The Job Loss Storm

We wish we had better news for our return.

In our last full item, we talked about the continuing reports of job losses at Ohio media outlets. We had no idea that the following week would be one of the worst such weeks for local media workers…ever.

The news is so bad, and so widespread, that we abandoned plans for a single, large update covering everything we’ve missed in the past week. Instead, we decided to split this bad news into a large update of its own. We’ll have other news not related to massive unemployment in an update a little later this morning…

13TH AND LESS: We start our run of bad news at 13th and Lakeside in Cleveland, the home of Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3.

With Gannett already signaling cuts in its newspaper division, it didn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to see that similar Cost Reduction Measures would come to the TV side of the Gannett house.

At WKYC, the latest round of cuts has come in the form of non-renewal of contracts.

We’ll start with veteran reporter Obie Shelton. Cleveland Plain Dealer media columnist Julie Washington reports that Shelton exits Channel 3 after a 22-year run on November 7th….as WKYC declines to renew his contract.

But Mr. Shelton isn’t the only name on the list, which could number as high as five on-air staffers.

We’re hearing that reporter/anchor Lydia Esparra and reporter Bill Safos are also not getting their contracts renewed, and that two more news people at Channel 3 could be in the same boat…names we have not confirmed yet…

THIS IS NOT CBS: As Cleveland’s CBS Radio cluster still sits on the sale block, OMW hears that at least four staffers move to the unemployment line.

We’re told that alt-rock WXRK/92.3 “K-Rock” night host “Bull” is no longer doing his “Bull Program”. We hear that production staffers Monica Gannon (WDOK/WQAL) and Tony Frazer (WXRK) are also out, along with a promotions employee.

It’s an odd time even for those left at CBS Radio here.

The company is openly selling the Cleveland cluster, and other mid-market clusters. The collapse of the credit markets means just about no one can get money to make deals to buy radio stations – and only a small number of operators (like Bonneville, for example) can afford to buy stations without having to firm up bank deals.

(We’re not hearing or suggesting that Bonneville specifically has any interest in the Cleveland CBS Radio cluster…we’re just pointing them out as one of the very few companies that might be able to get a deal done in the current economic mess. It was reported earlier that Bonneville was one of the companies at least looking into the 50 or so for-sale CBS Radio stations in markets below the top 10.)

Until something happens, one way or the other, it’s “business as usual” at CBS Radio’s sub-top market clusters. But with the flagging economy and down revenues, that “as usual” includes layoffs…

Y-TOWN: The layoff route heads from CBS Radio Cleveland down the Ohio Turnpike to Youngstown, where the Cumulus cluster there has laid off a number of staffers.

AllAccess reports that the axe hit a number of veterans, including classic rock WYFM/102.9 “Y103” nighttimer Dave Messersmith, who’s been around for over 20 years.

A similar “big name” loses his gig at sister country giant WQXK/105.1 “K-105”, as Burton Lee will no longer be heard in his nighttime slot. Morning co-host “K-Man” is also out of work.

The moves lead AllAccess to speculate about syndicated programming taking nighttime slots at the station – and for that matter, the trade site openly wonders if live, nighttime local radio is history with at least one major national group.

And AllAccess also reports that all (yes, ALL) part-time staffers at Cumulus top 40 mainstay WHOT/101.1 “Hot 101” have been let go…

TOLEDO: And back on the Layoff Highway, virtually, to the Cumulus cluster in Toledo, which was hit hard this past week as well. There were a total of nine layoffs at Cumulus Toledo.

We’ll start with alt-rock WRWK/106.5 “The Zone”, which says goodbye to morning man Kevin Murphy. OMW hears that the station will become “music intensive” – a radio euphemism for “less pesky people we have to pay”.

Like with other cuts, veteran air personalities took a hit in Toledo as well. Nearly 40-year Toledo radio mainstay Bill Manders is out as middayer at country WKKO/99.9 “K100”. “K100” also dumps nighttime personality Craig Snyder, who’s been there about 20 years.

OMW reported earlier that Toledo radio vet Buddy Carr landed in nights at oldies WRQN/93.5 in May…that landing was short lived, as Carr is also on the cut list.

Hot AC WWWM/105.5 “Star 105.5” lets two staffers loose – afternoon driver Dave Fuller, and morning producer/promotions assistant Ryan Young.

At sports talker WLQR/1470 “The Ticket”, afternoon driver Matt Melzak is out.

Traffic voice Tim McMahon and WXKR/WTOD/WLQR/WRWK promotions director Tom Staudt round out the cut list.

OMW hears that some of the above named could be retained on a part-time basis, though we don’t know which…

WRAP-UP: We think that’s it for the recent job cuts – at least for the week we were away.

But the combination of the flagging media economy, slumping ad sales (and remember, all those political spots go away on Wednesday!), and the economic downturn in general mean these probably won’t be the last job cuts.

Radio stations, particularly, seem to be paring away staffers in non-drive time dayparts or even some extra staffing in those drive-time dayparts. TV stations are reducing staff, and off-air, many people are now doing three or four (or more) jobs instead of one or two.

As we continue this horrible time for many in the media, we urge our readers to keep these people who have been cast aside in mind…both professionally and personally, to whatever degree is possible.

To that effect, OMW is once again putting out the call for those who wish to advertise their availability, or to those who wish to hire. Drop us a line, and we’ll be glad to showcase either your “Job Wanted” or “Help Wanted” ad to our wide audience – OMW is pretty much a regular visitor to the computers at most media clusters in the state.

The ads will run free of charge, as with everything at OMW…and we’ll help you word the ad, also free of charge.

We’ll do what we can…but this current mess is much bigger than any of us…


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