The current economic situation affecting us has, among other things, already spread to the business world with no immediate relief in sight — and nobody and nothing is immune to it, including the media industry. Of course, some of the recent decisions made by various media outlets in order to stay in the black have been nothing less than disasterous — especially when the quality of the overall product suffers in the long run. Last week, WTIC AM 1080 — one of the leading radio stations in my home state of Connecticut — laid off two of its on-air hosts, Colin McEnroe and Diane Smith. WTIC didn’t give much of an explanation why they gave the boot to McEnroe and Smith — and in the opinion of many, including myself, it really wasn’t a convincing explanation to begin with. Even the Hartford Courant — also facing its own financial woes — was outraged by WTIC’s decision, so much so that it wrote an editorial blasting it two days after McEnroe and Smith’s final day at the station.
It’s bad enough that WTIC fired both McEnroe and Smith — worse still, it happened on the last day of 2008. By doing so, WTIC has severly damaged its own reputation by choosing profits and high ratings over the quality and integrity that defines what the radio industry used to be before the self-proclaimed political pundits started to dominate it over a decade before — and at the worst possible moment. In one of the most difficult times in our modern history, some things that are sacred — like mass media — should be left alone, even if you’re facing serious financial difficulties.
In the long run, WTIC’s decision will have serious consequences, not only for the station (and its owner, CBS), but also the radio industry (both local and national) and perhaps the rest of mass media as a whole — not to mention the millions of people who rely on the various mass media outlets in order to be both entertained and enlightened. And all because one radio station sacrified its high standards in the name of the all-mighty dollar — a situation no less numbing than the financial crisis that’s already turned the world upside-down, and just as tragic as the most somber of Greek plays.
January 5, 2009