Terri Traen/Star Tribune photo by Carlos Gonzalez
Terri Traen knows that almost every on-air radio personality has been fired at some point in his or her career. But that didn't make the end of her 31-year career at KQRS any easier.
"I feel like part of my life is gone," Traen said Wednesday. "It was my family, the listeners and KQ. It's very heartbreaking. Very sad."
The devastation didn't just start earlier this week when Traen got a phone call telling her she needn't bother coming into the office. Last April, she was removed from the Tom Barnard morning show and moved to the 5-7 p.m. shift with Brian Zepp, another ex-member of the Barnard program.
"Let me set the record straight: That was not my idea," she said, struggling to hold back tears. "I loved working with Brian, but I did not want to leave the morning show to start my own show. I don't want listeners to think I'm high and mighty. I'm not at all like that."
Traen would not comment on why the company took her off the morning team or what they gave her as an explanation for letting both her and Zepp go this week. Ratings numbers from 5-7 p.m. did not change significantly up or down with Traen & Zepp at the helm.
Both Barnard and KQ operations manager Scott Jameson declined to comment citing company policy on personnel issues.
Over the past three decades, "The KQ Morning Show" grew into one of the country's most successful radio programs, in part because of Traen's chemistry -- or lack thereof -- with Barnard, who didn't mask his frustration with her corny jokes and naivete. The tension was palpable; listeners ate it up.
Less recognized was her work behind the scenes as the show's booker, setting Barnard up with both well-known celebrities and various oddballs. The latter were her favorites.
"We once had a guy who had gone off searching for the Loch Ness Monster. That's a classic," she said. "I'm really proud of tracking down those kind of people. That was really special."
It's been a rough couple years for Traen. In 2015, she lost her mother. Shortly after that, a tornado wiped out half the trees in her family's orchard business. In both cases, the KQ audience came through
"I really appreciate all the support from the listeners, the sponsors and members of the media who have called to offer their support, some of which I don't even know," she said. "They will never know what they've done for me and my family."
Traen said it's too early to speculate whether she'll ever return to radio.
"I might be interested if the right thing came along, but right now I haven't slept," she said. "Well, I've slept, but it's the kind of sleep where you wake up every few hours and say, 'Is this real?' You know how that it is. I would have to say that other than my parents dying, this is probably the saddest time of my life."