In this week’s issue… Kuby out at WABC – Captain Dan exits WMCE – CBS cuts in Philly – iHeart rearranges in New England – Boston AM headed for a change? – NJ talker on the mend
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The three large radio groups with impending financial issues have all been making quiet job cuts in recent weeks, and last week all three made noticeable cuts in our region. As you’ll read later on in the column, CBS Radio continues to winnow down its job count as it gets ready to be merged into Entercom over the next few months. iHeart, of course, is facing more than 20 billion dollars in debt.
And then there’s Cumulus, which has its own debt issues even as its stock continues to fluctuate wildly amidst the news that former leader Lew Dickey has been raising money to prepare for some sort of upcoming business acquisition. The Cumulus job cuts last week seemed to focus on the talk stations it inherited from ABC by way of Citadel; in Washington, WMAL (630/105.9) morning talk host Brian Wilson was abruptly cut from the lead anchor chair on “Mornings on the Mall,” leaving veteran New Jersey host Mary Walter as the lone anchor of the show just a few months into her tenure at WMAL.
A few hours later, the news broke from NEW YORK that another co-host had just done his last show: Ron Kuby at WABC (770), the liberal foil to Curtis Sliwa on the station’s noon-3 “Curtis and Kuby” show.
The former WABC morning men had reunited at the station in 2014 as part of an attempt to breathe new life into a lineup that had drifted away from local talk toward syndication. While Cumulus never officially said as much, it was widely expected that Curtis and Kuby were in Rush Limbaugh’s former noontime slot only temporarily while awaiting the eventual retirement of WABC morning host Don Imus.
But even with Imus temporarily sidelined by health issues, his show (nominally syndicated, but without many affiliates outside New York these days) remains in place in the WABC morning slot. Sliwa’s now solo from noon until 3, followed by two hours of Michael Savage and then the 5-6 PM hour that Sliwa had already been hosting by himself.
In a statement he posted, Kuby said he had no reason to think his dismissal was about anything other than budget issues – and that he’d planned to leave WABC after this year anyway to focus full-time on his law practice.
“I informed management (about his plans) in December,” Kuby wrote. “The election of Trump and the threats he poses to civil rights and liberties requires more of me than being a part-time lawyer. I feel a moral compulsion to be the best and hardest working advocate I can be, using the skills I have been taught for over three decades. Thanks to WABC management for giving me the opportunity that I have (mostly) enjoyed for the past three 1/2 years. Thanks to my audience with whom I have a love/hate relationship. I will miss at least half of you more than half as much as I should. My deepest thanks and best wishes to Curtis Sliwa, who taught me this business and frequently took the matches out of my hands after I splashed the gasoline around.”
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*Our CBS Radio news comes from eastern PENNSYLVANIA: After almost 14 years as PD of CBS Radio’s WOGL (98.1 Philadelphia), Anne Gress was caught in budget cuts last week. Gress, who’d also worked at Philly’s WUSL and WJJZ, is being replaced by Bobby Smith, PD and morning host at sister station WTDY (96.5), who’ll keep his existing duties as well. The cluster has also named Shelly Easton, PD of country WXTU (92.5), as VP/music programming, overseeing all three music FMs.
At the other end of the state, veteran Erie jock “Captain Dan” Geary will be leaving the airwaves after his WMCE (88.5/1530) morning show on Wednesday. The good Captain (at left, in 2016) made the move to Mercyhurst University’s radio operation almost a decade ago following 20 years in commercial radio, bringing his oldies format first to 1530 (as WYNE) and then to the FM dial a few years ago.
Mercyhurst is selling the AM signal and plans to transition the FM to student-run operation; the plan had been for Geary and the oldies format from WMCE to move up the dial to the new 100.9 signal that Rick Rambaldo’s ERIE Radio Company had bought at auction, but that fell through when the FCC pulled the CP because of a glitch in making one of the required payments.
So Geary is going online instead, where his oldies format lives on at groovyradio.net – and we wish him all the best in his next chapter.
*The corporate cuts last week hit iHeart, too – in Providence, RHODE ISLAND, Tom Campbell is out as morning man at WWBB (101.5) after 16 years. That leaves Kristin Lessard as the solo host of what had been the “TC and Kristin” show, and Campbell is on the hunt for his next gig.
Down the hall, Kelsey Maxon is leaving his job as digital PD for the iHeart Providence cluster, but in his case it’s for a promotion: he’s headed to CONNECTICUT to become digital PD for the entire Hartford region.
*What’s happening to the low-rated talk format at WMEX (1510 Boston) in eastern MASSACHUSETTS? It’s losing star afternoon talker Michele McPhee next week, we hear, raising questions about how well the rest of its motley talk lineup will be able to continue without her.
*There’s a new leader at Worcester’s biggest public radio voice. WICN (90.5) has named Amanda Carr as its new executive director. She comes to the station from an unusual path – she’s a jazz musician-turned-entrepreneur, and she was first heard on WICN two decades ago when the station interviewed her early in her career. Carr takes over from interim GM Tom Lucci.
Where are they now? Pete Sheppard, a longtime WEEI sports talk staple, has a new gig almost within sight of “Fenway South,” joining Beasley to co-host afternoons on WWCN (ESPN 99.3) in Fort Myers with Craig Shemon.
*A former NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE newsman is moving south: Jeff Wade had been news director at Portland’s WGAN (560) and most recently was director of news and talk programming at Binnie Media in Concord. On June 5, he’ll take over as news director at Hearst’s WBAL (1090 Baltimore), where he’ll rejoin his old Portland boss, Cary Pahigian.
*Back in upstate New York, Craig Fox is shedding one AM from his Syracuse-market holdings: he’s selling the license of WOSW (1300 Fulton) to Sinan Mimaroglu’s Highlands Community Radio for $20,000. Fox keeps the station’s tower and real estate and will lease them to Highlands. WOSW has most recently been used as the nominal originating station for Fox’s “Wolf Country” network to get around an ownership-cap issue, but now that he’s closing on the purchase of the real “Wolf” primary, WOLF-FM (92.1 Baldwinsville), the AM is extra baggage.
*In NEW JERSEY, we send our best wishes to Bill Doyle, half of the “Doyle and Deminski” team on WKXW (New Jersey 101.5). Doyle was off the air in January and February to get cancer treatment, and while he returned to the air for a while, he’s been off again since the beginning of May undergoing a new round of treatments. Deminski wrote to listeners last week to say things were “looking up” for Doyle and he hopes to be back on the air soon; producer Joe Votruba has been filling in in the meantime.
Up the Turnpike in Newark, Sherry Ross has exited as color commentator for the New Jersey Devils’ radio broadcasts; she’d been in that role for 10 years.
*In CANADA, is the CBC getting ready to make some changes to its regional “Ontario Morning” show? The broadcast, heard outside the major production centers in Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor, will lose its London outlet in a few weeks when a new local London morning show launches there. Along the way, it’s also parted ways with its last remaining regional correspondent, Jack Roe. He’d been covering Peterborough news for the CBC for 35 years before being dismissed last week; he’ll still be on the air weekends as an anchor for Toronto’s CFTR (680 News).
Up in Barrie, Melanie Martin has joined Kris Bawden on the “Big Mornings” show at Corus’ CIQB (101.1 Big FM). She’s worked at Toronto’s Flow 93.5 and Z103.5.
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