'The end of music on WMNF?'
That headline -- "The end of music on WMNF?" -- was the subject line of a mass e-mail Lee "Flee" Courtney, the music director for WMNF-88.5 FM, sent out this morning.
It was a plea for donations to the station, which is in the middle of its Spring pledge drive, and Courtney's message was: News shows are getting a lot more support from readers than music shows.
In fact, he said, the station has debated switching another hour or more of its daily programming from music to news. "It looks like the amount of music is going to be reduced," Courtney's e-mail read. "Especially vulnerable are the drive time shows."
So does that mean music's days are numbered at the publicly supported station?
"I don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs going to happen," WMNF news director Rob Lorei, who for years has pushed for more airtime for news and public affairs, said in an e-mail to tbt*. "News and public affairs have a very strong audience (bigger than music), raise more money per hour than most music shows and ... unite people of all ages. "However, there are people in the station who do not view expansion of news and public affairs as our first priority."
If a switch is in the works, it won't happen anytime soon. The station changes its programming schedule every two years, and a new cycle just went into effect in January.
But Courtney said the station's drive-time music shows -- The Morning Show, 6 to 9 a.m., and Sonic Detour, 4 to 6 p.m. -- are likely targets if any changes are made. He said he'll be using his own Sonic Detour slot -- 4 to 6 p.m. today -- to play up the whole "news vs. music" angle, and hopefully boost pledges through music shows.
"You want to hear music in the afternoon on your drive home, or do you want to hear news?" he said. "I think it's music. That's what the answer should be. I think if you want news, you can go to USF (WUSF-89.7 FM). They've got lots of news over there from 4 to 6 o'clock."
Courtney laughed off the prospect of a Jets-Sharks-style showdown between WMNF's news and music departments, saying, "all the news people are big music heads, and vice versa."
But with the economy the way it is, and with this year's Spring drive not going as well as in years past, the station may be forced to consider shaking things up.
"It could be that we need to move some of our stronger hosts into drive time music slots," said Lorei, who has worked on several music shows over the years. "That might help keep the music going."
But, he added: "All the programs are having trouble this drive -- so we can‚Äôt say music is holding us back."
WMNF's spring pledge drive ends Wednesday. For details on donating, click here.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*