UPDATE Departures And, Uh, Departures

UPDATE 8/21/13 8:30 AM: The always plugged in Bob Finnan sheds more light on WKNR’s Tuesday talent purge, where veteran personality Kenny Roda and the station’s Will Burge and T.J. Zuppe were let go in one day.

The News-Herald sportswriter says that Michael Reghi will have a more limited role as well, appearing only on the station’s official Cleveland Browns programming…as host of “The Rob Chudzinski Show” with the Browns head coach (also appearing on co-flagship CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan”), and with a role on “Cleveland Browns Daily” during the regular season.

And, of course, as the pre-season play-by-play voice of the team, filling that role while regular season play-by-play man Jim Donovan calls the games with Bernie Kosar on his home station, WKYC/3.

The result? For now, at least, the station will no longer program local shows after “The Hooligans” ends, sending along the ESPN Radio feed. (That change, according to Finnan, also means Reghi is no longer doing the “10th Inning” baseball postgame show, or, apparently, any Cavaliers-themed postgame show.)

That means WKNR will apparently find something else to do with Je’Rod Cherry in the daytime lineup, in addition to his role on the Browns pre-game show.

There’s no word on what happens to evening co-host/producer Dave DeNatale.

With this new information, it becomes clearer…at least for now, “ESPN 850” is retreating entirely from local evening programming. That makes us wonder if it’s indeed a budget move.

Hey, how much did Good Karma pay for its share of the Cleveland Browns contract, anyway? Just a thought…

Finnan also brings along major news from Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100, which moves Cleveland Browns beat reporter Andre Knott into a position alongside afternoon drive host Mike Trivisonno, Knott later fronting his own show with Cleveland Indians beat reporter Nick Camino weeknights from 6-7 PM.

That’s been known previously around here as the “We’ll Re-Play Triv’s First Hour So He Can Go Home At 6” show…

This item was intended to have the title of “Departures And Arrivals”, but the Departure listings at OMW Airport are stacked up. And some of the planes haven’t even boarded yet…

THREE EXIT WKNR: We don’t know “why” yet, if it was a budget cut, a “change of direction” or something else, but three on-air staffers at Good Karma sports WKNR/850-WWGK/1540 “ESPN Cleveland” are no longer in the building at the Galleria.

Cleveland.com’s Glenn Moore has more:

Cleveland Browns beat reporter Will Burge, Cleveland Indians beat reporter T.J. Zuppe and on-air show host Kenny Roda were dismissed by the radio station, which is owned by Good Karma Broadcasting.

But the news filtered out directly from the now-former WKNR staffers on Twitter, all of them “taking the high road” and thanking the station and its listeners.

From Will Burge’s Twitter account:

2day a chapter closed in my career, unexpectedly but welcomed. Thanks so much to the fans of #3Deep & WKNR. Ill be back VERY SOON #FreeAgent

And from Zuppe on Twitter:

They say when 1 door closes, another opens. Unexpected change but will forever be indebted to WKNR for giving me the opportunity. #FreeAgent

And the biggest name is that of Kenny Roda, who’s been in any number of roles on WKNR (most notably afternoon drive) for over 20 years:

Thanks to all who have made the last 21 years at WKNR a remarkable, unforgettable & amazing journey.I enjoyed sharing it with you all.

Most recently, Roda has been paired with veteran sportscaster Michael Reghi on “Cleveland Sports Night”, weeknights 9 to midnight.

He’s a little more pragmatic in a phone interview with Kevin Kleps with Crain’s Cleveland Business, where Burge and Zuppe repeat the “different direction” line they heard from Good Karma management:

“I really can’t” talk about it, he said. “Maybe in the next couple days. I just found out today and have a meeting with my lawyer tomorrow.

“I won’t say anything negative about them,” Mr. Roda continued. “It’s part of the business. I’m just doing the normal stuff (in meeting with his attorney) — I’ve been through this three, four times now, whatever.”

Burge and Zuppe repeat the “different direction” line they were both told by Good Karma management.

Whatever that phrase means, we’ve learned over years it basically means “away from you”…

IS HE GOING OR STAYING?: Perhaps the worst keep secret in the Akron radio market, hinted about in our last update, has been the potential status of Media-Com talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron” morning mainstay Stan Piatt.

Since at least last Thursday, Piatt has all but gone door to door telling everyone that he was about to retire from his decades-long perch at the Akron market talker.

OMW hears that Piatt told the audience the news at his second home, the Funny Stop comedy club in Cuyahoga Falls, on Thursday night… which would explain about a half dozen E-mails from OMW readers asking about it on Friday.

So, after 36 years as leader of the WNIR morning show, Stan Piatt is retiring and leaving Akron.

Uh, don’t throw that retirement party just yet.

We’re told he “alluded” to the not-yet-final news on-air this week, but Piatt has not yet announced that he’s leaving the show and “The Talk of Akron”.

OMW hears that when faced with another blow to their schedule, WNIR’s Bob and Bill Klaus launched into a frantic attempt to keep Piatt around.

It’s not a contract or money thing, as far as we know. Piatt has personal reasons to move and start a new life…reportedly, in Pittsburgh.

So, while the Klaus brothers lobby Piatt to forgo that new life, the announcement of his exit – and indeed, the decision to actually leave – are both on hold.

You probably can’t find any talk radio station in America that has seen the lineup blows that WNIR has seen recently.

Two hosts died…including Akron talk radio icon Howie Chizek. Piatt leaving would leave another large hole in the lineup, even with incumbent morning players Steve French, Maggie Fuller and Phil Ferguson in place.

And really, the Klaus Brothers haven’t exactly shined when it comes to filling those lineup holes.

Chizek was replaced, after a clumsy audition process, by long-time regular caller John “Couch Burner” Denning, who recently marked his first year in the time slot once occupied by his favorite host.

Evening host Tom Erickson’s replacement process was a bit smoother. After station regular fill-ins Bob Earley and Jim Isabella took turns in the slot, Isabella took the 7-midnight slot full-time. (Earley made it clear in both open time slot cases that he didn’t want the job.)

And then, we dial back years ago to the original replacement process for afternoon drive host Joe Finan…the veteran liberal talker retired from the station, only to resurface later on Clear Channel then-liberal talk WARF/1350 “Radio Free Ohio” (now sports “Fox Sports 1350”)…departing that station shortly before he departed this earth.

WNIR auditioned just about anyone who could sit in front of a microphone for the 3-7 PM slot…truck drivers, waitresses and maybe even a pro or two…until the mother of a former Cleveland Browns player saw a newspaper article, and thought it would be the perfect opportunity for her son Bob Golic – with a broadcasting background in sports radio and TV – to return to Northeast Ohio.

Golic fulfilled the “Akron Idol audition process” by subbing, unannounced, one night for Tom Erickson. The rest was carefully orchestrated history.

Even attempts to bring on radio pros – who weren’t referred by family – failed.

Jeff Kinzbach, most known for his role on the dominant WMMS/100.7 “Buzzard Morning Zoo” with Ed “Flash” Ferenc (“Jeff and Flash”), was in the WNIR audition rotation to try out for the slot left open by Howie Chizek’s death.

How’d that work out? Well, let’s just say the folks at Broadcast Park handled it about as badly as you could.

Quoting a certain media blog from the time:

Kinzbach posted that he’d heard a station promo for his week-long audition stint had been pulled, and that “someone had been hired”.

After not hearing from WNIR officials, and playing some phone tag with the station, Kinzbach posted that he was eventually told that was indeed the case, and that he was told that “they have hired a guy who was a frequent caller to the station.”

Hmm. “We’re not going to hire you, but we’ll make you track us down and make us tell you we’re not going to hire you”?

Kinzbach, of course, landed a much better gig…as morning host at Rubber City Radio rocker WONE/97.5.

If Stan Piatt is heading for Pittsburgh and away from WNIR, what will Broadcast Park do to replace him? The mind boggles…

FEAGLER’S LEAVING: You often forget how long some well-known local media personalities have been around, until they retire after 50 years.

That’s how long Dick Feagler has been practicing some form of journalism or news commentary in Cleveland, dating back to stints in print with the Cleveland Press, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and in between, an ad hoc syndication effort with suburban Northeast Ohio newspapers.

Broadcast news watchers remember him in the past from commentaries on local TV newscasts, and for a 2 year stint in the 1990s as news co-anchor on NBC affiliate WKYC/3.

Since 1997, Feagler’s home base has been Ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25’s weekly program “Feagler & Friends”, a news interview and roundtable program.

The last “Feagler & Friends” will air September 27, according to a release from the local public TV outlet:

The Sept. 27 program will be recorded earlier in the week in front of a live audience in the Westfield Insurance™ Studio Theater at the Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare, home to ideastream. This special presentation of the weekly public affairs series will find Dick and special guests reminiscing about a half-century of memorable news stories and the people who populated them. Presented in the traditional “Cleveland-style” of Feagler & Friends, the final show will be filled with lively talk, feisty discussion and considerable sidebar conversations. The program will also feature Dick’s final “Commentary,” a familiar forum from Dick’s days as a newspaper columnist and TV commentator.

As you’d expect in the days of digital TV, the last “Feagler & Friends” will repeat over the following days on WVIZ’s “Ohio” subchannel…

TWO REPORTERS HEADING OFF: WKYC/3’s Jennifer Lindgren and WJW “Fox 8″‘s Annette Lawless are heading off to new jobs.

Lindgren moves to Dallas, where she’ll work at CBS O&O KTVT/11. And Lawless heads back home to Kansas, where she’ll anchor at Gray ABC affiliate KAKE/10 Wichita.

(And yes, they do call the KAKE viewing area “KAKEland”.)

Lawless has been a regular reader of Your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), starting her time reading us back when Youngstown market ABC affiliate WYTV/33 was SSA-subsumed into New Vision (now LIN TV) CBS affiliate WKBN/27.

She watched with interest, as the exact same process was happening to her former home station in Topeka, ABC affiliate KTKA/49. It too was purchased by Parkin Broadcasting/PBC, which bought WYTV, and operated by New Vision Television, which bought WKBN and took over WYTV’s operations. (Vaughan Media now holds both WYTV and KTKA for LIN TV.)

We promise much more…as a regular reader and Twitter follower, we’ve asked Annette to answer a series of E-mail interview questions… which we’ll send off very soon…

AND ONE ARRIVAL: Cable and satellite viewers, after some uncertainly, learned shortly before launch that they’d receive Fox Sports 1, the new national sports network Fox is launching to go up against ESPN (and to a lesser extent, CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network).

Just days before Saturday, clearances were announced for some big TV fish – Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant cable provider, as well as Cablevision and suburban Cleveland operator Cox Cable, as well as satellite services DirecTV and Dish Network.

What happened?

It would appear that Fox blinked, says Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand:

The frenzied rush that saw several of the country’s biggest distributors agree to carry FS1 at launch occurred only after Fox surprisingly backed off its asking price of $0.80 per subscriber per month, according to multiple high-level sources.

Cablevision, Cox, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable agreed to carry the new, heavily promoted all-sports channel, but only at the same rate they were paying for the previous channel, Speed, which was $0.23 per subscriber per month.

Fox told the distributors that it would convert Speed into FS1 and allow distributors with existing Speed deals to carry it at Speed’s rate, or at least close to it, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the talks.

Put simply – it’s hard to compete against the ESPN Behemoth if no one’s watching, so Fox apparently decided to try squeeze more money out of providers down the road, and establish FS1 with larger viewership at launch.

The “conversion” means that if you’re looking for Fox Sports 1, you’ll generally find it where your provider had Speed, and companion network Fox Sports 2 replaces Fuel.

On our Time Warner system, Speed was on channel 75, and that’s where Fox Sports 1 lives today. (Note: channel 75 is not available on analog extended basic, as a digital box is required.)

There was a bit of a channel move on DirecTV, where FS1 landed on channel 219. (It’s on Dish Network on channel 150.)

Those using other providers can find their Fox Sports 1 channel here

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9 Responses to UPDATE Departures And, Uh, Departures

  1. David says:

    Do you guys know where WHLO news reporter Jon Amrine went? Jim Albright said he’s not with the station anymore. I knew it was Stan when you guys put out the tweet. I think Couch would be a better fit as part of the morning show.

    • Mike Dane says:

      Amrine’s gone? I didn’t know that. I quit listening to WHLO when they dumped
      Quinn & Rose. Thank God for I Heart radio and WTAM. Good luck to John, he
      certainly deserves it after getting paired with Albright.

  2. Mike says:

    I bet Roda ends up on 92.3 and is paired with Baskin and Phelps.

  3. Vannessa Brown says:

    This station is the perfect match for the Browns. How many times have they fired Roda? In order to work at WKNR, you must a Kool-aid drinking, dyed in the wool homer that only knows how to say, “Rah! Rah! Go Brownies Go!” Oh God they are so sicking,……And stop with the free food fridays…..buy your own damn food. You chow hounds!

  4. mike says:

    With Roda being a card carrying Steelers fan it was appalling he had a afternoon drive time show here.

  5. Gale says:

    As for Piatt leaving WNIR, a former boss once told me and I told others, “once you quit having fun on your job, it is time to move on”. The station had been family, 36 years with Piatt, Howie, Finan, Albright and Erikson. His “family” is gone, and I am sure most of the fun as well. Sorry to see him go, but there is little left for him there. Good luck wherever he goes.

  6. KeithK says:

    John Amhrein left to focus on his growing computer business. He had been burning the candle at both ends for some time.

  7. Kim says:

    I will miss Stan! He’s been part of the “family” for years. Speaking of Jim, I’d love to see Jim Albright back at WNIR!

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