Jason Wolfe Has Been Fired by Entercom/WEEI

Entercom Boston announced this morning that Vice President of Programming for WEEI and WRKO,  Jason Wolfe, is “‘leaving the company.” They also said an announcement on a replacement would come shortly.

“Jason Wolfe has defined sports talk radio, not only in Boston, but around the country as well. There are very few people who have influenced an industry like Jason has,” said Jeff Brown, VP/Market Manager at Entercom Boston. “From his work with the Jimmy Fund and the Red Sox’s historic championship run to WRKO’s engagement with politics, Jason’s behind-the-scenes work has made an impact few people will ever understand. We thank Jason for all his hard work, dedication to Entercom, and his commitment to the Boston community.”

However, in a separate letter, Wolfe stated that “Entercom has chosen to replace me because they feel it is time for a change with my position.”  (They fired me.)

In some eyes, the move has been expected for quite a while, not only because of the declining ratings of the station, but also because of the perception that Wolfe had already been deposed and that Jeff Brown was personally making all of the recent moves at the station.

Wolfe was with WEEI for 22 years, having been brought in by Glenn Ordway and then replacing him as programming chief.

WEEI Announces New Saturday Show Focused on the Celtics

From Entercom Boston:

“Celtics Summer Cooler” to Tip Off June 8

Grande & Max team up this offseason as the C’s prepare for 2013-14 

BOSTON, MA (June 5, 2013) –WEEI 93.7 FM today announced the addition of “Celtics Summer Cooler,” a new program hosted by Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell. Starting June 8, “Celtics Summer Cooler” will air Saturday afternoons from 1-3 p.m., running through Sept. 28. Grande and Max comprise one of the longest-running broadcast teams in NBA history, having called over 1,200 games between them, and have been the voices of the Celtics since 2001.

This new show will provide Celtics fans with the most comprehensive news and analysis of the team, from the draft to the summer league and right up to training camp. Listeners can expect to hear from Celtics front office personnel, players, beat writers and columnists, and national media members from around the league.

“This is going to be the most interesting offseason for the Celtics since 2007 when Danny pulled off the big trades for KG and Ray Allen. Celtic fans deserve a show that will be devoted to the team’s efforts this summer, and no one knows the strategy better than Grande and Max,” said Jason Wolfe, VP of Programming and Operations.

As new shows go, this one is very promising and fills a gap in the local radio airwaves. It will be great to have a show that is pretty much dedicated to the Celtics.

 

Entercom Looking To Survey “employee engagement and workplace satisfaction” Today

You may have heard John Dennis and Gerry Callahan talking this morning about the survey the company is having them take today.

Here is the email sent to employees earlier this week:

Sent: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 10:52 PM
To: BOSTON USERS
Cc: Jeff Brown; Carmela M***; Mike K****

Subject: Employee Opinion Survey

Entercom Boston Employees,  As you are aware, we have conducted employee opinion surveys in our markets in the past. Weezie Kramer, who was recently promoted to Station Group President, has requested that we do a company-wide survey.

The survey consists of questions that measure employee engagement and workplace satisfaction, that you will score on a scale between 1-7. We also have a few questions about what you like best/least about your job, along with what is going well overall and suggestions for improvement.

To expedite the process, I’ve asked Carmela M*** to facilitate the survey. You will be receiving an email from Jeff about the meeting schedule. The meetings will begin with a video message from Weezie, followed by a video message from me. Carmela will then hand out the survey and we ask that you complete it at the meeting and place it in a Fed Ex box that will be in the front of the room. The surveys will be sent overnight directly to my office.

I want to assure you that your feedback will be protected. Carmela has promised that no one will read your survey locally. She will make sure that the completed surveys stay in the Fed Ex box until I receive them. All of the feedback will be compiled into a report and therefore your feedback will be anonymous.

Thanks in advance for taking the survey and we look forward to receiving your feedback.

Corporate surveys are not all that uncommon. Companies do them all the time to gauge the morale of employees. My buddy Andy at WEEI says they’ve done them at WEEI before. The email above says so too. That’s not what Dennis and Callahan said this morning, as they said it was the first time they have ever done something like this in their 15/16 years at the station.

They also questioned why the company felt the need to do it at this point in time. Given the amount of recent departures from the station, both voluntary and involuntary, it seems obvious, which was the very point they were making. Interesting that the company is calling everyone to these meetings and having them take the survey under supervision. While this is a company-wide survey, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to guess that it is aimed specifically at the Boston market.

Another email set the times for these meetings, as management went in at 9:00 am today, and there are all-employee sessions scheduled for 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Celtics Voice Sean Grande ( @SeanGrandePBP ) To Fill In On Red Sox Radio Broadcasts

WEEI announced this morning that John Ryder has been named as the pre and post game host of the station’s Red Sox radio broadcasts, replacing Jon Rish, who left to pursue a career as a computer programmer. Ryder will also continue his duties of hosting Red Sox Review and Celtics Rewind.

In addition, the station announced that mid-day co-host and former Red Sox utility player Lou Merloni and Celtics radio play-by-play voice Sean Grande will fill in for Dave O’Brien on the game broadcasts when the latter is away for ESPN duties.

Merloni has already appeared on several broadcasts and acquitted himself quite well in a format that requires him to draw on his baseball knowledge and experience.

Grande has been the Celtics voice since 2001.

BREAKING – Pete Sheppard Quits WEEI – On The Air

There is certainly no shortage of news coming out of WEEI these days.

At about 5:45 this afternoon, Pete Sheppard posted the following Tweet:

At the end of his shift, Sheppard then announced he was quitting the station, saying that he couldn’t do it anymore, he couldn’t stand working for the company anymore. He said that he was upset at how things had been going at the station over the last 18 months, and that it wasn’t Jason Wolfe’s fault, but those above him. (Jeff Brown in particular) He said they would not even take his calls, and that he is going out on his own terms – unlike the last time he left the station.

Sheppard assured listeners they would be hearing him again elsewhere in the near future.

Unlike past WEEI incidents (Mike Adams “locking” himself in the studio to get the job) this one was quite real.

I suspect Sheppard will not be the only person departing (of their own volition or not ) the station in the near future.

Source: Entercom President/CEO David Field Coming To Boston Friday

According to an industry source, in response to continued toxic atmosphere at Entercom Boston, including and especially at WEEI, Entercom Communications Corp President and CEO David Field will be in Boston on Friday to conduct a “town hall” style meeting with employees, presumably in an attempt to assuage hard feelings and improve morale. The source says the meeting is to tell employees that “everything is fine, and to enjoy the brand.”

Field is said to be taking questions from employees, but that such questions need to be submitted in advance.

With salaries being slashed everywhere in the radio business and notably at WEEI with the recent departures of Jon Meterparel, Glenn Ordway and Jon Rish, one wonders if the topic of Field’s own salary and compensation will come up.

According to documents filed to the SEC, Field’s salary in 2012 was $827,707 and on December 18th of 2012, he received a bonus of $1,008,000. In 2011, his salary was $803,599 and his bonus was $720,000.

His actual salary may be less of an issue than the fact it has gone up each year and that he also receives that annual cash performance-based bonus of up to 150% of his annual base salary. These types of compensation agreements are by no means unusual in the corporate world, but they do make things awkward when the CEO tries to motivate a disgruntled staff which has faced budget and salary cuts routinely over the last few years.

The meeting, should it take place, (EDITit IS happening)will be interesting, given Field’s somewhat odd history of attempts at motivating his staff. In January of 2012, after returning from an African safari, Field recounted the experience in a very odd and clueless email to employees, ending by urging them to bring their “A” games to work each day, just as the animals of the Serengeti do.

His father, Joseph M. Field founded Entercom in 1968.

*************

Elsewhere in the Boston sports media world today – Jerry Remy reveals he was recently treated for recurrence of cancer

Jon Rish Resigns From #RedSox Broadcasts, WEEI

**BREAKING**

BSMW has learned and confirmed that Jon Rish has given his notice and will be leaving the Red Sox broadcasts, and the radio business altogether. This is just the latest in a series of personnel changes at Entercom Boston under VP/GM Jeff Brown.

Rish had served as the pre and post-game host on the Red Sox Radio Network starting in 2006. Rish joined WEEI Radio in July 2005 after six years with ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT.

Since 2008 Rish has also filled in during games in the broadcast booth doing play-by-play when Dave O’Brien had ESPN scheduling conflicts. He was in the booth alongside Joe Castiglione this past week as O’Brien did the Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN last Wednesday and then went on to call the Women’s NCAA Final Four for the network.

Rish is said to have been asked to take a significant paycut, something which is becoming commonplace at WEEI. It says something that a person would give up a position as a radio play-by-play voice for the Boston Red Sox in order to get out of the business altogether.

Instead, Rish has given his notice, and will be available to the station/network until 4/24, but it is not yet clear how things will proceed over the next two weeks.

It won’t be the last exit from WEEI, as sources say that at least three of the top sales executives for the station will be leaving, and long-time sponsor Giant Glass will be pulling out as well.

WEEI names Mike Salk as new afternoon drive co-host

WEEI sent out the following press release this afternoon, confirming Chad Finn’s report from last week:

BOSTON – WEEI 93.7 FM announced Tuesday that Sudbury native Mike Salk will join Michael Holley in afternoon drive, weekdays from 2-6 p.m., beginning in mid-March. Salk joins WEEI from 710 AM ESPN in Seattle, where he’s co-hosted the midday “Brock and Salk Show” since April 2009.

Salk helped grow the “Brock and Salk Show” exponentially the last four years. As of this past September, the show ranked No. 1 with the station’s core demo of men 25-54. Salk also was a frequent contributor to 710 ESPN’s website and will do the same, in a variety of ways, for WEEI.com. He also has been a part of the ESPN Radio network since 2007, hosting “SportsCenter Saturday” and serving as a regular fill-in host over the past few years.

Salk is no stranger to the Boston sports talk radio scene, having worked at 890 ESPN Radio Boston from 2005 until 2009. He primarily served as co-host of the station’s midday show with Bob Halloran, and he also was the station’s Red Sox beat reporter, covering every game of the team’s run to the 2007 World Series.

“For a kid who grew up rooting for Boston’s sports teams, I can’t wait to get behind that microphone and connect with the most avid sports fans in the country,” Salk said. “From the best play-by-play in radio to their breakthrough work with the Jimmy Fund, WEEI is still the gold standard in sports talk radio.

“I’m especially excited to talk Bruins hockey. I grew up a rabid Bruins fan and have great memories from the old Boston Garden. My wife might not know it yet, but our 1-year old daughter will be wearing a lot of black and gold in the future.”

Added Salk: “Teaming up with someone as hard-working, gifted and passionate about his craft as Michael Holley makes this situation even better for me returning home. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Said Holley: “Mike is energetic, has a tireless work ethic, and believes in having a show that is accessible to all audiences. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the talks we’ve had with our listeners. I think that they’ll find the new show to be fast, fun and smart. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a tremendous blessing it was to work with Glenn Ordway for nearly three years. It didn’t take us long to develop a bond, and I believe that mutual respect could be detected on the air. I anticipate a similar connection with Mike.”

Said Jason Wolfe, VP of Programming for Entercom Boston: “Mike Salk has a proven record of success, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring him back home to Boston. He’s a very skilled broadcaster, a fun personality and a passionate sports fan. I’m really looking forward to the new dynamic that he and Michael Holley will provide on a daily basis.”

An Appreciation of Glenn Ordway

I’ve had my issues with Glenn Ordway and his show over the years. It’s no secret. But there is another side, which needs to be told as well.

Warning: I’m about to go into “old bastard” mode and reference things that I remember that happened before some current members of the Boston sports media were even born.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Ordway was the first media person I ever “followed.” I’m dating myself here, but I was kid back in the 1980′s when Ordway was doing the Celtics games with Johnny Most. I listened to just about every single game. My parents didn’t watch sports, so catching the Celtics on TV was a very rare event. Instead, I had to listen to the games on WRKO.

The first season I followed every game was the 1982-83 season. Johnny Most actually missed a chunk of games that season due to illness and Ordway took over the play-by-play. (Chris Ford stepped into the analyst role.) The games with Most and Ordway were true theater. Each night was good vs. evil, a morality play with the Celtics the valiant warriors fighting off their villainous foes. Glenn would attempt some objectivity, but he too would get swept up in the drama. When Larry Bird hit a game-winning buzzer-beater at Phoenix (Celtics down by one, Bird hits a three with one second left) that season (2/26/83 – 30 years ago this month?????) I can still hear Glenn hooting and hollering in my head after that one.

While there has been much talk over the years (which I’m skeptical of) about the relationship between Ordway and Most  – whether they got along, and how things ended -  their chemistry on the air was terrific. As the decade went on, and Johnny’s health went downhill steadily, Glenn picked him up more and more. They had moments of tension, sure, but there moments of complete hilarity. Most catching his pants on fire with a lighted cigarette (a clip that was played yesterday) chief among them. The times Johnny would knock his cup of scalding hot coffee over the edge of the balcony were always good times, too.

During that same period, WRKO having just recently moved into the talk radio format, was experimenting with a number of shows, including a sports call-in show. The show, creatively named “Sports Call,” featured Ordway with Guy Mainella. (Mainella was already a sports talk veteran, having started “Calling All Sports” in 1969.) The show was on generally from 6-8PM and while there was plenty of Celtics talk, I recall possible Red Sox trades being as much a topic as it is now. On nights that the Celtics weren’t playing, I always tried to listen to this program as well.

Early Days of WEEI

The Celtics broadcasts moved to WEEI in 1987 on AM 590. The Celtics bought the station in 1990, and for a time they kept the all-news format. But by September of 1991, WEEI had made the switch to all sports. It might be surprising to learn that Ordway was not the star of the station. Eddie Andelman was the drive-time host from 4-7PM. Ordway, started out as a midday host, paired with Janet Prensky from 1-4PM. Dale Arnold was on from 10AM-1PM and Craig Mustard from 7-11PM. Andy Moes was the morning show.

Ordway’s show with Prensky (Glenn and Janet)  was largely forgettable. The show lasted a year, and Prensky’s contract was not renewed. Ordway then spent time with Dave Shea, among others. By this time, Ordway was also the fulltime play-by-play voice of the Celtics, after Most was forced to retire due to health reasons in 1990. In August of 1994, WEEI moved from 590AM to 850AM.

In early 1995, Ordway agreed to a four-year deal with WEEI to continue as voice of the Celtics. However, the team, which had the right of refusal, declined the contract. (If you wondered why Ordway was so negative about the Celtics for years on WEEI, other than the fact that they were terrible, there you go.) Speculation was that they felt that Ordway and partner Jerry Sichting were too harsh on the team during their broadcasts. Ordway then accepted the position of program manager for WEEI, a move that would change the very shape and direction of sports radio.

Ordway’s Moves Pave Way For Record-Breaking Ratings

In July, Ordway fired Michael Andelman from his weekend show, citing poor ratings. In August, he announced that the station would be radically changing up their lineup. Starting on September 11th of 1995, the WEEI lineup would consist of the Fabulous Sports Babe from 10-12, The A-Team with Eddie Andelman and Dale Arnold from noon to 3PM and The Big Show, featuring Ordway himself, from 3-6PM. Ordway reinvented himself as “The Big O” and thus an 18-year run began.

Among the original co-hosts on The Big Show were Gerry Callahan, Dan Shaughnessy, Steve Nelson, Lyndon Byers, Cedric Maxwell and Fred Smerlas.

WEEI dropped The Fabulous Sports Babe in October 1997, (Jason Wolfe by then had replaced Ordway as Program Director) replacing her in the 10-12 spot with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. That duo become the 6-10 morning show in September of 1999, and the A-Team moved from 10-2 and The Big Show from 2-6.

In retrospect, the moves by Ordway beginning in 1995 were brilliant. They set up almost 15 years of ratings dominance. The pairing of Arnold and Andelman was one of two diametrically different men who saw eye-to-eye on very little. Ordway saw that the endless debates on all subjects would make for great radio.  The Big Show format, while tough to listen to at times, brought a plethora of different voices together, with Ordway the chuckling ringleader tweaking his co-hosts and pushing the envelope each day.

Ordway made media stars out of pedestrian reporters and personalities. He also could see talent and get the most out of it. While there were some co-hosts who had no business being on the show (Steve Burton, Butch Stearns, Larry Johnson) there were stars like Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, Rico Petrocelli, Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, Michael Holley, Ron Borges (The latter four found themselves on the outs when the Globe infamously banned its reporters from the station.) Michael Felger, Tony Massarotti, Steve Buckley, Steve DeOssie, even Sean McDonough was an earlier mainstay on the show. Ordway even made stars out of flashguys Sean Grande and Pete Sheppard.

The station brought in ratings never seen before. I’m going to sound like a WEEI spokesman here, (imagine that!) but it is true. They weren’t just winning their targeted demo, they were winning all adult demos. They were the top station in the city. No sports station in the country had seen these types of numbers.

Granted, there was an element of good timing associated with this run. Boston sports in the 2000′s, starting with the 2001 Patriots, went on a professional championship run that no city had ever seen before. Three Super Bowl Championships, two World Series Titles, and an NBA Championship had an already sports-crazed city craving more and more. Ordway was the most powerful media personality in Boston.

Competitors Fall and Rise

The station successfully fought off challenges from weaker signaled sports talk efforts from 1510 and 890. Both of those stations attempted to use former Ordway co-hosts to challenge him in his own timeslot, 1510 using McDonough and 890 using Felger. Neither station mounted any sort of lasting challenge.

When 98.5 The Sports Hub launched in August 2009, they too built their programming around people that Ordway had groomed in to the radio business. Former Herald reporters Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti owe their starts in radio to Ordway and The Big Show. Bolstered by a strong FM signal and corporate backing of CBS, The Sports Hub finally knocked Ordway off his ratings throne.

Still, he wasn’t dead yet. Last spring, as the Celtics went on their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Ordway’s by-then revamped show beat Felger and Mazz in the ratings, thanks in part to several Red Sox day games, and incessant Celtics-bashing by Felger.

The Legacy, And The Future

While Glenn Ordway certainly didn’t invent sports talk radio in Boston, (Eddie Andelman, among others, can lay claim to making it a viable medium.) he is nonetheless a pioneer and yes, a legend. He saw where sports talk radio was heading, and what it could be. He put the pieces and format in place that has largely endured. He made stars in the local market, and you saw many many people acknowledging this on Twitter and elsewhere yesterday.

What’s next for Ordway? His comments to the Herald today seem to indicate internet radio or something along those lines may be in the offing. Couldn’t you picture Ordway doing a local version of Bill Simmons’ “The BS Report?” A podcast with endless big-name guests, and going after specific topics, no commercials.

Could he surface on another radio station? There have been recent, quiet rumblings that Greater Media might be interested in dipping a toe into the local sports radio market. Their Boston-area stations include 92.9, 96.9, 102.5, 105.7 and 106.7.

Heck, a station could replicate the entire late-1990′s WEEI lineup if they wanted. Imus, Dale Arnold, Ordway and Ted Sarandis are all available! (That’s entirely a joke, by the way.)

Could he be interested in going back to play-by-play and trying out with the Patriots? Seems an unlikely longshot, but you never know.

Ordway turned 62 last month. He’s not done yet. If he wants to work, there will be a job for him. The show yesterday was the best Big Show I’ve heard in a long time, and showed that he still has that sense of taking the right angle on a story, and presenting in a compelling manner.

While I haven’t always been a fan of the Big Show and the “character” of “The Big O,” I’m a fan of Glenn Ordway. I hope to continue hearing and seeing him.

Ordway Links

We’ll have more analysis of the Glenn Ordway firing as the days go on, but for right now, here are some other stories on the news:

WEEI ousts longtime host Glenn Ordway – Chad Finn’s story in th Globe also has a video with analysis from Finn.

Glenn Ordway gets ax in sports talk battle – Matt Stout in the Boston Herald has money and youth as big factors in the move.
WEEI fires Glenn Ordway as host of ‘The Big Show’ – Bill Doyle says that these are scary times for WEEI.

Ordway will be missed, but game goes on – Steve Buckley weighs in on his friend.

`Big Show’ bombshell: Ordway out at WEEI – Tom Layman in the Herald talks to Gerry Callahan, Jackie MacMullan and others.

Glenn Ordway out at WEEI – NECN had a segment on the story.

Looking to future 
for next big thing – Gayle Fee has Ordway looking at his future.

Sports radio host Glenn Ordway announces exit from WEEI – Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal looks at the impact of the move.

WEEI to Replace Glenn Ordway – Alan Siegal says that this is a step in the right direction for the station.

Was Ordway firing more about ratings — or money? – Dan Kennedy muses on the reasons for the move.