Promotion guru and former radio producer Rich Walburg dies of leukemia
You may not know Rich Walburg’s name, but you’ve no doubt been touched by his genius in promoting Oktoberfest, Taste of Cincinnati or BLINK… Or heard his clever entertainment reporting “Showbiz Stuff” in the Jim Scott’s radio show… Or Marty Brennaman’s “Elvis Fun Facts” during Reds games… Or the guests and topics he hosted for WLW-AM’s award-winning talk shows.
Or maybe you’re still trying to find Daniel’s Dove Range in Delhi Township, the fake shooting club Walburg set up for a WLW-AM promotion.
Walburg, the WKRQ-FM and WLW-AM alum who handled marketing and media relations for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National MS Society, and Game Day Communications, died of leukemia overnight. He was 55 years old.
“Rich has been in radio for over three decades. You can’t tell the story of Cincinnati radio without telling the story of Rich Walburg,” said WLW-AM sportscaster Mo Egger. his close friend. “He did it all.”
“Rich was the funniest person I know. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t friends with him. He was a great guy,” said Scott, WLW-AM’s longtime morning host.
The Northwest High School and University of Cincinnati graduate began working at WKRQ-FM in 1988, after graduating from UC. He produced Q102’s morning show and served as deputy news director until 1993 when he moved to WLW-AM to produce Scott’s morning show. Soon, he began doing a daily cheeky entertainment report at 5:45 and 7:45 a.m. called “Showbiz Stuff.”
His first taste of the entertainment industry was in 1983, when he started working at Kings Island before his senior year in high school. He was a seasonal employee there until 1991 and was inducted into the Kings Island Hall of Fame in 2009.
For most of his 18 years at WLW-AM, Walburg served as assistant program director under Darryl Parks and executive producer of all talk shows. During his tenure, Jim Scott and Bill Cunningham won the prestigious Marconi Awards for Best Broadcast Personality from the National Association of Broadcasters.
“He was bright, engaged, and connected to Cincinnati. All of us at 700 WLW remember him fondly and hold him in high regard — especially me,” Cunningham told me.
Walburg “was responsible for all of the show’s topics across the station and programming. Basically, if a guest wanted on The Big One, you went through Rich,” says Parks, who called Walburg his “partner and a part of the inner circle that ran the station at that time.
Parks pulled back the curtain on how radio talk shows work to explain Walburg’s influence:
“Not many people know this, but as improvised and unplanned topics and content sounded in those days, shows were often scheduled two and sometimes three days before airing. We wanted it to sound spontaneous. of most station content, he worked directly with Jim (Scott), Mike (McConnell) and Willie (Cunningham) on topics and guests.
“We were amused by the way people thought things were going to happen. For example, Willie showed up at 11 or 11:30 a.m. every morning to go on the air at noon. Many thought he was planning his show in that The truth is, it had been planned, and then he and Rich were talking the night before, very early in the morning (because Rich would be around 6 a.m.), and then meeting again before moving on. The day after Jim’s show was actually produced as soon as he went off the air, his Tuesday show was produced on Monday morning.
When listeners “heard something on WLW that was good, Rich’s fingerprints were on it,” Egger says of his mentor. “It was the most creative idea I’ve ever come across. Any host will say he made their talk shows better and he made them better. He taught me everything I know about the radio.”
Aside from “Showbiz Stuff” and its “World Wide Walburg” reporting during the early years of the Internet, Walburg generally did not get credit for content listeners liked. After Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall put an Elvis bus in the Reds’ radio booth in 1996, Walburg and Reds radio producer Dave “Yiddy” Armbruster wrote an “Elvis Fun Fact” for Brennaman to read every game in the game. 1997 season.
Reacting to a news report about Cincinnati’s dove overpopulation, Walburg created a bit about a Saturday morning dove shoot in the fictional chain of Daniel’s Dove in Delhi township at the intersection of two roads that don’t intersect.
“People were driving everywhere and couldn’t find the place. It was all a theater of the mind,” says Armbruster, director of sports operations for WLW-AM and fellow Cincinnati radio station iHeartMedia. “Rich was just a good guy. Everyone in the (media) industry knew him. He lived such a great life. It’s a shame this happened to him.”
Walburg was known in newsrooms across town for organizing media coverage of Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest and other chamber events, and since 2019 for promotions orchestrated by Game Day Communications.
“He always had a smile and a lot of joy when he came to WGRR, even very early in the morning, with pumpkin pies from Frisch on Halloween, beer and pretzels for Oktoberfest or Taste of Cincinnati,” explains Chris O’Brien, co-host of WGRR-FM’s morning show with his wife Janeen Coyle.
“Rich was a professional in every way, but with a quick sense of humor. I can’t imagine not joking with him anymore,” O’Brien said.
WXIX-TV reporter Lauren Artino said in a Facebook comment that “Rich was one of the best. He was always so kind, helpful, willing to do whatever it took to make our stories flawless. “
Walburg emailed newsrooms a daily “Game Day Early AM Stories” newsletter offering daily media availabilities until late September, when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was amazed at all the good wishes he received after being admitted to Christ Hospital.
“It’s been scary, but I’ll take care of business,” he emailed me from Christ Hospital on September 30. “I’m really overwhelmed by all the kindness.”
He returned to work after Thanksgiving. When I sent him a note after receiving his “Game Day Early AM Stories” newsletter, he told me that “God willing, I’m back on a very limited basis. Many more treatments to come.” The last Walburg morning tip sheet in my inbox was dated December 7. Game Day Communications’ announcement stated that Walburg is survived by his wife, Cindy.
Social media on Tuesday was filled with comments about Walburg from friends across the country.
Tim “The Big Dog” Lewis, a former sports conference host from Cincinnati living in Utah, said that “Rich was without a doubt one of the best people God put on this Earth! He personified his name… because he was RICH in character, professionalism and love for his profession, he will certainly leave a void.
News anchor Jessica Brown, who left WXIX-TV for Boston last summer, called Walburg “so amazing and the best person to work with.”
Former WLW-AM colleague Paul Mason, now operations manager for Cumulus Media in Nashville, said Walburg was “one of the smartest, best people in our industry. I’ve never heard from anyone speak ill of him.”
Tom McKee, retired WCPO-TV reporter, said, “What a loss of a great communicator and a great person! I’ve always enjoyed talking with him about unique angles for stories.”
UC and Bengals radio announcer Dan Hoard called Walburg, a huge Bearcats basketball fan, “as sharp-witted as anyone I’ve ever met and a great person.” .
A few days before the UC football playoff game on New Year’s Eve, Walburg was texting WXIX-TV weatherman Frank Marzullo, who was reporting from Dallas ahead of the big game. Walburg wanted to make sure Marzullo knew that the UC logo projected onto a Dallas hotel was called the C-paw.
“This one really touched all of us in the newsroom. Not only would he do anything to make our TV segments the best they could be to show Cincinnati, but he was always ready to text or email to share a fun nugget. I might even use segments that had nothing to do with him,” Marzullo tells me.
Marzullo says he’s sure “Rich is planning media coverage for The Taste Of Heaven or Oktoberfest At The Gates this afternoon.”
Funeral arrangements and a celebration of life will be shared once finalized, according to Game Day Communications.
A Richard Walburg Media Fellowship was established Tuesday at the University of Cincinnati. Friends can donate online here. Donors should type “Richard Walburg” in the line requesting a specific department or program.
Or check contributions can be mailed for the Richard Walburg Scholarship to CCM, ATTN: Development & Alumni Relations, PO Box 210003, Cincinnati, OH 45221.