A Couple With Julie

Of course, we’re talking about Julie Washington, the Cleveland Plain Dealer media writer who is basically the only other person in this area writing about local media outlets…and the only one getting paid to do so.

One week ago, OMW provided extensive details about economic hard times at Cleveland’s PBS/NPR combo, WVIZ/25 and WCPN/90.3, which are under the corporate umbrella of Ideastream. (Sorry, we refuse to use the lower case “i”.)

The changes at Playhouse Square ended up with 9 employees being let go, which amounts to about 8 percent of the company’s combined workforce. Most were not on-air employees.

The company’s upper management also took a pay cut, which we also reported. The stations report that a massive reduction in state funding, and hard hits from a drop in corporate support, were to blame.

Ms. Washington ran the story last Thursday online, and Friday in print, after Ideastream issued a press release – apparently on Wednesday. Crain’s Cleveland Business also ran a story based on that release Wednesday afternoon on its website.

We assume that if Julie had seen our Monday item, she’d have pursued it earlier, so she apparently isn’t a regular OMW reader these days.

But in case she is, we’d like to answer a question she put forth.

UPDATED 8/3/09 2:17 PM: We actually just found the article in question, written Thursday morning by Washington, on Cleveland.com. We found it…umm…from our own Twitter feed. It’s Monday, and the brain cells aren’t fully functioning yet.

Julie wondered about the fate of WCPN jazz host Dan Polletta. His “Jazz from the North Coast” evening show was knocked off the WCPN schedule with the changes, with a syndicated program originating from Chicago’s WFMT in its place. Quoting:

A big question mark hangs over the fate of Dan Polletta, longtime host of WCPN’s “Jazz from the North Coast.” The show was replaced Monday, July 27, with the syndicated “Jazz with Bob Parlocha” from the Jazz Satellite Network. The show is heard 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday.

Polletta could not be reached for comment.

Our sources at Playhouse Square tell us that Polletta is still in the building as a full-time employee, having been moved into other duties…doing things like contributing to the station’s “Around Noon” show, and other on-air/announcing work.

We’re told that the move involving Polletta took place a few months ago, and that WCPN music director Bobby Jackson had been moved into the “Jazz from the North Coast” time slot. It’s presumed that Ideastream already was eyeing the syndicated program at that point, and knew the local show would eventually end.

As we reported earlier, Jackson is the only on-air employee apparently affected by the Ideastream layoffs, and will be able to stick around until October 2nd, the effective date of the cuts.

The second item was dropped into our mailbox by an OMW reader (maybe we should give HIM the Search Cleveland.com job!).

He found this “clarification” by Clear Channel to a story Julie Washington wrote back in May about cuts at the radio giant, and the lesser use of local voices as a result.

Please note: The original article ran in mid-May, and Clear Channel’s attempts at clarification were published at the start of August.

We don’t know if a special CC PR team spent two and a half months working up a response to the Julie Washington piece, or if the PD’s entertainment editors didn’t get a Round Tuit(tm) until now.

Clear Channel apparently very much wants you to know certain things, like the fact the company’s situation isn’t properly described as a “financial quagmire”. (Since we have no Business Section, we’ll leave that up to others to hash out.)

It “clarifies” the fact that two shows affected in this year’s cuts, the now-out-the-door “Brian and Joe” show on hot AC WMVX/106.5, and talk WTAM/1100’s afternoon drive talk fest with Mike Trivisonno, do not target the 18-34 audiences Julie listed in her original piece. Fair enough, they don’t. Or, didn’t, in the case of “Brian and Joe”.

Clear Channel also notes that its local listenership was “basically flat” over the past few years in Cleveland, trying to counter the perception of “listeners turning off over-air radio” in the article.

It also notes the number of program directors at its Cleveland stations – down from 5 in 2004 to 4 in 2009, accounting for rock WMMS/100.7 program director Bo Matthews adding the programming duties at top 40 WAKS/96.5 “Kiss FM” to his plate at Oak Tree.

And it proudly notes it still employs two program directors in Akron/Canton – long-time OMW reader Keith Kennedy (hot AC WKDD/98.1), and Greg Ausham (rock WRQK/106.9-talk WHLO/640), with Kennedy serving as programming operations director for the entire cluster on Freedom Avenue…which also includes AC WHOF/101.7 and sports WARF/1350.

Finally, the Clear Channel “clarification” notes the use of the company’s nationally distributed programming is limited to certain dayparts (overnights, some weekends) on four of the five Oak Tree stations – WAKS, WMMS, classic hits WMJI/105.7 and country WGAR/99.5.

The note says WMVX “Mix 106.5” doesn’t use the “Premium Choice” programming, and that the company’s Akron/Canton stations also don’t use “PC”. (Of course, nighttime host Billy Bush on WKDD is separately syndicated by a company not connected to Clear Channel.)

Neither the clarification, or Ms. Washington’s original article, notes that at least some local employees at Oak Tree are actually providing some of the “Premium Choice” programming to the national feed. WGAR’s Chuck Collier and WMJI’s Don “Action” Jackson would be on that list…

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