San Francisco born-and-bred Ed McLaughlin, who rose from a part-time program host to become one of the titans of broadcasting, died on January 18, 2018. He was 91 years old.
Mr. McLaughlin joined the Army fresh out of high school in 1943 near the end of World War II, then was recalled to duty in England during the Korean War to arrange entertainment for the troops. He graduated from San Francisco State on the GI Bill, with a degree in Broadcasting.
His first job in radio was as host of “On The Tee” on San Rafael’s KTIM, followed by a sales job at Oakland’s KROW. A move to Southern California and subsequent success at KGBS in Los Angeles brought him back to the Bay Area as sales manager at powerhouse KGO, where he ultimately rose to vice president and general manager, helping to usher in the station’s dominant news/talk format. In 1972, he was promoted to president of ABC Radio Networks in New York.
During his fourteen years in charge of ABC Radio, he helped build and grow a strong network of affiliates, and developed ABC’s “multi-network” concept. He is credited with bringing back long-form “event” broadcasts to radio, including “The Barbra Streisand Special,” “Elvis: Memories” and “The Neil Diamond Special.” Under his direction, ABC Radio acquired Watermark Inc. from its founders, Top 40 radio pioneers Ron Jacobs and Tom Rounds, bringing Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” and Bob Kingsley’s “American Country Countdown” to even greater national prominence.
Upon leaving ABC Radio in 1986, Mr. McLaughlin and his wife, Patricia, founded EFM Media and launched the nationally-syndicated Dr. Dean Edell program, hosted by the longtime KGO personality. In 1984, Mr. McLaughlin took a nascent talk show host named Rush Limbaugh, who had previously labored as a Top 40 disc jockey but was now toiling at KFBK in Sacramento, and put him on a single station in New York City — WABC. Within a few years, Limbaugh’s program rose to become the most widely-syndicated and most listened-to radio program in the nation.
More recently, Mr. McLaughlin served for seven years as Chairman of the Board of The Broadcasters Foundation and continued to serve as Chairman Emeritus. He was the first chairman of the Radio Network Association and was a long-standing board member of the International Radio and Television Foundation and a trustee of The Paley Center for Media.
Mr. McLaughlin was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago in 1995 and, in 1996, he received the National Association of Broadcasters’ National Radio Award. This March, he will posthumously receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America.
Mr. McLaughlin is survived by his wife and their three children. Details for a planned memorial in June will be announced at a later date.