Rally to protest Q105 firings starts on this blog
For years, Michele Maro has been the kind of fan radio stations expect; devoted to her favorite DJs and music -- especially longtime Tampa Bay area personality Mason Dixon -- but at a loss when something changes that she doesn’t like.
If a treasured on-air personality or a format vanished, she might do what anyone else does -– maybe write a letter or make a phone call to complain before moving on. But then CBS Radio fired four of her favorite DJs in December, cleaning out most of the on-air talent at WRBQ-FM (Q105) -- except Dixon -- in a move executives said was intended to boost ratings.
So Maro, a sales administrator at Tech Data Corp., went to the Internet to vent. She wound up finding a voice she didn’t know existed.
“Well, the Grinch sure stole Christmas this year,” wrote Maro under her own name on this blog. “Have followed Mason and crew all over the airwaves for 35 years. I have already written as many of their advertisers that I could think of, telling them fans will protest the firings.”
And to Maro’s surprise, other fans began to answer her messages, both on The Feed and on another online bulletin board devoted to local radio, Radio-info.com. At the Feed, comments piled up on the blog post about the firings, until more than 150 messages among fans of the discharged DJs were tallied.
So Maro has organized a rally to show support for the four guys who lost jobs in December -– Bill Connolly, Jojo Walker, Rico Blanco and Mike Reeves -– along with longtime Tampa Bay area personality “Marvelous Marvin” Boone, who lost his job at WRBQ in October 2008. Scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant in Pinellas Park, the party is planned as part Irish wake, part listener protest.
The way she figures, if everything goes well, CBS Radio might rethink its move. If not, they’ll have one heck of a party for jocks whose work they have admired for years.
"I've never done anything like this in my life, but I'm so mad about it, I found the blog and said, 'maybe we should have a rally.' And all these people responded," said Maro, who added that, in protest, she switches from WRBQ after Dixon's shift ends each day.
So far, Maro says, Walker, Blanco, Connolly and Boone have agreed to show. She doesn't expect Dixon, who still works at WRBQ, to participate for fear of jeopardizing his employment.
Walker, who says he doesn’t think he knows the fans organizing the rally -– he won’t know for sure until he meets them in person -- just hopes to prove to any potential new employers that CBS Radio may have underestimated their popularity.
“We’ve never seen anything like this in our entire careers -– and I’ve been around for 32 years,” said Walker, who is still looking for work. “Clear Channel just fired 1,850 people and they didn’t get this kind of a response. To me, it’s turned into a monster.”
Ed Krampf, Tampa market manager for CBS Radio, declined to comment. Maro also said she and other fans have not received responses to e-mails they have sent to local and national CBS Radio executives.
There’s no way to know if the people leaving messages online include the fired jocks themselves, people close to them or a small group of fans using multiple names. But The Feed post on the layoffs attracted 115 unique visitors during the week of Jan. 19 to 23 -- one month after the item was created. Here’s a sample of the sentiments:
“The power of we 55 years old and up is awesome…many of us are frozen adolescents…and appreciate the PEOPLE as well as the music that got us listening in the first place,” wrote Scott on Dec. 22 at 4:43 p.m.
“Local radio will go the way of the Western Union telegram,” wrote Mr. News on Dec. 23 at 9:48 a.m.
“When I first learned that I was pregnant…I was listening to Mason & Co…When my second husband and I first said our ‘I love you’s it was during Mason & Co.’s show…for those of us who have some history here in Tampa, we have a connection to local radio personalities who have been interwoven into the times of our lives,” wrote Patty on Dec. 30 at 12:05 p.m.
Maro admits she has no idea how many fans may show for the rally, though she’s hoping a simultaneous event at Quaker Steak and Lube for rabid Jimmy Buffett fans, also known as “Parrotheads,” will help with attendance. She says it's just about proving that, for fans like her, the soul of a radio station is the personalities who help bring the music to listeners.
"There was nothing wrong with the station; it was great, the music was great . . . the DJs were the reason we listened to them," she said. "We can hear music anywhere. We listened to (the station) because of them . . . If all these people didn't care so much they would just flip the station . . . but it's been a month and people are still talking about it."