Ron St. Pierre back on-air. “Ron & Jen’s Great Escape” A Positive Podcast

Published in RINewsToday on April 23, 2021

One might say his career has come full circle from its early beginnings on a small radio station in Woonsocket, to programming and performing on air at popular Rhode Island radio stations, to serving as a sports anchor on television, as well. A familiar morning voice to many listeners, this ‘seasoned pro’ was heard on the local airwaves for years in various capacities – but this past December that sound went silent. But a new venture is about to launch to bring Ron’s voice – and that of Jen Brien – back to his listeners.

The new podcast will be called “Ron and Jen’s Great Escape”, and it is set to launch on Monday, May 3rd. You can listen live on Facebook and wherever you get your podcast.  

Reflecting on his time in the past “pandemic” year, St Pierre reflects on how he had to move his radio show on WHJJ into his home, affectionately called “Chez St. Pierre”, with his yellow lab, Hazel, nearby. He would share the daily news and local happenings oftentimes flavored with some Rhode Island humor or memories, which made his style unique and comforting, subtly (or sometimes not so subtly), reminding us of days gone by. But on December 31, 2020, St. Pierre’s radio contract ended, and i-Heart Broadcasting chose not to renew.

After decades spent in the radio and television business, this seasoned pro knew this was an all-too-familiar story in the field. He used the time to think about his next steps and new mountains to climb, and set his sight on hosting a podcast. St. Pierre understood that with time being a valuable commodity and people becoming busier, podcasts are becoming extremely popular. Audio content, like radio, allowed the listener to multitask.

Brandastic, a media marketing company, estimates that since 2005, more than 700,000 podcasts have been created, with over 30 million episodes of content – most of them for free. They say about 24 percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, with over 155 million people listening to a podcast every week.

St. Pierre says about the impact of podcasts,  “AdAge.com says that podcasts are able to engage listeners in a way that traditional media can’t. When podcasters speak in a listener’s ear, it feels as if they’re being spoken to more directly,” he said.

St. Pierre will host the newly created podcast with Woonsocket native and longtime good friend Jen Brien, who has co-hosted shows with him on both WPRO and WHJJ. Brien brings years of talk show hosting to the new podcast. She has hosted talk shows on WRKO and WBZ in Boston and Cape Cod’s WXTK.

“Our goal is to provide an escape from the negativity that can overtake conversation about the day’s hot topics…an escape from the banal repetition all too often associated with talk radio. Our goal is a positive approach to news and lifestyle topics with an infusion of humor across the board,” says St. Pierre.

Hosting a podcast will give St. Pierre greater flexibility with his time and give him more freedom and creativity, he says, noting that “Podcasters are by far, the most loyal and engaged audience of any medium out there.”

Over Four Decades of Achievements for St. Pierre

After 43 years in the radio business, St. Pierre, who grew up in the Darlington area of Pawtucket has been a longtime fixture in the Rhode Island broadcast community.

One of his proudest professional achievements was being inducted into the Rhode Island Radio and Television Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 2017, St. Pierre’s home town embraced his broadcasting accomplishments by inducting him into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center. This award was given to him for going “above and beyond” in his achievements as the Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee recognized his outstanding contributions and by “shining a positive light on the community.”

Radio started early for St. Pierre, beginning while a student at Rhode Island College, where he learned the ropes of TV production as a weekend cameraman for WJAR TV10 in Providence. In 1977, he began his radio career at WNRI in Woonsocket. His first major position was as Program Director for 920 WHJJ AM from 1982 to 1988, now known as NewsRadio 920. He was also part of The WHJJ Morning Show at that time, eventually serving as Program Director for both 920 WHJJ AM and its sister station, 94 HJY FM during the last year of this tenure.

During his time at WHJJ, St Pierre literally helped revolutionize talk radio in Rhode Island in terms of listenership and ratings. He recruited then-Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci for his first stint as a talk-show host at this time, while working with other local radio stalwarts such as Sherm Strickhouser and Steve Kass. His unassuming, authentic style and natural quick wit were enjoyed daily by tens of thousands of radio listeners in Rhode Island and neighboring Southeastern New England.

In 1988, Cap Cities-ABC hired St. Pierre to “flip” 630 WPRO from a music station to a Newstalk format and take on WHJJ. WPRO passed WHJJ in the Newstalk radio war in less than a year. St. Pierre eventually rose from Program Director to President and General Manager.

In his “spare” time, St. Pierre served as a weekend sports anchor for WPRI TV-12. During the early and mid-1990s, he managed several stations in Providence, before taking a series of management positions in West Palm Beach and the legendary WABC in New York City. He returned to Rhode Island radio in 1997.

He had a highly successful on-air and program-management tenure at WPRO 630 AM, enabling the station to rise to the apex of listenership and ratings in our state’s highly competitive radio market. The station’s hosts at that time included the legendary Salty Brine, along with the return of Buddy Cianci to the airwaves — with whom he co-hosted a highly successful afternoon drive-time show.

 Memories from St. Raphael Academy

Anyone who knew St. Pierre during the days he attended Pawtucket-based Saint Raphael Academy were sure he would end up in the broadcasting business. With his personality, wit and intelligence, his peers believed he would most likely end up in front of a microphone.

“In his high school yearbook profile, at St. Raphael Academy in 1973, Ron said his life’s goal was to become a sportscaster. So that career in the broadcast was always in his mind, but he opened it up a lot wider than any of us could have imagined,” says Ron Fournier, an advertising copywriter, who has known St. Pierre for over 40 years. “Ron is a virtual encyclopedia of comedy who has studied all the greats — from the Marx Brothers to the present day,” Fournier added. “That’s where his quick wit comes from. On the air, you never know what kind of quip or one-liner is coming next. But you know it’ll be a classic in his trademark. tongue-in-cheek style of humor.”

St. Pierre lives in East Greenwich with his wife, Patti, and their dog, Hazel.

Radio Talk Show Host St. Pierre to be Inducted into Pawtucket Hall of Fame

Published in the Woonsocket Call on October 22, 2017

After 40 years, the life’s work of Ron St. Pierre, who grew up on Vine Street in Pawtucket’s Darlington section, has not only stood the test of time, for he has become a longtime fixture in the Rhode Island broadcast community. One of his most shining achievements was being inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. This Pawtucket native has certainly gone a long way in his broadcasting profession and its particularly rewarding to hear his local pride is still there, as he tells stories on-the-air about growing up here.

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame is extremely proud to welcome St. Pierre into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame, who will join 7 other award recipients on Friday October, 27, 2017 at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center beginning at 6 pm. This award is given to those individuals who have gone “above and beyond” in helping their community and/or have been a vehicle to shine a positive light on the city. This is a way of recognizing those pertinent and outstanding contributions.

A Four-Decade History of Achievements

Once he got into the broadcasting profession, St. Pierre turned his talents up to full throttle. During his time at Rhode Island College, he began to learn the ropes of TV production as a weekend cameraman for WJAR TV10 in Providence. He started his radio career at WNRI in Woonsocket in 1977 and never looked back. His first major position was as Program Director for 920 WHJJ AM from 1982 to 1988, now known as NewsRadio 920. He was also part of The WHJJ Morning Show at that time, eventually serving as Program Director for both 920 WHJJ AM and its sister station, 94 HJY FM during the last year of this tenure.

During his time at WHJJ, St Pierre literally helped revolutionize talk radio in Rhode Island in terms of listenership and ratings. He recruited then-mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci for his first stint as a talk-show host at this time, while working with other local radio stalwarts such as Steve Kass.

In his “spare” time, St. Pierre served as a weekend sports anchor for WPRI TV-12. During the early and mid 1990s, he managed several stations in Providence, before taking a series of management positions in West Palm Beach and New York City. He returned to Rhode Island radio in 1997. Now, he began with a highly successful on-air and program-management tenure at WPRO 630 AM, again enabling his chosen station to rise to the apex of listenership and ratings in our state’s highly competitive radio market. The station’s hosts at that time included the legendary Salty Brine, along with the return of Buddy Cianci to the airwaves — with whom he co-hosted a highly successful afternoon drive-time show.

Fittingly, Ron St. Pierre’s career has now come full circle as a popular morning-drive host at NewsRadio 920 (formerly 920 WHJJ). His unassuming, authentic style and natural quick-wit are enjoyed daily by a wide expanse of radio listeners in Rhode Island and neighboring Southeastern New England.

The early genesis of a creative spirit

Anyone who knew Ron St. Pierre back at Pawtucket-based Saint Raphael Academy was pretty sure that he would in up in the broadcasting business. It would also most likely be in front of a microphone — where his personality, wit and intelligence could take him quite far.

“In his high school yearbook profile, at St. Raphael Academy in 1973, Ron said his life’s goal was to become a sportscaster. So a career in broadcast was always in his mind. But he opened it up a lot wider than any of us could imagine,” says Ron Fournier, an advertising copywriter and musician who’s known the WHJJ talk show host for over 40 years.

During high school and college days, St. Pierre was already working magic with his reel-to-reel tape recorder. He would create uproariously funny audio bits, in the style of the classic National Lampoon and Firesign Theatre albums at that time. He was already setting himself up to be a voice talent and producer back then.

“Ron is a virtual encyclopedia of comedy who’s studied all the greats — from the Marx Brothers to the present day,” Fournier adds. “That’s where his quick wit comes from. On the air, you never know what kind of quip or one-liner is coming next. But you know it’ll be a classic in his trademark. tongue-in-cheek style of humor.”

St. Pierre now lives now in East Greenwich with his wife, Patti, and their dog, Hazel.

Announcing the 2017 Pawtucket Hall of Fame Inductees

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame cordially invites the public attend its annual Pawtucket Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony on Friday, October 27, 2017 beginning at 6pm (reception), 7pm (dinner) at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket, RI. Tickets may be purchased at the Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI, open 7 days a week from 10-4pm. Our Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Anchor/Reporter, Alison Bologna from WJAR NBC10.

This year’s 2017 Pawtucket Hall of Fame Inductees are: (civic activist) Janina “Jean” Babiec; (American film director) Kevin Lima; (the late) coach and coordinator Robert K. Neill, Sr.; and (legendary Rhode Island radio broadcaster) Ron St. Pierre. Also, being recognized this year as “historical inductees” are (the late) Dr. Ellen R. Jolly and (the late) Edwin Darling. In addition to these inductions, the tradition of presenting the “Person of the Year” award, which began three years ago as a special award given to recognize the person(s) the committee believes has made an outstanding contribution over the past year will be shared by two recipients this year: Mayor Donald R. Grebien, City of Pawtucket and Adrienne Marchetti, Director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen.

Tickets are $45.00 per person (cash or check only) and must be purchased in advance. Tables of (10) may be purchased to accommodate a group or family, and should be purchased early and as available. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Tickets may be purchased at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, 175 Main St., Pawtucket, RI – open 7 days a week from 10-4pm. Checks should be made payable to: Pawtucket Hall of Fame Committee.

The Pawtucket Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization established in 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pawtucket as a city. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor the contributions of people whose efforts, in any line of endeavor, have added to the heritage of the City of Pawtucket.

Rhode Island General Assembly Tackles Senior Issues

Published in Pawtucket Times, July 19, 2013

At the end of June, Rhode Island lawmakers passed the state’s $8.2-billion FY 2014 state budget bill, sending it to Governor Lincoln D. Chafee’s desk for his signature. Even with $ 30 million ultimately slashed from the state’s fiscal blueprint because of lower-than-anticipated revenues, cash strapped taxpayers were happy to learn that they will not see any state tax or fee increases.

            Political correspondents in print, electronic media and in web site blogs zeroed in on specific items in the state’s enacted budget plan, those that they judged as weighty and newsworthy to be detailed to their audience.  Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the FY 2014 state budget brought back to life the state’s historic tax credit (through the efforts of Executive Director Scott Wolf, of Grow Smart and a broad based coalition of over 100 groups), also putting dollars into workforce development, even helping the Ocean State’s burgeoning artist community by enacting a state-wide sales tax exemption on specific types of art purchased.  With the budget now signed into law, Rhode Island liquor retailers are able to compete against competitors in nearby Massachusetts because of a new 16-month trial period for tax-free wine and liquor sales.  

            One of the more controversial items in the FY 2014 state budget that fueled heated discussions on WPRO and WHJJ radio talk shows was putting funds in the state budget to pay the first installment payment of $2.5 million on the bonds issued to the now bankrupt 38 Studios. 

 

Funding Programs and Services for Seniors

            Although not widely reported in many media outlets, Rhode Island lawmakers did not turn their back on aging baby boomers or seniors.   

            The FY 2014 budget provides $1.0 million in Community Service Grants to organizations serving the elderly, including $200,000 for meals on wheels, $25,000 for Home and Hospice Care and level funding for Senior Centers across the state.

            It also consolidates funding for care for the elderly, consistent with the Integrated Care Initiative.  This initiative will coordinate care of the elderly, many of whom are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and who navigate disjointed payment and delivery systems.  With the state’s enacted budget, there will be a single funding and delivery system that integrates long term, acute and primary care to dually-eligible individuals.

            Also, the state’s budget plan maintains the Rhode Island Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Elderly program (RIPAE), coordinating with benefits provided through the Affordable Care Act and ensuring no gaps in coverage for low income seniors.

            It also directs funding for programs and personnel within the state’s Office of Health and Human Services to combat waste, fraud and abuse, including the new Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, to ensure Medicaid dollars return as much value for participants as possible.

            The enacted budget also establishes $80,000 for the Emergency and Public Communications Access Fund to improve emergency communication and to support emergency responder training for the deaf and hard of hearing population in the State.

TDI Expansion Becomes Law

            Meanwhile, on July 3rd, Rhode Island lawmakers approved legislation (S 231 B, 5889A), sponsored by Sen. Gayle Goldin (D-District 3, Providence) and Rep. Elaine Coderre, (D-District 60, Pawtucket) to expand temporary disability insurance to employees who must take time out of work to care for a family member or bond with a new child in their home (see my May 17 issue of the Pawtucket Times, May 19 issue of Woonsocket Call).

            Women’s Fund of Rhode Island CEO Marcia Conė and the WE Care for RI coalition, consisting of over 40 groups, brought in national politico operative, Steve Gerencser, who consulted and developed the game plan and messaging needed to get the TDI legislation passed and onto the Governor’s desk for signature.  Rhode Island becomes the third state in the nation to pass a paid family leave law.

            Signed by Democratic Governor Chafee, the new law will increase the state’s TDI program to cover up to four weeks of wage replacement for workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent or to bond with a new child, whether through birth, adoption or foster care. Temporary caregiver benefits would be limited to those who are the caregiver of their sick or injured family member, and the program would require documentation from a licensed health care provider.

            “The most important reason for this legislation is to provide support to help families in times of need, but it has many good ripple effects for Rhode Islanders,” noted Coderre. This includes saving on avoidable medical costs for people who will be able to stay home with a family member instead of needing to admit their family member to an expensive medical facility. It can mean that someone keeps their job.

            Adds Senator Goldin, unpaid leave isn’t always an option, and it’s a very difficult option for most families. “Paid caregiver leave is a cost-effective way to keep people from losing their jobs, jeopardizing their financial security or risking their family’s well-being when a family member needs care,” she said.

            The expansion would be funded through employee contributions, just as the rest of the TDI program is currently funded. In order to support the expanded benefits, employees would contribute another 0.075 percent of their income to TDI. For a worker earning about $40,000 a year, this would mean he or she would pay an additional 64 cents a week for the expanded benefit.

Also Becoming Law…

            Governor Chafee has also signed the Family Caregivers Support Act of 2013 passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly.    

            Aiming to improve the quality of life for the elderly and the disabled in the comfort of their own homes, an approved  legislative proposal requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to develop evidence-based caregiver assessments and referral tools for family caregivers providing long-term care services.

            Sponsored by Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist.1, Providence), the legislation calls for an assessment that would identify specific problems caregivers or recipients might have, carefully evaluate how those situations should be handled and come up with effective solutions.

            The legislation defines “family caregiver” as “any relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant relationship with, and who provides a broad range of assistance for, an older adult” or an adult or child “with chronic or disabling conditions.” Rep. Naughton said people should be aware that there are support systems and an abundance of resources available for home care before deciding to put an elderly person in a nursing home or an expensive facility.

            Senator Goodwin added that without the proper support, the current system can place an unnecessary burden on both facilities and caregivers.

            “We want fewer individuals going into nursing homes and similar facilities if we can help it,” says Rep. Naughton. “It’s upsetting for an elderly or disabled individual to have to trade the comfort of his or her home for an unfamiliar place. Family caregivers not only know the medical needs of these individuals, but are often aware of their emotional needs, too,” she said.

            The comprehensive assessment required as part of Medicaid long-term service reform is meant to provide assistance with activities of daily living needs and would serve as a basis for development and provision of an appropriate plan for caregiver information, referral and support services. Information about available respite programs, caregiver training, education programs, support groups and community support services is required to be included as part of the plan for each family caregiver.

Addressing Long Term Care Needs

            Other approved legislative proposals, supported by the state’s nursing facility industry, were also signed by Governor Chafee.  

            Lawmakers passed and the Governor signed legislation to permit pharmacies that sell medications to nursing homes to buy them back, with a “restocking” fee.  Under the new law, medications that are individually packaged, unopened, and meet other safety requirements as determined by a pharmacist can be used rather than being discarded.

            Also signed into law were measures that promote “aging in place” and direct the state’s Department of Health to review regulations to permit this.

            Finally, the Governor signed the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act, which establishes an advisory council and program within the Department of Health. Also, beginning in 2015, every health care facility must establish a system for identifying patients or residents who would benefit from palliative care and provide information and assistance to access such care.

             Virginia Burke, CEO and President of the Rhode Island Health Care Association (RIHCA), observed that this year’s legislative session had mixed results for nursing home residents.  Most of the bills that the group supported did pass, which “should lead to enhanced care for our residents,” she says. 

            According to Burke, “Unfortunately, providers were anticipating an adjustment to their rates this fall to address price increases in things like insurance, food, and utilities and that was taken away due to the budget deficit.  We’re very lucky that Rhode Island providers are known throughout the nation for their delivery of quality care, but quality begins to suffer when providers don’t have adequate resources to do the job.”

            This year difficult budgetary choices were made to balance the state’s budget.  Although aging advocates did not get everything they pushed for, Governor Chafee and the Rhode Island General Assembly did fund programs and services that are sorely needed by the state’s growing senior population.  I urge lawmakers to continue these efforts in the next legislative session.  

            Herb Weiss LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com