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WKNR shuffles deck chairs to maximize coverage

By George Thomas Published: August 21, 2013

Good Karma Broadcasting president Craig Karmazin, the head of the parent company of ESPN Cleveland (WKNR 1220 AM), spoke on The Hooligans, the station’s afternoon drive show, Wednesday, but whether Northeast Ohio was listening remains to be seen

The backlash over the firing of longtime on-air personality Kenny Roda, Browns beat reporter Will Burge and reporter-anchor-producer T.J. Zuppe proved swift

Karmazin said on the opening segment of The Hooligans that “the moves were made for the long term and for our long-term growth” but 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 postgame coverage related to the Indians and Cavs

Karmazin sounded sincerely disappointed at having to had made 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

It doesn’t appear that Good Karma has plans to replace the three with the way they shuffled their lineup

“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” that hires can be made

The real issue, however, might 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-FM (92.3 The Fan) split the sports audience in the market

The important difference: in all parts of the schedule where the stations air local programming head-to-head, except one, WKNR is getting beat. That might be due to a more powerful signal locally for The Fan, but it’s reality. A tipping point might 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.”

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