The WKNR Change Watch

Note that the following item is filled with speculation, rumor and not really a lot of facts. Still, we’ll helpfully identify what is fact, and what isn’t, for you…

The Cleveland sports radio community and listeners are in a holding pattern wondering what’ll happen to Good Karma-run sports talk WKNR/850. Changes of some sort would appear to be in the offing, but what?

Let’s run through some stuff we found in a recent Google search. Most of this stuff has been written in the past month or so, but we just haven’t gotten around to sharing it…

THE SCENE FROM SCENE: First up is a recent item from the entertainment section of the blog “C-Notes” on the website of alt-weekly Cleveland Scene.

Scene’s Erich Burnett, in an item called “The New King of Sports Talk”, weighs in on the topic with an interview with Good Karma boss Craig Karmazin. And we thought WE had the corner on local media snark:

Karmazin insists no shakeups are planned with WKNR’s on-air talent, which is kinda like invading North Korea to go for beers with Kim Jong-Il.

C’mon, even Greg Brinda? The Radio Version of Sam Fulwood hasn’t uttered a compelling phrase since 1982.

“We love all our on-air guys, and all the on-air guys that were here when we got here still have jobs,” he says. “We’re extremely excited about what they’re doing.”

Yes, WKNR’s airstaff still has jobs, even as of this writing.

And Mr. Karmazin’s quote above is actually consistent with at least some of what we’ve heard bouncing around the local rumor mill.

At least one set of changes we’ve heard rumored would move Mr. Brinda, the existing mid-morning host, into morning drive, making room for long-rumored WKNR full-time addition Tony Rizzo in middays.

Premiere’s Jim Rome stays, no question. And everything we’ve heard rumor-wise from day one of the Good Karma era at WKNR would seem to suggest that afternoon driver Kenny Roda is staying not only on the station, but in his time slot.

There. No “major shakeup” there…just adding one more local show, with the existing hosts still employed. (Again, we caution that these rumblings are not being reported here as fact. Call it “quasi-informed speculation.”)

WKNR’s biggest problem has not necessarily been its local air personalities, though many would pipe in that neither Brinda nor Roda excites them.

WKNR’s biggest problem has been that it’s been operated by an owner of religious and conservative talk radio stations, which had absolutely no desire to take the necessary steps to market the station and beef up its on-air sound.

Our guess as to upcoming near-term changes, and it’s only a guess, in four parts:

BYE, BYE, THE VOICE OF LUCZAK: WKNR’s on-air sound undergoes an overhaul, with a new, professional imaging voice and other such niceities ignored by the previous ownership.

TWEAK, NOT SHAKE: The immediate lineup changes are no more significant than what we reprinted from RumorLand(tm) above, with the addition of Tony Rizzo and other minor tweaks.

We also aren’t ruling out rumored pairings of hosts – WKNR is one of the few stations that does not have a single weekday show with two hosts, a sports talk radio staple in other markets. Even WKNR’s new owner is actually part of one of these shows, “The Steve and Craig Show”, which should start airing on sister WWGK/1540 “Cleveland’s ESPN Radio 1540” in the Spring.

BENCH PLAYERS: The station finds and identifies a solid “second-tier” of hosts and other on-air personalities, and begins to build its bench. Our earlier item noting the pairing of WKNR promotions director Jason Gibbs with ex-Browns draft pick Jim Pyne could have been the first step in this direction.

INVOLVED: Good Karma does what it can to dramatically improve WKNR’s visibility, and its relationship with local sports organizations (not just the major professional and college teams).

Does this mean there are no lineup changes in the next week or two, i.e. Mr. Rizzo’s rumored full-time gig and perhaps something like a live, local weekday evening show? (That’s just a guess, folks…again, we are not reporting this as fact.)


But the foundation has to go in first, and the items above are that foundation, in our humble opinion.

Other Good Karma/WKNR-related stuff we found of recent vintage:

GALLERIA: Crain Cleveland Business’ John Booth, who was the first print reporter to break the sale of WKNR to Good Karma, has more details on the company’s planned move to the Galleria at Erieview, a shopping center/office complex a reasonable walk from Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Booth says the WKNR/WWGK move will be to a 4,000 square foot first-floor space at the Galleria’s eastern end by “late 2007”. Mr. Karmazin tells Booth that the move will increase the stations’ visibility and proximity to the local sports teams, and calls himself a “believer” in downtown Cleveland…as he’s not only moving his stations there, he now lives there.

And while the Crain’s article doesn’t address the on-air lineup at WKNR, Karmazin does say there will be “no jobs lost” as a result of the merger…noting that WWGK only has two employees (that would refer to update anchors/reporters Aaron Goldhammer and Bernard Bokenyi).

He also channels his famous father, Sirius Satellite Radio boss Mel Karmazin, noting that there will be “continued growth” of the stations’ sales force…

RODA PROFILE: And we also found a Lake County News-Herald profile of WKNR’s afternoon drive host, which ran a couple of weeks after the Good Karma acquisition announcement.

Aside from some interesting comments about being the most infamous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in a city which hates that team even drawing air, Kenny Roda name checks his new boss:

WKNR was recently purchased by Good Karma Broadcasting from Salem Communications, but Roda said he is excited about the new ownership team and is looking forward to working for Craig Karmazin and Good Karma.

KARMAZIN PROFILE: And we’re not sure we ever linked this profile from April, on the website

It’s a fascinating Q&A session with the WKNR/WWGK owner that might be worth a read for folks, say, working out of a certain building on Broadview Road…

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