WISR in Butler County

During the Second World War, just a few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Butler County launched its first federally-licensed radio station: WISR! The station served as the county’s leading source for news as the US Navy fought Japanese fighters in the Pacific, and Allied troops fought against the Nazi scourge in Europe. A local Butler business man, David H. Rosenblum, founded the station in 1941. Rosenblum had been interested in radio for many years, and recognized its potentially far-reaching influence. David’s insight was well founded - the Rosenblum family formed a small radio empire by the time his son, Joel W. Rosenblum, took over ownership of the station in the late 1950s.


Several factors contributed to the Rosenblum’s success: the Federal Communications Commission stopped issuing new licenses to radio stations after Pearl Harbor until the end of World War II, and the next radio station to be founded in Butler County, WBUT, did not begin airing until 1949. Furthermore, the citizens of Butler County did not begin purchasing television sets until 1949. Therefore with the exception of local newspapers, WISR was Butler County’s only local source for news, music, sports, and other programs for a full eight years. This monopoly allowed WISR to form a healthy relationship with local businesses as they turned to the fledgling radio station for prime advertisement slots.


Instead of simply using the station as an advertising platform, Rosenblum wanted WISR to be an integral part of the Butler Community. From the moment WISR started airing, they featured a radio program called “Stars of Tomorrow”. The program was devoted to young people - allowing them to showcase their talents and talk about their skills. During its early years, WISR reported on locals that served in WWII. In the same vein, like many other stations at the time, WISR aired war propaganda and ads for war bonds. However, WISR did not neglect the local community, and after the end of the war the station continued to work closely with Butler county throughout the next several decades.


WISR’s participation in local life in the years following WWII was not limited to the Butler community nor the station’s broadcasting activities. In 1969 the station’s very own women’s editor, Margo Pitts, participated as a judge in the Central Electric Beauty Pageant. In 1971 WISR’s announcer, William Fleeger, served as master of ceremonies for a music festival in Butler. WISR was not only supportive of cultural programs in and around Butler, but the station also promoted scholastic achievement: in 1973 the station recorded and broadcasted the speech given by the winner of the Voices of Democracy essay contest - an annual scholarship awarded to high school students by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. These small but significant involvements served a transformative role in making WISR more than just a radio station.


The station is now owned by the Butler Broadcasting Network, which also owns WBUT. However, the station maintains its focus on the Butler Community by reporting on local news, particularly focusing on sports. The station today not only discusses college and professional sports news, but it also broadcasts games. As the station has developed and changed from its initial founding in 1941 to today, it has succeeded in maintaining its original purpose: to be a source for local news as well as a champion of local community.

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