WSB radio showed the door to a couple of experienced Atlanta news guys last week. Jeff Dantre and Kerry Browning were laid off. Browning had been at WSB radio since Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Cox Radio also laid off some FM DJs.
It wasn’t that long ago that Atlanta had two vigorously competitive radio news organizations. When WGST threw in the towel and ended its local news presence, that left WSB as the only commercial radio news outfit. (WVEE / WAOK has a fringe news presence, but it’s very spotty.) But WSB’s product has never been particularly impressive, churning out forty-second reports from staffers who are usually a) on a breaking news story, b) covering a court hearing, meeting or news conference or c) reading the AP wire / AJC. It rarely generates enterprise stories.
Part of its problem is that the staff is spread absurdly thin. WSB radio tries to convey a 24/7 presence with but a handful of people. And those people don’t appear solely on AM 750. They also have assignments with other Cox FM radio properties, the studios of which are neatly lined up on the ground floor of WSB’s monolith at 1601 Peachtree St. Now the staff is spread even thinner.
Radio news continues to play second fiddle to the all-important “weather and traffic together.” And WSB’s promotion continues to harangue the “liberal” or “mainstream” media while promoting its right-wing talk shows. When Dantre and Browning were released, were they released from some kind of Fox News Channel-style alternative media? Doesn’t matter now, at least not to them.
Speaking of craven radio promotion: WSB even made meteorologist Kirk Melhuish change the spelling of his last name so that it could create billboards that say “when the weather turns hellish, rely on Mellish.”
One question is whether WSB will now fall behind the only other radio news outfit in town, WABE. The NPR station broadcasts a full boat of local news cut-ins during its morning and evening drive shows. The problem is that WABE reporters never cover breaking news. The station’s stubbornness in that regard is almost admirable. But it also shows that motorists wanting the very latest news can’t count on WABE for anything that isn’t a news conference, a court hearing, a meeting, or a rehash of the AJC.
Another question is whether WSB radio will begin to lean even more heavily on the staff of WSB-TV. How long will it be before TV reporters are regularly calling in voicers for radio?
It’s never been truer: Radio is a sad salvation. And it just got sadder.
H/T Rodney Ho’s AJC blog.