WMNF looks at flipping its schedule for news and music

For some folks at Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM (88.5), it may feel like their parents are fighting a bit.

But a disagreement is percolating between two of the station's longest-serving staffers over an ambitious plan by program director Randy Wynne to revamp large chunks of WMNF's broadcast schedule.

Wynne, who has worked at WMNF for more than 25 years, wants to flip the station's schedule to feature news and public affairs in the morning and at drive time. The centerpiece of his plan is a new morning magazine show featuring news director Rob Lorei, who has worked at WMNF since it was founded 31 years ago.

The new plan is Wynne's effort to free WMNF from the long shadow of public radio rival WUSF-FM (89.7), which may have cut into the community radio station's fundraising by adopting a day filled with public broadcasting shows such as The Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation in September.

Which brings just one problem: Lorei isn't sure such extensive change is necessary or wise.

"(Establishing a morning show) is a great goal to have, but WMNF has no money," said Lorei, who balked at trying to compete with better-funded shows such as NPR's Morning Edition with no extra staff or resources. "I think in some ways, I'd be thrown to the wolves. And I'd have to explain to all those angry morning show fans why I'm taking the slot of the show they love."

Wynne's plan would slot a new show featuring Lorei at 6 a.m., pushing the music shows now in the morning into a block that would air from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

The station's homegrown newscast would air at 4 p.m. weekdays, with a call-in show airing at 5 p.m. Pacifica Radio's liberal-oriented news show Democracy Now would air at 8 a.m. weekdays and the 10 a.m. rebroadcasts of NPR's show Fresh Air would disappear (it already airs twice a day on WUSF).

From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, the station's music shows would be arranged according to genre each night — alternative rock on Tuesdays, R&B on Fridays, for example. Talk shows that once aired in midday might air at 6 p.m.

Wynne says such a schedule brings WMNF in line with the typical rhythm of most radio stations, where listeners are given more information-oriented shows in mornings and during drive time, with music provided in midday and night. WMNF's shows are scheduled in reverse, he said, to serve as an alternative to WUSF.

"We used to be a station that was built around reacting to what WUSF did," Wynne said. "In a way, what they've done now is free us up to be the kind of station that matches how people use radio."

But WMNF has a reputation for resisting big changes and taking lots of time to talk over new ideas, which may be a problem for Wynne, who will reveal details of his proposed schedule at a station-wide meeting Nov. 23, hoping to implement changes on Jan. 17.

Lorei has suggested trimming the station's less successful shows and trying a test version of the morning show one day a week. But that may not be bold enough for Wynne, who hopes to meet WMNF's current struggles with bold action.

"This is just the beginning of three months of discussions," said JoEllen Schilke, longtime host of WMNF's midday show Art in Your Ear, laughing. "This might be a way to get the pulse of everybody."

WMNF looks at flipping its schedule for news and music 11/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 8:13am]

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