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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Austin Thomas’

News Gone From WEMP, Alternative Music Returns

Staff meetings were held this morning at Merlin Media stations in New York, WEMP, and in Chicago, WIQI. Effective immediately, WEMP has flipped from its ill-fated News format. However, the surprise is, a planned News/Talk hybrid like Merlin is using in Philadelphia, is not happening.

The station is returning to its Emmis roots with 101.9 New Rock, an Alternative rock station.

The handwriting has been on the wall for FM News/WEMP to make a major change, after it was unable to get past a .6 in the ratings. Interestingly, a News/Talk idea gained traction when the station hired Mark Austin Thomas, a veteran of that genre.

Merlin Media CEO Randy Michaels tells All Access, ”It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change. I’d like to thank the people who poured their heart and soul into the effort and I wish them all the best.”

Update: FishbowlNY has learned from a source close to the situation at WEMP that virtually the entire staff has been let go, including management. News director Thomas, hired in May, and last month Terry Sheridan, brought in from WINS as newsroom manager, also was sent packing. We’re told a several younger editors, and a couple of reporters, siblings Mike Murillo and Michelle Murillo stay on, primarily to gather news for the sister station in Philadelphia. The new Alternative format began just as the 10 a.m. meeting concluded, although without jocks for the time being.

We’re told that the anchors Alice Stockton-Rossini, Catherine Smith, and Dave Packer are among the purged. However, Maria Garcia does remain. She has many years of DJ experience on Long Island.

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Breaking: End of Line for Merlin’s WEMP as FM News

Merlin Media is ready to cut its losses as an all-news FM station. FishbowlNY has confirmed the upstart radio company, owned by Randy Michaels, is holding a full staff meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. We’re told Merlin is also scheduling meetings at its Chicago newser.

Sources tell FishbowlNY that WEMP will become a hybrid News/Talk format, likely modeled after Merlin’s Philadelphia station, IQ 106.9.

Someone with knowledge of the situation says significant layoffs are expected at the meetings.

“They’re expecting the worst because they’ve already seen the worst.” the source tells FishbowlNY

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, we’re told that the new format is expected to launch in September. There’s no word if the meetings will expedite the tweaking.

WEMP has had nearly non-existent numbers since taking the 101.9 frequency from Emmis last summer. The station has been stuck at a .6 in recent months.

With endless struggles to find the right sound, several key managers, including VP of programming/news director Liz Aiello, and Merlin COO Walter Sabo, were shown the door by the start of 2012.

In May, WEMP hired Los Angeles News/Talk programming veteran Mark Austin Thomas to take the reigns into year-two.

Veteran WINS Reporter Terry Sheridan Jumps Ship for WEMP

This summer marks one year for FM News 101.9/WEMP. Prior to the debut, owner Merlin Media went after its eventual competition by grabbing several WINS employees.

WEMP is at it again.

Terry Sheridan, a reporter with WINS since May 2001, has been named WEMP newsroom manager, effective tomorrow. At WINS, Sheridan covered numerous big stories, including the 9/11 attacks and the Flight 587 plane crash.

“It’s bittersweet to be leaving WINS after 11 years, but I’m excited and looking forward to the opportunity to join the team at FM News,” Sheridan tells FishbowlNY.

Before his stint at WINS, Sheridan had a three-year run as director of programming and operations at Westwood One’s Shadow Broadcast Services.

Throughout his 30-year radio career, Sheridan has also been heard on WCBS 880 and WOR.

A Fordham University graduate, Sheridan was program director at the school’s WFUV.

Last month, WEMP named California-based Mark Austin Thomas station VP/news director. The change at the top was needed, in part, because of poor ratings. The April Arbitron figures show 101.9 slipping to a .6, making it one of the lowest charting stations in New York.

WEMP Fires Managing Editor Doug O’Brien

The last connection to the old regime at WEMP/FM News 101.9 has been severed. FishbowlNY has learned exclusively that managing editor Doug O’Brien, a veteran of New York radio, was fired.

Earlier this week, we reported that WEMP hired Mark Austin Thomas as the station’s VP/news director.

O’Brien was one of several hires, before the launch last summer, from WINS. He made the move with his wife Catherine Smith. Sources says Smith remains as WEMP anchor.

O’Brien brought his distinct sound to WINS listeners for 14 years. He also worked for WCBS-AM and as news director at WNBC in the mid 1980s.

Although primarily an off-air job at WEMP, O’Brien, who was let go yesterday, occasionally was heard voicing taped features and reporting during severe weather.

WEMP Hires New VP/News Director

While WEMP/FM News 101.9 has enjoyed anything but a steady ride since launching last summer, perhaps this will mark the start of smoother sailing.

The Merlin Media All-Newser has hired veteran Los Angeles news director Mark Austin Thomas, All Access.com reports.  He’ll take on the same management role left vacated when original VP of programming, Liz Aiello who was dropped in February.

Thomas has extensive radio experience in the number two market, serving as news director and anchor at KABC-AM and KFI. He was program director at KLAC.  Also in L.A., Thomas has been anchor/host at KNX and KPCC.

Additionally, Thomas worked as news director and anchor at KSOL in San Francisco, and was host of public radio’s Marketplace Morning Report.

Since Merlin began its news format last August, the ratings have been dreadful. It’s been a consistent .7 in the last several Arbitron books.  Along with Aiello, station COO Walter Sabo exited before the start of the year. Several on-air staffers also were sent packing, as the station sought the right mix.