Longtime area radio personality Skip Mahaffey out as morning man at Clear Channel's WFUS-FM
Mahaffey, 47, learned Tuesday that Clear Channel Radio was ending his morning show on WFUS-FM, four years after wooing him from rival Infinity Radio (now known as CBS Radio) and building a new country music format around his morning show.
Company executives told him after he and his crew had finished the morning's broadcast, saying the dismissal was effective immediately -- also pink-slipping longtime colleagues Braden Gunn and Les McDowell along with their producer, he said.
Turns out, Mahaffey and his crew were among 590 staff positions eliminated nationwide Tuesday by Clear Channel, which has cut 2,500 jobs so far in 2009, according to the trade magazine Radio & Records. In January, the company cut 1,850 positions in a reduction some industry observers called "The Inauguration Day Massacre," citing the slumping media economy.
Clear Channel executives did not return repeated calls for comment, but Radio & Records also reported that Mahaffey would be replaced in May by Craig "Catfish" Hunter, an afternoon personality currently on KYGO-FM in Denver, Colo.
"There are three major broadcast companies doing radio in this market, and two of them have told me they either don't need me or don't want me," said Mahaffey, who hadn't yet determined what he might do next. "The stability of being here 11 years was good for my daughter; the hardest part of all this was telling her we might have to leave."
Mahaffey touched off a minor scandal in local radio circles when he agreed to leave Infinity's WQYK-FM in April 2005 for a new country station Clear Channel was fashioning at the former home of then-WTBT-FM (Thunder 103.5). Though he wasn't able to appear on air until October of that year, Mahaffey led Clear Channel's effort to compete in country radio locally, sparking a lot of anger at his old workplace.
But ratings at WFUS never matched expectations for the show, said Mahaffey, who attracted top audiences and awards at WQYK, where he came in 1998 from Columbus, Ohio.
Mahaffey declined to speculate on why his WFUS show never did better in the ratings. "That is a very good question and a very loaded question," he noted. "I have my opinions, but expressing them would probably cause more harm than good."
He also declined to speculate on whether leaving WQYK in 2005 was a mistake, saying that he made the decision when Infinity let his contract lapse. "I'm sure some people at CBS are throwing babies up in the air, they're so happy," he said. "But I made the choice that was best for my family . . . And what's tearing me up is seeing 11 years of trying to help people (with charity drives and fundraisers) going up in smoke."