Michael Graham Taking WSPD/Toledo PM Drive?

RUMOR ALERT: A Radio-Info Cleveland board regular with his ears close to the Toledo rumor mill drops this little bombshell: He says he hears deposed WMAL/Washington host Michael Graham will officially take the WSPD/1370 Toledo afternoon drive position, starting tomorrow. This is still a rumor, as we have not confirmed it, but the original message was posted by someone we believe would be in a position to hear about it, even second-hand.

Graham was suspended, and later fired, from the ABC-owned DC news/talk outlet for controversial remarks. He’s been doing fill-in on a number of stations, from Clear Channel talk powerhouse KFI/Los Angeles to even WSPD itself, in a recent stint in the slot opened by the departure of Denny Schaffer to WGST/Atlanta.

And to bring this full circle, Schaffer’s new program director in Atlanta is none other than Randall Bloomquist, who was Graham’s immediate boss in Washington, and who left the station a few weeks after Graham was let go. We speculated, when Graham was doing the WSPD fill-in, that he was waiting to join Bloomquist in Atlanta. But for now, if this is true, it appears he’ll be headed for the Glass City as opposed to the Peachtree City…at least, for now.

If Graham is indeed headed for WSPD as a permanent, local host, he won’t have a popular politician on his side. Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who’s running again in an attempt to unseat current mayor Jack Ford, expressed his displeasure with Graham’s fill-in stint in a Toledo Blade article a few weeks ago. For his part, Ford wasn’t all that welcoming to Graham either, saying through a spokesman – “I do not welcome anyone to this community who is divisive.”

Graham’s entrance at the Toledo news/talker would shortly follow an exit – program director Al Brady Law, a radio veteran, has left the building to program talker KTRS in St. Louis.


Odds and Ends: Starting The Week (With Pictures!)

Checking in with updates to a few past OMW items:

* There’s been a lot of rumbling about why WXTM/92.3 morning doggie Rover (hey, we’re running out of dog references, here!) decided to head to Chicago’s WCKG/105.9…as the new home base for his expanding syndicated morning show. OMW even weighed in, noting that we’d heard it was Rover’s “dream” to be on the air in his original hometown…and figured, from what we’d heard from folks who heard him talk about it at the Cleveland “TalenTrak” conference, that the decision was his, and not Infinity’s.

Well, that’s apparently not the whole story, according to Mr. Shane “Rover” French himself, who posted an “Open Letter to Cleveland Fans” on his website.

Now, OMW isn’t sure how much of this is an attempt to appease upset Cleveland-area listeners, who have been E-Mailing Rover with complaints about him “selling out” or leaving Cleveland behind as the show’s home base. But unlike a lot of these letters, Rover’s seems to lay it out with a lot of detail, including stuff we’re assuming the Infinity brass wish he hadn’t have talked about.

The upshot: Rover tells his listeners that the idea to base out of Chicago was Infinity’s, and he agreed to make the move because it meant more resources for the show, more high-profile guests and because he felt major market stations wouldn’t take the show (Rover calls it “snobbery”) syndicated out of Cleveland.

Oh, he does mention that minor point about the fact that he and everyone else on the show will make more money, though he notes that it “won’t be much more” due to the cost of living in Chicago. He also noted his family ties to the Windy City.

So, read it, and make up your own mind.

* In response to our item about sportstalker WKNR/850 Cleveland picking up the minor league Lake County Captains next season, as a second station to Captains flagship WELW/1330 Willoughby, we heard from McKeesport (PA) Daily News media columnist Pat Cloonan. Pat reminds us that Clear Channel sports WBGG/970 Pittsburgh has run games of the minor league Washington (PA) Wild Things, carrying the feed from originating station WJPA in that southwest Pennsylvania city. He also notes that the minor league hockey Wheeling Nailers (second level farm club of the Pittsburgh Penguins) have been heard on Pittsburgh radio, on ABC-owned sports WEAE/1250.

* For some odd reason, we’re obsessed with visual changes on WOIO/19’s Browns pre-game and post-game shows. But there’s visual fodder for YOU to see, this time. On the morning pre-game show, for whatever reason, the station outfitted hosts Brian Duffy, Hanford Dixon and Chuck Galeti with full headsets, complete with microphone attached…for their broadcast from an empty Cleveland Browns Stadium. (WOIO’s David Pingalore and Sharon Reed were onsite at Reliant Stadium in Houston…the station was only using Browns Stadium as a backdrop.)

Does this picture strike everyone else as funny as it struck us? Maybe the station thought it would make them look more like football coaches or something, using the headsets instead of the more standard small earpieces that are used in TV production. Maybe they thought the headsets would look like earmuffs in chilly morning weather. Maybe they ran out of small earpieces or forgot to bring them. Heh. Whatever. But it looks all the more amusing looking at the microphone on the headset, which is pushed up away from the face to look like an antenna or something…

And on the “19 Action News” Cleveland Browns Post Game All-Brown Giant Couch of Doom, here’s a picture of show co-host and WNIR afternoon drive talk host Bob Golic. Or is that legendary country star Johnny Cash sitting next to fellow ex-Browns player Hanford Dixon, give or take a few pounds and a full beard?

We’re wondering if Golic wore this all-black outfit in response to a quip by Cleveland Plain Dealer media columnist Roger Brown…about his “casual” previous attire on the show. Oh, the only piece of news out of Brown’s Monday sports media column – he mentions WKNR/850’s plans to once again air a Cavaliers’ post-game show.

Now Filling In For Jerry…Who??

(Thanks to Radio-Info poster “bierkenstock” for the heads up.)

This pretty much came out of nowhere, but Friday, syndicated liberal radio host Jerry Springer (“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”) tapped an unusual fill-in for his show heard on a number of Clear Channel liberal talk stations, Air America’s network, and CC Cleveland’s WTAM/1100.

And that latter affiliate is where he went for the substitute host – Kevin Metheny, better known locally for his day job as Director of Programming for CC’s Cleveland cluster. According to Jerry’s site, Metheny was slated not only to talk about breaking news (of which there was a lot, politically), but was supposed to be surveying the show’s listeners on “what is good or not” about liberal talk radio.

This appearance brings OMW to the question – has Mr. Metheny done talk radio before? A quick look at his resume shows roughly 7 years of on-air work under the name “Kevin O’Brien” (and others) early in his career, but doesn’t show what kind of on-air work he’s done.

He’s been in programming management for the bulk of his time in the business…and is best known outside of Cleveland for being Howard Stern’s program director at WNBC in New York City in the early 80’s. (And yes, he was dubbed a porcine-related name by Howard on the air and in Howard’s movie “Private Parts”, which we’re sure he’s sick of hearing by now.) As far as we know, Metheny hasn’t been on the air regularly since the late 1970’s.

His stint doing Jerry’s show reminds us of another large market radio programmer who does regular on-air work here in the Buckeye State – Darryl Parks, the programming chief at Clear Channel’s Cincinnati cluster. Parks does a regular Saturday midday talk show on the mighty WLW/700, and from what we’ve heard of it, he’s actually a very good host.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear the show hosted by Parks’ Cleveland counterpart, as we only found out about it this evening.

Urban Talk Network Slated to Air in Cleveland

Radio One CEO Alfred Liggins tells the Boston Globe’s Clea Simon that the company is planning to launch a new nationwide talk radio network aimed at African-Americans on many of its own AM stations across the country, and that among the markets involved at launch will be…Cleveland.

The new network’s marquee attraction will be the Rev. Al Sharpton, a former presidential candidate who’s made noises about going into talk radio before. He’s slated to host the 1-4 PM ET slot, putting him in almost direct competition with names like Premiere’s Rush Limbaugh and Air America’s Al Franken. With no further details, a new syndicated talk radio gig for Rev. Sharpton was announced earlier this year. Limbaugh noted the May story on his show, and jokingly offered to provide Rev. Sharpton with radio training.

The Radio One-operated network – which will also be offered to other non-company owned stations – will program 10 AM to 7 PM ET, and will leave morning drive open to local stations. There could be at least one reason for that – Radio One is launching the new urban talk network with Reach Media, which produces and syndicates urban morning radio superstar Tom Joyner’s show. It’s much like Fox Sports Radio not producing live programming from noon to 3 PM ET, to make way for stations to carry Premiere’s Jim Rome.

Sharpton will be followed in afternoon drive by Doug and Ryan Stewart out of Atlanta, better known to ESPN2 viewers as “Two Live Stews”. Their local radio program currently runs on Atlanta sports talker WQXI/790 “The Zone”. The fledging network is still seeking a midday host (10 AM-1 PM ET) before it launches sometime in early 2006.

It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to point out that Radio One’s WERE/1300, currently running brokered talk and other paid programs, is likely to be the destination for this effort in Cleveland…though the company does also program gospel-formatted WJMO/1490 on the AM band, in addition to its two FMs in the market – WZAK/93.1 and WENZ/107.9.

WKNR/850 To Air Lake County Captains in 2006

It’s not often that a major market sports station becomes the second affiliate for radio broadcasts of a Single-A minor league baseball team, but it’s just happened in Cleveland.

The Lake County Captains have announced that Salem sportstalker WKNR/850 Cleveland will broadcast 120 games of the popular Eastlake-based minor league team in the 2006 season. It will not be the flagship station. That honor goes to Willoughby’s WELW/1330, which has broadcast the team since it began play in Lake County. WELW will continue to air all 140 of the team’s games, will originate the coverage, and play-by-play announcer David Wilson will be in his fourth season as the team’s radio voice. The Captains are the Indians’ “high-level A” affiliate.

OMW’s generally thought that more play-by-play is better for a sports station, and WKNR hasn’t had many “lakefront” (so to speak) PBP contracts. By far, WKNR’s biggest contract is as the Cleveland home of Ohio State sports, and it also carries Cleveland State games. While we’re generally a fan of minor league baseball (including Akron’s own Aeros), we’re not sure how it looks for a top 30 market sports station to “follow along” as an affiliate of a Single-A team, whose broadcasts are produced by a tiny suburban AM that can barely be heard outside Lake County at night. But…we will be listening, and we’re sure WELW does a fine job on the broadcasts.

One thing in WKNR’s favor – it’s at least better than infomercials or paid quasi-sports related programming in the evening hours and on weekends.

Rover’s Chicago Dream

Like some others, OMW speculated that the move of WXTM/92.3 Cleveland morning dog Rover to Chicago – to mount his new syndication in place of Howard Stern in some markets – was prompted by Infinity wanting to base him in one of the top 3 markets in the country.

Well, as it turns out, not so much.

A number of observers in the business report that it’s Shane “Rover” French’s dream to go on the air from his original hometown market. Mr. French, 30, was born in the Chicago area, and lived there as a youngster. French reportedly told crowds at the recent Conclave “TalenTrak” convention in Cleveland that he’d basically move heaven and earth to be on the air in Chicago. He’s never been on there, despite the fact he’s worked in larger markets than Cleveland.

Well, that earth and heaven may have already been moving at the time, as we’ve known for some time that Rover was in the “Stern replacements” mix, certainly before this recent conference on the North Coast. In fact, WXTM’s morning doberman was the very FIRST name mentioned officially by Infinity, when he was signed to his new multi-year deal with the local station now formerly known as “Xtreme Radio”. The announcement hinted – correctly, as it turned out – that Rover would replace Stern on stations in Midwestern markets.

So, we apologize for believing that Infinity couldn’t possibly want Rover in Cleveland, syndicating out to Chicago instead of syndicating IN to Chicago from the hinterlands…

(Oh, and Rover, if you’re reading this – if you don’t like being called a “doberman”, feel free to let us know which breed you’d like to be. Use the “View my complete profile” link at the left to E-Mail OMW. We’re running out of dog puns, frankly!)

Chicago Media Weighs In On Rover

When 30 year-old Shane French – nom du chien “Rover” – takes over for Howard Stern in a half-dozen markets in early January, Chicago will be by far his largest market. So, it’s no surprise that the Chicago media is focusing on his ascension to the Windy City, where he’ll relocate after a successful run at Cleveland’s WXTM/92.3 (which will still carry “Rover’s Morning Glory” as an affiliate).

The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal talks to Rover, and gets a bead on his feelings…and describes his show. One notable quote: “Clearly, in Rover, the city is not getting a candidate to become the next host of public television’s ‘Chicago Tonight.’ Instead it’s a guy who once staged a hoax in which he pretended a cat had been tethered to a helium balloon and let loose aloft.”

The article notes that Mr. French was born in the Chicagoland area, and spent his earliest years in the Chicago suburbs before being moved by his family out west. His sidekick, “Duji”, has spent time on Chicago airwaves, as a co-host for veteran Chi-town personality Kevin Matthews.

But, though it’s a homecoming for Rover, it’s not a radio homecoming, as he’s never been on in that market. Rover’s most notable stint before coming to Cleveland was doing nights at a Denver rock station called “The Peak”…the gig that first brought him to the attention of those watching radio nationally.

The Tribune article also quotes Infinity’s Joel Hollander, who repeats his belief that Rover will skew younger than Stern. And Hollander talked up Rover’s ratings on WXTM, saying he’s a “strong #2” to Stern on WNCX/98.5.

It’ll be interesting to see if he can overtake one of Stern’s other replacements in the only market where they’ll compete head-to-head…as David Lee Roth will air in Stern’s current slot on WNCX.

Meanwhile, media beat writer dean Robert Feder is far less kind to Rover in his column in the Chicago Sun-Times, ripping Infinity management for passing over a host of known Chicago radio/media quantities in the time they had to come up for a replacement for Stern on WCKG:

“So what did they do in all that time? They bungled Mancow Muller, alienated Jonathon Brandmeier, overlooked Mike North, rejected Eddie & Jobo, disregarded Bob Sirott, stiffed Garry Meier, ignored Steve Cochran and lost Kevin Matthews.

Instead of all those options — or any others worthy of Chicago — they decided to go with some dog from Cleveland named Rover.”

Ouch. That’s a bite!