In a testament to how weird things can get in Chicago radio, a lawsuit was filed this week by a radio personality claiming “emotional distress” after his employer hired his old boss – who allegedly had staffers send raw meat to advertisers. Really.
On Monday, Mancow Muller (who else?) filed suit in Cook County Court against his Marv Nyren for a second time, his former boss at WKQX-FM and now his new boss at classic rock WLUP-FM. He claims Nyren “diminished his reputation” and try to discourage other competitors from hiring him and fears Nyren would continue to do so under his new position at Cumulus. Muller previously sued Nyren for libel in 2007, but was settled in 2011.
Cumulus hired Mancow in March 2015 as WLUP’s new morning personality in a phony and staged “contest” (which led yours truly to regrettably declare Chicago radio the worst in the country at the time in a now infamous piece I wrote – though admittedly, I failed to take New York City urban radio into consideration – given this incident, this incident , this incident and this incident.)
Mancow reported to Nyren at WKQX until he was fired from the station in 2006. Last week, Nyren was hired as vice president and manager of Cumulus’ four stations in Chicago as the company exercised an option to purchase Merlin Media’s two remaining properties, WLUP and WKQX – both were owned by Emmis, Nyren’s and Mancow’s employers at the time.
On the second day of the job, Nyren seemed to put the bad blood between him and Mancow behind him as he told the Chicago Tribune: “I’m thrilled to be working with Cumulus and Mancow. He’s really seeing some great ratings, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
But it’s Muller who hasn’t forgotten. According to the Tribune, the lawsuit states Nyren fired Muller in a conference room and taunted him in the process. Muller was subject to a crude on-air skit celebrating his departure and WKQX sales staff even sent advertisers “raw, spoiled rotten and bloody meat”, referring to him as a “dead cow”. Muller is seeking damages, though the unspecified amount or other considerations weren’t disclosed.
Despite all of this, Muller wants to keep his employment at WLUP, according to his attorney. The suit does not seek the removal of Nyren from his newly-installed position.
Nyren’s actions did not stop Muller from being employed elsewhere – he was paired with Pat Cassidy for a short-lived WLS-AM show. His syndicated radio morning show aired on WCKG-FM beginning in 2011 and also had a daily television simulcast over Fox’s WPWR-TV starting a year later. Both came to an end in 2014.
It is hard to pick a side to root for. Nyren was certainly not well-liked at Emmis – for one, he fired Cara Carriveau (who’s now at WSHE-FM) after she made some critical comments about the radio industry in a letter to then-Sun Times media critic Robert Feder. Meanwhile, many Q101 employees found Mancow difficult to work with (when the original Q101 closed in 2011, Mancow criticized the station and didn’t take part in any of the station’s going away festivities.) And before Donald Trump starting ripping Chicago on a frequent basis, Mueller was often a critic of the city where he earns his paycheck.
As for Nyren, him approving his sales staff to send “spoiled meat” to make a point about Mancow to advertisers is about as unprofessional as it gets. Who does that? And worse, just how did he manage to return in an executive role to Chicago radio? It proves in the minds of a lot of people, Cumulus is the worst radio company in America.
Despite the fact radio is flourishing at a time alternatives such as podcasting, satellite, and Internet radio are widely available, nonsense like this – rekindling a fight from nearly twelve years ago – is stupid. At a time when the useless, paid-off FCC is busy letting media companies consolidate (this whole idiotic saga is a complete byproduct of this), radio shouldn’t give any reason for listeners and advertisers to head toward the exits – even with trade groups such as the Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland telling clients how great radio is for advertising as those 60-second “roadblock” ads tell us. I’m certain they didn’t get the spoiled meat.
While I guess you can say this is another episode of Everybody Loves Mancow, (I’m not posting that photo again), there is a time when the joke stops being funny and becomes outright pathetic. Having clueless execs like Nyren and “talent” like Mancow still being employed in Chicago radio tells us where the medium is locally these days. Just like with Hollywood and the recent spate of sexual harassment claims being made, the culture of Chicago radio also needs to change, and the sooner the better.