Yesterday afternoon ESPN Cleveland WKNR made waves across Cleveland by mysteriously axing talent. Will Burge, T.J. Zuppe, Kenny Roda and (maybe) Michael Reghi 1 were all told something about a “different direction” and mostly left wondering where that destination was and why it didn’t include them. Meanwhile, it has been all quiet from the station as nobody else seems to know that destination either. Therein lies the problem as I see it today.
Going in a new direction and changing your lineup and making tough choices about programming are part of the job of running a media property. Burge, Zuppe and Roda seem to get that as they certainly didn’t come out with blowtorches trying to publicly burn down their former bosses. I’m sure they weren’t enthused of course, but this is the game and they’ve seen it play out before. I don’t begrudge any company for making choices; even unpopular ones. The problem occurs when those decisions are made and there is a massive communication vacuum between the media company and the audience as people talk and talk and talk. I’ve said it many times before and I get a chance to say it yet again. You’re better off talking to the world rather than allowing the world to just talk about you.
Kenny Roda’s voice was still doing Champps promos this morning directly after Tony Rizzo talked about him being let go. How does an awkward moment like that happen on the station’s signature show – The Really Big Show – the day after the guy was told he didn’t fit the direction of the station? Did they make the decision impulsively? Do they not have the proper station management in place to keep stuff like that from happening? It’s pretty amazing really.
One thing I won’t do is sit around talking about, “why did these guys get fired, when it should have been these other guys who work at the station.” If you don’t like Rizzo or Aaron Goldhammer or Bruce Hooley or Greg Brinda, it isn’t really the point. That’s just a waste of conversation from my perspective. You have to assume that station management and ownership are making their decisions for a reason, whether it be ratings or contracts, timing or other details. I can’t begin to get inside those kinds of decisions without any first-hand accounts. My real first-hand account is as an outsider left in the turbulent aftermath created by a station that allegedly didn’t return phone calls for comment.
Tony Rizzo said this morning that station owner Craig Karmazin would be on with The Hooligans this afternoon to speak to the audience about the changes, but by then the perception has already been formed that the station isn’t handling its business well at all. Maybe there are really good reasons that the business plan changed. Maybe the new relationship with the Browns makes ad sales easier and boosts margins. Maybe the cost side of things changed with that same Browns relationship. Maybe those things combined with the maturing of 92.3 the Fan in the marketplace has changed the direction that the station needs to go.
Maybe maybe maybe. That’s all there was last night and into today. In this day and age of information, that’s unacceptable. Everyone seems to know it except ESPN Cleveland WKNR.
As we wait to hear from the station, presumably this afternoon during The Hooligans show, we’ll just echo the huge sentiment that was on Twitter yesterday wishing Burge, Zuppe and Roda well. For everything that was said last night in the absence of station comment, I think it’s notable that I didn’t hear or see anyone saying “Good riddance!” about the dismissals. I hope that was at least a small silver lining for those guys. It’s too bad they had to be let go in order to hear such nice things about what they meant to their audiences.
- Rizzo was talking about the moves this morning and he didn’t mention Reghi at all. We at least have to assume the show he co-hosted with Roda is over. [back]