Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good night, radio.

Good night, Mr. Deejay.

Good night, Mr. Newsman.

Good night, Miss Morning Show Producer.

Good night, Mr. Program Director.

Good night, local programming.

Good night, audience.

Good night to radio, everyone.

CLEAR CHANNEL HAS wielded the budget ax again, leaving many markets with not much left in the way of local, live people on the radio. Far away, voicetracked people is another matter.

As is the corporate custom, the corporate suits are trying to spin firing 590 more people -- on top of 1,800 a few months ago -- as a good thing. Being not nearly so clever as to be in management anywhere, I just can't see it.

Anyway, here's just a small sampling of the Clear Channel carnage today:
* From Cincinnati:

Local radio sports talk became a lot quieter Tuesday.

As part of nationwide budget cuts, Clear Channel eliminated all but one local show on “Homer” WCKY-AM (1530), and dropped Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty after two years hosting WLW-AM (700).

WCKY-AM canceled morning shows hosted by Alan Cutler, who was laid off, and Mo Egger, retained by Clear Channel.

The company also eliminated the jobs of sports blogger C. Trent Rosecrans, and producers Matt Steinmann, Travis Holmes and Mark Chalifoux as part the 590 positions cut nationwide Tuesday.

Only Lance McAlister will talk local sports 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WCKY-AM. He also took over “SportsTalk” Tuesday before the Reds game.

* From the Twin Cities:

Those cut were Joe Anderson, Langdon Perry, Danielle Hitchings, Chris Fisher, Lois Mae and Dan Donovan, according to a story published by MinnPost.com.

Clear Channel owns and operates seven stations in this market: KDWB-FM, KEEY-FM, KFAN-AM, KFXN-AM, KQQL-FM, KTCZ-FM and KTLK-FM.

Mike Crusham, general manager of Clear Channel’s local operations, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The local cuts Tuesday were part of a broader national round of job cuts that impacted about 600 people, or 3 percent of Clear Channel’s work force, according to media reports.

In January, San Antonio-based Clear Channel (OTCBB: CCMO) cut more than two dozen other employees in the Twin Cities, including Chad Hartman, a veteran sports talk show host on KFAN.

Fisher, one of the laid-off DJs who was part of the morning team on country music station K102, wrote on his Twitter message board this afternoon a farewell to listeners.

“Got fired today. I’m gonna miss all of you listeners … thanks for everything.”

* From Detroit:

Clear Channel market manager Til Levesque wouldn't comment on specific jobs lost in Detroit, but this afternoon Edmonds' name was already gone from the Breakfast Club roster on WNIC's Web site, replaced by O'Neill's name.

Also gone is Chad Mitchell from The Chad Show, which airs mornings on Clear Channel's country station "The Fox," WDTW-FM (106.7). Mitchell was told he was being let go immediately after his show went off the air this morning. . . .

Also cut is update reporter Rob Otto from sports talk station The Fan, WDFN-AM (1130). Otto also did the Pistons pre- and post-game reportage. On his Facebook page, Otto commented: "Well, the rumors are out there, so I guess I'll confirm it. I was indeed fired from WDFN today. Unlike my former co-workers, who were blindsided a couple months ago, I had a feeling this was coming. I wish the few remaining members of the staff there nothing but the best, and look forward to whatever it is that life has waiting for me."

*From Memphis:

Long time Memphis radio personality Mike Fleming was laid off Tuesday. Fleming hosted the Mike Fleming Show weekday afternoons on AM600 WREC.

Before 600 WREC he worked at the Nashville Banner, The Jacksonville, FL Journal and the Commercial Appeal.

He also worked in television news and talk radio covering a variety of events, news and sports stories, such as Super Bowls, the PGA Tour, SEC, Memphis' NFL drive, and a news story in which he was asked to negotiate for prisoners during a jail visit.

*From Wichita:

One of the more public personalities laid off today was Kathy Deane, who has been producing the top-rated “Brett and Tracy Morning Show” on B-98 for more than two years.

“We were, like, knocking it out of the park,” Deane says. “That’s what I really don’t get.”
Morning host Brett Harris, who hired Deane, agrees. He’s put a call into corporate to see if he can pay Deane out of his own pocket to produce the show off site.

“When it happens to someone who’s part of your inner circle of success . . . who you brought into the industry, you feel some accountability,” Harris says.

Deane, who says she was in shock this morning after being escorted to her car, didn’t even hear Harris make the offer.

“Wow,” she says. “That’s showing me some love, isn’t it?”

*From Denver:

A reliable source reveals that 23 part-time or fulltime employees at Clear Channel Denver were laid off today as part of the San Antonio-based firm's second series of cuts this year. (The number is confirmed by KOA Morning News host Steffan Tubbs on his Twitter feed.) Many of those impacted worked in off-air capacities such as accounting, but a handful of on-air personalities reportedly received pink slips. The biggest name: The G-Man, a staple of the Rick Lewis-Michael Floorwax morning show on The Fox for nineteen years.
THAT'S THE CARNAGE from just a few scattered markets across the country. And, as I mentioned, that's not counting the much larger layoff in January.

Oh, did I mention there are lots of other radio conglomerates that also overpaid for scads of stations on their way to "mega" status, and which are in much worse financial shape than Cheap Channel? Even if economic times were flush, no station can make enough money to service that kind of debt load.

The story of radio is the little story that tells the big story of Corporate America Hits the Skids. This story probably won't have a happy ending, and -- either sooner or later -- none of us will live happily ever after.

At least according to the prevailing definition of "happily ever after."

The talented individuals who used to work in radio are suffering now. But as we hollow out all of our virtual town squares and cultural commons in postmodern America, it's our society itself that ultimately be impoverished.

WE'RE SO DIVIDED now as a people . . . we have so little in common anymore. We all live in our own little individual or "clan" compounds today, walled off from common cause with those unlike ourselves by an impenetrable wall of electrons.

Maybe Facebook and Twitter will find a way for us to engineer a breakout. Maybe they'll put more guards on the parapets -- I don't know.

But I know we're isolated and alienated today, and I know all the Clear Channels of the world aren't helping matters as they continue to divorce actual humans from the means of social communications.

It used to be so different. I'm 48 now; I remember when it was. I remember when there was magic in the airwaves.

I remember when everybody at least knew a little about a lot of things, and a lot of people. I think that was a very good thing.

THERE STILL are a few outposts where radio still sounds like your neighbors, and where the cultural commons is still kept weeded, the grass still gets mowed and the park benches still get painted. So to speak.

I thought you might like to see what that looks like . . . while you still can. Introducing WLNG in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

RECENTLY, the station's longtime general manager, Paul Sidney, died of cancer at 69. He had been at the station since 1964.

He was born in Brooklyn. He died as Mr. Hamptons, and a region mourned,
as this Newsday opinion piece demonstrates:

When Paul Sidney's microphone fell silent the day he died, April 2, eastern Long Island lost not just a radio legend, but a big part of the glue that has kept our community together.

The fast-talking Sidney came to WLNG (92.1 FM) in 1964, when the station in Sag Harbor was a year old. He started a format of oldies, jingles and local shows - a corny, hometown, live-and-local format. Today it's the last remaining station of its kind on Long Island.

Sidney and his radio team kept the jingles, reverb and "chime-time" bell of the 1960s top-40 format that most other stations long since abandoned. The most popular show is "Swap and Shop," where people call in to sell items.

There's also "Pet Patrol," for lost pets, and "Christmas Cards of the Airwaves." Sidney would sit there all day while listeners called in to say what they had gotten for Christmas and what they were having for dinner.

"It's radio the way it used to be," the jingle says. And, "WLNG - the place to be - since '63."

In the age of instant messaging, Facebook friends and online dating, it is hard to imagine the day-to-day intimacy of hearing Paul Sidney talking to you and your colleagues, and seeing him at his live remotes from events and stores all over town. "I do 250 remotes a year," he once told Newsday.

His gravelly voice was not polished or sophisticated, and he spouted out questions to people he interviewed live on location. "Here's the deal . . . " he was famous for saying as he explained what he wanted from a guest. When he referred to the Hamptons, he would say, "God's country."

He was 69 when he died, after 45 years at the station, during which he stood always behind his radio philosophy - "It's what's between the music that counts."

IT IS WHAT'S between the music that counts. And nobody ever mourned a hard drive when it died.

Likewise, I don't think any of us will mourn Clear Channel's version of radio when it finally is dispatched to that Great Bulk Eraser in the Sky.

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