KWMT FM 92.9 The Mountain has bounced program director/morning co-host Blake Rogers—a move that caught many people, including Rogers, by surprise.
"I don't know what their plan was," said Rogers. "It wasn't something, in my opinion, that had been thought about for very long."
Rogers joined the Clear Channel-operated station five years ago and helped mold the AAA/adult-alternative format there—which is probably the closest thing to "unique" among the cookie-cutter corporate-radio formats in this market. The sudden firing suggests he may have been on the losing end of a political battle with morning show co-host Jennie Grabel.
"It's been a challenge to find the right chemistry in the morning. I'm the fourth co-host to be paired with Jennie in the last five years," said Rogers. "I was sent there to the morning show two years ago to try to boost ratings. In fact, we were top 5 in the market earlier this year for the first time ever. I think it's a fair question to ask why they would go back to something that wasn't working."
Rogers began his stint at The Mountain as the music director and as a weekday-afternoon DJ. He eventually gained the title of assistant program director and later program director.
The element of surprise in his dismissal is furthered by Rogers' relationship with Clear Channel Tucson operations manager Tim Richards (who was unavailable for comment): The two are cousins.
"He was the one who let me go, but that has nothing to do with this. I was never protected by family," Rogers said. "I was probably a little more scrutinized than the average employee just based on that. When I was hired five years ago, people may have thought there was a little bit of nepotism, but based on the ratings success and the events we did at the station that I was a part of, I proved myself over the years. ... I'm sure it was difficult for him. There was always mutual respect for the position. It did take a couple years to figure out the groove to work in, but we figured it out. Being related didn't have a play in it. It was business, and business is business."
However, Rogers said the relationship factor and his roles regarding Grabel—which created a sort of who's-the-boss scenario—made for some unique management issues.
"We were close. We worked a lot together. She was the music director. There was a difficult dynamic, because I was her boss as well, yet when we did the morning show, I was her co-host and not the program director. There were many difficult balances. ... There were definitely some dynamics to manage, and I thought I did a great job doing that throughout the time I was there. I know there was a challenge finding someone to mesh the chemistry right. I'm the fourth person to be paired with her, and the fourth person who is no longer at the radio station."
Clear Channel's decision to cut Rogers loose also came at an interesting time in terms of the number of events he had on his plate.
"Some of the projects I've been working on are our next Studio C show for charity; our Green October broadcasts, which is a big production every October; (and) our holiday concert, which I was putting together as well," said Rogers. "I was appointed to a small committee by Clear Channel. They were leaning heavily on my contacts in Congress to gain support against this 'performance tax' bill initiative by record companies that would cost radio stations thousands of dollars extra per year. I was appointed to another small committee by our company, working with the Tucson Police Department on a campaign against graffiti, so I've been writing some PSAs with those guys. I worked ... with Angel Charity on the kids' fashion show fundraiser. We raised $265,000 three weeks ago for the Children's Miracle Network and (Tucson Medical Center). That was a Jennie-and-Blake venture. I also did a lot of work with Tu Nudito. I work on their annual charity auction and am on the committee. Those were the sorts of things I was doing and we were working on."
Rogers has yet to plot his next move, although in the interim, he's keeping busy with his Web endeavors at blakerogers.biz.
"I put a lot of hard work into launching the station five years ago, and I know we had a couple of casualties in the market because of the station: Star 97.5 (now Citadel-owned Bob 97.5 KSZR FM) and The Point 104.1 (now Journal-owned KQTH 104.1 FM). Those were competitors, and we were making some headway. Things were good."
General-assignment reporter Ed Tribble and weekend sports anchor Dan Joseph have announced their decisions to leave KVOA Channel 4.
Tribble has accepted a position in Phoenix.
"After three years at KVOA, I am moving on," Tribble said via e-mail. "I've accepted a job as a multimedia journalist at KPNX, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix. Also, I'll be closer to my girlfriend of a few years who lives in Phoenix, so it's a good professional and personal move. I've enjoyed the three years I've spent in Tucson, but like Major League Baseball, the TV business is about climbing your way up, which includes moving every few years."
Tribble's last day will be Oct. 23. His decision to leave KVOA occurred before the station officially implemented its one-man-band multimedia-journalist policy. (Check out last week's Media Watch for more on that.) Tribble is moving onto one of two stations in Phoenix that have activated a similar local-news model.
Joseph will leave KVOA in late November.
Meanwhile, on the eastside, Forrest Carr was officially named KGUN Channel 9's news director. He replaces Lena Sadiwskyj, who was let go last month. Carr was KGUN's news director a decade ago. Since then, he has handled similar duties with stations in Florida and Albuquerque, N.M.