Roy Shapiro, 76, retired GM of KYW Newsradio

Shapiro
Shapiro
Posted: October 25, 2013

THE PITCHER HELD the opposition to just one run while hurling himself into most-valuable-player honors.

Never mind that the pitcher was 73 years old, and didn't quite have the arm of a Cliff Lee (after all, it was softball). But he made up for any deficiencies with determination and grit.

It was the kind of spirit that Roy Shapiro carried through his long career as a radio executive in Philadelphia and New York - and he was still firing softballs in 2010 in charity games.

If the name Roy Shapiro has a familiar ring - beyond the ballfield, that is - it's because you might have heard his incisive editorial comments on KYW Newsradio in the 1980s and '90s.

How could you have missed that thick Bronx accent, or those strong opinions that obviously came from a man thoroughly attuned to current events?

Roy Shapiro, retired vice president and general manager of KYW-AM, who was in on the beginning of all-news radio in Philly when everybody was scared to death of such a brand-new concept, died Tuesday. He was 76 and lived in Bryn Mawr.

While he kept active in his retirement years, including work with numerous community and charitable causes and as a consultant to KYW, Roy suffered recently from respiratory problems.

"He was vibrant until the end," said Marc Rayfield, senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio Philadelphia. "He was somebody who was so much bigger than life."

After Roy retired in 2003 and Rayfield became general manager, he said he tried to do editorials as Roy had, but gave it up.

"They were a cheap imitation of Roy," he said. "How could I do that?"

Dan Mason, president and CEO of CBS Radio, said: "Roy was the backbone of KYW Radio for so many years and continued to make valuable contributions to CBS Radio through his wealth of knowledge in audience-measurement research. All of us at CBS Radio will miss him, not only as our colleague, but as our loyal friend."

Scott Herman, executive vice president of operations for CBS Radio, said: "Roy was an incredible person and one of the brightest and smartest minds the broadcasting industry has ever seen. His legacy will live on through those of us lucky enough to have been mentored by him and those of us blessed to have been able to call him a friend."

Rayfield, who remembered hearing that Bronx accent on the radio as a boy, said Roy "made everyone around him a better broadcaster and a better person. His presence in our daily lives will be sorely missed, but his spirit will live on forever."

Roy was also a teacher. He served on the executive council of Temple University's Fox School of Business, and lectured frequently on broadcasting subjects.

Roy was part of the Westinghouse team that developed all-news radio in 1965, three years after he joined the company as a researcher.

He remembered clearly the morning that president Donald H. McGannon walked into a staff meeting and, "Out of a clear blue sky, said, 'We're going to start an all-news radio station in Philadelphia.' "

The announcement was greeted with dead silence, he said years later. "Nobody could comprehend it . . . It was so foreign that we all walked out and thought he had flipped."

But at noon on Sept. 21, 1965, the all-news format began, starting after the sounds of Frankie Randall's "A Wonderful Day Like Today," spun by disc jockey Bill "Wee Willie" Webber, had died away.

The old background clatter of a teletype machine eventually ended, but the bold experiment in presenting the news around the clock proved a success. Ratings soared.

Throughout the years, Roy was responsible for creation of "school closings by the numbers," the "breakfast with the candidates" feature at election time, Q&A sessions with movers and shakers, and other innovations.

The softball games he pitched were charity events between a team of radio personalities and TV/print types. Proceeds went to the Police Athletic League.

Roy Shapiro was born in New York City and graduated from City College of New York. He went to work for Group W in New York, where he held a number of management positions, including in sales and marketing.

He came to KYW, then owned by Westinghouse Electric, in 1962 as a researcher. He became the general manager in 1984. Westinghouse later merged with CBS.

Roy was active in the community. He served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the American Red Cross, Police Athletic League, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America and the Hero Scholarship Fund, among others.

He was often honored. He was named "Person of the Year" by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters. He won the Philadelphia Advertising Club's All-Star Award and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia in 2003.

Roy is survived by his wife of 51 years, Elaine; a son, Harvey Shapiro; a daughter, Julie Bucher; and four grandchildren.

Services: Were being arranged.

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