BREAKING NEWS: Channel 33 Life Boats Begin Newsroom Evacuation

And the first one out the door at Youngstown ABC affiliate WYTV/33 is…news director Pat Livingston.

OMW hears via the folks at NewsBlues that Livingston stays in the state, taking the open ND post at Barrington Broadcasting NBC affiliate WNWO/24 “NBC 24” Toledo.

Our headline, of course, refers to the fact that Livingston is exiting WYTV before he, and likely the entire station newsroom staff, will be pushed out the door.

Most market observers expect that a planned “shared services” agreement between the incoming owner of WYTV, and the new owner of CBS/FOX combo WKBN/27-WYFX “FOX 17/62”, will mean the end of the separate news operation at WYTV’s Shady Run Road headquarters.

WYTV has pretty much been the third-rated TV newsroom in Youngstown for as long as we can remember, even after Vindicator’s WFMJ/21 supplanted “27 First News” as the most popular news operation in the market.

And though we have a limited grasp on the Toledo market, we’re pretty sure WNWO is a perennial third-place newsroom behind Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11 and ABC O&O WTVG/13. Of course, Raycom once owned WNWO, before it had to spin the station to Barrington after the deal to acquire WTOL.

At “NBC 24”, Livingston will replace Jonathan Mitchell, who moved to KHQ/Spokane…

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They Have Left The Building

Two departures, and one return of someone who “left the building” a lot. Well, at least a return in recorded form…

CHRIS MILLER’S EXIT: Today is WEWS/5 sports director Chris Miller’s last day at the Cleveland ABC affiliate.

And the “NewsChannel 5” sports anchor is doing a farewell tour of sorts, if you count his appearance this morning on WKNR/850 “ESPN 850″‘s mid-morning talk show with competitor-until-now Tony Rizzo.

Miller, who joins Washington DC-based Comcast SportsNet as its main sports news anchor next month, sounded comfortable on “Rizzo on the Radio”, which makes us wonder if he’d ever considered taking a similar path to the FOX 8 sports anchor – doing sports talk radio as a sideline.

If we were running a DC-based sports talk station, we’d at least give him a call. He did, after all, name check Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Snyder also owns Red Zebra Broadcasting, parent company of the new Washington-area sports talk outlet “Triple X ESPN Radio”, a three signal operation on AM 730, FM 92.7 and FM 94.3 in the DC area.

OMW hears that “NewsChannel 5” honchos are in no hurry to replace Miller, with sports anchor John Chandler filling in as primary anchor on a temporary basis – perhaps through June, with Sue Ann Robak moving into the second slot.

The two-person sports department could get to be a rather tricky proposition if, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers drive deep into the NBA playoffs…

LEAVING WHBC: A veteran of NextMedia oldies WHBC/1480 and AC WHBC-FM/94.1 “Mix 94.1” is stepping down after some 40 years on the job.

We don’t blame you if you don’t recognize the name. Bill Glasser has been doing engineering for the Canton stations for at least that long. He retires from his post as WHBC’s chief engineer today.

We invite you to our friend and colleague Scott Fybush’s “Tower Site of the Week” entries that focused on WHBC’s facilities, including the site which is the home of WHBC-FM and half of the two site AM 1480 operation, and the as-if-frozen-in-time studio complex on Market Street South.

A tip of the OMW hat to Mr. Glasser, a local engineering mainstay…

THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH: And concertgoers back in the day certainly remember the phrase “Elvis has left the building”. But the King of Rock and Roll – or at least, a program based on Elvis Presley’s music – has returned to the building…the building on Oak Tree Blvd. in Independence that houses Clear Channel’s Cleveland cluster.

AllAccess reports that the syndicated show “Elvis Only” returns to the weekend airwaves at the company’s oldies outlet, WMJI/105.7.

We hear that the show was quite popular in its time slot, but may have been taken off WMJI due to the station’s ongoing effort to reach younger listeners…a battle oldies stations are facing nationwide.

But we also hear that “Elvis Only” is still popular in younger demos, at least among the usual oldies listener age groups…

WKNR Folo: No Brainer

But first, this breaking news…a computer virus has found its way into the computers at Good Karma sports WKNR/850 in Cleveland!

It has apparently infected the computer automation system at WKNR, re-populating the on-air system with items voiced by former WKNR program director Michael Luczak.

“W32.Luczak.KNR”‘s first damage was heard Tuesday night, during the opening of WKNR’s pre-game broadcast for the Cleveland State Vikings basketball contest. OMW hears that Good Karma Virus Removal technicians are frantically applying anti-virus updates to stem the infection.

OK, enough joking here.

After all those changes to Cleveland’s once-lagging sports talk radio station this week, we kept thinking of two words: “no brainer”.

By this point in time, one Mr. Craig Karmazin – the “young guy” in charge of the Good Karma sports radio empire – has had enough ownership experience to know What Needed To Be Done(tm).

And just about everything he’s done fits a pattern that pretty much anyone with a certain amount of radio experience could have done:

THE IMAGING CHANGE: Just the mere use of iconic sports radio voice Paul Turner makes WKNR sound ten times more professional. It’s something that should have been done years ago, but we suppose Mr. Luczak had to do something to keep himself busy…

RIZZO ON THE RADIO: That is, the addition of FOX 8 sports anchor and experienced sports talk radio host Tony Rizzo to the daily lineup. It fits an established and successful sports radio pattern – TV sports anchors host local radio talk shows all over the country, including on Good Karma’s own sister station in Milwaukee. And in this case, Rizzo is no radio novice, and comes with a built-in following…

LOCAL SPORTS TALK AT NIGHT: The move of Greg Brinda into the 6-9 PM time slot provides the station with another shot at a ready sports audience, though it’s a tough climb against actual sports play-by-play – and an established local sports talk show – on Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100.

But as a whole, it “extends” WKNR’s hours into the awareness of sports fans who follow games at night, and provides a smooth platform to go into the station’s locally-produced post-game shows for the Indians and Cavaliers, not to mention sports events like Ohio State and Cleveland State basketball that actually air on the station.

Those, and other changes, were very basic.

Mr. Karmazin has hinted at this on the air, saying the changes were “the first step” in the revamping of a long-dormant sports talk radio station, and that if future changes are needed, he’ll make them.

Our sense: He’ll see how the revamped lineup and sound, and other changes, affect listenership.

But he’s not afraid to change “mid-stream”.

After he got settled in at WKNR sister station WAUK/1510 “ESPN Milwaukee”, Karmazin almost literally jumped at the chance to lure Milwaukee’s biggest sports radio name – Steve “The Homer” True – from Clear Channel talk WISN/1130, after that station basically exiled him to late nights to add Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated talk show.

He managed to bring True over, despite the fact that his primary Milwaukee signal is a daytime outlet – and the nighttime clearance provided by leased time on WMCS/1290 doesn’t cover hours before 6 PM, which means the afternoon drive show goes off the air (at least in Milwaukee) early in the winter hours.

We’re not suggesting that Karmazin is making a shopping list with anyone from, say, WTAM on the list. The station doesn’t have an equivalent to Milwaukee’s “Homer”, in our opinion. But… he’s clearly on the lookout for talent improvement.

The true test of Mr. Karmazin’s WKNR ownership will come when he is prompted to make decisions that aren’t “no brainers”…

Semi-related: OMW has heard from Paul Belfi, who runs formerly-WKNR-connected sports talk website SportsTalkCleveland.com. He weighs in on the changes…

I am ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED to see what is happening with WKNR. There are many people that work there that I consider friends – obviously Kenny Roda and I are best friends to this day. And in all honesty, I was nervous about what was going to happen there.

I know Kenny is excited about the changes, and the move downtown.

I’ve always been a Tony Rizzo fan as well – he’s priceless and cracks me up. He is a fan first, and I respect that.

I am very pleased that some of the rumors of Greg’s ‘demise’ were just that – rumors. He’s a friend as well, and I think 6-9 will be great for him.

Even though I own STC – I am a different media platform than radio, obviously. And at the end of the day, I am a sports fan and a sports talk junkie. As such, what WKNR is doing is nothing but a positive for the Cleveland sports fans, and I wish them nothing but the best.

Belfi tells us that former WKNR host Kendall Lewis is staying aboard as midday host at SportsTalkCleveland.com, along with his new gig as co-host of FSN Ohio’s “Cleveland Rants” with WKNR fill-in Les Levine.

He also tells us he’s “happy” for ex-WKNR host Bruce Drennan’s apparently in-the-works deal to host a show on SportsTime Ohio.

But will Drennan return to STC? Says Belfi:

I look to Bruce as a mentor, and I have nothing but respect and a high regard for him as a broadcaster – and more importantly, as a friend. I am not sure if he will be able to continue with us at STC when he is back. He is welcome to, and I would love to have him here, but the decision will be his. Either way, I am fine with it. He’s gone through a lot, and deserves some peace of mind.

One other thought came to mind when we were talking about Karmazin’s Milwaukee signal situation.

The Good Karma boss has solved his signal problem in Cleveland by buying powerful 24 hour outlet WKNR. Or has he?

We wonder if he’s satisfied with his second signal, daytimer WWGK/1540, now called “KNR2”. If the station will act as an overflow for WKNR programming, how useful can that be with a daytime signal – particularly with a lot of sporting events taking place at night?

We have gone into the “Why 1540 Can’t Go 24 Hours” discussion many times. But we wonder if Karmazin is STILL interested in other options for that WKNR sister station.

We’ve heard nothing. It’s just a thought…

Sliding Into Tuesday

A mixed bag of items. Is Tuesday worth anything, except for the fact that it’s not Monday?

“ESPN 850’s” FIRST DAY: There isn’t much more to be said about the debut of the new lineup and on-air remodeling of Good Karma sports talk WKNR/850 as “ESPN 850”. We think we’ve said just about everything.

But yes, on-air changes at WKNR and sister WWGK/1540 “KNR2” did take place as scheduled Monday, including the debut of the 10 AM-noon show hosted by WJW FOX 8 sports anchor Tony Rizzo. (Long-time caller “SportsBoy Tony”‘s CursedCleveland.com blog weighs in here.)

And though we weren’t there for what we presume was a celebration, former WKNR program director Michael Luczak’s voice was finally excised from the AM 850 airwaves, replaced by new production voiced by legendary sports radio imaging voice Paul Turner.

Turner has been serving as the imaging voice for WWGK, in its first incarnation as “Cleveland’s ESPN Radio 1540″…and will continue to be heard on the newly-minted “KNR2”.

Former WKNR mid-morning host Greg Brinda debuted his nighttime show, referring to the show’s listeners and callers as “Night Crawlers”. Umm, OK.

And as Brinda moved to the 6-9 PM slot, he actually got a break.

His primary sports talk competitor, WTAM/1100 “Sportsline” host Kevin Keane, wasn’t even on the air in the time slot.

No, not due to a Cavaliers game, but due to the Clear Channel talk station’s coverage of the Barack Obama presidential campaign rally in Cleveland…which lasted during the entire 6-9 PM time frame, including post-rally talk by WTAM host Bob Frantz. Keane picked up at 9, though he continued talking about the rally – and politics instead of sports.

So, Brinda had the entire potential Cleveland sports radio audience to himself, at least for one night – assuming enough people thought to tune the dial to 850 AM, which hasn’t featured regular local sports talk in that time slot until, well, Monday night…

ALLACCESSING IT: There were two items from AllAccess involving Northeast Ohio radio.

The trade website reports that Cumulus/Youngstown market manager Clyde Bass has left the building(s) after four years. Cumulus’ Youngstown cluster covers eight stations, including powerhouse FMs like country WQXK/105.1 “K-105”, top 40 WHOT/101.1 and classic rock WYFM/102.9 “Y103”, along with five other AM and FM stations on both sides of the Ohio/Pennsylvania border.

AllAccess reports that Bass’ replacement will apparently be named at a morning staff meeting on Tuesday.

The site also reports that Salem talk WHK/1420 Cleveland is adding an hour-long daily program, a weekday version of the Cleveland-based syndicated talk show “Family Matters Radio”.

UPDATE: But it’s been pointed out to OMW that it’s actually sister Christian talk outlet WHKW/1220 “The Word” which is carrying the show from 3:30-4:30 PM weekdays. WHK – and sister CCM outlet WFHM/95.5 – also carry the weekend version of “Family Matters Radio”, which may have contributed to AllAccess’ confusion.

WHKW simulcaster WHKZ/1440 Warren/Youngstown will also carry the show, but the WHKW program schedule indicates that some local programming will pre-empt it in that market at least partially, for part of the week.

“Family Matters Radio” also airs in its weekend version on Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 Toledo…

LOCAL SYNDICATION TIES: While we’re talking about Northeast Ohio ties to syndicated radio, we note the launch of a new syndicated talk show hosted by talk radio veteran Leslie Marshall.

No, Marshall – last heard on liberal talk WWKB/1520 Buffalo – won’t be doing her show here. Heck, when she was on in Buffalo, she did her program via ISDN from her Los Angeles home.

And her show won’t be based here, either, as new programmer TalkUSA will produce it. That’s the new company owned by former Air America Radio and Democracy Radio principal Tom Athans. Democracy Radio launched shows hosted by Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, both still represented by Jones Radio.

No, the Cleveland Connection for Ms. Marshall’s new show is locally-based Envision Radio Networks, which will handle syndication for the program.

OMW hears that Envision will not just be selling the show to “liberal talk” stations.

Much like Stephanie Miller, Marshall has a long history on “general market” talk radio stations (in markets like Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco), and her radio career predates the recent establishment of left-leaning talk radio as a full-fledged format by many years.

It may be TalkUSA and Envision’s best move.

With the upheaval in the format and changes at iconic network Air America Radio, it’s anyone’s guess how long “liberal talk radio” lasts as a full format.

With various stations dropping out of the format, including in Columbus and Cincinnati, the path to success may be in whatever “crossover” appeal Marshall can muster on talk radio stations of all kinds…

NOTE TO CLEVELAND’S NEWS ASSIGNMENT DESKS: It’s no secret that OMW is widely read at just about every local TV and radio operation, so it’s no surprise that we’ve been tapped to “spread the word” to local TV newsies about a “post-sweeps” gathering called a “February Ratings Survival Celebration:

Announcing a February Ratings Survival Celebration. Let’s start a new tradition and toast the end of the February book. Celebrate either after the early or late evening news at Becky’s, 1762 East 18th, anytime after 7pm until closing. Everyone, from every station, is invited to join your fellow broadcasters in raising a glass to mark the end of sweeps. We’ll have our next “meeting” after the May book.

In our past, we’ve attended similar gatherings elsewhere, and we’re surprised local TV news types in Cleveland don’t make this a more regular event…

February Can’t Leave Soon Enough

As we look forward to March, and the eventual return of Spring to Northeast Ohio – which is usually closer to mid-to-late April in actuality…

SOME PRE-WKNR FLIP ITEMS: As Good Karma sports talk WKNR/850 becomes “ESPN 850”, and sister WWGK/1540 becomes “KNR2”, we have some related and semi-related items.

First up is a directly related item: Akron Beacon Journal sports/media columnist George M. Thomas’ take on the situation, in an article in Saturday’s ABJ.

The article is a pretty comprehensive take on the changes, which you’ve all read about right here. But unlike some other media writers in the past, Mr. Thomas actually reported this story first-hand…OMW hears he was in the WKNR studios Friday afternoon during owner Craig Karmazin’s appearance on afternoon drive host Kenny Roda’s show.

Karmazin tells Thomas in the article, like he told listeners on the “Saturday Morning Sports Show”, that he is looking to increase the diversity of the station’s on-air lineup. The question usually got posed by callers Saturday attached to the name of former WKNR host Kendall Lewis, who will appear in that very time slot next weekend.

Questions about Lewis, and about occasional WKNR fill-in Les Levine, usually elicited a positive response from the station’s owner. But Mr. Karmazin pointed quickly to not-so-good research results when asked about another former ‘KNR staple, Bruce Drennan.

Don’t expect to hear Mr. “I Lovvvvvve Ya, Cleveland!” on AM 850 (or AM 1540) anytime soon.

But it’s not like that many were clamoring for him…in our time checking in with most of the “Saturday Morning Sports Show”, we only heard Drennan mentioned about two or three times. Even former ‘KNR host Geoff Sindelar, who swore off full-time radio work years ago due to his business interests, got mentioned more…

SPEAKING OF BRUCE: Mr. Drennan gets name-checked by the Beacon Journal’s Sheldon Ocker in Sunday’s paper.

And though we’d nearly bet the farm against him returning to his former radio home, it looks like Indians-owned TV outlet SportsTime Ohio may pick up Drennan when he’s available to work.

Ocker writes:

Ever since last fall, there have been indications that the Indians would hire Bruce Drennan to host a talk show on the team’s television network, probably in the afternoon.

Of course, we’re not just pulling stuff out of the air when we say “available to work”.

Ocker says that Drennan reportedly will be released Friday from a five-month prison sentence in West Virginia for that tax evasion case related to the host’s admitted gambling on sports.

The fact that his prison time is linked to tax charges, and not sports gambling charges, apparently removes the stigma from his potential employment by, umm, the network run by the city’s Major League Baseball team.

And though he’s still going to be under house arrest for another five months, Ocker says Drennan “might be” allowed to leave home for work.

Ocker stands up for Drennan’s chances, saying he’s “served his time” and should be able to make a living in his chosen profession.

We have no problem with that, personally. If someone wants to hire him, who are we to stop them in righteous indignation?

The tax/gambling case was never our problem with Mr. Drennan. We, too, believe in “second chances”.

We’re just not huge fans of his style, to be honest. But we’ll still tune in from time to time if he shows up on STO – though we’ll hit the remote instantly if he starts singing show tunes…

BARACK-O-MANIA: The Monday evening rally in Cleveland for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is apparently a big enough deal for Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 to cover it…live.

The station has run promos all weekend for their “live, team coverage” of the Obama rally at Cuyahoga Community College’s eastern campus. WTAM’s promos say morning drive host Bill Wills will co-anchor the coverage with mid-morning talk show host Bob Frantz.

Hmmm. Now that’s a combination!

We haven’t heard Frantz’s take on Sen. Obama, though as a pretty straight-ahead conservative, it’s hard to believe Frantz would be in Obama’s corner.

It’ll be interesting to hear how Mr. Frantz handles his role Monday night…

FUNERAL COVERAGE: Cumulus talk WTOD/1560 “SuperTalk 1560” Toledo program director Chuck Matthews passes along word that the station will carry live coverage of the funeral of slain Toledo police officer Keith Dressel.

WTOD starts its coverage at 10 AM Monday.

We don’t know if WTOD’s competition, Clear Channel talk WSPD/1370, is also carrying the funeral live. But, a number of items about the story are on morning host Fred LeFebvre’s website, so we’re sure they’re talking about it…

Weekend Grab Bag

Just some stuff to occupy our weekend:

DR. LAURA’S RETURN: We don’t know how we missed this, but former Premiere syndicated host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has been making her way back onto major market stations as of late.

Dr. Laura’s show disappeared from the dial a year or two ago in virtually all major Ohio markets, mostly a result of lesser interest in the show by Premiere – the syndicator owned by Clear Channel.

The show left a number of Clear Channel stations, in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati – first in favor of Premiere’s own Glenn Beck, then other programs. Premiere then sold its interest in the show to Dr. Laura’s own company, “Take On The Day Productions”, though Premiere still handles sales representation for the show.

She’s back, as it were, at least in two major Ohio markets.

We already knew Dr. Laura had returned to Cincinnati via Clear Channel’s “1360TheSource.com”, known to mere mortals as WSAI/1360 – the former liberal talk outlet turned into an advice talker.

What we just found out is that North American Broadcasting talk WTDA/103.9 in the Columbus market also picked up Dr. Laura for its weekday lineup. The show airs after a show that’s been a nemesis for her – Mr. Beck’s program, which moved from Clear Channel talk WTVN/610.

Dr. Laura replaced FOX Sports Radio in “Talk FM’s” 1-4 PM time slot…FSR still runs nights and weekends on the Westerville-licensed class A outlet.

In Northeast Ohio, Dr. Laura is still only heard in Canton, on Melodynamic talk/religious WCER/900.

LINEUP CHANGES: Speaking of that Canton outlet, WCER operations manager and OMW reader John Amrhein tells us of pending lineup changes at AM 900, beginning March 1st.

The station adds a live hour of self-syndicated advice guru Dave Ramsey – another host who used to have larger Northeast Ohio clearance, until his fallout with Salem took Ramsey’s show off of 50,000 watt Christian talk/teaching outlet WHKW/1220 Cleveland and sister WHKW/1440 Warren.

Ramsey’s second hour puts him on WCER from 1-3 PM, leading into Dr. Laura, also airing live from 3-6 PM.

WCER also adds a live hour of conspiracy talker Alex Jones from noon to 1 PM weekdays. Jones is also heard on the station in morning drive via delay, from 5-8:30 AM…

HEADED FOR F-L-A: Sometimes, OMW picks up news items by reading the various message boards dedicated to local radio, where even some on-air types hang out. That’s where we found this one.

Adam Kirk, who does traffic and news for Cleveland’s Metro Networks operation, tells message board readers that he’s leaving Northeast Ohio for Florida – as a “morning producer and team anchor” for Cox news/talk WOKV/690-106.5 in Jacksonville.

Kirk has been heard doing traffic on Salem talk WHK/1420 Cleveland, along with the usual “other stations”.

Adam is the latest local radio type to find refuge in the Sunshine State or somewhere in the Southeast. OMW hears that in the same building, Metro sports reporter/fill-in anchor Zack Stein is headed for Brunswick GA, where he’ll be news director of a six-station cluster owned by Qantum Communications.

And we did not, for whatever reason, get to the Florida move of one Ryan Gohmann, who we have heard is leaving (or has left) his job as producer of Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 Cleveland’s Bob Frantz Show for sister talk WFLA/970 Tampa – to work under the direction of former WTAM news director R.C. Bauer…

LOCAL SALES TYPE HONORED: We don’t normally cover the comings and goings of sales account executives, but this one got some national attention for a local AE.

Brandon Tidd gets the “2007 Horizon Award” from the folks at the John Bayliss Broadcast Foundation.

The AE for Clear Channel Akron talkers WHLO/640 and WARF/1350, according to an AllAccess item on this, is called “an individual who sets a solid example for today’s radio broadcaster. Tidd exemplifies the young talent in the radio industry and, as the sixth recipient of this award, he is tangible evidence of the FOUNDATION’s effort.”

The Bayliss Foundation gives the award to young folks who have received its radio scholarship award in the past.

Tidd will be presented the award at the Bayliss Radio Roast, in New York City on March 22nd.

The “Roast”, by the way, pokes at CBS Radio chairman/CEO Joel Hollander…

Jim Somich

His name has been associated with engineering in both New York and Los Angeles, at huge, legendary stations like top 40 WHTZ “Z100”, KFI/640 and rocker KMET.

But for Northeast Ohioans with any engineering background or interest, Jim Somich is known for his stints at WMMS/100.7, WHK/1420 and the old WJW/850. OMW hears that Somich has died at the age of 65.

Somich’s career did not just include tending to transmitters and tower sites.

He also worked in television, designing a number of stations for Cleveland-based Malrite, where he was also Director of Radio Engineering. (We don’t have the timing, so we don’t know for sure, but we could guess that he played a role in Malrite’s launch of Cleveland’s WOIO/19 – which was Cleveland’s first FOX affiliate.)

And Jim Somich was also involved in developing new products, and reviewed products right up the present…this review of Sangean’s HDT-1 HD Radio unit appeared in Radio World just a few days ago.

There was more about Mr. Somich that many radio folks may not have known.

In addition to his own engineering consultancy, Somich founded Broadview Heights-based MicroCon Systems. A quick Google search shows a much different goal for this company:

Jim Somich is the President and CEO of MicroCon Systems, Inc., a company he created in 1996 to perform basic research into age reversal.

Wow. From radio and TV engineering to age reversal!

Our condolences to Jim’s family and friends on his passing…