Massive cuts by national radio chain Clear Channel Communications hit home Tuesday with the layoff of more than two dozen Twin Cities employees, including several on-air personalities.
The highest-profile casualty: KFAN's Chad Hartman, a sports-talk stalwart for nearly 20 years who also served as the Timberwolves play-by-play announcer for most of that run. His producer, Darren (Doogie) Wolfson, was also let go.
"If we weren't facing this economic tsunami and this came out of nowhere and multiple people were let go, it would be a bigger surprise," said Hartman. "Still, it's difficult when you're the individual that has to deal with it." He was given the news around the same time President Obama was being sworn in.
Clear Channel employees were braced for a rough day. The San Antonio-based company, which operates more than 1,200 radio stations, was expected to trim its workforce by 7 percent. But Tuesday's cuts were worse than expected: 1,850 workers lost their jobs, a cut of 9 percent. The move, in response to a dramatic drop in ad revenue, is expected to save the company at least $400 million.
Most of the local cuts came from sales and promotions departments at the corporation's seven Twin Cities stations. Three other on-air personalities were silenced, however: Dan Riggs and Derek Moran, who spin pop oldies at KQQL 108, and K102 DJ Mary Gallas, who goes by the on-air handle Mary J. McKay at the country station. Most of the on-air talent is expected to be replaced by syndicated programming and DJs who will serve many stations at once.
Local managers were tight-lipped about the extent of the layoffs and the reasoning behind them. Mike Crusham, president and market manager for the Minneapolis-based regional market, said the company had communicated with all the affected staff members.
Several people who survived the cuts said there was a feeling of shell shock around the stations, but there was also hope that no further layoffs were in store. "It's their nature to tear the Band-Aid off all at once," one employee said of Clear Channel leadership.
Hartman, son of Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, is not the only well-known local radio personality to be given his walking papers in recent months. He joins Jack Rice and Al Malmberg of CBS-owned WCCO and Willie Clark and Tommy Mischke of Hubbard-owned KSTP.
Hartman said he wasn't sure what is next for him or how long his non-compete clause would be in place. "At some point in time I'll sit down and figure that out and come up with a plan and an understanding of where I am legally," he said. "I don't know the particulars right now."