I've often called radio a cold and cruel business. Firings come faster and with less warning than in other businesses -- and they're usually not a reflection on the individual.
The ax fell Tuesday for WSSP-AM (1250) sports talker Doug Russell and nobody was more surprised than Russell. He's done mornings for four and a half years at 'SSP, one of two competing AM sports-talk stations on the Milwaukee dial, along with WAUK-AM (540)
"Out of the blue, total shock," Russell tells me. He'd just come back from vacation, which ended with him hosting the Make a Wish golf tournament and he did a full show this morning.
After the show he sat down at his desk to do some scheduling work in his role as sports director, when he got an email from program director Tom Parker.
The email seemed routine, but when he got to the office, the human resources person was there.
"When they tell to close the door and sit down, the handwriting is on the wall," said Russell, who started in radio in college in 1990, with his first professional job in Ripon in 1992.
He quoted Parker as saying he "want to take the show in a different direction."
That obviously raises questions about what that means, especially when another big Milwaukee radio personality, Bill Michaels, is looking for his next gig after he was let go by WTMJ-AM (620).
Parker tells me that "the Michaels speculation will have to be just speculation."
Michaels, himself, was among the first to call Russell after news came out Tuesday. He and Russell worked together at WTMJ.
On his Facebook page, Michaels wrote: "One of the best people I know, Doug Russell, let go today. The best of luck to him and his wife. He's the best."
Parker's statement on Russell: "Doug is no longer with the station and we are moving in a different direction with the morning show. Simply a business decision. WSSP is grateful for his service of more than four years and wish him the best.
Mike Wickett and Chuck Freimund will continue live and local as morning hosts here and we will not be replacing Doug's position.
As for Russell, his final show was Tuesday, leaving him without a chance for sign-off.
His farewell to listeners: "Just, thank you. The words aren't early enough, just thank you to everyone who let me be a part of their morning for 4 1/2 years."
You can find Russell on Facebook and Twitter.
On TV: The first "Critics' Choice Television Awards" telecast airs tonight at 10 on Reelz (Channel 275 on Time Warner Cable), but the awards have already given been given out. The best comedy: "Modern Family." The best drama: "Mad Men." I'd agree with both picks. TVLine.com offers the complete list of winners.
- The president's speech on Afghanistan at 7 is expected to run 10 minutes, and shouldn't disrupt the prime-time schedule too much.
- CBS has locked up the Grammy Awards through 2021.
- TLC says it'll air the wedding of celeb couple Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo, in a special that'll include pre-wedding stuff as well. No air date has been announced.
- Sunday's first season finale of HBO's "Game of Thrones" brought in 3 million viewers. It opened with 2.2 million, the mark of a successful series.
A summer treat for the Gleeks: In this summer break from "Glee" (unless you're part of the small audience watching Oxygen's "Glee Project," here a Funny or Die take on the rise of the show's star, Matthew Morrison:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.