Monday, February 09, 2009

Monday Potpourri

It's Monday, and unlike some potpourri, ours is a mix of both palatable and unpalatable items. (We wish we could control the ingredients...)

CUMULUS LAYOFFS: Looks like we start off with the unpalatable, as Cumulus Media dropped the layoff axe again late last week...and the company's two Northern Ohio markets were hit hard.

We already told you about Toledo's job carnage on Friday...we'll fill in some of the names in a bit.

And like in Toledo, if Cumulus keeps cutting like this in Youngstown, we're not sure who's gonna be left to turn the lights out.

The list of involuntary exits at Cumulus Youngstown includes country WQXK/105.1 "K105" program director Dave Steele. Yes, that's right, the program director of the Youngstown market's country powerhouse. Yes, K105...THAT K105...the Country Music Association station of the year just two years ago.

OMW hears that K105 "Hometown Morning Show" co-host Doug James has been tapped as acting program director.

A long-time reader and Friend of OMW tells us that Cumulus "seems to be thoughtlessly dismantling their CMA award winning airstaff. Whether you like country music or not, that was one powerful and successful station over many, many years. The station and staff were well respected in the industry."

But this is 2009, and awards and recognition and even top ratings don't seem to matter.

And it also means that the K105 cuts (on the heels of earlier cuts that sent night personality Burton Lee packing, among others) are not the only ones at Cumulus' Youngstown cluster.

Also out the door is yet another now-unemployed Youngstown radio icon, classic rock WYFM/102.9 "Y103" afternoon driver "Smokin'" Bill Cannon. "Smokin'"'s long career dates back into the 1970's on the original WHOT-AM, later moving to WHOT-FM/101.1.

WHOT's "Kelin", and rock WWIZ/103.9 "Rock 104" and sports WBBW/1240 "The Fan" program director Christian Allshire round out the cut lists at Cumulus' Mahoning Valley operations.

We hear that "Rock 104" has no more live air personalities, and is now voicetracked full time.

At Cumulus Toledo, the earlier reported layoffs include: classic hits WRQN/93.5 night personality Ron Sobzak and traffic person Kelly Carter, sports WLQR/1470-talk WTOD/1560 assistant program director Tod Crabtree, and WLQR part-timer Jason Griffin, and three other off-air staffers.

We're told that Hugh McPherson, sales manager for classic rock WXKR/94.5, WTOD and WLQR, has left the building on his own, as did WTOD morning talk host Tom Watkins.

Who, by the way, is talking. Quoting the Toledo Free Press article on the Cumulus cutbacks, which puts the total number of job cuts at 11:

Watkins had been the host of “Toledo Today” on WTOD-AM 1560 in a part-time capacity. He opted to end the program, which ran for two years, rather than taking a pay-cut.

“Homey don’t work for nothin’,” Watkins said.

But many of those left at Cumulus Toledo may be doing just that, or nearly so.

As reported elsewhere, we also hear that hourly part-timers have seen their pay rate dropped to minimum wage. Yes, McDonald's is a better financial option for them at this point, as we'd assume the fast food giant pays at least a LITTLE more than minimum wage.

And doing a two hour daily talk show for minimum wage is not only a slap in the's barely worth gassing up the car and driving into the studio five days a week! Watkins tells the Toledo Blade that he was also told he would have to do the show at the new part-time minimum wage rate.

And Watkins is right when he says local Cumulus management shouldn't bear the brunt of the blame. This is yet another nationwide Cumulus layoff spree, as stations in many other areas also set employees a drift on Friday.

One pretty instructive example: Cumulus talk WVNN/770 Huntsville AL, which once sent now-syndicated talk star Sean Hannity to Atlanta, and was programmed by now-WNYM/970 New York programmer Peter Thiele, has canned its ENTIRE NEWS DEPARTMENT. Every single person!

Before Cumulus bought the station, the local ownership pointed to its fully staffed newsroom with pride, and even had a full-time, on-site meteorologist. And we're talking as recently as a few years ago, not back in the 1960's.

Much of that staff hung on through the Cumulus years...until Friday...

ONE PIECE OF POSITIVE JOB NEWS: Staffers at one Northeast Ohio station won't be worrying about job cuts, we're told.

The word comes directly to OMW from one of our readers, Cleveland market classical WCLV/104.9 president Robert Conrad:

WCLV 104.9, northeast Ohio's classical music station, has no plans to lay off any employees.

WCLV is in, of course, a very unique - and positive - financial situation.

The Great Cleveland Frequency Swap of 2001 bumped the classical outlet from its longtime home at 95.5 FM (now Salem CCM WFHM "The Fish") to the western rimshot frequency of Lorain-licensed 104.9.

Though the signal nudged a bit east after the WCLV move - to a class A facility in Avon - it still prompted grumbling by listeners on Cleveland's East Side, the traditional base for the station.

But it also was a financial bonanza for WCLV.

The sale of 95.5 - at 2001 prices - allowed the establishment of a foundation that preserved classical music in the region...and basically, the current operation of WCLV is safe. (Of course, at today's prices, even the full-market 95.5 signal would have commanded much less than it did in 2001, so it's a case of very fortunate timing as well.)

With that setup, WCLV basically is insulated from the current financial pressures being seen by nearly all other radio operators...and Mr. Conrad's decision to cash in on the old frequency in that swap is looking smarter almost literally by the day...

CHARITABLE COLLECTION: OMW hears out of Clear Channel's Akron/Canton complex on Freedom Avenue that the hot AC WKDD/98.1 "Have a Heart, Do Your Part" 10th annual Radiothon raised a total of $752,932 for Akron's Children's Hospital.

Yes, that is a lower number than the just-over $1 million raised by the 2008 effort. But it's still much larger than other efforts in larger markets nationwide...and of course, the economy in 2009 has basically been "in the tank" everywhere...not just in Northeast Ohio.

Considering the skyrocketing unemployment rate, the total raised in 2009 is still rather impressive, in our eyes. And we believe every charitable effort this year, locally and nationally, will face significant losses due to the devastated economy.

We're told that corrected figures put the 10-year Radiothon total just shy of the $6 million mark - $5,992,400.77 is the now official long-term tally...

NEWS SHARING: In our "how'd we miss this?" department, we blame the poorly-organized layrinth that is the Plain Dealer's

But elsewhere, we did stumble onto an item that PD media writer Julie Washington unveiled late last month...that Youngstown State University classical/NPR WYSU/88.5 is now getting news updates from Kent State University classical/NPR counterpart WKSU/89.7.


The WKSU news team is providing hourly newscasts to WYSU heard during the Youngstown station's National Public Radio's newsmagazine "Morning Edition."

Regional and state news from WKSU reporter/producer Amanda Rabinowitz are heard following national headlines from NPR at the top of the hour from 6 to 8 a.m. The news-sharing agreement started this month.

We admit to not following WYSU closely, but we're pretty sure the Youngstown station has no significant local news staff - if any. It appears to be mostly a home for classical music. So, it would make sense that WKSU is "helping out".

Washington's article also notes a recent "quiet" change in WKSU's own "Morning Edition" local hosting station producer/backup announcer Jeff St. Clair and Rabinowitz take over for former solo host Tom Parkinson.

Parkinson took over those duties when Leonard Will left the station, and Washington says he'll stay with WKSU as a news reporter/producer...

MORE TIME WITH HER FAMILY: There's a joke among the political types in Washington... as people in high profile positions who leave often do so, reportedly, "to spend more time with their family"....when in fact, they're often forced out of their positions.

Who knew that cover-up phrase would hit Toledo?

OMW and many other outlets reported that Barrington NBC affiliate WNWO/24 "NBC 24" recently laid off staffers, including primary anchor Shenikwa Stratford, in its latest round of budget cuts.

Even the Toledo Blade quoted WNWO officials on the job cuts, which turned out to put four employees on the street - including Stratford:

Four WNWO-TV, Channel 24, employees including evening co-anchor Shenikwa Stratford, were laid off Wednesday, and one position was eliminated through attrition.
"NBC 24 continues to adjust to a new operating model that will ensure our continued service and value to viewers and advertisers," WNWO Vice President and General Manager Jon Skorburg said in a statement. "These are challenging times for all industries and we must adjust accordingly."

A pretty straightforward statement, no? OK, so it's corporate-statement-speak, but it seems up front enough in that realm.

So, why is WNWO telling viewers otherwise?

Stratford left the "NBC24" anchor chair on Thursday, according to an article on the station's website. (And really, nothing says "cheesy, low-rent local TV website" like the domain name "".)

But aside from the "tearful goodbye" video link, this caught our eye:

Shenikwa has decided to devote her time to raising her daughter Kennedy along with her new arrival, due in May of this year.

Well, of course you can "decide" to devote your time to raising your children...WHEN YOUR JOB HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU!

Of course, maybe this is just a case of typically bad local TV news writing. The station, for example, could have worded it so it didn't sound like Stratford left on her, well, spend more time with her family...


Chuck Matthews Blog said...

Now the former PD Of K105, Dave Steele has got a burgeoning VO business. He most recently became the voice of WGAR.

emery_r said...

WYSU's woes have an even more dire parallel in southwest Ohio -- Miami Univ.'s WMUB will be absorbed operationally in March by Cincinnati Public Radio, which owns WVXU and WGUC. For now, WMUB will end all local operations, simply becoming a repeater for WVXU programming.

This all came to pass due to WMUB's limited listener base and Miami Univ.'s budget problems. It's a sad state of affairs, because WMUB is one of the oldest public stations in the country and until now has had strong local content and lots of local news.

But at least the station won't die completely, still maintaining itself as a public broadcaster!

andrew727 said...

Can you say major crash? Radio in the 1930's helped get the nation through depression with entertainment and news. Obvious, its a bad depression affecting us all. My site at is not as vunerable, me nor my contributing writers make any money on the site...just doing it for the fun of it. However, we've been warned it will get worse before it gets better...batten down the hatches boys and girls, we are already starting on a rough ride!

rob said...

ron sobczak is still on the air at 93.5 wrqn. I am listening to him right now. No idea if kelly carter is still employed

Aaron said...

My grandfather is one of those people "grumbling" about the WCLV signal. He lives near Mayfield Heights and has a hard time picking it up. Next time I'm up in Cleveland, I should show him my wifi radio because WCLV streams.