Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Comedy Meets Tragedy

The saying goes, if it wasn't so sad, it would be funny. I can apply that phrase to my old radio station, KWNR. The ratings are out, and KWNR is as low as they've ever been.

I was with the morning show for close to 11 years, and the morning show never finished as low as it did in the last ratings period. 10th. 10th!! A 10th place finish was unthinkable even as little as, well, five months ago. It's a classic case of monumental mismanagement on both the local and corporate level, yet the only ones who'll pay the price are the ones on the front lines- the jocks.

Just about every move that KWNR has made over the past 3 years has backfired on them. I think it all began when Coyote Country signed on, giving KWNR its first country competitor in several years. Now, I always believed that Coyote should've been treated as a legitimate competitor, to be respected. They were going directly after our listeners and we had to be ready. Nevertheless, the reaction on the management side was more of a full scale panic. KWNR had been such a powerhouse that it had caused two previous country competitors to change their formats, yet here we were all tied up in knots because a new baby was born.

To me, the reaction was a full scale criticism of the KWNR staff's ability to perform. We were all vets and had been through (and won) all the wars. Corporate had to stick their heads in, though, and instead of letting us do what we did best, the meddling began.

Maybe it's because I've never held a management position, but I just don't think it's that hard to put a good radio station together. I look at it from a listener's perspective. Play the best music (but not to death), have compelling contests (but don't make me jump through hoops), and most of all, have good jocks. The success of radio has always been personality driven, not music driven. When you think back to when you listened as a kid, you don't remember listening to Starland Vocal Band, you remember listening to Larry the Legend, Bob Reitman, or Tim The Rock and Roll least if you were in Milwaukee. You could get music anywhere, but it was the people behind the mics that made radio come alive. I believe the lack of true personalities is killing today's radio.

KWNR had a great long run with consistent personalities that people liked and identified with: Brooks and Mitch in the Morning, Jeff Jay and Sammy Cruise at Lunch. Bob Bishop in the afternoon, and Stunt Runt at night (and Friday mornings!). Such consistency is all too rare in today's radio and sadly for us, it was too good to last. Management wants listener loyalty, but if management dumps on those people the listeners give their loyalty to, they'll bolt in droves. We're seeing that now.

I'd love it if I weren't so sad to see the crumbling of a great station. In Bob, Stunt Runt, Glennboy, Sammy, Brooks, and Mark Stevens, I've made lifelong friendships. I met my future wife at a station event. I was able to buy a house and put a little money aside for a rainy day. I owe a lot to the station for getting me where I am today, and I won't forget that. Still, the current decline of KWNR would've been so easy to prevent and at the end of the day there's sadness. When comedy and tragedy collide, only tragedy can win.

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