Tampa Bay Times sportswriters Rick Stroud and Tom Jones to lead morning show on WDAE-AM
Tampa Bay Times sportswriters Tom Jones (bottom right) and Rick Stroud (right) will star in a new weekday morning show for sports radio station WDAE-AM (620), sparking a closer alliance between the newspaper and station owner Clear Channel Radio.
The pair begin hosting their three-hour show at 6 a.m. Tuesday, taking the timeslot once held by Dan Sileo — a former professional and college football player who was fired March 13 after inadvertently calling three black football players “monkeys” in a passing reference. The announcement of the new show was delivered after days of fanfare at 4 p.m. today during WDAE afternoon guy Steve Duemig's show.
“I think there’s a need for a show where you can bring the insights of a working journalist,” said Stroud, noting Clear Channel called him and Jones separately not long after Sileo left the job.
“A lot of people do commentary and a lot of people get animated,” he added. “As far as providing insight and accurate information…that’s something there’s a need for and we can do very well.”
As an opinion columnist covering sports media, Jones has a bit more freedom than Stroud, who must avoid bias while covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I wouldn’t say anything on the radio that I wouldn’t write for the newspaper,” said Jones, who will stop covering local sports radio to avoid conflicts of interest. “We talk to the coaches, we know the general managers. I would use the same standards on radio as in print.”
If discussions started in March, why did it take so long to finalize a deal?
“It was the first opening in our main lineup for eight years; we wanted to make sure we looked at everything,” said Steve Versnick, program director at WDAE, who initially called Stroud and Jones. “It’s our hope we’ll go at least another eight years before we have to make another lineup change.”
Another reason for delay: the newspaper’s ethical standards required executives at Clear Channel and the Tampa Bay Times to agree on a special policy for handling on air endorsements.
Such promotional announcements, a routine feature for radio personalities who aren’t journalists, draw a premium fee from advertisers.
But traditional journalists rarely directly endorse commercial products, to avoid the perception that their credibility can be bought.
So Jones and Stroud will donate their portion of proceeds from any endorsements to charities selected by the Tampa Bay Times. They will also read a disclaimer announcing the arrangement at the end of each show.
Times editor Neil Brown acknowledged the charity arrangement was new ground for the newspaper, keeping Stroud and Jones from directly profiting by endorsements, though businesses will still be paying for their on air recommendations.
“I was looking to create a bridge between the world of radio and the newspaper world,” said Brown, who retains final approval over each endorsement. “I wanted to inoculate them so their journalism is not compromised.”
Both men have non-newspaper media experience; Stroud has appeared on WDAE and ESPN as an expert analyst while Jones, who once covered the Tampa Bay Lightning, also once hosted a show on Bright House Networks’ sports channel.
They guest hosted WDAE's morning show on a Thursday and Friday in mid-April and stand ready to enter a competitive timeslot which includes sister station WFLA-AM's AM Tampa Bay and WHPT-FM's Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
But the biggest challenge, Jones admitted, may be getting up at 4 a.m. every weekday. “I know that part will be tough,” he said, laughing, “But it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”