Pink slips: Schilling just the first of Saga radio layoffs

Rob Schilling leaves WINA; Tad Abbey leaves The Corner.
FILE PHOTOS

Last January, WINA welcomed the conservative voice of former City Councilor Rob Schilling with a six-day-a-week talk show. But just before Christmas, the AM news radio station abruptly pulled the plug on the Schilling Show, and Schilling isn't the only Saga Communications-owned Charlottesville Radio Group staffer to be let go.

Tad Abbey, a mainstay at sister station 106.1 The Corner, has also has gotten a pink slip, and at least one other familiar radio voice soon will be out of job, an informed source told the Hook before Christmas.

The latest casualty is WINA news reporter John Peterson, who is no longer employed at the station, a caller asking for him was told January 5.

"Peterson's really troubling because he does a great job," says former WINA sportscaster Adam Gottschalk, now hosting his own talk show with competitor WKAV. And he fears Peterson will not be replaced.

"I'm not going to comment on that," says the operations manager for the Saga stations Rick Daniels (who also serves as co-host of the Morning Show with Rick and Jane) when asked if there would be other layoffs.

"I had no idea," says Schilling, who found out December 19 that his show was over. "It was not my choice," he says, adding that he was told it was a corporate decision.

"I think it's awful," says Schilling listener Linda McRaven. "I don't understand it. It was the one show that opened up an avenue of conversation in Charlottesville."

Some Schilling fans have taken action. Keith Drake, chairman of the 1,000-email-addresses-strong Albemarle Truth and Taxation Alliance, sent out word to members telling them to contact Saga and Charlottesville Radio Group.

The Bring Rob Schilling Back blog sprang up, also urging Schilling fans to let Saga and Charlottesville Radio Group know how they feel.

Like many publicly-traded media companies, parent company Saga Communications has recently seen sales drop due to recession, with Saga's stock price falling from over $10 two years ago to just $1.44 at press time.

Still, Saga was supposed to be different.

"What we have going for us is first and foremost our localism," writes Saga CEO Edward Christian in a recent annual report. "People depend on their local radio and TV stations," continues Christian. "We have a public trust that we embrace."

So why the booting of a local talk show host that WINA recruited?

"We have to balance things to make sure the business is profitable," explains Daniels. "It had nothing to do with Rob's political views."

The Michigan-based Saga, which owns 91 radio stations and five television stations, purchased home-grown WINA, WQMZ, and WWWV in 2004, and started 106.1 The Corner two years later. At the time of the purchase, outgoing owner Brad Eure enthused that personnel decisions would be made on the local level.

Daniels notes that Schilling's show isn't the only shuffle in the talk-radio line-up. Nationally syndicated Bill O'Reilly is not going to continue on WINA. A show by conservative commentator Laura Ingraham will replace both O'Reilly and Rob Schilling.

That doesn't appease Drake, who points out there are a half dozen national conservative radio commentators. "I want to hear local," he says.

"We hope Rob will be back on the air," says Daniels, "in some format soon."

So does Schilling.

"I trust there will be other opportunities," says the noted free-marketeer. "I tell my listeners to trust the market, and I'm going to take my own advice."

When the Hook checked back with Schilling a couple of weeks after his ouster, he declined to comment on pending offers, other than to say, "I've had several phone calls."

Updated January 5.

32 comments

So Schilling is replaced with Laura Ingraham, who has referred to "true Americans" as ââ?¬Å?white, southern, Christian, and Republican.” Nah, not a political decision. It had EVERYTHING to do with Schilling's political views.

Did Brad Eure actually believe that personnel and programming decisions would be made at the local level? I never thought of him as "stupid," but such a belief would certainly put him in that category. Public corporations behave however Wall Street tells them to behave. It's all about the stock price, not about serving the needs of the people to whom they broadcast.

Let's hope the reason they got rid of Tad was because he needed to go - not budgetary reasons.

But what about Tad Abbey? He's getting the boot too! I personally feel bad for them especially in these trying times.

Lisa,
do you guys know what will happen with the morning show over at 106.1?

I heard the guy with the high voice doing mornings recently. Is he going to be on like 10 hours a day now?

God, I hope not...

If they are going to discontinue any "show" PLEASE get rid of the morning show on 3WV. Management has let this joke of a radio show go on for too long. These guys aren't funny -- that is a fact. And, the guy that replaced the one that switched over to WINA talk is just as bad. He actually tries to talk and act like the guy he replaced. I occasionally turn the station on to see if they are still there and when I hear them and their lame jokes, references and sound effects, I turn back to NPR.

I am sure the guys are great guys and I don't want them unemployed -- just let them DJ and leave the comedy to someone else.

I stopped listening to local radio awhile ago - xm is easy on the ears and worth the investment.

Brad knew what he was doing - getting a great price at the market's peak, all other descions were secondary.

Getting rid of "the Devil" from the airwaves spells trouble for someone.

I'll do everything in my power to give Rob a spot on the only place for conservative views in C'ville anymore, 1260 and 94.1.

Anyone know how much WINA is saving by cutting Schilling & going w/ a syndicated show? Would be surprised if it's all about the bottom line...

Joe - I'd be a regular listener, as would the many other Schilling fans!

Contact Saga Communications and let them know what you think about their cancellation of The Schilling Show:

Edward Christian-President/CEO of Saga Communications
echristian@sagacom.com
Phone: 313-886-7070
Fax: 313-886-7150

Steven Goldstein-Executive VP/Group Program Director of Saga Communications
sgoldstein@sagacom.com
Phone: 203-221-1666
Fax: 203-222-9633

One thing that is disappearing more & more is local talk radio. I live in Waynesboro, and usually listen to 550 WSVA. Why? Because they still do local talk. Not all day, but a good 7-8 hours a day. I would turn over to WINA, to catch Robs show though. No reason to now. Just the same syndicated stuff, you can find on every other station in America. Never had any use for O'Reilly. Laura isn't much better. I'd just as soon have Clark Howard back on.

I'm a flaming liberal, but am angry to hear they're axing Rob. While I usually didn't agree with his political views, I appreciated that he'd frequently cover local stories that other Cville journalists shunned. There should be room at the table for all voices and viewpoints-- it makes the dialog all the richer. Is Coy next? Is this the start of a very disturbing trend?

I'm very sad to see Tad at 106.1 go as well. If this is a money thing, then you can bet that someone at the top will be skimming those cost-savings straight into his own pocket. Saga sucks.

Does anyone know how many on-air employees 106.1 now has? I noticed Brad Savage was now doing the morning show but I'd assumed Tad was just on vacation. I'm sorry to hear he's been laid off. But I'm also thinking that those guys already seemed to be working long hours, and it seems like Brad must never have any time off now.

Maybe I'm in the minority but I wouldn't complain if some of these on-air personalities kept their mouths shut during the mornings and just stuck to playing music and occasionally giving traffic and weather reports. I can get my sports and entertainment news from somewhere else. Perhaps that's a way for them to cut costs. And I agree with the above Big Greasy commenter, I will never listen to 3WV in the morning as long as those guys are on there.

loved the BGB, they are funny to many folks

it's always about money. it does not matter who you are.
just recently daytime actors and actresses were axed and/or asked to take a huge paycut

also, why are people getting so upset about a local radio host when there are little men everyday that are given their pinkslips.
if you don't like the new show boycott the stations and see what happend when ratings fall.
then maybe they will listen to the local community.

It's about time they started cleaning up the airwaves. Schilling's show SUCKED BIG TIME! Maybe he should consider a haircut before interviewing at Wal Mart.

I don't think Rob Schilling was paid so I am not sure it was about money for salary, I don't think there was an audience. It was a bully's pulpit, plain and simple. Not that opposite views aren't healthy and that he wasn't a good communicator, he just didn't always tell the truth about people and didn't allow them to counter. That is not good radio or fair.

Local radio is very important to communities. In this area, I listen to Coy Barefoot, Jerry Miller and the WINA morning show. These shows keep the community updated with information you will never receive from a national syndicated show.

I'm am quite distraught over the cuts. I hope the cuts on paper don't bleed all over the city. I want Brad Savage to do a morning dance marathon in a thong!

Saga let John Peterson go?!? That's crazy! He was an excellent newscaster. I sincerely don't get what's going on with Saga. Why dump Rob Schilling or John Peterson on the premise of budget cuts but then justify keeping a lunchtime host on 3WV? How many more women who sound like they've been smoking 2 packs a day for 20 years are they going to subject us to on 3WV? That lunchtime show hasn't been interesting or viable in at least 3 or 4 years. Or why can't the Big Greasy Breakfast have only 1 member instead of 2? I'd take the tradeoff of not hearing one single on air disc jockey on the air on the weekends on any of the Saga stations for keeping someone like John Peterson employed and contributing to our community.

Help is on the way for Saga. I ordered a cash cow with with lentil beans and radio waves to land in the fields of gold. I think that will turn their pretty heads around. Please fire up the microwave, it's time for some block-rocking-beats

Alpo

The Schilling Show is back!

Thanks to WINA and Saga Communications for returning Rob to the air this Monday, with an expanded format of two hours beginning 12noon to 2pm.

Please consider thanking the decision makers at Saga:

Edward Christian-President/CEO of Saga Communications
echristian@sagacom.com
Phone: 313-886-7070
Fax: 313-886-7150

Steven Goldstein-Executive VP/Group Program Director of Saga Communications
sgoldstein@sagacom.com
Phone: 203-221-1666
Fax: 203-222-9633

YEA for the return of Schilling to WINA! Thanks to all who listened to the people! WINA is the best!

I can't believe anyone can be excused in calling someones private home and leaving such a message! Did I hear an accusation of hate? Does the law allow for such? .....Harassment or what??? "Out of order" for sure!

Thank you for shining a light on this story. Ruth Latter is an important part of our art scene and a local icon. She is respected and loved by many of us.

Rose colored xenophobia notwithstanding, little in Charlottesville would be considered "world class" anywhere but here. Then there's Ruth Latter's art columns. She's a national treasure, and her columns are world class everywhere.

Ruth (my grandmother) is one of the chief reasons why I have pursued a career in journalism at the University of Maryland. :)

Ruth Latter is a treasure and should be treated as such by the paper to whom she has dedicated a tremendous amount of her life.... She is the only bit of class the paper has!

Ruth wrote a wonderful article about my art when I was just beginning painting back in the 70's. Since then, I had a career in architecture and, having retired from that endeavor, am pursuing painting again full time. I plan on sending to her some samples of my latest work for perhaps a second interview.

Ruth is my first cousin,although we donot see each other often I keep or try to keep in touch..I just want you to know that Ruth would never do anything to hurt a fellow man..Ruth is a lady of the highest princples and morality
Lester Pollack

Would you please advise Ruth that I am concerned that she hasnt answered two of my letters to her..
I hope she is well and would love to have a response...Lester pollack