Radio, media and broadcasting have always been a tough business. You’re only as good as your last ratings book and the revenues of the business. Thus, my “Rule #1: Ratings and Revenue.”
If you don’t understand this, chances are you’re doomed.
But, with all the changes in recent years, the lay-offs still have come with some sense of business decorum and decency. At least that was the attempt. I can’t tell you the number of people I had to lay-off, RIF or “right-size” in my career. Firing for cause? Not a problem. Once I answered the question, “Is (insert name here) hurting the team or station?” and I was able to answer yes with 100% certainty, they were gone that day. But, lay-offs? That’s tough.
When I was called into a conference room and told my “position was being eliminated,” I rather felt sorry for Carl Anderson. He was the corporate guy who got the gig to do it. I always liked him and still do. Still, he stammered through the :20 second conversation, saying nothing but “Your position has been eliminated” three times or so. Walking back to my now former office, the local Cincinnati comptroller and witness said he felt badly and apologized. I said, “Don’t. I’ve been on your side of it more times than I care to count. It’s business.” I always felt
Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media had things really wrapped up when it came to “human resources” during their annual and continuous “right-sizings.”
Then there are companies like Magnum Communications. Although, their website is magnumbroadcasting.com. And look they also DJ weddings. Now that’s a conglomerate!
The company is owned by a fellow named Dave Magnum. I know. You’re thinking of the condom or the malt liquor. No. There really is a Dave Magnum.
Back in June 2014, Dave and his company purchased WRJN-AM and WEZY-FM in Racine, Wisconsin from Bliss Communications and Dave was thrilled to have (as he put it) the “privilege to be the next stewards of these heritage stations.” He talked about his start 23 years ago and wanting “to grow across Wisconsin.” He said, “I’m blessed to work with so many talented and loyal individuals, many of whom have been on board since the early 90’s.”
Former owner Skip Bliss called the employees transferring over to the new company, “terrific.” That the sale was an “opportunity for me to pass the ownership of these great stations on to another Wisconsin broadcasting family. The staffs of the Racine and West Bend stations have served a large number of listeners and advertisers for many years. We sincerely appreciate the dedication and commitment of this outstanding group of associates.”
Judging by these comments this must be broadcasting nirvana!
Well that was the end of June 2014. Just six months later, at the end of December, Wisconsin is a cold, snowy, overcast and depressing place to be, especially (as it turned out) if you were the program director and a show host at WRJN-AM for the past 23 years.
Don Rosen was let go.
Of course Don being “right-sized” out of a gig is nothing special. Hundreds, maybe thousands get “right-sized” at the end of each year by radio companies, both large and small, in cities all across America. But, it’s the way this was done that caught my attention.
According to Rosen, Dave Magnum called him on the telephone at 6:30pm last Friday night, December 26th to tell him he was no longer needed. On the TELEPHONE. I guess it was the last thing on Dave’s daily “to-do” list and he needed to scratch that off before he could enjoy the regular season finale of the Green Bay Packers that weekend.
Magnum explained his actions by saying he promised to let Don know as soon as he decided. I’m sure Dave’s an honorable guy and who’s to question whether he came to his decision at 6:29pm the Friday after Christmas. He could have! And maybe he and Rosen had discussions earlier that day saying he would call once the sun set. Possible.
In commenting to the press Dave said, “It was a team that was running a wishbone offense and will be going to a pro-style offense. It’s nothing about Don’s performance as a professional – we’re changing the direction of the radio station; we’re calling it ‘your radio station friend.’ It will be about companionship and the views of the listeners rather than the views of our host.”
Somehow I think Rush Limbaugh would disagree with that whole “views of our host” thing.
All well and good. Magnum owns the station and can do what he wants with it. There’s just one more tiny, little thing.
After almost 24 years, Rosen received ZERO severance. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Just a lesson in a college football offensive scheme.
Dave explained this lack of severance by noting Magnum Communications has only owned WRJN-AM since November 1, when the sale closed, and Rosen only worked for the company just a few weeks. And besides, he’s giving Don three more days on the air so he and listeners can reminisce about the good times over the past 23 plus years.
How thoughtful during this “holiday season of giving.”
I don’t know Don Rosen. But, former bosses have lined up saying he worked like a mule as WRJN’s program director, an air personality and at times an engineer. One saying, “(Rosen) worked his butt off, and it’s a shame to see it end this way.”
“Shame” pretty much sums it up.
Let me offer up some personal and legal advice so you can protect yourself in this turbulent world of radio, media and broadcasting.
A contract is not between you, your boss and/or your company. A contract is between you and the person who replaces your boss and/or your company.
Never forget that.
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The transition quotes sound like something from the latest PRNewswire release. When I see quotes like that, I generally believe time to be short.
Who knows why there was no severance. Not enough money to make the next payment/payroll or Scrooge really bought the stations.
Whether you’re tossed out the door or just pointed in it’s direction with a wink (as BC said), it’s never pleasant. There’s not easy way around it or about it. But some bosses/owners just make it an art to be bad about it.
My guess is Don will land on his feet somewhere. Sadly and most likely out of broadcasting. And probably better of in the long run.
I was let go from a position in New Orleans with a “We have 3 quarterbacks and cutting back to two”….so another football reference for down sizing! Radio is like coaching ..there ate those who have been fired and those who will be fired….
Larry, I’m sorry to hear you received a lesson in football too. Rather weak managers if all they can come with in their desire to show sympathy is a lame football analogy. Have a Happy 2015! Please stay in touch. Darryl
I worked with Don and he was absolutely committed, getting up at all hours to go into the station to make sure we were always on air. He also went above and beyond to help us in sales. He was treated very poorly in that situation as were many others who were “let go” or forced out. My guess is the stations will be sold again very soon.
Don was truly dedicated but his actions on the air were abusive and horrible. his talk show was horrible and he always had the same 3 callers.
It was an embarassment. He just lost his way.