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Alice Singleton Headshot

The Tom Joyner Morning Show: A Requiem, Chicago Style

Posted: Updated:

To: Sandra Coyle, Clear Channel

From: Alice Singleton

This morning I re-set my alarm clock dial from V103 to 94.7 Golden Oldies. It's the first time in decades that I have not had my dial set on V103.

I'm sure your decision to jettison the TJMS and simulcast Steve Harvey was purely a financial decision, certainly not a popularity or audience-preference decision.

If I wanted to listen to Mr. Harvey, I would be a regular morning listener (and sponsor-supporter) of WGCI.

I believe that you have made a dire mistake in replacing Mr. Joyner & Company with the presence of Mr. Harvey, and therefore I am no longer a dedicated listener of V103 and will never tune in to listen to the amazingly untalented Mr. Harvey.

I hope that Clear Channel management will reverse their decision, perhaps when after a few quarters you find your Arbitron numbers and attractiveness to current and new sponsors woefully inadequate.

Yep. I said it.

Tom Joyner is off the air in Chicago. After twenty straight years of broadcasting everyday to a city with one of the largest black populations in the country, Mr. Joyner & Company got snatched off the dial after Monday's show. Clear Channel executives didn't even give the team a chance to give a proper on-air goodbye. In his place on Tuesday, (very) loyal listeners found themselves with the choice of listening to the lame also-ran (the not very funny) comedian Steve Harvey - simulcast with WVAZ's sister station WGCI - or turning the dial. I turned away, and would bet many other TJMS fans became former listeners as well on Tuesday morning.

Tom Joyner has syndicated his show from Dallas for the last twenty-five years. Back in the day, before technology caught up with him, allowing his show to be in many cities at once, Mr. Joyner was dubbed "the Fly Jock", appropriately named by the late, great Richard Pegue, the Chicago radio giant who passed away in early March. Mr. Joyner spent years "live" broadcasting in Chicago, then heading to Dallas to do it all over again at the Chicago broadcast's end. Everyday.

Although technology and new business models allowed Mr. Joyner to spread his voice across the country, he stayed close to his Chicago roots, always close to the seventies DJ that played the best music, told the corniest jokes and graced us with endless radio theater on the long-gone WJPC-AM. He moved up and out, and along with his show, established the Tom Joyner Foundation, which gives out sponsorships to students at HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), sponsoring the nationwide "Take a Family Member to the Doctor" event, bridging the gaps between the medical profession and the black community, insisting that African-Americans invest as much in their health as they do in other life essentials, and bringing emphasis to preventive health care in economically challenged communities.

He never forgot his Chicago radio family, keeping Chicago listeners dear in his heart and returning here regularly for live broadcasts and promotions. In the last few years, the TJMS and its sister website, BlackAmericaWeb, became social, cultural and political Mecca for those of us looking for clarity on events unfolding and soon to unfold. The TJMS show introduced a daily audience of eight million to presidential candidate Barack Obama, and allowed former president Bill Clinton to explain some questionable campaign remarks and make peace with an insulted black community during the heady and heated days of the presidential primary.

When mainstream political pundits "didn't get it", or right-wing demagogues attacked Mr. Obama, the TJMS always provided an open forum for both sides to come on and debate the real issues at hand. Mr. Joyner was the "anti-Rush," providing community organizing on the radio, with the community extending from Juneau, Alaska to Jupiter, Florida - 115 stations getting the information they wanted and needed straight from the horse's mouth. Sybil's book club and diet plans; J. Anthony "murdering the hits" and his weekly recap of Spike-TV's "One Thousand Ways to Die", an "all boy" show that even piques the girliest girl's curiosity by way of J. Anthony's unique spin. And of course the best musical mixologist on the planet - Steve "Silk" Hurley, taking an oldie and a brand new hit to make beautiful one-shot daily musical scores.

I write in past tense because I'm not very hopeful that the TJMS show will find a new Chicago home. We've lost some great radio personalities over the last couple of years, including CBS Radio's Steve Dahl, and our loss of radio talents and listening choices seems to stem from the failed business model of media consolidation by conglomerates owning everything from insurance companies to disposable diapers, and in the end taking away listener and viewer choice by inserting "tab A' into "slot B" in order to maintain obscene executive salaries and perks.

What hath deregulation wrought? Crappy radio "entertainment" from the same sardine tin that can be found on several stations in the same city. No matter how popular, or ad revenue-lucrative, the banking business model is nestled into every pore of media and it's all about filling space and not about keeping the customer satisfied.

Well, I changed my dial Tuesday morning. It will stay that way. I'm sure Mr. Harvey is a perfectly lovely man, but I had my opportunity to listen to his show on WGCI, and I politely declined and kept the dial pin on V103. Well, back to TV and "Morning Joe." I'll catch Tom & Company via the web rebroadcast.

BTW, media decision-makers, the next time you wonder why your audience is leaving in droves to get their kicks on the internet, read the last line of the last paragraph. One Chicago-based caller on Tuesday summed it up perfectly, "glad you're back on the internet, Tom. I'll always be a loyal listener."

Your business schools should have taught you that money is made from a loyal clientele. Your insistence on greasing the wheels of radio's failure with junk-programming is quickly killing the industry. Continuing to replace real talent with the cheaper spread and auto-music will hasten the industry's demise. Radio's requiem is being written.

And then, where will you work? And what will "catch your ear?"