Rick Buckley died last weekend. He was the man at the top of the family-owned Buckley Radio since 1972. In 1987, Buckley became a major market owner when he purchased WOR Radio.
Already at the station since the previous year was news director Joe Bartlett.
“He was a real hands-on owner, and he was throughout his entire tenure here.” Bartlett says.
The longtime WOR newsman says Buckley would be a micro-managing owner.
“He knew every single thing that went on here,” Bartlett says. “You could never make a mistake without him hearing it.”
If Buckley’s ear caught an error, he called you on the carpet—or at least the phone.
“[The] first thing he would say, ‘Let me ask you a question?’” Bartlett recalls. “That was his prelude to kicking you in the butt.”
Despite his strong management style, Bartlett enjoyed working for Buckley.
“He was a fair guy,” Bartlett says. “I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”
Much of that respect comes from Buckley’s willingness not to back down, keeping WOR from being sold numerous times over the years.
“Because of that he provided a good living for a lot of people who worked here,” Bartlett reflects. “It could have been easy for him to just cash out, but he loved this radio station.”
Buckley also loved providing local news to WOR listeners.
“I’ve been here almost 25 years, and the news department, obviously, has been reduced,” the news director says. “But Rick was always committed to doing local news, and it’s costly to do local news… He always preserved the news department and I owe him a huge debt for that.”
Bartlett also recalls in 2000 when WOR severed ties with its morning man John R. Gambling, thus terminating the 75-year-run of three generations of Gamblings in the morning. Concerned for his job, Bartlett informed his boss that he had planned an expansion on his house.
“Do your extension, you’re fine,” Buckley told Bartlett.
“And he even gave me money for a Jacuzzi.”
Bartlett had hosted the morning show for the time after Gambling left. By 2008, though, he was back at WOR. Bartlett had a closed-door meeting with Buckley.
“It’s going to be ok,” Buckley told Bartlett.
“I have my job thanks to him. He could have easily fired me … Rick was loyal to me.”
Buckley died Sunday after suffering a brain embolism Saturday while boating on the Long Island Sound.
This week, Buckley Radio elevated longtime executive Joe Bilotta to president and CEO.
Even though it’s a 50,000 watt station, Buckley had established a grand sense of community for WOR. The shockwaves are going to be felt for some time.
“No matter what you were doing here at the radio station, Rick was involved in some level,” Bartlett says. “You’re so used to him being part of every decision; we don’t even know how to proceed right now.”