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.