BREAKING: CBS News’ Russ Mitchell Joins WKYC

It’s not often that a major news correspondent leaves one of the legacy “big three” news organizations to take a job at the affiliate level.

In an unprecedented move, Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 has made official the hiring of CBS News correspondent/”Evening News” weekend anchor Russ Mitchell as their new evening news managing editor, and primary 6pm/11pm weeknight anchor. He succeeds Romona Robinson, who left WKYC on December 16 after her contract ran out.

Russ’ start date at WKYC is January 16. His last day at CBS News will be Christmas Eve. A co-anchor will be announced soon as well, per GM Brooke Spectorsky’s comments to TV Spy and the Plain Dealer.

Russ had been a part of CBS News for the past 20 years, being the first anchor of the overnight “Up To The Minute” in 1992, later contributing to the short-lived “Eye to Eye with Connie Chung” and “48 Hours.”  Most recently, he was the anchor of “The Saturday Early Show” and the weekend editions of the “CBS Evening News,” in addition to being the network’s top correspondent and a regular contributor to the “CBS Evening News” and “CBS News Sunday Morning.” He has also reported on the devastation of Hurricane Frances, the Columbia shuttle disaster, the war in Bosnia, the attacks of September 11th 2001, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, every presidential campaign since 1992 and four presidential inaugurations.

Prior to joining CBS, Russ reported and anchored for stations in Dallas, Kansas City and his native St. Louis.

More at TV Spy, TV Newser (which features the memo from CBS News president David Rhodes), Broadcasting & Cable, The Plain Dealer, WKYC.com and WKYC’s Director’s Cut.

LeCharles Bentley Quits WKNR

On the eve of what was supposed to be a “major announcement” regarding a scheduling overhaul for Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850″, that station has lost one of its star players.

LeCharles Bentley abruptly resigned from WKNR Thursday night… just as “Xs and Os with the Pros,” the show he co-hosted alongside Je’Rod Cherry, was set to begin. (It was so sudden that liners featuring LeCharles’ name still played at the end of commercial breaks, but Je’Rod and show producer Emmett Golden had to conduct the show as if he never had existed on Planet Earth.)

While the normally outspoken LeCharles himself is keeping VERY quiet about this matter, we have learned the source of his dispute with the station.

Sources close to the situation are telling us that it was a dispute over pay for Golden – $8 per hour for a two-hour show – and Golden was set to be removed from “Xs and Os”, effective next week, due to pay issues.

(Note that there was no “Xs and Os” scheduled for Friday night, due to pre-existing high school football coverage.)

Objecting to how WKNR handled the situation, the former St. Ignatius and Ohio State star simply walked out – but, we hear, not before offering to cover Golden’s pay for the show.

And to prove this wasn’t a stunt, any and all mention of LeCharles has already been eliminated from WKNR’s website in yet another “Soviet-style purge.”

We will have much more on this developing story as details warrant…

Weekend Quick Items

Two quick items, the first written by our own Secondary Editorial Voice, the second, your Primary…

MICHAEL STANLEY ON LEAVE: This is probably the very last thing CBS classic rock WNCX/98.5 wanted to deal with right now.

In the wake of canceling (and Soviet-style purging) “The Maxwell Show” earlier in the morning, PD/midday host Bill Louis posted on WNCX’s website a bombshell regarding longtime afternoon drive icon Michael Stanley.

You might have noticed something is up in the afternoons. Michael Stanley will be taking an extended leave of absence to deal with personal matters. We respect his privacy and wish him well.

We’ll still be bringing you the best Classic Rock every afternoon for your drive home.

Evening personality Paula Balish filled in for Michael on Friday afternoon, and disclosed the website posting during the 4pm hour. No word on if she, or whomever, will assume the afternoon slot in his place. (Especially considering whomever will take the slot vacated by Maxwell’s departure is another big question mark.)

(UPDATE from your Primary Editorial Voice[tm]: OMW hears that Michael is not ill, and is attending to a personal family concern. As far as we know, he will return to the WNCX when the personal leave is over. We felt the need to clarify this, because some were concerned about his own health. It is a serious situation, but not a reoccurence of previous health problems for the WNCX afternoon driver…)

BRUCE’S PASSING: Veteran Cleveland broadcaster Bruce Ryan had a lot of friends – both in area radio studios, and at the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in Independence, where he shaped a lot of future broadcast careers.

Bruce Ryan passed away this past week, we hear Friday afternoon at his home. He had been at a local hospice.

Since we learned of the news, our inbox has been peppered with notes from many who have worked with him, knew him, or were instructed by him at OCB.

He apparently touched a lot of lives in this broadcasting market.

Though he’s most known in recent years for being director of the local broadcasting school, Bruce Ryan had an on-air run at stations like the former WGAR/1220 (now Salem Christian talker WHKW) and WLTF/106.5 “Lite Rock 106.5″ (now Clear Channel variety hits WHLK “The Lake”).

We have word of Bruce’s memorial services, as well.

They will be Saturday, September 3rd at 10 AM at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 8235 Memphis Ave. in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn.

An early Sunday morning hat tip to OMW reader Ed Esposito for that information…

Talk To Me, WABQ

It took a few days later than expected, but Gary Richards’ LMA of Radio Advantage One’s WABQ/1460 Painesville took effect on Thursday, August 4, with the station shedding its’ gospel music format in favor of liberal talk.

As of right now, a website for “Talk 1460″ is up but still in development. No streaming of the station yet, either, but given Gary R.’s past lease of Bernard Radio’s WVKO/1580 Columbus, it should be coming soon.

The lineup is pretty much what was outlined in the Scene article – a steady diet of progressive hosts Bill Press, Stephanie Miller,  Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann and Leslie Marshall, in addition to ‘local host Joe Cleveland.’ Joe, as it turns out, is co-anchoring a local morning news block from 6:00AM – 9:00AM alongside station veteran Gary Webster, who helmed the same morning news block mostly by himself since 1999.

What has been re-dubbed “East Side Morning Express” is clearly still oriented towards Lake County. Virtually all of the service elements from that news block remain in place, along with some assorted commentary from Joe. Not that different from most typical ‘news and views’ morning drive blocks, and Joe and Gary W. seem to have a very good rapport together on-air.

(No, I have no idea on who “Joe Cleveland” is by name. The Scene article states that he is ‘an on-air vet whose roots dig back to WENZ-FM The End,’ so take your own guess.)

It’s very good news for Gary W., who has been a fixture at One Radio Place since the early 90s, previously hosting middays on the old WBKC/1460 before assuming the morning duties from former owner Clarence Bucaro. Gary W. has even outlasted both a relay of WCLV/104.9 Lorain and the assumption of WABQ/1540′s East Side-oriented Gospel format, offering up the same morning news block with little changes whatsoever.

The rest of the day is a mixed bag right now.

It’s possible that the station literally is being built completely from scratch. While both Miller and Schultz had top of the hour legal IDs (delivered with a live time check, presumably by Webster) leading into the CNN Radio/Marketwatch.com report, Hartmann’s show was a different story, with no TOH ID, and then a dated (and unabashedly opinionated) newscast… offered by Hartmann himself.

Of course, automation wasn’t necessary when the station was a WCLV relay, and who knows exactly if the East Side gospel format needed any automation whatsoever. This looks to be an issue that will need to take some time in order to resolve (but remember that WVKO did take their programming from a public internet stream).

The CNN/Marketwatch affiliation is no surprise, either, as WBKC took up that affiliation after Westwood One finally shut down the bare remnants of “NBC Radio News” at some point in 2004. (Heck, WBKC may have been the last station – period – to even bother carrying “NBC Radio News” programming!)

Again, we wish the very best for Gary Richards.

It’s not easy to launch a format like this (even in a market who’s only exposure to progressive talk came from a WTAM/1100 programming move to forever live in infamy). Moreover, on an AM station that had largely ignored it’s own core audience in Lake County after taking up the East Side-oriented gospel format. And Lake County is an area that would be somewhat unlikely to launch a progressive talk station, at least, in comparison to Cleveland or Lorain – and WABQ’s signal isn’t reliable enough to reach those areas, even in optimal conditions.

But Gary R.’s initial moves with WABQ are clearly trying to redirect the station back to its’ primary local service to Lake County. That’s a wise move on his part, especially in rebuilding the station’s relevance from One Radio Place, piece by piece.  It could involve the return of high school sports coverage – given Gary R.’s prior experience with it at WVKO – and maybe even the resumption of Indians, Cavaliers, Browns and tOSU broadcasts.

What isn’t known right now is if Gary Richards is operating WABQ via an LMA with intent to eventually purchase it. Recall that back in 2009, Dale Edwards tried to unload the entire facility, with an asking price under $2 million.

One can’t fault Gary R. if this is a lease-to-purchase deal, given the way that Bernard upended his LMA of WVKO

WOIO Gets “Me”

Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 pulls out another pronoun in the digital TV subchannel universe, which will make this a very challenging post to write.

That’s because WOIO recently signed up to air “Me-TV,” as in “Memorable Entertainment Television,” operated by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting in a joint venture with movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (You know, the same MGM whose very existence was in total limbo all of last year.) It joins the ranks of other subchannel “retro networks” like Tribune’s Antenna TV – seen on LocalTV Fox affiliate WJW/8.2 – and the Retro TV Network – seen on Media-Com’s LPTV duo of WAOH-LP 29 Akron/W35AX Cleveland.

Most of Me-TV’s lineup is a steady lineup of classic TV show reruns from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Honeymooners,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Dobie Gillis,” “Bonanza,” “The Big Valley,” “Cheers,” “Perry Mason,” and so on. It’s reminiscent of what TV Land’s lineup was pre-2007… when they to operated as a “retro network.”

Me-TV also features long-running Chicago horror host Svengoolie (portrayed by Rich Koz) on late-night Saturdays. Of course, Weigel has carried “Svengoolie” on their flagship station, independent WCIU/26 Chicago, for many years.

Me-TV is also a sister operation to “ThisTV,” a mostly all-movie channel airing on WOIO’s sister station, WUAB/43.2. ThisTV mainly airs the bulk of MGM’s modern-day film library that Ted Turner didn’t get his hands on – most of which is the United Artists library (the same former film studio that founded WUAB in the first place). In addition (and I doubt for E/I requirements), ThisTV airs the old DiC 1980s cartoon stable of “Inspector Gadget” and “Heathcliff and the Catilliac Cats” in the early mornings.

The question, however, is why WOIO signed up to carry Me-TV (h/t: RabbitEars.info) which still sports an incredibly weak digital signal on RF 10 instead of on the more powerful WUAB. And if you type in a Cleveland zip code on Me-TV’s website, it spits back “coming soon to WOIO” – yours truly and our Primary Editorial Voice(tm) have tried.

Also in question is the fate of WOIO’s 19.2 subchannel, which currently carries the weather service “WeatherNow” – if “Me” wound up on 19.3, that would compromise the HD capabilities of CBS’ national HD 1080i feed. But since WUAB only broadcasts with a more limited 720i resolution, and can add another 480i subchannel, they could get away with adding “Me” to 43.3… joining it alongside “My” at 43.1 and “This” at 43.2.

“My,” “This” and “Me…” they aren’t network or even ‘netlet’ names. It’s an English lesson gone horribly awry.

Those “Block”-heads at WUAB Return

It’s baaaaack.

Raycom My Network TV affiliate WUAB/43 Lorain has apparently decided to revive their former “43 The Block” branding – nearly six years after dropping the name the first time.

PhotobucketThe new “My 43 The Block” logo is not shown on WUAB’s website yet – a new www.wuab.com URL redirects to the current my43.net site – but all promos and station IDs have been redone to feature the new-old logo (shown in a screen capture to the right below the original “Block” logo).

For those who don’t remember, WUAB first used the “Block” name in 2002, in an effort to reposition the station following the loss of Cleveland Indians “free TV” rights. The original “Block” also was notable for cut-in segments filmed around the region featuring local comedians Mike Polk, Cody Dove, and Jack Hourigan. Eventually, those segments were discontinued, and the “Block” name was phased out in favor of the UPN branding standard as “UPN 43″ (but keeping the stylized “43″ script).

It’s surprising in a sense not just because of the significant time gap in between usage of the “Block” name, but also because it directly violates the branding standards set for My Network TV, which affiliated with WUAB after the CW (a merger of UPN and the WB) bypassed WUAB to affiliate with Winston Broadcasting WBNX/55 Akron.

Given that My Network TV no longer qualifies as a network but is a minor programming service for reruns, one can’t help but wonder if Raycom is planning to either de-emphasize the affiliation completely or turn WUAB into an outright independent for the first time since 1994.

The other pressing questions are when WUAB will revive both the “Star Movie” and Superhost…

Jim Mantel Heads to the Tar Heel State

Former Clear Channel country WGAR/99.5 morning fixture Jim Mantel is now waking people up in North Carolina.

As of this morning, Mantel took the morning gig for NextMedia country outlet WRNS 96.1/960 Kinston for “Mantel in the Morning” joined by station veteran Heather Davis. (Yes, WRNS AM/FM is owned by the same NextMedia that owns Canton stations talk WHBC/1480 Canton and Hot AC WHBC/94.1.)

Interestingly enough, Mantel himself is also replacing a longtime personality in the market – Wayne Carlyle, who left WRNS in January after a 23 year run. Carlyle now is the morning host for crosstown classic hits WNCT/107.9, so Mantel will be competing with him – if not in format, of course.

Most recently, Mantel made a cameo in the Paul Rado-produced “Star Frame Bowling Challenge,” seen on Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19 and My Network TV affiliate WUAB/43 “The Block…”

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