Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mad-radio disease

Ernie Pyle, the great Scripps Howard war correspondent, put human faces to the carnage of a world gone mad.

LIKEWISE, Inside Music Media's Jerry Del Colliano does the same as he gathers testimony from the killing fields of an industry -- an entire communications medium -- gone bat-s*** crazy. Say goodbye to radio:

After 30 years on KRNT-AM, Des Moines, Saga Communications decided to fire popular personality Steve Gibbons. I'm thinking -- his salary was too costly. How about you? Anyway, news accounts say he got off the air at 10 one morning and by 10:10 he was in his new bosses' office getting his ass fired. He was two years away from retirement.

Meanwhile, Jeff Delvaux, who had been working in the market for Saga for only two weeks, apparently got his marching orders from the Boss Kahuna -- CEO Ed Christian in Detroit.

For consolidated radio, just another slay in paradise, except for one thing.

Gibbons has been waiting for a kidney transplant for two years. He's on dialysis 12 hours a week just to stay alive. Dialysis, as some of you may know, puts a burden on one's strength making it tough to recover from these lifesaving sessions. And Gibbons has a long wait for a new kidney because he is a tough match for a transplant because his blood type is 0-negative.

On the way out the door, Gibbons showed the class he's always had by not blaming the station or even the new General Robot -- I mean, manager.

Look, I'm not trying to tell Saga how to run their company. I'm really not. If they want to replace an asset like Gibbons that badly to save a few coins, it's their station.

But what kind of a message is Ed Christian, the grumpy old CEO who seems to have forgotten what it's like to be compassionate, sending to other surviving Saga employees?

The guy's been working at the station for 30 frickin' years. How about one year of pay and plenty of notice?

Saga, known to be cheap, may not have been able to handle that -- so how about 30 days notice and some pay?

30 minutes notice -- instead of ten?

What price, loyalty?
THERE ARE SOME stupid listeners out there, which accounts for the audiences of at least a few Omaha radio stations. But not all listeners are stupid.

Those non-mouth-breathing folks -- and the haste with which they're making for the emergency exits -- explains the pickle the radio industry finds itself in today. And the ones who haven't yet given up on something that's been a part of American life since 1920 are smart enough to know that anybody who treats a sick employee like he's a flaming bag of dog doo isn't going to treat listeners any better.


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