Blog by: George Thomas and Ron Ledgard
Good Karma Broadcasting, the parent company of ESPN Cleveland (WKNR 850 AM), president Craig Karmazin spoke on The Hooligans, the station’s afternoon drive show, moments ago, but whether Northeast Ohio was listening remains to be seen.
The backlash over the firing of long-time on-air personality Kenny Roda, Cleveland Browns beat reporter Will Burge and reporter-anchor-producer T.J. Zuppe proved swift.
While Karmazin said on the opening segment of The Hooligans Wednesday that “the moves were made for the long term and for our long-term growth” that sounds a bit disingenuous when you look at the subsequent moves he and station management made.
Michael Reghi, who teamed with Roda for their evening show, will remain with the station primarily in football-related duties.
The revamped lineup: the syndicated Mike and Mike in the Morning from 6-9 a.m., The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Cleveland Browns Daily 1-3 p.m., The Hooligans with Bruce Hooley, Je’Rod Cherry and Emmett Golden from 3-6 p.m. Golden shifts from his spot with the now-defunct 3 Deep.
“It was a good show, an entertaining show,” Karmazin said of 3 Deep, a show in which Burge also appeared.
Munch on Sports, with Mark “Munch” Bishop, one of broadcasting’s good guys, moves from early in the morning to the 6-8 p.m. slot.
Game related programming will fill the prime-time hours until Greg Brinda, once part of The Hooligans, returns to late evenings to host post-game coverage related to the Cleveland Indians and Cavs.
Karmazin sounded sincerely disappointed at having had to make the changes and acknowledged the animosity directed at the station online in places such as Twitter.
“I think there are always going to be these feelings,” he said.
But the reality is those voices are well known in the area and respected.
“You’re going to still be hearing from them in this market,” he added.
That is highly likely. There is no restriction on any of them seeking employment in sports media locally. And there are already murmurings that they will have opportunities.
Keith Williams, WKNR's general manager, said that he expects that all of those affected will eventually find homes.
But the reality is that given that three talented people are affected and Good Karma, with its shuffling of the deck chairs, doesn’t look as if they’re going to replace them. It's the media and that could change.
"I hope we continue to grow as we have since Good Karma bought the station," Williams said during a phone call. "That's the hope."
.The real issue, however, may be whether Northeast Ohio can support two sports talk stations. Radio stations are inexplicably tight-lipped with ratings numbers, but multiple sources have confirmed to the Beacon Journal that ESPN Cleveland and WKRK (92.3 The Fan) split the sports audience in the market.
The important difference: in all dayparts where the stations air local programming head-to-head except one, WKNR is getting beat. That may be due to a more powerful signal locally, but it’s reality. A tipping point may come eventually and only one survives.
As for those affected? Only Roda, who has a son who is a senior at The Ohio State University, could be reached for comment.
“My 21-year journey at WKNR was awesome,” he said. “However, I’m looking forward to my next journey.”