Hubbard Radio let go scores of employees across most of its markets on Friday, the latest broadcaster to make sizable layoffs amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In a memo to employees, Hubbard Radio chair Ginny Morris called the layoffs “tough and unprecedented” and said they were in response to “extended and extreme revenue challenges that we are experiencing as a result of government mandated shutdowns.” Morris said the family-owned company “couldn’t wait any longer to make a move toward a more efficient operating model.”
As Inside Radio reported over the weekend, 12 employees at the company’s Chicago stations were terminated. Now more details are surfacing about the cuts in the Windy City and elsewhere. In its home market of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the number of layoffs was described by the Minneapolis website for Bring Me The News as “significant.” The terminations affected employees at hot AC “KS95” KSTP, sports “Skor North” KSTP (1500) and “MyTalk 107” KTMY. At “Skor North,” which launched just over a year ago, hosts Matthew Coller, Derek Wetmore and Ramie Makhlouf, were let go along with producers Ross Brendel and Jonathan Harrison and social media coordinator Seth Auger. “These last 60 days have been REALLY hard on sports media. Especially a new brand like SKOR North, which launched just over a year ago,” Phil Mackey, Content Director and host at the station, said in a blog post. “And a recovery isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It’s unbelievably frustrating. And great people — here and elsewhere — are now in search of work because of it.” Skor North, which launched with a digital-first approach, will mostly return to ESPN Radio national programming.
Also exiting the Hubbard Twin Cities cluster are producers Don “Donny Love” Michaels and Ryan Perpich at KTMY.
In St. Louis, 20 employees were pink slipped, according to the Post-Dispatch, including WXOS host Bernie Miklasz and producer Dan Bettlach. Miklasz spent 26 years as a sports columnist for the Post-Dispatch while contributing to several of the city’s sports-talk stations, including WXOS. “In the process he became the most well-connected member of the St. Louis sports media,” writes Post-Dispatch sports media critic Dan Caesar. He left the newspaper in 2015 to join WXOS full-time. His exit prompts a revised lineup at the sports talk station.
Also out in St. Louis are morning hosts Bud Ford and Jerry Broadway and PD Danny Montana at “New Country 92.3” WIL. On air hosts Robert Fithen and Bryce Jones were dismissed at crosstown adult hits “106.5 The Arch” WARH.
In Seattle, a reported 17 staffers were sent packing, including CHR “Movin 92.5” KQMV midday personality Justin Barnes, who left after a decade with the station.
Five positions were eliminated in Washington, DC, according to Radio Insight, including WFED Editor-In-Chief Lisa Wolfe, Production Manager George Moshos, Senior Web Developer Zoe Salwen, and account execs Deborah Martins and Morgan Vekeman.
In Chicago, Hubbard handed programing responsibilities for AC WSHE-FM (100.3) to VP of Brand and Content Jimmy Steal, who will continue to program hot AC sister “101.9 The Mix” WTMX. He replaces Cat Thomas who is named Brand and Content Director of KQMV and AC “Warm 106.9” KRWM Seattle.
Also reportedly let go are classic rock KSLX Phoenix night jock Russ Egan, hot AC “Mix 94.9” WREW Cincinnati midday host Ray Anderson and morning co-host Shannon.
While Morris said she hoped the layoffs marked the end of company cutbacks due to the pandemic, she also said, “[W]e will need to continue to be responsive to the environment we are living and operating in.”
The full text of the memo follows:
May 1, 2020
Today is a very tough and unprecedented day at Hubbard Radio. The extended and extreme revenue challenges that we are experiencing as a result of government mandated shutdowns due to COVID-19 have forced us to make some very difficult decisions about our workforce. Each of our markets except those in Northern Minnesota (but including the Twin Cities) have experienced the news of a reduction in their workforce today.
Earlier on in this COVID journey, I shared with you that we hoped this step could be avoided but the financial challenges are just too great and we still have no insight on when any, much less all, of our markets will begin to experience some relief. We couldn’t wait any longer to make a move toward a more efficient operating model.
The decisions faced by each of your local leaders was very difficult and in each of our markets, we are saying goodbye to good friends and trusted colleagues. Please join me in thanking them for their many contributions during their time with the company and in wishing them only the very best in the future.
As we turn the page toward the future, I am encouraged to report that as car traffic increases in our markets, radio listening levels lift accordingly. During this unprecedented time, each of our on-air teams have done an exemplary job of tending to the needs of our listeners. Whether from their homes or a studio, the programming teams have further proven to our listeners, friends and fans that we are here for them in good times as well as in challenging times.
Our sales teams have been working hard every day to help our advertising partners craft their messages for today and/or to prepare for a day when they will return to our airwaves and digital platforms. We have controlled what we could in constructive and creative ways and I believe we are well positioned for our communities’ and country’s ‘Grand Re-Opening.’ Our advertising partners know that we are here for them in good times as well as in challenging times.
Many of you are likely wondering “is this the end to the changes?” I certainly hope so but the simple truth is that we will need to continue to be responsive to the environment we are living and operating in. My greatest hope, of course, is that the loosening of restrictions in some of our markets will continue and build and advertisers and consumer alike will begin to gain confidence in spending and investing again. It’s pretty hard to advertise if your doors are closed and that is the position that a great many of our advertising partners find themselves in.
Please know that we continue to put your health and safety at the top of our list of priorities. Accordingly, when we do return to our offices all appropriate steps will be taken.
Thank you all for the very hard work you are doing on behalf of the company during this very difficult time in our history. It does not go unnoticed and it is not unappreciated.
With a heavy and hopeful heart,