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Posts Tagged ‘Liz Aiello’

Dishing With Countess LuAnn de Lesseps; Willie Geist and Lawrence O’Donnell Hold Court

lunch logoThe oppressive heat couldn’t keep the faithful away  from Michael’s today. I haven’t seen the place this crowded in ages as most tables were set for four (or more). In fact, the place was so jam packed that TV Guide magazine acting CEO and Wednesday regular Jack Kliger was seated in the Garden Room. Unlike a few people I could mention, Jack is far too cool to care  about something as petty as seating arrangements. Just like the rest of the crowd — not.

Carole Radziwill, one of the more recent additions to the cast of  The Real Housewives of New York City was first to arrive in the dining room today. The alarmingly thin socialite was sporting a curious furry accessory that was neither pet nor purse, sky-high platforms and a sweet flowered dress. Carole passed the time waiting for the rest of her party to arrive by taking pictures of the life-size sculptures of sheep that stand in the restaurant’s lounge. Alrighty then.

Speaking of Housewives, I was joined today by one of my favorite members of the franchise, LuAnn de Lesseps, who drove in from the Hamptons for our tete a tete. The statuesque former model (she’s 5’10″!) has always seemed like one of the more down to earth — and dare we say normal — Bravolebrities. She was all that and more. PR princess extraordinaire Catherine Saxton, who knows everyone who is anyone and is off to the south of France in a few days for the first of the big St. Tropez parties aboard Denise Rich‘s yacht, then go off to join Ivana Trump for her party in St. Tropez  before finally landing in Monte Carlo for a whirlwind of swanky dinners (Can we carry your luggage?), arranged for today’s ladies’ lunch. Between bites of crab cakes and salmon tartare, we chatted about LuAnn’s sixth season on RHNYC, her various projects and, of course, her love life. It’s no secret that LuAnn was one of the last ladies to sign on to the new season of the show. “I waited until I was happy with their offer,” she told me, dismissing rumors that the cast was banding together for salary increases. “Things were handled individually.” While she’s too polite to talk about such gauche topics as money — she did write the manners manual Class with the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair, after all!  But she is upfront about her reasons for sticking with the show. “It’s a great platform.” All the better to ride the wave as long as you can, no? Mais oui! ”We didn’t expect it to last this long,” said LuAnn.

Catherine Saxton, Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Like most of the industrious Housewives set, LuAnn has managed to turn in her 15 minutes into a fledgling empire that includes her book, the record “Money Can’t Buy You Class” and several product lines like tabletop that includes melamine dinnerware and elegant bone china which is currently being sold on QVC and Amazon.com (“Inspired by my love of entertaining and my travels”). Next up is a collection of turquoise jewelry with Gem Stone King. “I love costume jewelry!” she said as she flashed a Wilma Flinstone-inspired pearl bracelet by Twisted. Clearly, the serious bling encased in gold on her finger today was the real thing. “Yes, it’s a star sapphire. This ring was designed by the same man who has done jewelry for Queen Elizabeth.” And not, I’m guessing, available on QVC.

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Lauren Berger Writes New Book for Young People Entering "Real World"

Lauren Berger Welcome to the Real WorldCareer Expert, Lauren Berger, releases her second book, Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), on April 22nd. In this book, Berger shares everything she wishes someone told her after graduation. Her book is the essential guide to anyone starting their first, second, or third job. She encourages readers to be fearless, step outside of their comfort zones, and go after what they want.

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.

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.

Sara Lee Kessler Exits FM News 101.9/WEMP

Change is in the air and on the air at the upstart newser 101.9/WEMP. FishbowlNY has learned that veteran broadcaster Sara Lee Kessler has left the station. Kessler, best known for her long-running stint as WWOR/Channel 9 anchor, had been a reporter for WEMP since its inception in August.

One source tells FishbowlNY that Kessler is among several staffers that may be let go due to “outs” in their contracts as Merlin Media is now in a cutback mode.

However, another person with knowledge of the situation was not familiar with any personnel changes, other than Kessler. Additionally, that person could not confirm if Kessler left on her own volition or was squeezed out.

There’s been turmoil at WEMP since signing on last summer. The station has struggled mightily to find an audience, which led to the ouster of VP of programming Liz Aiello earlier this year and COO Walter Sabo in December.

Last week, Randy Michaels and Merlin began the march toward the future, naming Eric Seidel interim program director.

WEMP inched ahead in the January Arbitron ratings to a .7.

Update: FishbowlNY has confirmed that evening anchor Maureen Langan and reporter Bob Brown have also left the station.

Report: Interim Program Director Named at WEMP

It’s been three weeks since WEMP pulled the plug on its programming VP Liz Aiello. A report by NTS MediaOnline says Merlin Media has hired Eric Seidel, a former WGST station manager, to help his former boss Randy Michaels as the WEMP interim program director.

FishbowlNY learned earlier this month that the station was conducting a nationwide search for the next programming head.

The January Arbitron ratings released this week showed a slight uptick for WEMP at .7.

Merlin Media Tries to Work Magic in Finding a New Programming VP at WEMP

The wheels of the Merlin Media’s experimental All-News FM format are still coming off. As we reported over the weekend, WEMP 101.9 VP of programming Liz Aiello was fired Thursday, after just eight months with the company–six with the station firing on all cyclinders.

Updating the story today, FishbowlNY has learned that Merlin has handed the reins to veteran broadcasting exec Al Gardner, recently hired by Randy Michaels to helm a Philadelphia version of WEMP.

Sources also tell FishbowlNY that Merlin is conducting a nationwide for Aiello’s successor.

The ratings for WEMP have been abysmal, .5 in the most recent book, down .1 from the previous month.

There has been upheaval at Merlin Media in recent weeks, if not since first taking the air from Emmis’ WRXP in August.

Walter Sabo was ousted from his position as company COO before year’s end.

Liz Aiello Ousted as WEMP Programming VP

To say the ratings for WEMP/FM News 101.9 have been in the tank since hitting the air in August would be kind. In the latest Arbitron numbers, the Merlin Media start-up slipped from a .6 to a microscopic .5.

Those ratings indicate a failed experiment, and heads are rolling on Hudson Street.

Liz Aiello, VP of programming for WEMP, has been shown the door, FishbowlNY has confirmed. Aiello, hired by Merlin in June, had her last day Thursday.

Though she arrived with an extensive broadcasting resume, Aiello lacked any All-News experience. Aiello was a managing editor and executive producer at WABC/Channel 7. Aiello arrived at WEMP following a stint at Sirius XM Radio as SVP for Martha Stewart‘s channels. Aiello also was Howard Stern‘s one-time news director at Sirius.

Aiello’s departure comes in the aftermath of COO Walter Sabo‘s, who left before New Years.

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Taking Taxi to the Top at WEMP

September marked WEMP’s first full month listed in the Arbitron survey. For the overall 6+ rating, the upstart newser dropped to a .5.

The ratings period began August 18, meaning Hurricane Irene coverage later that month was included.

WEMP had been part of the August ratings, but only five days worth at a 1.1.

WEMP/FM News COO Walter Sabo says a trend needs more than one month to establish itself.

Following the September PPM ratings, FishbowlNY spent some time with the Merlin Media executive.

Sabo hailed a cab following our Midtown meeting. Once in the taxi, the radio mastermind overheard his station filtering through the glass partition.

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FM News 101.9/WEMP Begins Online Streaming

As WEMP begins its second full week as a 24-hour-a-day news station, listeners now have the option to hear 101.9 online.

WEMP began streaming on its website Friday.

But, before clicking the “Listen Live” for the news format geared to women loaded with lifestyle and entertainment features, visitors are encouraged to answer a few questions.

Merlin execs chose morning co-anchor (longtime, former WINS reporter) Alice Stockton-Rossini as the face for this experiment.

With a picture of Rossini on the page, she “asks” for input from new listeners. 

“I need your thoughts on the type of stories and information that would be most helpful to you all day,” Rossini writes.

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WEMP/101.9 Debuts News Format, Struggles to Find Sound

There had been plenty of rumor and speculation surrounding 101.9 since Merlin Media took over the former Rock station WRXP last month. After playing an interim mix of 1980s pop music, 101.9 FM “New” finally added the “s” to its name Monday (after a “soft launch” over the  weekend). With its new call letters WEMP, 101.9 is now New York’s only full-time FM news station, a slogan the news anchors are quick to promote.

WEMP does employ some major talent, including those who’ve called WINS and WCBS-AM home.

Reports have indicated that Merlin was gearing 101.9 toward women in the 25 to 54 age bracket, especially the younger end of that group. It doesn’t take long to see that’s definitely the case.

Anchors used the interim format as a trial period to get the kinks out. However, we’d soon learn that would not be the case.   

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