He spent more than 45 years in the radio broadcasting industry, with notable rock ‘n’ roll stints in Western New York, Tampa-St. Petersburg and San Diego. But, he’s most likely remembered as a champion of spoken word radio, thanks to his tenure as News/Talk/Sports Editor for the defunct Radio & Records and, later, at the helm of his own daily e-newsletter.
Al Peterson, who recently retired and lived in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., has died. He was 68.
RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION by Adam R Jacobson: It’s been a rough 48 hours. First, I learned of the loss of longtime mentor and friend Bill Tanner. Then, I received word that my last boss at R&R had died. It’s rough because Al was just wonderful to so many across the industry. (SEE FULL TEXT BELOW).
News of Peterson’s passing first surfaced late Thursday and was confirmed early Friday by RBR+TVBR. Former colleagues Steve Resnik and Kevin Carter, partners in RAMP: Radio and Music Pros, were the first to share the news on their website.
They sourced a private message posted on Facebook that provided details of Peterson’s passing. He died “a little over a week ago.” And, he did not die of COVID-19.
Rather, Peterson succumbed from an unusual series of events that led to oxygen being cut off to his heart, his brain and his lungs. His family noted that his death was sudden.
Per Peterson’s directive, his organs were harvested for transplant. According to AllAccess, Peterson’s liver has already resulted in a life-saving transplant of a woman in Southern California. Additionally, enough skin, bone, tissue and other transplantable features could potentially help more than 60 people.
FROM ‘MAGIC’ TO ‘NTS’
Peterson began his career in programming, and on the air, in Rochester, N.Y. In one of his first leadership roles, Peterson was appointed Program director of WMJQ-FM “Magic 92” in Rochester, which switched from News on February 1, 1977 with a Album-Oriented Rock approach similar to what could be heard on stations such as “Love 94” in Miami and, later, at WMMO-FM in Orlando. Previously, Peterson was the production director for WBBF-AM and WMJQ’s predecessor.
Peterson would work crosstown at WHFM, and then relocate to Tampa. There, he programmed WQXM, the original “98 Rock.”
In 1981, he famously jumped across town to Rocker WYNF-FM, sparking a memorable AOR war as “95YNF” rattled “98 Rock” while WRBQ “Q105” commanded the remainder of the young adult and youth audience.
One year later, however, in 1982, Peterson would depart WYNF to join Pollack Communications as VP/Programming and Research.
There, he supervised research for stations consulted by the company, working alongside Jeff Pollack.
From 1983-1993, he headed his own program and management consultancy while also serving as an affiliate consultant to Unistar Radio Networks‘ 24-hour format division.
Then, in October 1993, Peterson was named VP/Operations for PAR Broadcasting, a San Diego-based entity that owned KGMG, KIOZ and KKLQ-AM & FM “Q106.”
At Q106, Peterson’s duties included ensuring the continued success of its morning show, hosted by Jeff Detrow (today the afternoon co-host for Educational Media Foundation’s Christian Contemporary KLOVE network) and Jerry St. James.
Peterson would remain at PAR through the end of 1997.
That’s when he would make a career pivot that would firmly establish him as a trusted voice and columnist for the Talk radio community, as he joined R&R as News/Talk/Sports Editor.
It was a role he kept through R&R’s August 2006 merger with Billboard Radio Monitor, exiting in April 2007 to start up his own operation under the “NTS MediaOnline.com” name.
Peterson would publish NTS MediaOnline Today through Dec. 16, 2016 as an afternoon e-newsletter. Sales was handled by Oklahoma radio station owner Brooke Williams, a SVP/Membership of the RAB who is also a R&R alum.
Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) President/CEO Erica Farber, the former Publisher of R&R, tells RBR+TVBR, “I had the great pleasure of working with Al for about a dozen years. He had a solid radio background but many may not know he did not have a background in spoken word formats. But, he felt a deep connection to, and became an ardent champion of, the formats and the many men and women working on and off the air in them.”
Farber also notes that Peterson loved to debate, and was never shy to voice an opinion. And, he could be stubborn, she says.
“At the end of the day, he almost always did the right thing,” Farber says. “He truly loved his family. He was so proud of his wife. He always shared stories about his kids and the conversations always ended up with his wonderful chuckle. We worked hand-in-hand on the annual Talk Radio Seminars and looked forward to sharing a Scotch or two at the end of each night. When he announced his retirement, he was prepared both physically and mentally; that was Al in a nutshell. My heart goes out to his wonderful family and large circle of friends.”
Peterson is survived by his wife, Cindy, and his children Adam and Rebecca. “We will honor his wishes with a BIG celebration of his life once the world opens up again and we can all be together to laugh, dance, eat, drink and pay tribute to the wonderful life he had,” his family said via Facebook, RAMP 24/7 reports.
In lieu of flowers, the Peterson family asks that donations be made to one of Al’s favorite charities, San Diego Food Bank.
RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION — by Adam R Jacobson
It’s been a rough 48 hours. First, I learned of the loss of longtime mentor and friend Bill Tanner. Then, I received word that my last boss at R&R had died. It’s rough because Al was just wonderful to so many across the industry.
Al arrived a year and a half after I began at R&R. I was hired by one of his predecessors, Randall Blooomquist, and we had a shared passion for rock ‘n’ roll, Tampa, San Diego, and reporting the facts in a fair and honest environment.
Over the years, Al and I had formed a strong bond, culminating in his informal oversight of daily news operations in the final months of R&R as a Perry Partners-owned operation. On the morning staff learned via media reports that VNU was merging R&R and Billboard Radio Monitor, Al was one of the first people I contacted.
Later, as Al would launch his own publication, I kept in regular contact even as I had moved on from covering the radio business. It was one way to stay connected, and up to date on everything in the Talk radio world, which he conquered at R&R through conferences dedicated to the Spoken Word format. Those events were among the most remembered by legions of radio industry executives, because it attracted heavyweights including Paul Harvey.
Al’s death was shocking to read. Then, I learned of his wishes. No funeral. Donation of body parts to those in need. That warms my heart, because it confirms just how wonderful of a man Al was.
I’m sure I’m not alone with those sentiments.