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End-of-year-cuts hit City Pages, WCCO-AM

As the Crappy Old Year comes to a close in local media, City Pages has laid off restaurant writer James Norton and Assistant A-List editor Ben Palosaari, while WCCO-AM canned longtime overnight guy Al Malmberg and his regular fill-in, Brad Walton.

CP first: Editor Kevin Hoffman says the “brutal” economy did Norton and Palosaari in, and adds, “The decision says nothing about those guys — they are both stellar.”

Norton, who was hired with Rachel Hutton after Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl departed for Minnesota Monthly a year ago, says, “the fact that City Pages has two food writers presented some low-hanging fruit.”

Neither layoff hits news coverage — Hoffman says a replacement for recently departed staff writer Beth Walton starts Feb. 1 — but does hit the cash-money part of CP’s business, at least in print. A-List has been the spine of CP’s arts coverage, and dining, at least under Moskowitz, was an ad-rich environment.

Hoffman says CP will use some of the staff savings to bulk up food and music blogs, presumably with freelance. Norton, who focused on the increasingly relevant $20-and-under beat, says, “They offered me the opportunity to keep writing for the paper’s dining blog, but I’m planning to strike out on my own … I’ve had plans to launch an online indie food magazine for quite some time now, and there’s clearly no time like the present.”

Over at the Good Neighbor, having a nationwide wee-hours clear channel signal apparently isn’t what it used to be. I haven’t confirmed the details with WCCO management, but new station boss Mick Anselmo is under orders to slice costs — top talent was asked to take a 10 percent pay cut, and two news reporters were recently let go — so low-revenue overnights was probably a tempting target.

One tipster told me the station will shift to a syndicated show out of St. Louis on Monday; I haven’t pinned down its identity yet. Another tipster says the station that advertises itself as “NewsRadio 830” is so short-staffed that it now runs recorded weekend morning newscasts in the afternoon; also unconfirmed.

Oh and by the way: today marks the final day of contractual layoff protection for the Pioneer Press newsroom. Funny, this champagne tastes kinda flat.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Erica Mauter on 12/31/2008 - 11:12 am.

    I have no doubt that Jim Norton will land on his feet. He was too good for City Pages. So is Rachel, for that matter.

  2. Submitted by John Olson on 12/31/2008 - 11:29 am.

    That’s not champagne…it’s Alka Seltzer.

  3. Submitted by T J Simplot on 12/31/2008 - 12:20 pm.

    Could they be clearing room for Tommy Mischke?

  4. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 12/31/2008 - 01:54 pm.

    City Pages has blogs?

    Who knew?

  5. Submitted by Jedidiah Palosaari on 12/31/2008 - 03:36 pm.

    I am very sorry to hear this. I started reading Ben’s work from a Google Bot on my name, and have never met Ben or know anything of him except for his writing for your paper. However, I was repeatedly impressed with his writing, and would often look forward to his newest article, whenever Google alerted me to it.

  6. Submitted by Peg Wiggins on 01/01/2009 - 08:57 pm.

    This is a great loss for us as listeners.
    There will be a void.
    But if Malmberg and/or Brad Walton reappear, I hope to find out immediately. I’m in need of overnight radio listening.

  7. Submitted by John Olson on 01/02/2009 - 05:42 am.

    With the sad departure of Malmberg, ‘CCO is now just a shell of what it used to be.

    ‘CCO is no longer cooking…it is cooked.

  8. Submitted by john labeau on 01/02/2009 - 08:41 am.

    No worries about City Pages. I read Vita.MN. More in tune with local happenings, and who can miss ‘Alexis on the Sexes’ column each week? Besides, City Pages looks like a dinosaur from the mid-seventies anyway. When I see an issue, it reminds me of ALL IN THE FAMILY.

    Speaking of dinosaurs from the seventies, WCCO-AM is part of a dying media: radio. I like my IPOD too much to waste my time with that relic either.

    Good riddens!

  9. Submitted by Francis Ferrell on 01/02/2009 - 12:18 pm.

    City Pages will continue to progress onward through the hard times we are going to experience before economic equilibrium recovers.

    As for WCCO, the “Good Neighbor” is having a mid-life identity crisis. Because CBS [NY Hq] is not totally in tune with the listening ethic of WCCO’s core demographic listeners, the station is losing its standings. The station has failed to adjust or update to the new generations in its broadcasting domain.

    WCCO is a valuable community asset for a variety of reasons but it has failed to keep its unique style current and/or fresh. Resting on past laurels is not the way to progress into the challenging future of broadcasting.

    CBS corporate should let WCCO continue to locally evolve into the ‘real radio’ it was, can be, and should be. What broadcast formula works for the Midwest and the Twin Cities is not the same formula for New York or Los Angeles et cetera.

    You can’t blame the economy alone for WCCO’s woes. There has to be a resurgence of that exceptional passion and spirit for excellence toward/for its listeners that will keep WCCO radio a broadcasting flagship entity flagship.

  10. Submitted by John Olson on 01/02/2009 - 07:23 pm.

    Radio in its present form may be dying, John but changes are occurring in the delivery of live audio content: satellite radio, HD radio, streaming over the internet are three examples.

    Most senior citizens have no clue what a podcast even is and are only somewhat familiar with the “iPod” to begin with. And an iPod does not tell you that a possible tornado just touched down a few miles behind you and is moving your way while you are driving. Radio still has a unique niche “out there” but the programming is where the problem lies.

    When internet accessibility is unavailable or you can’t deal with it because you are driving, radio can provide the essential information one may need.

  11. Submitted by Hannah Hosanna on 01/02/2009 - 07:31 pm.

    I like to listen to WCCO Radio for news updates. I cannot believe the number of news personnel who have been forced to exit.

    As far as personalities go, I would listen to Al Malmberg when I woke up in the middle of the night and could not return to sleep. He was very interesting to listen to, and I liked his callers, especially the one who called himself “the lonely man.”

    If someone is to be gotten rid of, why not Sid Hartman? He is semi-illiterate. He is hard of hearing, and on his segments is always saying, “Pardon me.” Further, he does not need the money. Besides his “journalstic endeavors,” isn’t he a multi-millionnaire real estate baron?

  12. Submitted by barbara Zimmer on 01/05/2009 - 01:52 am.

    What!!no more comforting voices from Brad Walton or Al Malmberg.This senior Citizen is feeling very abandoned.Bring em back please!

  13. Submitted by Norm Nelson on 01/07/2009 - 08:32 am.

    I have to echo Hannah’s and Barbara’s comments above. No more “Lonely Guy”. No more fifties and sixties music clips. And worst no more discussions of topics of local interest. There needs to be radio content for every generation and every region of the state and country. We have lost another voice.

  14. Submitted by Vivian Henry on 01/08/2009 - 07:27 pm.

    Hi! I am so sad & sick to learn that WCCO canned Al Mamberg & Brad Walton! I tried listening to Al’s show for the past 2-3 nights & had a funny feelin’ that’s what happened but could not find any info on local websites until I found
    I LOVED listening to AL Mamberg & Brad Walton! Talk about 2 great talk-show hosts! Wow, this really sucks! That’s the only way I can put it because I’m in utter disbelief! I know that 1000s of other listeners feel the same way. I’m pretty sure they’re all angry & sad too!
    It’s a sad day in MN! WCCO is really going to get hit hard w/tons of complaints!
    Best Wishes to Al & Brad! Hopefully, another radio station will scoop both of them up!!

  15. Submitted by Swanson Painter on 01/09/2009 - 05:48 am.

    I am very pleased to see Malmberg off. While some liken his show to “old time” radio, I heard it as a repeat of the same boring callers. When he wasn’t speaking with a lonely guy, he was pontificating like Rush about politics.
    It only got worse when he decided to fly an airplane. He then spent one night a week on that subject.
    There was so much he could have done with those 4 hours, but he decided to entertain himself.
    I will take bad syndication over his ego any day.

    Brad Walton, however, is a loss.
    Thank you,

  16. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 01/12/2009 - 03:10 pm.

    I think all; it’s time to reach over there and grab the little round knob marked “Off/Volume”, and turn it off for good. WCCO has finally left the building. Good night Gracie.

  17. Submitted by Kurt Haynes on 01/31/2009 - 08:23 pm.

    I cannot believe Al will not be on the air at CCO anymore, and Brad as well. I am from Michigan and found Al between the static in the late hours when I could not sleep. I soon found myself waking up to tune in and choosing not to sleep. I wanted to hear what Al was up to with his cast of regulars that would phone. I once e-mailed him and thanked him for being there, and he aswered me. I was thrilled.
    I found Al to be entertaining, refreshing, and quaint. I felt he was a throw back, similar to small northern Michigan radio stations that use to be. Small town news and values gave some of us hope that this world was not turning as cold as it seems to be. When Al would run an ad for “Bob’s”, I sware I wanted to drive to Minnesota to see what he was actually on special. I just can’t believe we are loosing somebody as special as Al Malmberg. I hope he lands at a station that I will be able to pick up. Shame on you CCO. What will the “Lonely Guy” do? What will happen to all of the wonderful people that phoned in and counted on Al being there?

    Thank You, Al
    Kurt Haynes
    Grand Rapids, MI

  18. Submitted by cindy miller on 02/04/2009 - 01:48 pm.

    Does anyone know if Al Malmberg is working at another radio station? If so, which one is it?

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