That’s what exactly happened to Jan Jeffries, the one-time radio personality who rose through ranks to an executive position at one of America’s largest radio chains. Cumulus fired Jeffries Tuesday, only three months after he relocated to Washington D.C. to run ratings-challenged Hot Adult Contemporary outlet WRQX-FM.
According to insiders, Jeffries had a close relationship with John and Lew Dickey, the brothers who ran the company. When the Dickey brothers were forced out a few weeks ago due to a board of directors revolt, there was speculation if Jeffries would remain in his position under the Mary Berner regime.
Jeffries was a one-time DJ and program director of the old WAGO-FM (now a simulcast of WBBM-AM on 105.9) in the mid-1980’s. When WAGO became Classic Rock WCKG, Jeffries jumped to WYTZ-FM, one of the many forerunners to the current WLS-FM. After a long stint in Atlanta, Jeffries returned to WLS-FM as general manager in addition to his corporate executive duties when Cumulus took over Citadel Broadcasting, WLS-FM’s owner at the time.
To say Jeffries’ time at WLS was a disaster is perhaps the understatement of the year. Despite success as an Oldies station, Jeffries blew up the format and switched to a rock version of Classic Hits, turned over almost the entire staff (on AND off-air personnel), and adopted an inane “less talk, more music” mandate for DJs who specialized in connecting with their audience. Ratings remained constant, but in recent months was getting beat by rival K-Hits (WJMK-FM).
In a way, Jeffries and WLS were like Roger Goodell and the NFL: the station maintaining a loyal (but eroding) fan base despite the quality going south.
There was speculation (on message boards) Cumulus would throw in the towel and switch to the company’s NASH-FM country format, itself having problems. While its unlikely to happen, the current sound structure at WLS-FM – with the “less talk, more music” mandate, repetition of songs, a lousy morning show and Dick Biondi still at 11 p.m. weeknights while evenings remain vacant due to John Landecker’s departure last summer – leaves very little to be desired.
Don’t feel sorry for Jeffries – I’m certain he’ll be back soon, ruining yet another media outlet.
It worked for CNN when they hired Jeff Zucker.