By Marc Rayfield
For many years, KYW Newsradio was owned by Group W/Westinghouse broadcasting. The sales arm was known as Group W Radio Sales (GWRS). But to the many people who knew him, GWRS always stood for “Go With Roy Shapiro.” Roy, who served as Vice President and General Manager of GWRS before achieving greater recognition as KYW Newsradio’s longtime General Manager, passed away Tuesday night at the age of 76. He lived in Bryn Mawr.
Nationally, Roy was considered a broadcasting legend, having served in 1965 as an architect of the all- news radio format that is so well known today.
In Philadelphia, to the millions of KYW Newsradio listeners, he was the guy with the thick New York accent who did editorials over the air, sometimes making the issues of the day sound like a fish order at a Brooklyn deli. But to those who he touched, he was a boss, friend, mentor, a passionate leader, and in my case, a father figure.
Roy had a larger than life personality, a man who lit up every room he walked into. He had an uncanny ability to connect with people from all walks of life, equally as comfortable with the governor as he was with a laborer, a testament to his humble beginnings as a linen delivery man’s son in the Bronx.
Ironically, in a city like Philadelphia that is sometimes unwelcoming of outsiders, especially New Yorkers, he was quickly embraced as one of its own after arriving here in 1984. Even though Roy maintained Giants season tickets until only a few years ago, he never went to their games and openly rooted for the Phillies and the Eagles.
In the business world, it was a sign of your “arrival” — to have lunch with Roy, a man who was so well respected. In fact, he often had lunch “two, three or even four times a day.”
Roy was principled, uncompromising and direct, yet for a serious “newsman,” he was one of the funniest people you will ever know. We could crash the website by listing the laughs, good times and “Roy-isms,” of which there were many.
Even though he loved to be thought of as “frugal,” he was incredibly generous with his time and money, playing active roles in organizations like the Police Athletic League, Moss Rehabilitation and the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters. He also served as mentors to some of the biggest people in broadcasting, always offering an opinion, a strategy or simply a contrarian’s view.
Roy spent nearly his entire career, 42 years, with the company he loved, Group W/CBS Radio, and with the woman he loved, his wife of 51 years, Elaine, whom he refused to marry until he made $200 a week (she made him cave at $175!).
A son, a daughter and eventually grandchildren followed; a family which gave him enormous pride, but one that is considerably smaller than the extended family that came to love him over the years.
Most people stay away from their bosses; we were drawn to Roy like a candle to a flame. This is not just a sad day for those of us who knew and loved Roy; it’s an unfortunate day for those of you who never got the chance to.
Many of us were willing to “Go With Roy Shapiro.” We are all better off for having done so.
At the sound of the tone, KYW Newstime is…
- Marc M. Rayfield: Senior Vice President/Market Manager CBS Radio Philadelphia