For years, Michele Maro has been the kind of fan radio stations expect. She's 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.
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, hoping to boost ratings. So Maro, who works as 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," Maro wrote on my blog about media for the St. Petersburg Times, the Feed. "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, more than 150 comments piled up on the blog post about the firings.
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 area personality "Marvelous Marvin" Boone, who lost his job at WRBQ in October. 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.
So far, she says, Walker, Blanco, Connolly and Boone have agreed to show, but she doesn't expect Dixon, who still works at WRBQ, to participate. Walker 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," he said.
Executives at WRBQ and CBS Radio did not return calls for comment.
It's tough to know whether the people writing online include the fired jocks themselves, people close to them, other downsized radio people or a small group of fans using various names.
Here's a sample of the comments:
"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.
"Local radio will go the way of the Western Union telegram," wrote Mr. News on Dec. 23.
"When I first learned that I was pregnant … I was listening to Mason & Co … 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.
Maro admits she has no idea how many fans may show. "The DJs were the reason we listened," she said. "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."