In this week’s issue… Revenue drops from pandemic cost Entercom jobs – MA jock dies of COVID-19 – Remembering VT’s Adams, NH’s Mikey Martel – Promotion for NY engineer – STL collapse silences NB trio
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When Boston’s WMJX signed on way back in 1982, Nancy Quill was part of the inaugural “Magic” airstaff. As the station changed hands from Greater Media to Beasley to Entercom, Quill remained its midday fixture.
A few hours to the south, John Minko was part of the inaugural airstaff when Emmis launched WFAN as the first all-sports station at 1050 on the New York dial back in 1987. The “Mink Man” became a fixture there, too, as the station changed hands to Infinity, CBS Radio and eventually Entercom.
Now both of those veterans are gone from their radio stations, along with dozens of their colleagues, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic’s deep hit to Entercom’s revenues at a time when the company was already struggling with the expenses of its acquisition of CBS Radio two years ago.
As RadioInsight reported, the cuts were deep and often affected the most experienced and longest-running staffers at each Entercom cluster.
In Boston, it was more than just Quill signing off from her 38 years at WMJX on Friday. Down the hall at sister station WODS (103.3 AMP Radio), TJ Taormina and Loren Raye are gone, as is the entire “TJ Show” in morning drive – and as we write this on Sunday, we have no idea what will be on the air Monday morning.
(Both the TJ Show and Quill got to say goodbye on the air Friday, at least – a sign of goodwill from local management, perhaps? Or simply of benign neglect without much management in the building these days?)
In Hartford, Nancy Barrow began as a sidekick on Sebastian’s morning show at WZMX (93.7) back in 1999, when the station was doing an all-70s format. She outlived the format, and Sebastian, eventually taking on solo morning duties at what became urban “Hot 93.7.” She was out, too, after her shift Friday morning – and so was Dean Richards down the hall at AC WRCH (100.5), leaving his evening airshift and music director duties after 28 years with “Lite.”
Minko wasn’t the only familiar WFAN voice to depart (in his case, by taking a buyout offer); on Friday afternoon, he hit the airwaves along with colleague Harris Allen as both said their farewells. Upstairs at WCBS (880), sports anchor Jay Berman is also out.
(And remember Chris Booker from his time in New York during WNEW’s “Blink” era and several incarnations of 92.3? He’d moved to LA to do mornings at Entercom’s “AMP” station there, KAMP – at least until Friday, when he was let go.)
In Philadelphia, morning host Casey Reed is out after just a few months at top-40 WTDY (96.5), while Andrea Duffy is gone after seven years in midday on AC sister WBEB (B101.1).
In Pittsburgh, Brian Kostek (aka “Wookie”) is gone from WDSY (Y108), where he was APD/MD and afternoon host.
In Buffalo, DJ Anthony held down nights on WKSE (Kiss 98.5) for two decades, until Friday, anyway; down the hall, sports talker WGR (550) is without the services of Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton, though his absence may be a furlough and not an outright job cut, reports the Buffalo News.
*For those remaining with Entercom, there’s pain, too – temporary salary cuts of between 10% and 20% for employees making $50,000 a year or more. The company has suspended its 401(k) match, and it’s not alone in that; we’re told iHeart has done the same, with furloughs happening there as well.
It’s a painful time, indeed.
(We’re trying to provide some help with special editions of our Top of the Tower podcast – if you missed them last week, check out our latest episodes, talking with DC lawyer Melodie Virtue about FCC regulatory compliance during the pandemic, and to Yellowtec’s Jeff Williams about how his company’s iXm recording mic can sound like a studio, in handheld form.)
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“DJ Midnight Johnny” was actually heard Tuesday nights at 9 with his “Nightflight” R&B show. The station reports he died Sunday, a victim of the coronavirus; we’ll pass along more details as we receive them.
*And a story that we’d meant to tell you about sooner, if all that pandemic news hadn’t distracted us – Spectrum cable subscribers in Berkshire County once again have access to news from their own state, thanks to a unique arrangement that returns Springfield-based NBC affiliate WWLP (Channel 22) to their system. WWLP was dropped three years ago, along with Boston ABC affiliate WCVB (Channel 5), as Albany-market stations invoked their market exclusivity for their networks’ programming.
But after local leaders pulled in some Congressional weight to their fight, Spectrum and WWLP worked out a deal that creates a special Berkshires feed: without carrying any syndicated or network content, the channel carries only WWLP’s local newscasts, looping each one until the next one airs live.
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, Mikey Martel was a fixture at WOKQ (97.5 Dover) for more than 30 years, coining the station’s (literally) trademark “Joke du Jour” feature. Martel, who’d been in failing health, died March 27 at 67.
*In VERMONT, Tony Adams was an institution in his own right at the TV institution that is WCAX (Channel 3). Adams worked at WCAX radio (620, now WVMT) and was the sports director at Channel 3 when it hit the air as WMVT back in 1954, and he stayed in that role right up until his retirement in 1989.
Except Adams didn’t really retire – he kept showing up every day for years afterward to host “Across the Fence,” the uniquely-WCAX midday show that provided agricultural and gardening information in partnership with the University of Vermont.
Adams died March 31, at 95.
*And how’s this for a creative radio partnership in the pandemic era?
When Sugar River Media’s WCVR (1320 Randolph) began fielding calls from churches wondering how they could still reach out to their parishioners, it put together a “drive-in” Palm Sunday service in a local parking lot. Several churches joined forces, putting their pastors on a stage with local musicians, broadcasting for an hour to an audience tuned in to 1320 from their cars (and at least one tractor-trailer) in the lot.
Owner John Landry reports attendees were asked to donate $5 to the local food bank – and they all honked their horns to say “amen!”
WCVR will do another service next Sunday for Easter.
As we’d rumored here in NERW, Happi has replaced talk on the former WNAE (1310 Warren) and its 96.7 translator, which flipped on Tuesday to a simulcast of WICU-FM (92.7) in Erie. WNAE has changed calls to WICU, and sister station “Kinzua Country” WKNB (104.3 Clarendon) now bears the WNAE calls.
*In Philadelphia, Tra Thomas is out as morning co-host at Beasley’s WPEN (97.5 the Fanatic). The former Eagle had been co-hosting the morning show there with Marc Farzetta, who’s now solo thanks to Beasley’s ongoing cutbacks.
*How about some good news? It comes from the MediaCo stations in NEW YORK City (WBLS and WQHT), where engineer Alex Roman has been promoted from director of integrated technologies to Chief Technology Officer.
Roman joined what was then the Emmis group in 2011, following stints with Clear Channel (at WKTU), Citadel (WABC/WPLJ) and the old Big City Radio stations, which moved him east from his first engineering gigs in his native California. At Emmis and MediaCo, he’s presided over studio rebuilds at the Hudson Street studios, as well as a complete rebuild of the main transmitter site at the Empire State Building and a new aux site at 4 Times Square.
(And he’s also a really good guy, in addition to being an outstanding engineer, and well deserving of this promotion.)
*Townsquare has been making cuts, too – on the NEW JERSEY shore, Steve Ardolina is out after 16 years with the Monmouth-Ocean cluster that includes WJLK, WOBM-FM, WCHR and WOBM/WADB. Ardolina, who started with what was then Millennium 16 years ago, had been regional operations manager for Townsquare in New Jersey and brand manager/program director for the Monmouth-Ocean stations.
*Our news from CANADA starts in Digby, Nova Scotia, where Maritime Broadcasting System’s CKDY (1420) has been off the air since Feb. 24, when its transmission system was heavily damaged by vandals. MBS doesn’t plan to return CKDY to the air on AM; instead, it’s been granted temporary authority to put the country station back on the air with a 50-watt FM signal on 99.7, with an application coming for a permanent move to FM.
In Fredericton, N.B., Bell’s radio stations were knocked off the air Friday morning when a windstorm took down the monopole tower next to their Rockwood Avenue studio building, taking out their studio-transmitter links. CFXY (105.3) and CIBX (106.9) were off the air for about three hours before backup links could be put into place; the tower narrowly missed the curling club next door, which was unoccupied.
In Montreal, there’s a format change coming to CJPX (99.5), now that the CRTC has approved Leclerc Broadcasting’s C$4.9 million purchase of the station from its current “Radio Classique” operator. In the next few months, CJPX will flip from French-language classical music to a pop format based on Leclerc’s CJEC (91.9 Quebec City), which brands as “WKND 91.9.” Radio Classique will remain on the air – for now at least – on CJSQ (92.7) in Quebec City, as well as on its stream.
The CRTC also approved Bell’s purchase of the French-language V television network and its five owned-and-operated stations in Quebec, including CFJP (Channel 35) in Montreal and CFAP (Channel 2) in Quebec City. Those local stations will have to begin doing local news and other programming again as part of the conditions of the deal, which is expected to close Sept. 1. The V purchase will give Bell a French-language counterpart to its CTV network in English-speaking Canada, as well as a TV counterpart to its existing Francophone radio stations, including Montreal’s Energie 94.3 (CKMF) and Rouge 107.3 (CITE).