WISR in Butler County

During the Second World War a few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor Butler County would get its first federally-licensed radio station: WISR! The station would be the county’s leading source for news as the US Navy fought Japanese fighters in the Pacific, and Allied troops fought back against the Nazi scourge in Europe. The station itself was founded by a local Butler business man, David H. Rosenblum, in 1941. Rosenblum had long since been interested in radio, and could see the long reaching commercial applications for the technology. Clearly David’s insight was well founded as the Rosenblum family would become rather successful. Furthermore, they would form a small radio empire by the time his son, Joel W. Rosenblum, took over ownership of the station in the late 1950s.

The Rosenblum’s success can be attributed to a few points; first the Federal Communications Commision would stop issuing new licenses to radio stations after Pearl Harbor until the end of World War II. Secondly, the next radio station to be founded in Butler County, WBUT, did not start airing until 1949. Furthermore, Butler County would not see a television set until 1949 either. Therefore with the exception of the local newspapers, WISR was Butler County’s only local source for news, music, sports, and other programs for a full eight years. This monopoly would allow WISR to form a healthy relationship with local businesses as they turned to the fledgling radio station for prime advertisement slots.

Instead of just wanting the station to be an advertising platform Rosenblum wanted WISR to be an important and integral part of the Butler Community. From the moment that WISR started airing they began a radio program called “Stars of Tomorrow”. The program was devoted to young people showcasing their talents and talking about their skills on the radio. Beyond their involvement in the community WISR during its early years would have also reported on locals that served in WWII; on this note like many other stations at the time WISR would have been airing war propaganda and ads for war bonds. That said WISR would not forget about the community and after the end of the war the station would continue to work closely with the community throughout the next several decades.

WISR’s participation in the community over these next several decades would not be limited to the Butler community nor the station’s broadcasting activities. For example in 1969 the station’s very own women’s editor, Margo Pitts, participated as a judge in the Central Electric Beauty Pageant. Furthermore, in 1971 WISR’s announcer, William Fleeger, served as master of ceremonies for a local music festival in Butler. WISR was not only supportive of cultural programs in and around Butler, but the station also promoted scholastic achievement as well; for instance, in 1973 the station recorded and broadcasted the speech given by the winner of the Voices of Democracy essay contest. These sorts activities may seem unimportant at a glance, but they served an integral role in making WISR a part of the Butler community instead of just a radio station in Butler, PA.

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 and focusing on sports. The station today not only talks about college and profession sports news, but it also broadcasts games. As the station has developed and changed from its initial founding in 1941 to today it has not only remained an important source for local news, but has also become an integral part of the community in Butler, PA.