In this week’s issue… Kravetz out at WBUR – iHeart’s new all-podcast format – Station sale in Vermont – Morning hosts out in Ontario – Remembering NY’s Kimble, Kingston’s Scott
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When staffers at Boston University’s WBUR-FM (90.9) voted overwhelmingly to unionize earlier this month, it was a big victory for union organizers – but, as it turned out, a much bigger loss for the station’s management than it initially appeared.
On Monday afternoon, WBUR staffers were called in for a meeting, without general manager Charlie Kravetz present, where university officials announced that Kravetz was out. While the university tried to make the best of the situation – on paper, Kravetz won’t step down as GM until the end of June – the details of the “transition” seem to speak to bigger tensions at the station.
While BU’s press release about Kravetz’s departure says the university and Kravetz “agreed that it was an appropriate time for a transition, his to pursue new options, and BU to new leadership at Boston’s public radio station,” what’s actually happening appears less like a transition and more like an ouster, according to WBUR’s own reporting about the matter.
For all of BU’s claims that Kravetz will retain some sort of consulting role between now and his official departure June 30, it’s pretty clear that in reality he’s out of the station. Several WBUR staffers asked pointed questions at the Monday meeting about Kravetz’s absence there, and about an upcoming fundraising event at which he also won’t have any active role.
There’s no reason, either, to think that union supporters pushed for Kravetz’s ouster; indeed, several were quoted as saying they looked forward to working with him as SAG-AFTRA moves forward with negotiations and WBUR begins its new era as a union shop.
What’s more, Kravetz’s record leading up to the union vote was largely a successful one: since he came to WBUR in 2011 after a long career in commercial media (most notably at WCVB-TV), the station had grown in audience, fundraising and underwriting revenue numbers; its podcast operation had become one of the nation’s largest; its relationship with NPR had deepened with the addition of “Here & Now” as a national midday show; its staff numbers had doubled and its physical space had more than doubled with the opening of a new office and studio addition – and Kravetz had presided over the recent opening of the new street-level CitySpace community venue on Commonwealth Avenue.
All of which means that as veteran WBUR manager Sam Fleming settles in as Kravetz’s interim replacement, there are still plenty of questions that are hard to answer. If it wasn’t the union vote that led WBUR to cut ties with Kravetz, was it the fallout from the 2017 dismissal of “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook over concerns about the way he treated staffers? A consultant-driven plan to address some of those issues still hasn’t been fully implemented, and it appears Fleming won’t have access to that plan during his interim tenure.
Kravetz’s exit also sends advisor (and fellow former WCVB exec and WBUR ex-GM) Paul LaCamera out of WBUR; he tells WBUR reporter Martha Bebinger “it’s just too sad and too uncomfortable for me to remain here.”
We’ll be watching closely as WBUR takes its next step; as one of New England’s biggest broadcast newsrooms these days and perhaps the one with the most national impact, what happens there will have an effect across the public media landscape.
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*Elsewhere in MASSACHUSETTS, the job cuts earlier in the month at iHeart’s WBZ (1030) were indeed accompanied by some new hires and promotions in the newsroom. James Rojas joins WBZ as a reporter, moving east from iHeart’s “24/7 News” operation in Los Angeles, where he supplied news to Cumulus’ KABC. And hard-working part-timers Karyn Regal and Chris Fama get promoted to full-time reporting jobs, bolstering WBZ’s team on the street almost a year after the death of veteran reporter Lana Jones.
UMass Boston’s WUMB is getting closer to putting its new Cape Ann signal on the air. Its construction permit for 91.5 in Gloucester now has a callsign, WUMZ – and with the CP deadline this Thursday coming up fast, it’s also been modified downward from its original 360 watts to just 100 watts, horizontal-only, which should make it easier to build out quickly, albeit at the expense (for now) of covering Rockport as well as Gloucester.
Gois Broadcasting’s translator for “Mega” WAMG (890 Dedham) is on the move again. The FCC licensed W235CS (94.9)’s new home on the WHDH-TV (Channel 7) tower in Newton last week – and Gois promptly filed to move it eastward again, this time to the Industrial Communications tower in Quincy, where it would run 40 watts DA, vertical-only, from 150 meters up the tower. From there, presumably the final hop in the translator’s move from the AM site out in west suburban Ashland, the translator will cover big chunks of Dorchester, Hyde Park, Dedham, Milton, Quincy and Braintree.
*A station sale in northern VERMONT finds Steven Silberberg’s Radio Broadcasting Services selling WRSA (1420 St. Albans) and its translator W262DH (100.3) changing hands to a new entrant in the market. Eric and Tiffany Miller of Asheboro, N.C. will pay $150,000 for the station under the “Radio Sound Company” banner; no word yet on what they have in mind for a format to replace the Bloomberg Radio simulcast WRSA has been running with Silberberg’s WCAT (1390 Burlington).
Vermont Public Radio has hired Helen Lyons as its new morning host on the VPR Classical network. Lyons, a native of Williston, is a professional opera singer; she replaces Kari Anderson, who’s now VPR’s director of programming.
*A NEW HAMPSHIRE seacoast radio institution will end next Sunday after more than 40 years on the air. The “Telephone Flea Market” was part of the lineup when WDNH (97.5) took to the airwaves in Dover back in 1973, continued on when WDNH became WOKQ a few years later, and has remained a weekend staple at the country station until now.
“All good things must some day come to an end,” the station says; host Don Spencer will stay with the station after the show signs off Sunday at noon.
*In NEW YORK‘s Finger Lakes region, the Kimble name has been a big part of the radio landscape for many decades, going back to the 1961 launch of WCGR (1550 Canandaigua), where Wes Kimble’s twin sons George and Russ learned their craft as youthful announcers on their dad’s new station, launching long careers of their own as station managers, owners and brokers.
We’re saddened indeed, then, this week to have to share news of Russ Kimble’s death on Tuesday.
Russ Kimble began working at WCGR when he was just 16, helping out with airshifts on the AM daytimer and then, with his brother, taking over operation of the station upon Wes Kimble’s untimely death in 1968. After adding an FM signal in the early 1970s (now iHeart’s WVOR 102.3) and building a racquetball club next to the station, Russ went on to start Canandaigua Cablevision and took ownership interests in Syracuse’s WAQX, Ithaca’s WQNY and Dansville’s WDNY.
In 1988, Russ Kimble bought WYLF (850) in Penn Yan, where he became not only the owner but also the morning man for several decades. Five years later, he added WFLK (101.7) in Geneva to his holdings, creating a station group that competed against George Kimble’s Finger Lakes Radio Group, which grew to own most of the other signals in the northern Finger Lakes.
In later years, Russ spent much of his time caring for his wife, Deborah, who died in 2012. Kimble stepped away from the morning show on WYLF to be with her in her last months, selling that station later that year and eventually selling WFLK to the Finger Lakes Radio Group. He continued to maintain interests in several area translators.
Russ Kimble was 67 when he died at home in the Rochester suburb of Victor. He’s survived by his twin George, three other siblings, a daughter and a granddaughter.
*On Grand Island, near Buffalo, Entercom is selling the new tower it’s just finished building for WKSE (98.5). The 450-foot tower on Staley Road went up just a few months ago to replace the aging pair of sticks that had been used by WKSE and its former AM sister, WHLD (1270). With the work completed, Entercom has struck a $1.47 million deal to sell the tower to Vertical Bridge; the deal includes a leaseback provision that will keep WKSE in place on the tower. (We’d note that Entercom also now has a full-power aux site for WKSE at the nearby towers of sister station WBEN 930; that site kept Kiss on the air while the old WKSE tower was taken down and replaced last year.)
*Where’s J.C. Coffey headed? Now it can be told: the former operations manager for Community Broadcasters in Elmira-Corning starts today as the midwest director of promotion for Big Machine Records, based out of Nashville. There’s still no word on who’ll replace him in the Southern Tier.
*In New York City, Entercom’s WNEW (102.7) is undergoing more staffing changes. In addition to the exit of music director/APD Fabi Pimentel, which we reported last week, midday host Shannon Holly has also departed after just a year on that shift. In mornings, meanwhile, John Mingione joins Karen Carson. He’s worked at WPLJ across town and at WBLI on Long Island.
Speaking of Long Island, Bonnie Grice is exiting WPPB (88.3 Southampton), where she hosts the mid-morning “Eclectic Cafe.” Grice, who’s been a fixture at the station and its predecessor WPBX for more than two decades, will leave March 29. Over the weekend, WPPB announced it’s hired local photojournalist and podcaster Gianna Volpe to take over that slot, with the transition beginning this week.
*Four Rivers Community Broadcasting (Charlie Loughery’s “Word FM” group) is expanding across the river into NEW JERSEY, paying $75,000 for WBZC (88.9 Pemberton). A year after Rowan College took the station silent, Word FM began programming the signal in early January; now the signal will officially change hands to Four Rivers. The deal does not include WBZC’s translator on 95.1, W236AF, which sits atop the Burlington-Bristol Bridge over the Delaware River.
*In PENNSYLVANIA‘s Lehigh Valley, iHeart made a surprise format change Tuesday at WSAN (1470 Allentown), dumping ESPN Deportes Spanish-language sports for a rotating loop of the company’s podcasts, as “iHeart Podcast AM 1470.”
In addition to the podcasts, the 1470 signal will continue to carry Phantoms hockey, just as it was doing in English even while it had the ESPN Deportes programming running in Spanish.
Entercom is adding a translator at the edge of its Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coverage, paying Joe Reilly’s Columbia FM $55,000 for the license (but not the equipment) of W282AP, now on 104.3 in Bloomsburg. The translator, which had been relaying Reilly’s recently-sold WMMZ (103.5 Berwick), has a CP to move to 103.9.
*Radio People on the Move: Angel Donato, who’d been the live overnight host at Philadelphia’s WBEB (101.1), moves to nights at new sister station WOGL (98.1), where she takes over from production director Ang Mason.
Also in Philadelphia, Beasley’s attempt to get a translator for WWDB (860) has ended with the deletion of W285FF (104.9). The translator, which operated briefly in early 2017, was a relocation of an earlier license on 97.7 down in Salem, N.J., but as soon as it signed on in Philadelphia it was hit with an interference complaint from co-channel WSJO in New Jersey, which proved impossible to remediate.
*In CANADA, all signs continue to point to a format change at Corus’ CING (95.3) in Hamilton: morning co-hosts Darrin Laidman and Colleen Rusholme did their last show last week, leaving the morning slot empty at the moment. Is a return to “Energy” indeed in the near future for what’s now “Fresh Radio”?
In Ottawa, Bell cut two of its “Three Guys on the Radio” at sports CFGO (TSN Radio 1200) last week. Steve Warne and Dean Roberts are out as morning hosts, as is producer James Abson; for now, fill-in hosts are working alongside remaining host John Rodenburg.
*In Kingston, Brian Scott’s battle with cancer has ended. The veteran morning host, most recently heard for 15 years on Bell’s CFLY (98.3), died Tuesday at Providence Care Center. Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in 2006, three years after he came to CFLY, and took a year off from the morning show to recuperate from surgery. He was able to return to the station for more than a decade before the disease finally forced him to retire last year, spreading to his brain and affecting his speech.
Scott’s career had included stops at Toronto’s CISS (92.5) and Ottawa’s CFGO (in its Energy 1200 era). He was just 56.