well. If it was a recession, a flood or the 2001 terrorist attacks, people listened to Youngsy because his assured delivery was a comfort in even in the most trying moments.

So, thank you Youngsy for all that you have shared with KIOA and Des Moines in over 45 years of broadcasting. We will greatly miss our boisterous, kind, sweet and smiling friend.

-Your KIOA Family


Posted by on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Bentonsport, Iowa, B&B offers ghostly fun

The haunted Mason House Inn in Bentonsport, Iowa. Photo by Phil Roberts

The haunted Mason House Inn in Bentonsport, Iowa. Photo by Phil Roberts

Chuck and Joy Hanson say their ghosts are happy residents who cause no harm. Photo by Phil Roberts

Chuck and Joy Hanson say their ghosts are happy residents who cause no harm. Photo by Phil Roberts

An old bridge across the Des Moines River connects small Bentonsport, Iowa, with smaller Vernon, Iowa. The Mason House Inn can be seen in the background. Photo by Phil Roberts

An old bridge across the Des Moines River connects small Bentonsport, Iowa, with smaller Vernon, Iowa. The Mason House Inn can be seen in the background. Photo by Phil Roberts

Sherry was lying in the bed on her side when she felt a hand on her hip. When she turned to look, no one was there, and I was across the room.

Shortly before 11 p.m. that night, we were awakened by a tapping on our headboard. We know no one was in the room at the time because we had been sleeping with a light on.

Sherry, my wife, and I were spending a night at the Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast in Bentonsport, Iowa. The town’s population is 35, not including the ghosts.

Joy Hanson said the B&B is haunted, but not in a scary way. Hanson and husband Chuck bought the inn in 2001 after he retired from the Air Force.

On the B&B’s Web site — — Joy Hanson wrote that three of the spirits are former owners or proprietors who loved the old hotel and don’t want to leave.

“Two are Civil War soldiers who died here when the building was a hospital. Some died here when it was a TB hospital in the early 1900s,” she wrote.

She said some of the other ghosts are adults and children who died at the inn, which once was a boarding house where a doctor lived. The doctor used to take patients there because there was no other place in town to take them. There also was a murder at the inn.

Bentonsport is 150 miles from the Quad-Cities. It sits along the Des Moines River, just a dozen miles from the Missouri border.

The inn, built in 1846, has been a hotel that served steamboat travelers, a holding hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers, a station on the Underground Railroad and a bed and breakfast.

Joy Hanson said the previous owners told them they often saw the ghost of former owner Mary Mason Clark.

Once the Hansons moved in, other spirits appeared. “I started seeing an old man in a black suit with a white beard,” Joy Hanson said. “I”d see him over my shoulder as I was cleaning rooms. When I turned and looked, there was nothing there.”

The Hanson’s two daughters, who were teens at the time, talked of hearing footsteps and having their clothes pulled, but nobody was there.

Joy Hanson said a younger daughter, Jinni, began “having tea parties with some invisible playmate named Amanda.”

Guests also reported seeing people in their room who would just disappear. They heard running in the hall or doors opening and closing all night, although “they were the only people up there,” she said.

The Hansons kept quiet about their ghosts for fear of losing business. But after a school group toured the inn and the teacher took a group picture that suddenly included “one more kid in there than she had in her class,” the hauntings went public in 2004.

Chris Moon, a Denver ghost hunter and president and senior editor of Haunted Times Magazine, often has investigated the inn and given the Hansons more information on their ghosts. He also holds periodic ghost-hunting classes there. The next one will be in November.

Two ghosts the Hansons are familiar with are Harold, a Civil War Union soldier, and Markie, a Confederate soldier. Harold claims guest room 6, and Markie died in room 6.

The Hansons said Harold knows Morse Code and often taps on the wall of room 6.

Joy Hanson said the spirits go about their business as if they were alive — opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, walking around. The ghost children jump on the beds, play with things and knock on the doors as a prank.

Unexplained orbs sometimes show up in guest photos.

Chuck Hanson said a lot of guests don’t know the Mason House Inn is haunted, and they don’t mention it.

“We have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ kind of policy,” Joy Hanson said.

However, many people stay at the inn because it is haunted, she said, adding that about 75 percent of the people looking for an “experience” will get one.

She did say that some folks check out early.


If you go:

Guest rooms: Eight plus a railroad caboose cottage.

Rates: $59 and up plus tax.

Contact information: The Mason House Inn, 21982 Hawk Drive, Bentonsport, IA 52565. Phone: (319) 592-3133. Reservations: (800) 800-592-3133. E-mail:

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This article appeared in The Dispatch, Moline, Ill., and The Rock Island (Ill.) Argus.

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Posted by on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Incivility, Letterman and youth hockey

Cade Roberts, left, in action at the hockey game in Affton. Photo by Phil Roberts

Cade Roberts, left, in action at the hockey game in Affton. Photo by Phil Roberts

I recently sounded off on my Facebook (social networking) page about bigshots behaving badly and their thinking that a quick apology — even if it’s sincere — fixes everything.

There have been lots of well-known offenders lately, all living proof of the incivility that exists these days. Some examples?

There was Cong. Joe Wilson, who shouted “You lie” as President Obama spoke about his cost estimates for healthcare reform to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The issue isn’t whether or not Obama’s figures were accurate or not. And it’s not about Republicans vs. Democrats. The issue is bad manners and where this heckling occurred — the hallowed halls of Congress, not at a town hall meeting.

Another example of bad behavior is rapper Kanye West. While singer Taylor Swift was giving her acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, West jumped onto the stage to protest that singer Beyonce had not won. He ripped the microphone out of Swift’s hand, interrupting her speech, and said, “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’m gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.” And you, Mr. West, are one of the biggest jerks of all time.

More recently, at the U.S. Open, defending champion Serena Williams was penalized and lost a match after screaming at a line judge over a call. Among other things, she said, “I’m going to shove this ball down your @#$%^& throat.” Classy.

All three offenders apologized. Maybe they’ll be forgiven. But their poor judgment and impulsive actions, thanks to sites like on the Internet, will live on forever.


On the topic of poor judgment, I certainly hope TV talk show host David Letterman enjoyed his admitted sex-in-the-office flings. He’ll no doubt be on the witness stand one of these days answering lots of questions about them.

I feel sorry for his elderly mother, Dorothy, who has occasionally appeared on Letterman’s show via satellite. According to the Internet, she is still alive.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Letterman — he created his own mess and should have known better. But this situation must be a particularly difficult time for his mother and other family members.


My wife and I were in St. Louis on a recent Saturday to visit our son Brendan and his boys, Pierce and Cade. The plan was to watch Pierce play high school football at noon at LaDue, Mo. Then we’d watch Cade, who is on a 10-and-under hockey team, play that evening in Affton, Mo.

The football game never took place. It fell victim to a thunderstorm just minutes prior to the kickoff. But we did get to watch Cade play hockey.

Afterwards, as we were leaving the rink, some older hockey players took to the ice for the next game, and the team name on their jerseys was quite familiar. They were the Q-C Junior Flames, who kept the name of that Quad-Cities minor league hockey team that no longer exists. The Flames were in Affton to play the St. Louis Junior Blues.

It’s a small world.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This article appeared as a column in The North Scott Press.

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Posted by on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized


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