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Media: Jay Thomas To WBT?! 

Oddball pairing may be in the works

Charlotte radio insiders are yapping about the rumor around town that WBT-AM is talking to former Charlotte DJ-turned-actor Jay Thomas to turn their 9am-noon slot into a syndicated radio show, dumping the embattled Dr. Laura in the process. Thomas, who was in town for media exec Stan Kaplan's recent funeral (Thomas worked for Kaplan at Big WAYS radio back in the day) is rumored (including by himself, according to sources who heard him blabbing at a Charlotte party) to be talking to WBT about just that possibility. He left New York City station WTJM after a format change there in September. He also still has business interests in Charlotte.

WBT GM Rick Jackson confirmed that he is talking to Thomas and his agent, but for now, he says, it's just talk.

"Yes, we are interested in Jay, but we have no idea how or where we would use him. He has plenty of (acting) work, but he would be great over here."

Interestingly, the person who helped start the talks was Stan Kaplan, Jackson says.

We'll keep you posted.

*****

Relief and renewed vacations abound, as the November ratings book has come and gone. WSOC-TV's dominance in the news game continues, save for two newscasts. WBTV still wins the noon news, helped mightily by its Price Is Right lead-in program. But they also get props for doing the midday news out of their Founders Hall studio, and for bringing in folks from the arts (saw Maurice Hines recently) and other community goings-on.

The winner and still champion of the 10 o'clock news ratings race is Fox 18, which is actually growing new viewers while the pool shrinks in other time periods where they don't compete. The wild card for WCCB now is that they have a new general manager. Mark Turner's been replaced with former WBTV GM John Hutchinson, which was a jaw-dropper for many TV types when it went down December 5. Not sure what the Fox 18 News department can expect with this move, but look for some stunts and hires that might surprise in weeks to come. Not that stunts and hires are always a good thing.

Now, my methods are crude, but it also looks like news viewers were watching more news in general, which I might have expected in these first ratings books after September 11.

What else are local viewers watching? In the mornings, Good Morning America and Regis & Kelly. In the afternoon, Oprah wins, but not by much; Peter Jennings is the anchor-saurus of choice in evening news. And in local stations' cash calf time period between 7 and 8pm, you're choosing Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight.

*****

Nepotism is not a problem at the Charlotte Observer, apparently. The December 1 articles explaining what editorials are and who writes them (duh!), were interesting if you trace the family trees.

Forum (i.e., Letters to the) editor Lew Powell is columnist Dannye Romine Powell's spouse. Associate editor Stewart Spencer is married to copy editor Colleen O'Brien Spencer. Managing editor Frank Barrows is the husband of columnist Mary Newsom.

Beyond the cozy family atmosphere were the political affiliations, as already witnessed by some letters to the editor: three Democrats, a Republican, and four unaffiliated voters on the editorial board.

It doesn't involve the influential editorial page, but also married are the O's restaurant critic, Helen Schwab, and sports editor Gary Schwab.

The truth can now be told: I am a third cousin twice-removed of CL editor John Grooms. There, I said it.

*****

Environmentalists have been trying to keep an eye on our local rivers and lakes, but it proves to be a tough job in the face of scant staff and rampant development. To get a greater appreciation of what we stand to lose, check out a new local documentary next month on WTVI.

It's Our River is a half-hour show detailing efforts to preserve the South Fork of the Catawba River. That river begins in Burke County and flows through the Piedmont and empties into Lake Wylie. And yes, it provides drinking water for more than a million people every day.

Joey Popp is the host and executive producer. It's Our River premieres Thursday, January 17 at 9:30pm on WTVI.

*****

When's the last time you remember Charlotte radio stations banding together to do anything? It took the death of longtime Charlotte media exec Stan Kaplan to make it happen.

Nancy Haynes, who is Mike Collins' partner in a marketing and communication firm, is a local media guru and Kaplan friend. She talked the 19 stations into a moment of radio silence December 6 at 5:12pm.

"Stan and Sis Kaplan are the quintessential example of people who have always been respectful and benevolent to their employees, yet still have managed to be successful in business. Clear Channel: Take a hint!" she said.

Kaplan's funeral was a Who's Who of Charlotte media types; in a touching remembrance, the Kaplan family gave out 200 Japanese Maple seedlings to the attendees to be planted in Stan's honor.

Colorful characters are hard to come by in this city, especially in our media community, and he's one that will be missed by many.

*****

STOCKING STUFFERS FOR YOU... Harriet Coffey being the most notable layoff, Clear Channel radio stations in Charlotte cut 10 people ("Merry Christmas, guys!"), citing falling revenues in this post-September 11 world. There is belt-tightening elsewhere in local media outlets, ranging from pay and hiring freezes to not filling empty job slots. Ad revenues are "soft" as the sales folks say, but replacing Miss Harriet with another non-local entity? Someone hire this woman. Need I say more. . .

Foodies and do-it-yourselfers rejoice as Time Warner Cable finally adds the Food Network and Emeril to our lives. TWC adds it to basic cable, and the new DIY network (baby sister of HGTV) to the digital tier. What took 'em so long?

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