The only radio station I ever loved was WTWC in Champaign, Illinois. When I first started listening to it, the music mix included folk, jazz, folk-rock, and other music. It was truly an epiphany. I would do homework while listening. Many of the artists played were obscure, with most remaining so to this day.
I do not remember if I asked or the station manager, Joe Lexx, volunteered, but I was loaned a copy of one of the records they played on the air to tape and return. I cannot imagine that happening today.
Then in autumn 1975, the station revealed that it was changing its format to earn its owner more money. I seem to remember the new format was elevator music, probably to play in locations where quality demands were at a minimum. The last hours of the old format were to be filled by requests and the sentimental last stands of DJs. Some of the regular DJs were present in the studio, probably accompanied by alcoholic beverages. I listed almost in a trance as the last good music to be played in the Champaign-Urbana area lingered in the air. I called the station with my request: Judy Collins' "Send in the clowns." The DJ snickered at the implication. And then the music died. The station changed hands, formats, and call signs a number of times since then, with the current call sign being WREE.
I studied Russian and German in school. I never became fluent, but I was able to travel throughout much of Europe and even some of the European portion of Russia. I still remember how to properly pronounce words in both languages, though I must admit my pronunciation of words with umlauts isn't perfect. In eastern Europe, German and English are the most common second languages for most people now, though older people will probably have some ability in Russian due to the Soviet occupation, with the last Russian troops not leaving the Baltics until October 1999.
My experiences in Russia cause me to laugh whenever I hear libertarians declare that minimal government is the best because, so the fairy tale goes, left to their own devices, people will always do the right thing.
I went for a walk on Arbat Street in Moscow and saw how people avoided walking on manhole covers and other metal plates in the sidewalk. I asked one person about it and learned that it was not uncommon for the plate to pivot, allowing the unlucky pedestrian to fall past the plate into the hole and become seriously injured.
I strolled in Tver, a small city north of Moscow, and saw a very clean park bench. I thought about sitting down and taking a break, until I placed a finger on the surface and realized that the bench had been freshly painted. There was no warning sign.
Not to mention that Donora thing.
Radio Swiss Classic is one of the classical radio stations to which I listen, with its hosts correctly pronouncing the names of composers and musicians. The station is automated and prerecorded as are many these days, with listeners having the choice of announcements in German, French or Italian, three of the four national languages of Switzerland.
One word I use to determine the competence of hosts is the last name of Russia's most famous composer, Tchaikovsky. It's properly pronounced as if three English words were said in sequence: chai-COUGH-ski (Russians would quibble because the last syllable is actually nuanced and the 't' really is pronounced). The first pronunciation rule Russian students learn is that an 'o' is only pronounced as such when it is under the stress; otherwise it is pronounced like the first sound of "affect." Very few U.S. hosts pronounce the name correctly, with most pronouncing the 'o' as if it were not under the stress.
WGUC's Frank Johnson refers to the aforementioned Russian composer as Peter Tchaikovsky, but somehow he never refers to José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti, and Johann Sebastian Bach as Joe, Lou, and John, respectively, not to mention that the first name of Jesús López-Cobos is never pronounced as if he had been born in a stable. Tchaikovsky's first name, Pyotr, is tricky to pronounce because there must be no hesitation between the first four letters, but that's no excuse for a professional.
Charley Samson, the former station manager of KVOD, the Denver classical portion of Colorado Public Radio, always pronounced foreign names correctly. He often amusingly referred to Mozart as "yer Mozart." He is missed, as KVOD now has no one who is capable of properly pronouncing Russian words.
David Rutherford, also of KVOD, pronounces Tchaikovsky as chi-KAH-ski, as if he hailed from Brooklyn. What makes it even worse is Rutherford's KVOD online profile which states: "When I was an undergraduate in music at UNC, I remember listening to the students at the local public radio station butchering the names of composers and particularly the names of performers with whom I worked at the university. I figured I couldn't do any worse, so when a work-study position for an on-air shift was posted, I applied."
He might be no worse, but he's certainly no better.