For a variety of reasons, Baltimore is undergoing a grand changing of the media guard this summer. WBAL-TV (channel 11) is replacing news anchors Virg Jacques and Dave Durian and weatherperson Tony Pann. Sports columnist Ken Rosenthal is moving to The Sporting News after 13 years at the Sunpapers, and a raft of other Sun scribes is preparing to leave the paper. And in talk radio, WCBM's (680 AM) Zoh Hieronimus (The Zoh Show) and WEAA's (88.9 FM) Sean Yoes (WEAA/AfroFirst Edition) got unceremoniously booted last month. Neither Hieronimus nor Yoes claim to have seen it coming, although in both cases there'd been disagreements between the hosts and their respective bosses. In Yoes' case, WEAA assistant general manager Maxie Jackson drafted a dismissal letter before leaving on vacation; it was handed to Yoes by station staff after his July 28 show. The letter faulted Yoes for straying from Jackson's "vision of a hard-news journalist[s'] roundtable" toward a more free-ranging public-affairs format. (Jackson could not be reached for further comment.)
Hieronimus' ouster was carried out in person, at the station, by WCBM brass whom she says told her they wanted someone more "mainstream" than the unpredictable Zoh, whose passions range from Clintonista corruption to alien abduction. Her time slot will be filled by the infamous Laura Schlesinger, who, among other things, cites the Old Testament to justify gay-bashing. Mainstream indeed.
Neither ex-host is licking wounds. Yoes is a full-time staff writer for the The Baltimore Afro-American whose work at WEAA was unpaid. He told me he's eager to devote his newfound free time to filmmaking. Hieronimus has her own nationally syndicated radio show and a busy Web site (www.zohshow.com) to maintain. Still, in an interview, she took a few parting shots at the sexism she says permeates talk radio.
"I think my experience was classic for very strong women in business," Hieronimus says. "I was paid less than even those [men] who brought in less revenue. . . . The only women who are allowed to succeed [are those who] talk about lifestyles and psychotherapeutic issues. . . . Women aren't entitled to be more informed than men, more aggressive, or further ahead of the curve."
WCBM station manager Bob Pettit says the decision was strictly bottom-line. "[Hieronimus] "wasn't privy to all the revenue information at the station," he says. "The reality is she wasn't drawing the big audience that some of the other shows had." As for charges of sexism, Pettit points to Schlesinger as evidence that talk radio welcomes strong women: "We think [Schlesinger] is a fantastic audience builder and revenue generator."