By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM
Watch Tim Cuprisin's On Media on Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin on Demand Channel 411, with new episodes posted Fridays.
The loss of local morning programming on WMCS-AM (1290) didn't happen in a vacuum.

As I reported yesterday, the station has dropped its "Morning Magazine," axing hosts Cassandra Cassandra and Joel McNally, and picked up syndicated programming -- gospel singer Yolanda Adams from 6 to 9 a.m. and Warren Ballentine from 9 to noon. General manager Bill Hurwitz says those shows will continue to feature local news, weather and traffic updates.

Tyrene Jackson, who did a mid-morning show as "TJ," will concentrate on her duties as operations/program director, and appear on Earl Ingram's afternoon show.

Just as one of Milwaukee's smaller stations is undergoing unpleasant change, one of the biggest radio stations in the Midwest -- Chicago's WGN-AM (720) -- is doing some cutting of its own.

Bob Sirott's noon show is gone, which means John Williams' midday show will now run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Sirott continues to co-host the "Sunday Night Radio Special" at 10 p.m. Sundays with his wife, Marianne Murciano.

While local voices are what make local radio different from syndicated, satellite or Internet radio voices, local voices are expensive. It's why many FM stations use recorded voices for big chunks of their broadcast day, paying local voices less to have them record the bits between songs.

But you can't "voice track" stations that rely on conversation.

The loss of WMCS' "Morning Magazine" is particularly sad because the station is operated as a gathering place for Milwaukee's black community. That's been owner Willie Davis' goal for the station, and Hurwitz, his general manager, says that's still the goal.

"Willie has made a commitment to continue and to always provide uplifting and entertaining program that will continue to super-serve the community," said Hurwitz. But operating the station was expensive, and the African-American target audience, some 240,000 people, isn't large enough to support the live, local voices it once did.

Arbitron ratings show that WMCS' was in 18th place among all listeners 12 and older in the 6 to 10 a.m. time period, with a 0.9% share of available listeners in the fourth quarter of 2009. Coincidentally, WMCS ranks just ahead of the Milwaukee listenership of Chicago's WGN, with a 0.7% share of available listeners.

McNally said he's not surprised by the loss of "Morning Magazine."

"The state of things around there, economically, were such that you couldn't be surprised at anything."

But he says management was unwilling to spend money to promote the station. "I kept arguing to them that you gotta spend money on promotion in order to make more money on advertising," he said.

The two hosts learned of the end of the show about an hour after the end of Friday's show.

I've read some conservative bloggers who are talking about the end of "Morning Magazine" as another failure of "liberal" radio. While McNally is a prominent liberal voice, both the station and the show are hardly ideological, in talk radio's sense of that term.

"The opinion in the black community ranges from extremely conservative -- and fundamental religious conservative -- to people that are totally on my wavelength," said McNally of the audience he's been holding conversations with for nearly four years.

Watching Brett' lose: Preliminary overnight numbers from Nielsen Media Research show that Milwaukee TV viewership of Sunday night's dramatic NFC Championship game peaked in overtime, with more than 496,000 southeast Wisconsin households tuned in. 

A 68 percent share of TVs that were turned on last night, were tuned to the game on Channel 6 at its conclusion.

Overall, the game should have an average audience of about 429,000 area homes, a 64 percent share of available TV homes.

Once the final numbers are in, it could end up being the biggest non-Packers championship game on Channel 6, with records only going back to 1988.

On TV:'s Michael Ausiello has the exclusive word that Whitefish Bay's Sam Page is joining ABC's "Desperate Housewives" next month as a cook with an interest in Marcia Cross' "Bree" and her old-fashioned values. Page was most recently seen in AMC's "Mad Men."

  • The latest number for the amount raised in Friday nights' two-hour "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon is $58 million.
  • About 4.8 million people watched last week's "Jersey Shore" season finale on MTV, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers. And now the cast is asking for more money to come back for a second season. The New York Post's Page Six reports they want $10,000 per episode, rather than the few hundred dollars per episode they've been getting in the first season.
  • The Fox 411 entertainment blog says that reports Liza Minelli is joining the cast of ABC's "Ugly Betty."
Even Walmart can be funny: The funniest part of Sunday night's NFC Championship came during the commercials, specifically this scary clown spot from Walmart.
Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for 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

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.