Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"We Abhor and Condemn This Egregiously Offensive Presentation....Especially SInce It Didn't Make Us A Damn Dime or Kick Our Ratings Up Squat...."

First, let's be very clear.

There is no excuse for this.

There is, however, a reason.

Coming up.

UPDATE: The three radio hosts named below have now all been fired, per the station's website. Why this wasn't the station's first response is beyond us.

If you're the kind of nimrod who thinks it's humorous to make fun of people suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) -- a disease that mercilessly takes away nearly every bodily function most of us take for granted ... well, Atlanta radio "talent" Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino, and Steak Shapiro might be your kinds of guys.

For the rest of us, however, what these three chuckleheads did on their show Monday morning for the 790 The Zone station was outrageous, unprofessional, and most certainly fireable. After former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, penned a guest column for SI.com's Peter King that went up Monday morning (Gleason penned that column with his eyes, by the way), Cellini and Shapiro went on the air and made fun of Gleason. Yes, they did.

According to Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com, the hosts set up a skit in which they pretended that Gleason was a caller to the show and set up a fake caller with a robotic voice, because the disease has robbed Gleason of his ability to speak. They then wondered, on the air, whether Gleason would be alive by next week.

In an obvious "CYA" move, Cellini apologized via his Twitter account.
The station first suspended all three hosts indefinitely, which was announced by way of a boilerplate statement that isn't really worth re-running here. What Rick Mack, Senior VP and General Manager of the station, should have been asking himself is why these two individuals still have jobs. When they were fired, hours after their suspension and the subsequent outrage their comments caused, the station issued this statement:
"We deeply regret the offensive programming that aired this morning on “Mayhem In The AM” on 790 The Zone, related to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS. We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following their comments and have since terminated their employment. 790 The Zone, our owners, sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support this kind of content. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Gleason, his family and all those touched by ALS."
And since this happened on the Atlanta Falcons' flagship station, you can bet the Falcons franchise wasn't happy about it at all. The Falcons' statement:
“The Falcons are disappointed in the comments made about former Saints player Steve Gleason on a local Atlanta radio station Monday morning. The content concerning Mr. Gleason was completely inappropriate and is not representative of the views of the Falcons organization, nor does it represent the way we conduct our business on and off the field. To single out Steve the way he was this morning is totally lacking in taste and discretion.”
As Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com so eloquently wrote today, the station needed to make this right by firing the hosts, reaching out to Gleason with a public and heartfelt apology (if they can muster one up), and making a sizable donation to Team Gleason, which Gleason and his family established to help others suffering from ALS.

Nothing else will do. Formulaic apologies don't even begin to scratch the surface when you're dealing with disgusting behavior like this. This wasn't a slip of the tongue on a radio show -- this was a premeditated attempt to ridicule a man who has worked ceaselessly to maintain his dignity, his opponent a damnable disease that does everything possible to remove it. Gleason beat ALS in that sense, so he doesn't need to worry about a couple of sub-level radio goons. But the very idea that any of them could ever appear on that station again would be an endorsement of their repugnant actions.

And that is simply unacceptable.

Okay, let me reiterate my opening assertion.

There is no excuse for this.

And I'm not about to waste my time, or yours, making one for these hacks.

But, as I offered, there is a reason.

A reason that serves to illustrate what's terribly wrong with radio these days.

Essentially, it comes out of the folder labeled "Desperate Measures".

As in, "desperate times call for...."

If you're a connoisseur of the desperate, here's a link to the tasteless tidbit.


While it would be easy and tempting to write this incident off as nothing more than stupidity exhibited by three academically depleted frat boys who finally, and inexplicably, ran out of Lohan/Kardashian/t&a jokes and fart noise sound effects on their daily "show", there is a more insidious villain at work here.

Which, of course, won't delay, for a micro second, management's public weep and wail that this incident is nothing more than stupidity exhibited by three academically depleted frat boys who finally, and inexplicably, ran out of Lohan/Kardashian/t&a jokes and fart noise sound effects on their daily "show".

But while there is no exoneration deserved, or expected, for the morons three here, there is enough blame left over to spoon out a dollop or two in the direction of the aforementioned weepers and wailers.

Because making the frat boys solely responsible for this little stomp through the poop pile is like laying the blame for the burning down of the day care center at the pitter pattering little feet of the youngsters found to have been playing with matches.

And casting no stones at the doorknobs running the place.

Regardless of what the programming department has wanted to believe all these generations, radio has always been, first, foremost and primarily, a business.

And a successful business, by definition, is one that shows a profit at the end of the day.

Not to mention fiscal year.

In order for that to happen, a simple cause and effect has to be in effect.

Stations offer an irresistible recipe of essential information and mass appeal entertainment sufficiently seductive to attract an audience large enough to impress advertisers that their very survival in the marketplace hinges on promoting their products and/or services in thirty, ideally sixty, second bursts each and every day.

Not to mention fiscal year.

For a long, long time, that recipe cooked up to make pretty much everybody involved fat and happy.

Cue the arrival of harsh reality.

That time has passed.

Today, essential information can be acquired in dozens of places, not the least of which, of course, being the smart phone you have very likely already used today.

Not to mention the PC and/or laptop and/or pad you're using to read this piece.

And "mass appeal" becomes almost a Quixotic impossible dream, given the availability of programming, to each and every unique demographic, in dozens of places, not the least of which, of course being the smart phone you've likely already used today.

Not to mention the PC and/or laptop and/or pad you're using to read this piece.

Given that reality, the advertising dollars that once flowed like sweet honey and fine wine through the hallways of sales departments from coast to coast, and AM to FM, are now more like shiny nuggets in a stream, still possible to possess, but, at best, elusive and, at worst, already mined and banked by those lucky, and savvy, enough to mine them correctly.

Then, as the inevitable economic paradigm goes, the downward spiral begins.

Fewer dollars means less quality means fewer listeners means fewer advertisers which means fewer dollars which means....

And, at some point in the spiral, panic, even a little hysteria, begins to rear its ugly little head.

Or heads, as in the case of Moe, Larry and Moron there in Atlanta.

Panic in the form of saying things out loud that any reasonable person wouldn't even likely think, let alone say, for no other reason than to attract attention, raise a ruckus, make some noise, keep the few remaining listeners from, once and for all, turning off the morning mindlessness and logging on to a  favorite podcast.

While checking the forecast, traffic conditions and stock market.

On the same pad.

Or pod.

Then, management doing what management usually does in these situations, looks for ways to continue cutting corners.

Less live, more voice tracked.

And what little live is left more and more too often comes in the form of burned out, used up old school radio jocks who still think that calling little people "midgets" in 2013 is both funny and relatable; tasteless, talentless grandstanding frat boys who are too stupid to have any sense of broadcasting savvy or any combination of the aforementioned who are willing to do the work of three or four people for salaries only marginally higher than your average, highly educated, professionally honed Wal Mart checker.

Or, obviously, three frat boys who, to their chagrin, misplayed a hunch that today's radio audience would find ridiculing a guy with ALS funny and relatable.

Instead of what it obviously is.

Childish, juvenile, careless, thoughtless and damaging.

Like little kids playing with matches.

And the smell of smoke is the day care center in flames.

Or radio station, as the case may be.

But kicking the little match strikers out of the building only solves half the problem.

The other half of the problem is meeting behind closed doors to continue their hysterical efforts to stop the bleeding of red ink at any cost.

Providing, of course, that at any cost means it doesn't cost anything.

And the wheel on the bus goes round and round.

Even as it runs over the three morons who got thrown under it in Atlanta.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"...Meet The New Star.....Same As The Old Star...."

(ED. note: As a rule, these commentaries come to you without commercial interruption.

Today, for reasons that will become obvious, an exception is being made to that rule.

The following essay is brought to you by Caleb Hommel of Monroe, New York, maker of fine products for your life since 1908.)

Pop quiz.

Resisting the temptation to open a new browser window and bring up Google, identify, in just a few quick words, the following individuals:

Ali Dee.

Amber Hayes.

Elizabeth Lyons.

Lydia Hollis.

Alexandra Lee.

Jordan Anderson.

Rachelle Lynae.

Wow. Those pesky pop quizzes are just as vexing, and annoying, as they were in Miss Higgins' seventh grade classroom, wouldn't you say?


Let's try this one.

Anna Christine.

No, Christine, not Christie.

There's always some Eugene O'Neill nerd in the crowd waiting for the chance to show off.

Still batting zip?


Let me throw you a baby bone.

Danielle Bradbery.

Oh, you say. Wait. Wait. You got it...you got it....

EHHH! Oh, I'm sorry, time's up.

Ms. Bradbery, zealous fans will already know and part time followers will remember when prodded, is the latest "next big thing" singing talent to emerge from the NBC competition show, "The Voice".

For those who are unaware, and dutifully resisted the earlier Google temptation, this charming woman child is 16 years old and sings, in an oft repeated phrase, give or take a platitude, like a seasoned pro.

Here's a little bit of that great big talent that has so many folks predictably agog.

Meanwhile, simultaneously raising the bar while lowering the age, 10 year old Anna Christine arrives on "America's Got Talent".

This charming kid not only brought the crowd to their feet but created an online buzz that peaked with the uttering of the Holy Grail of competition show platitudes...

"...a Susan Boyle moment..."


These are some impressive kids.

But not, for me, for the reason that is making so many folks stand up and/or tear up.

Obviously, they are good kids, legitimate role models for young folks in a culture that has way more than its share of anti role models parading in and out of clubs, rehab and/or reality shows.

And if one of these young ladies was a granddaughter of mine, you'd already be weary of the smartphone videos I would likely have in your face at every opportunity.

So, when I offer you what's coming next, please spare me the tsk tsk, eye roll that unfailingly accompanies the inevitable knee jerk desire to write off anyone who would find fault with these favorites as a glass half empty cranky pants.

There is a lot to be applauded and appreciated in both of these young ladies, for that matter, in each and every one of the other, aforementioned young ladies.

But, without exception, in each and every case, there is something of value that is missing.

To the everyday ear, a closed eyed comparison of Danielle Bradbery singing "Heads Carolina, Tails Cailfornia" with Jo Dee Messina's original version of the same song would likely result in an uncertainty as to who which one was w and/or who was singing at the time.

And chances are, with the same closed eyes resulting in taking the "awww" factor off the table, you would enjoy Ms. Christine's 10 year old take on the classic song about a New Orleans whorehouse, but would likely be unable to pick her out of the singing equivalent of a line up if they spotted you three voices and an upcoming tour schedule.

There is no blame being assigned here.

There is no blame to be assigned.

There is, simply, this.

They all sound wonderful.

And they sound just like the particular already established star that they have chosen to idolize and/or emulate.

And they sound just like each other.

They are, at the heart of it, products of their generation and their culture. A culture that provides eight lane interstates to potential stardom as opposed to the long and winding roads that previous generations of singers had to travel. A culture that hands out celebrity like free sausage samples in the grocery store instead of bestowing it on those who needed both raw talent and very hard work to even get a shot.

A culture where the "big break" is no longer a one in a million possibility, but one viral You Tube performance away from standing ovation, water cooler buzz and the caption of champions..."the next Susan Boyle".

A culture whose corporate entertainment mantra has become "if at first, someone succeeds, let's get another version of that same thing on the shelves as fast, and as inexpensively, as humanly possible."

Like, for instance...

Ali Dee.

Amber Hayes.

Elizabeth Lyons.

Lydia Hollis.

Alexandra Lee.

Jordan Anderson.

Rachelle Lynae.

All of whom, at this writing, have a major label release competing for airplay and/or acceptance on country radio.

I listened to each of them earlier today.

They all sound wonderful.

And they sound just like the particular already established star that they have chosen to idolize and/or emulate.

And they sound just like each other.

(The preceding essay was brought to you by Caleb Hommel of Monroe, New York, maker of fine products for your life since 1908, most notably, the delicious and nutritious taste treat the whole family enjoys....


The name 'Velveeta' is intended to connote a velvety smooth edible product. Smoothness and meltability are promoted as its iconic properties )

As is the case with most processed cheeses, the manufacturer recommends Velveeta be refrigerated after opening.)

That last tip should probably be paid the most heed.

It gets very hot under those television lights.