Wave rider: Nikki Darling in studio at 103.7 WMGM
At the Jersey Shore, vacationers have depended on local stations for their summer soundtracks for decades. One of those self- proclaimed aficionados is Longport Media radio personality Nikki Darling, 103.7 WMGM's newest talent, who fills the 7-pm-to-midnight weekday time block. "I remember coming down to Atlantic City and everyone would listen to the Shark," Darling says of the heritage rock station, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. "I never thought it was attainable. I never thought of being on the station."
But today that pipeline dream has become a reality. Darling, a former pre-med student, is just one of the talents that Longport has enlisted to help sustain live radio broadcasts and local credibility at its stations. After holding posts in Philadelphia studios like WPHT AM1210, WOGL 98.1, and WYSP 94.1, Darling has now joined the ranks of famed Longport voices like Mike Bowe and Tom Lamaine. When Darling heard WMGM was recruiting, she reached out to Bowe, with whom she had forged a friendship at a previous gig. No one has been more pleased with Darling's performance thus far than Longport Media president Dave Coskey. "Paul Kelly, vice president of broadcast operations, did a great job of securing the best on-air talent in the area, and Nikki is certainly one of our bright, young rising stars," Coskey says. "As the youngest DJ on 103.7 WMGM—and the only female—she brings her signature style, a fresh and youthful perspective, and a quick-witted personality to our rock station." Her on-air persona is fueled by a passion for radio that runs deep, a love that Bowe, Coskey, and Kelly all have noticed in the studio. "The first time I went in and sat at a soundboard, I was at home," Darling says. "I loved the idea of introducing people to new music. That's how I get my kicks."
Longport Media owns some of the oldest and most well-loved stations in South Jersey. Coskey purchased the struggling media group in May of last year, and with a group of partners he has since revived old stations and developed new ones with seasoned local talent. Well-recognized on-air personalities like Ryan Seacrest, Jerry Blavat, and Casey Kasem give a voice to the greatest-hits stations KOOL 98.3 and WWAC 102.7, while AM1490 WIP brings Philly's 94 WIP to the beach with sports hosts like Angelo Cataldi, Ike Reese, and Michael Barkann (and stands as the exclusive broadcast partner for the Flyers and 76ers in the Atlantic City market). Coskey and his team have also reinstated the legacy of 1400 AM WOND, South Jersey's 60-year-old news and talk station, incorporating seasoned Atlantic City news personality Pinky Kravitz and Philadelphia Eagles consultant Howard Eskin.
And the way on-air talent like Darling sees it, Longport's dedication to live broadcasting makes all the difference to local listeners. "Being involved in the community, seeing your listeners, talking to them—you don't feel disconnected with your audience," Darling says. "That is what is missing a lot in the radio industry now; you lose that personal relationship."
photography by eric ryan anderson