WSB radio woes

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.

This entry was posted in WABE, WSB-AM on by .

About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

20 thoughts on “WSB radio woes

  1. Austin Rhodes

    Proud to report Augusta’s NewsTalk leader, WGAC-AM-FM, has a four person, full time news staff.
    On staff we have Murrow Award winners, AP winners, GAB winners…and consistently make budget and ratings goals.
    A quality product will survive…WSB should get back to the indepth reporting.

  2. burke brennan

    When I started at GST in 1996, there were 30+ in the newsroom. When I left in 2003, there were 8.

    Radio news, sadly, is on the endangered species list, but then again newspapers and TV are as well.

    WSB kept the news image alive long after all the others threw in the towel, but its always a shame when good people like Jeff and Kerry are shown the door. No doubt, though, that better things await them both.

  3. Sandra Parrish

    While our newsroom greatly mourns the loss of both Jeff and Kerry, I take issue with your comments that WSB does not enterprise its own stories. Our news team regulary wins Murrow, AP, and Green Eye Shades awards for stories, most of which are enterprise. My own documentary on the lives of Katrina victims a year after the tragedy, something you rarely see done, if ever, on a commercial radio station, won numerous awards including a Murrow. We also have our own coverage of the Legislature, not relying on TV, the AJC, or wire copy to inform our listeners. Granted we have very little time in our newscasts for longer pieces, Atlanta’s Morning News with Scott Slade regulary features enterprise stories in the quarter hours from 5 to 8:30am. So don’t be so quick to overlook the hard work and hours the reporters who still remain here are putting in on a daily basis!

  4. live apt fire Post author

    @Sandra– I think I used the word “rarely” to describe the presence of enterprise stories on WSB. I won’t dispute your contention that when they do appear, they’re well done. Likewise, your presence in the legislature is consistent and heartening. I hope you’re able to continue that with the reduced staff.

    I would never suggest (and didn’t) that WSB radio’s staff isn’t working its collective tail off.

    Thanks for checking in. Sorry about the tumult there.

  5. Austin Rhodes

    Truth be told…if WSB-AM (Cox radio Atlanta) didn’t have FM deadweight dragging it down…I bet it would be fine.

  6. Austin Rhodes

    …and the guy at WGST who let Clark Howard and Neal Boortz go? He is working for Georgia Public Radio. LOL !

  7. ifb

    There are layoffs everywhere.
    But for some reason, when WAGA had layoffs I didn’t read about it here.

    [[ @IFB: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think WAGA laid off any on-air folk. That’s why I didn’t write about it. If you’ve got something you want to say about it, feel free to submit a piece or another comment.– LAF ]]

  8. scott hedeen

    You know I might feel worse about WSB radio… if I didnt have to look at those billboards with Saddam Husein, Lil’ Kim in Korea, and Osama Bin Laden saying… “Now more than ever”. Wow. GREAT promotion scheme.

  9. marcman

    It seems to me that a major market news radio station can do more than just churn out weather and traffic reports every six minutes and repeat the same three or four news stories every half hour.Pardon me, but I don’t think that effort is worthy of any news awards.

  10. ifb

    [[ @IFB: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think WAGA laid off any on-air folk. That’s why I didn’t write about it. If you’ve got something you want to say about it, feel free to submit a piece or another comment.– LAF ]]

    Your response confirms my comment.
    And I’m sorry if I outed the stations layoffs.
    Sounds like it was hard to accept

  11. Austin Rhodes

    I doubt the man who let Clark Howard and Neal Boortz leave WGST for WSB is a COMMIE…but he is a damn fool.

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  14. LBJ

    Something else WGST let go over the past 10 years – good local weekend programming. There were great weekend shows to help you fix your car, house, etc. Now it’s one big plugfest with the weekend shows barely answering questions…they are too busy plugging a sponsor/cohost. I hear the shows now are charged over $2,000 per hour to do what is basically an infomercial.

  15. Inside the newsroom

    If you think you can’t count on WABE for anything “that isn’t a news conference, a court hearing, a meeting, or a rehash of the AJC,” you’re just not listening to WABE.

    Every day our newsroom enterprises fresh stories, furthers understanding of an ongoing story, and aggressively pursues developing news. Notice, I didn’t use the hyperbole–‘breaking news.’ If Atlantans want to know about every house fire, fatal car accident, or neighborhood shooting, then no–WABE is not the place to get that. But when the story is important to our community, WABE is just as aggressive and timely as any other Atlanta news operation-print or broadcast. And people (motorists and journalists alike) are noticing. WABE’s recent metro ratings are higher than they’ve ever been, and many times the AJC picks up a story WABE aired on the previous day.

    We all lament the breakdown of local news, no matter what the format. But don’t swear off radio news in Atlanta just yet.

  16. Richard Warner

    As for WGST letting Boortz and Clark go, the pair certainly wasn’t shown the door on Pharr Road (as I was). Bob Houghton — the man referred to in one of the posts above — certainly shouldn’t be criticized for what happened.

    WSB stepped up to the plate with significant offers to Boortz and Clark based on what their research showed about the two personalities, research WGST didn’t have access to.

    That was the beginning of the end for competitive news on radio in Atlanta. Middays are the most difficult to program on NewsTalk stations, and both were heavy draws on NewsRadio 92/640.

    The end of their tenure and the beginning of the first Braves contract were the modern day ratings peak at WGST: a 6 share, compared to the 1.2s they account for today.

    Maybe one of these days, the ratings will dip so low, they’ll just send data over the frequency 🙂


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