By: Mike Austerman
The sudden dismissal of Tom Ryan and ‘Matinee’ Mindy Markowitz from WOMC-FM (104.3) a week ago Friday after nearly 18 years together as a duo on the oldies station, the last 11 of them in afternoon drive, was the start of two bad days for local radio.
Markowitz and Ryan were hired both by WOMC in 1984; Mindy as a sales assistant and Tom as a veteran jock who moved from CKLW-AM (800).
As for why the duo was fired, general manager Kevin Murphy explained to them that the station was simply moving in a new direction — a reason that is particularly hard for fans to grasp. Many listeners view the pair as friends and aren’t fond of the idea having something changed that, in their eyes, wasn’t broken.
Meanwhile, rumors became reality when WOMC announced that former FM 97.1 host Jay Towers had joined the station, not as a replacement for Ryan and Markowitz, but as midday host and assistant program director.
Evening jock Bo Derek moved to afternoons temporarily to provide a live voice in afternoon drive. Other than the morning show hosted by Dick Purtan and crew, the lineup at WOMC has been in flux seemingly more than it’s been stable. Until Towers started on Friday, last week’s lineup consisted of one regular program, Purtan’s, followed by three fill-in hosts.
Going in a new direction seems to have become a habit at WOMC. Dana Masucci was fired for the same reason from middays earlier this year; she was the replacement for Tom Force — who also was given the new direction speech about three years ago.
Both Ryan and Markowitz remain upbeat. In an e-mail, Ryan said, “Mindy and I had a great run at WOMC, and we owe it all to the great listeners who tuned us in every day. It started in the mornings and then when Dick arrived, we continued our silliness on the ‘Ridin’ Home with Ryan’ show.”
“The Internet has made it possible for Mindy and I to know the listeners better, either through contests or just daily hellos. I will miss WOMC greatly, mostly because of the people we worked with daily, what a great group. We all became like a family. But this business is crazy and things like this happen.”
Markowitz commented, “We both used to love doing personal appearances and remotes because we got out of the studio and were able to meet the people that listened to us and enjoyed the program. I have so many wonderful memories of our time on the show, and I’m only going to look forward. Hopefully, someone will pick us up, and we’ll be back on the airwaves in no time.”
I talked with Art Vuolo who was in Florida as this news broke. “My cell phone rang and it was Mindy fighting tears as she related to me what had happened to her and Tom. I was stunned. The next morning, I spoke to Dick Purtan who was equally surprised by the news that his longtime friends had been eliminated from the staff.”
“I also spoke with Elaine Baker, who had been the general manager of WOMC for nearly 21 years. She expressed disappointment in the decision to oust these staples of afternoon drive-time indicating, ‘Tom is about Detroit and all the things that are good about the city.’ ”
It’s not easy to replace great people like Ryan and Matinee Mindy. Especially when their dismissal has been handled in what appears to be such a heartless fashion.
• • • • • • • •Several other voices were silenced on Monday due to a round of cost-cutting moves by Clear Channel. On-air personalities losing their jobs were Jamie Samuelsen, Greg Brady and Matt Shepard of sports WDFN-AM (1130), Tami Lockhart of WNIC-FM (100.3) and Ericka Lynn of country WDTW-FM (106.7). Rob Gramm was moved from evenings on WDTW to WKQIFM (95.5), where he’s reuniting with the Mojo in the Morning gang. In addition to these names that you know, there were several other talented people let go across the cluster that worked behind the scenes.
Clear Channel regional vice president of programming Dom Theodore commented, “We are facing the same economic challenges as every other business in Southeast Michigan. We had to say goodbye to good talented people and that is never easy. The positions being affected are based purely on solid business decisions and are in no way a reflection of the good work done by those involved.”
WDFN responded to listener complaints and announced on its Web site that it would return a yet-to-be announced live and local morning program starting tomorrow at 6 a.m. WDTW plugged in replacement programs from jocks based in Grand Rapids and Minneapolis to refill its lineup.
Theodore expressed confidence that the Michigan economy will eventually turn for the better. “We have to acknowledge that the radio business is changing, and over the next several months, we will actually be bringing on new people with different and much needed skills so that we can invest in radio’s future and continue to stay successful; you will see more people dedicated to our online efforts both in content creation and sales. The audience is changing, and we intend to go where they are going on their terms, not ours.”
• • • • • • • •When it was officially announced that embattled morning host Don Imus had signed with Citadel Broadcasting’s WABC-AM (770) New York for a Dec. 3 start, speculation immediately started about where else the I-man would show up once he returns to syndication come January.
News-talk WJR-AM (760) is also owned by Citadel, but according to operations manager Steve Stewart, “There have been absolutely no discussions about Don Imus as it relates to WJR. We’re fortunate to already have a great lineup of compelling talk show hosts.”
Two of those hosts, Paul W. Smith and Frank Beckmann, anchor WJR’s morning lineup and provide a good deal of the only truly local talk programming that connects listeners with newsmakers. I’m relieved to see WJR recognize the value Smith and Beckmann bring instead of plugging in another irrelevant show from New York City.
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It has taken me a long time, but I’m on board with WNIC’s annual all-Christmas music marathon. My kids love it and hearing these tunes truly does seem to make people happy. How can you deny the joy of your 5-year-old getting off the school bus singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? And besides, we truly do need a little Christmas right now.
• • • • • • • •Finally, a heart-felt thank you to all the veterans who deserve our admiration and support — not just today, but every day.
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Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.
Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, November 11, 2007