In Music

WKTI's now apparently former morning show, though Matthew Blades and Erin Austin remain employed by the station. Producer AJ (right) does not.

WKTI tight-lipped about DJ plans after format switch

When WKTI (94.5 FM) switched formats last week, the station didn't offer a ton of information. It launched a basic Web site announcing the "New 94.5 Lake FM," and its DJs and morning show disappeared from the airwaves.

Pending approval, the station will change its call letters to WLWK, Journal Broadcast said in a news release. Beyond that, management is not going into much detail about personnel decisions, current and future.

According to Tom Land, Journal Broadcast Group director of radio programming, two of the three personalities from the morning show, Matthew Blades and Erin Austin, remain employed with the company, though their producer, AJ, does not.

Land also confirmed that the neither the morning show, nor any other DJs, are currently on the air. Land referred OnMilwaukee.com to Steve Wexler, executive vice president for television and radio operations, for additional comment. Blades, too, said he couldn't comment on his job status and referred us to Land.

Earlier this week Wexler told WISN.com, "The air staff that was heard on WKTI no longer will be heard so those folks are not with the radio station anymore, and we obviously thank them for the great work they've done."

According to a column by Tim Cuprisin in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is owned by the same company as WKTI, new DJs will likely arrive in 2009, but listeners should expect a less prominent role without a "big-personality morning show."

WKTI launched its latest incarnation of its morning show in the summer 2007. OnMilwaukee.com interviewed the trio last September, and asked Blades specifically if he thought station management would stick with the show during its natural growing pains.

"(Station management) thinks this may take a couple of years. I hope that it doesn't take that long," Blades said at the time. "But you have to be realistic. I always tell people this: I hope that people have the same passion that they did for Bob Reitman 25 years from now. I got a lot of e-mail from people saying they really wanted to hate us, but they're starting to listen and they really like it. That's cool. Management is committed and took me out to dinner again to tell me that."

Wexler was reached Sunday afternoon for comment. He replied, via e-mail, to the following questions:

OnMilwaukee.com: What's the status of Matthew's morning show? Can you explain why you kept Matthew and Erin but not AJ?

Steve Wexler: We are very grateful to all the on-air talent that had been part of WKTI. Our decision to change the station had nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with them. Milwaukee listeners told us it was time for a new approach. That is why we decided to launch a brand new radio station.

OMC: Why make a change in DJs when you change a format? Do you perceive the personalities as being part of the reason that you chose to change format?

SW: See my response, above.

OMC: Certainly some of your personalities have been around for years, but with the morning show, for example, they moved to Milwaukee specifically for this gig. Did you give them enough time to establish themselves? Is this just what happens in the industry?

SW: See my previous response.

OMC: You're going without DJs right now. Why?

SW: We're very focused on showcasing our music variety right now. Listeners have told us, loud and clear, that it was time for a Milwaukee radio station to play lots of music from different eras and different styles. There will be local on-air announcers on the station, but we will always make sure the music variety comes first.

OMC: Why are you changing the call letters?

SW: This is a brand new radio station. WKTI was a great radio station for many years, now it's time to build another great station ... that has real music variety that makes listening fun and unpredictable.

OMC: Your Web site, new logo, identity, etc., looks temporary, for lack of a better word. When making such a major change, isn't it typical to have all that hammered out in advance? Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the Web site seems to reflect a hurried or last-minute decision to change formats.

SW: The initial Web site was designed to do two things: give listeners a chance to provide feedback and to offer live audio streaming. Before we add a bunch of features that may or may not be of value, we want to make sure listeners have a chance to let us know what they'd like to see on our site.

OMC: What kind of feedback have you gotten on the new format so far?

SW: The response has been outstanding, way beyond our expectations. People are telling us they love the variety, they love that it's unpredictable. Most often, we're hearing that it's the perfect station to listen to at work because of the music variety. Remember, we didn't build 94.5 Lake FM without doing our homework. We listened to what people were telling us about radio, and we intend to continue to listen to them as we grow.

Talkbacks

TJR | Nov. 17, 2008 at 1:37 p.m. (report)

They talk big about variety..What a bunch of crap..Go to B-93, WRIT, the Brew and WKLH and you'll find the same songs.

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kinnickinnic | Nov. 15, 2008 at 5:57 a.m. (report)

The new kti was a big improvement over klh, for those who love rock classics. But, just for the first commercial free weekend. Now its the same crap.

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kes | Nov. 12, 2008 at 10:25 a.m. (report)

94.5 still sucks, even after the format change. The best radio station on the dial is 88.9 Radio Milwaukee.

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JKrunken | Nov. 10, 2008 at 9:29 p.m. (report)

Commercial radio isnt for music lovers. Its for people who might like to hear some music, but dont really love it. They just want to hear the same stuff over and over. Most of these people own CD's and MP3's that are the same junk they can hear on the station they frequent. Furthermore, most of their listeners want the same junk they listened to as teens or what their current teen children want to hear. And I guess those folks will be excited about a repackaging of the same songs over and over. Real music lovers want new, different and constant exploration. The only place for that is going to be WMSE and your own never ending search. I love the fact that as I listen to WMSE I dont know 70% of what they are playing. That way I learn something. Thats not what most radio listeners want. They want to feel comfortable and not learn anything.

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Myke | Nov. 10, 2008 at 4:58 p.m. (report)

As the proverb says "variety is the spice of life". If they truely play a variety of music that would be a big improvement. While I don't wish job loss on anyone,the truth be told the WKTI AM team was probably Milwaukee's least talented & weakest. They probably felt they had to do something.

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