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WEEI director gets honor as he helps station grow

It could be seen as a continuation of Boston's sports dominance. The Patriots have won three out of the last four Super Bowls. And if the Red Sox came up short this year, they still carry the glow of 2004's World Series win. For Jason Wolfe, director of programming and operations for WEEI-AM (850), to be named program director of the year by trade publication Radio Ink is an obvious follow-up.

But for Wolfe, a Lexington native who has held the PD position since September 1997, this honor is the icing on the cake. More important are the listeners and, of course, the ratings: According to Radio Ink, WEEI is the only sports-talk station in all of Arbitron's 296 markets to win the No. 1 position among listeners 12 and older. That momentum builds on itself: When Sox principal owner John Henry decided to give an interview following Theo Epstein's press conference, he went to 'EEI.

The key to this success, says Wolfe, has been in knowing what Boston listeners want. ''In this particular market, it's all about being local," says Wolfe. ''There are lots of ways to get information these days, so it's now a matter of taking that information and turning it into something that's extremely entertaining and compelling. And if the teams falter, our philosophy is going to be the same. We'll take the content that's available every day and make it interesting."

Building up a credible local lineup, he says, was one of his goals when he started the job. ''When I took over we had syndication 6 a.m. till noon. It took a couple of years, but now we're local 6 a.m. till midnight. That gave the station more legs. It made it a lot more powerful and gave the people an incredible reason to listen."

What such personalities as afternoon host Glenn Ordway offer, Wolfe says, is markedly different from what national sources, including the new ESPN-Boston stations (WAMG-AM, 890, and WLLH-AM, 1400) provide. ''They have one local show," he points out. (That's Mike Felger's afternoon show.) ''Our philosophy works. It's not just your basic breakdown of the stats and let's analyze the game. We bring out the personality of the talent -- making fun of them, creating parodies, doing bits, making it fun for people to listen to."

This approach, he says, has helped broaden the station's range. ''There's a core [sports] audience that's going to listen no matter what we do," he says. ''But there's a whole other range of people who are out there to be had."

Earlier this year, Entercom, WEEI's parent company, made Wolfe director of all its sports programming, which gives him power over four additional stations spread from New York to Oregon. In April, WEEI expanded its reach as well, by purchasing Providence's 103.7 FM frequency. Whether the home station will expand further -- perhaps with a northern New England station -- is an open question. ''We're looking at all possibilities," says Wolfe. ''Other than that, it's all working on the little things. Fine tuning."

Spinning the dial
From Dec. 16-18, WGBH will present its third annual ''Christmas Celtic Sojourn" at the Cutler Majestic Theatre. The lineup includes Irish supergroup Danú, Scottish guitarist Tony McManus, Celtic cellist Natalie Haas, and the a cappella harmonies of Navan. Tickets range from $25 to $65. For tickets, call Telecharge at 1-800-233-3123 or visit www.wgbh.org/celtic for more information.

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