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Departing radio personalities are often erased without a trace

January 22, 2010

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Departing radio personalities are often erased without a trace
 
Friday, January 22, 2010

In the 1980s, local news personality John McIntire was parting ways with an Orlando television station when he came upon the promotions director removing all traces of himself from its commercials.

"It's like you were never born," the promotions director told Mr. McIntire.

"Like 'A Wonderful Life,' " McIntire quipped back.

In the turbulent world of radio and television, personalities often don't just leave -- they get utterly eliminated.

It's a phenomenon on display this week with the mysterious disappearance of co-host Randy Baumann from WDVE's top-rated morning show.

Tuesday morning, Mr. Baumann was gone from the broadcast with no explanation.

The show is now being billed on air as Jim Krenn and the WDVE Morning Show and Mr. Baumann's name and photos have disappeared from the WDVE Web site.

"I think I saw his picture on a milk carton," joked Mr. McIntire, who considers himself a friend of Mr. Baumann's but hasn't heard from him in the last few days.

Clear Channel Radio, which owns WDVE, did not return a phone call yesterday for comment.

It's "fairly typical" for radio personalities to disappear from the airwaves without explanation, said Tom Taylor, executive news editor of radio-info.com.

"Every situation is different," he said. "There could be a range of things. It's a play that has more acts to play out."

Sometimes, the station does put out a news release explaining why a personality was let go, said Mr. Taylor.

But "more often, you just get a clean break," he said. "What that leads to is even more speculation. If you don't give the public an answer to what happened, they'll fill in the blanks on their own."

Indeed, legions of "Jim and Randy" fans have been scratching their collective heads this week, wondering what happened to someone they thought of as a friend.

The radio show has gone on without him this week, with morning team members -- Mr. Krenn, Val Porter and Mike Prisuta -- making no mention of Mr. Baumann's absence.

"I think it's disrespectful to the listeners," said Nashville-based radio consultant Robert Unmacht. "Who are you fooling?"

Whether the fact that Mr. Baumann has disappeared so completely will alienate any of WDVE's loyal fan base remains to be seen.

"One thing management banks on is that people are creatures of habit," said Mr. McIntire. "Even if you don't have Randy, you still have Jimmy and Mike and Val. It's a gamble on their part."

Mr. Baumann started at WDVE in 2000, replacing former morning host Scott Paulsen, who left when his contract expired.

Morning shows are typically among the most expensive for radio stations to produce, said Mr. Unmacht, and have been squeezed as radio stations increasingly face financial difficulties.

Although most radio stations are still profitable, he said, many of the large radio conglomerates have tremendous debt loads and are looking to cut costs.

In some instances, said Mr. McIntire, he believes that radio stations scrub themselves fresh of talent in part to keep other employees in line.

"It's like, 'We don't need you that much and we're going to prove it by forgetting we ever knew you and replacing your image,' " he said. "They send a message to everybody in the building."

Anya Sostek can be reached at asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.
 

 

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