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Tafoya — with a twist

The ex-KFANer and current ‘Monday Night Football’ crew member will get her own WCCO-AM show — but in Don Shelby’s time slot.
By David Brauer

Well it turns out I was wrong about WCCO-AM’s hiring of Michele Tafoya — but in the most entertaining way.

Tafoya won’t be the Good Neighbor’s noon-3 p.m. host. Instead, she’ll be the 3-6 p.m. host, with incumbent Don Shelby moving to 1-3 p.m. beginning June 1. The pair will work together from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

This shifts the focus from Tafoya to Shelby, and incidentally to Tafoya’s former KFAN colleague Dan Barreiro.

Shelby first. Did he jump, or was he pushed from the high-profile evening-drive slot?

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The chipper-sounding anchor, who acknowledges “everyone will be asking about the possible humiliation factor,” says he “wasn’t gunning for the mid-day show; it was presented to me.”

Shelby admits the move makes for a tidier workday: he can polish off his radio duties and put in a straight shift on the TV side. He plans to be more involved in reporting and overseeing the TV side’s investigations, and the radio switch will free him to make appearances on TV’s 5 and 6 o’clock news.

Despite his lower-profile radio time slot and AM830’s well-publicized budget woes, Shelby says he hasn’t been asked to take a pay cut. (He voluntarily took a 10 percent pay cut last November.)

The silver-tongued, silver-maned anchor’s ratings have been on the downslope for at least a year. In the 25-54-year-old group (admittedly, not ‘CCO’s sweet spot), he currently ranks 15th in the market. The numbers look like this:

Fall 2007: 4.1 percent
Winter 2008: 3.4 percent
Spring 2008: 2.8 percent
Summer 2008: 3.3 percent
Fall 2008: 2.4 percent

Shelby says management “never brought ratings up to me, and if it’s a ratings thing, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.”

He sounds genuinely psyched about working with Tafoya, who was a Channel 4 anchor in the mid-’90s. “Michele is the best,” he says, adding he has “no idea” what she’ll do on her show, but  “I hope there are a lot of elements of news in it.”

(You can see ‘CCO’s news release below.)

“The easy thing to do is talk about sports. When we worked together 10 years ago, I thought she was the smartest person on sports, man or woman. [Attention Mark Rosen!!] She can look at a defensive back and tell me his weakness — that came from her dad, she’s very, very deep on all sports, and being a former jock myself, we had a great time.”

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Tafoya’s sports cred does set up an interesting potential battle with Barreiro. It’s no secret current ‘CCO and former KFAN poohbah Mick Anselmo would like to take a bite out of his former employer. Stylistically, Barreiro delivers good rant and I’m not sure if Tafoya is capable of it, so the entertainment value may not be there for audiences to bust a move. (Shot in the Dark’s Mitch Berg channels the ennui.)

Then again, Tafoya lacks Barreiro’s self-indulgences, so during Dan’s particularly trying moments, drivers might punch “830” instead of “1500” or some such (and even stay there if they didn’t hit one of the endless commercial breaks).

Of course, KFAN’s boy-heavy audience might click right back should Tafoya spend a bunch of time on her various medical disorders. But then maybe FM107’s Lori and Julia will have something to worry about.

Here’s the station’s release:

WCCO RADIO ANNOUNCES STAR-STUDDED AFTERNOON LINE-UP AS DON SHELBY WELCOMES MICHELE TAFOYA TO WCCO RADIO

April 20, 2009: Michele Tafoya is joining the WCCO Radio family, effective on Monday, June 1st. The new afternoon lineup will begin with Don Shelby from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Tafoya will team with Shelby from 3:00-3:30 p.m. followed by The Michele Tafoya Show from 3:30-6:00 p.m. The programs can be heard on-air at 830AM, as well as online at www.wccoradio.com and on a number of mobile devices.

“I am delighted that my dear friend, Michele Tafoya, is joining the WCCO Radio family,” said Shelby. “It gives me even greater pleasure to know that I’m turning over this loyal audience to someone who cares about them as much as I do. This new schedule, works perfectly into my life both professionally and personally, as I take on ever increasing duties on TV. I look forward to meeting this new audience at Midday and invite my listeners to join me for the same combination of serious and silly.”

“Don Shelby is a tough act to follow,” said Tafoya. “He is one of Minnesota’s finest. Even my father-in-law says I have big shoes to fill! I am thrilled that WCCO Radio is giving me this opportunity. What a privilege!”

“Michele adds even more ‘star power’ to The WCCO talent team,” said Mick Anselmo, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of CBS RADIO Minneapolis. “She has plenty to talk about and creates a “game changing opportunity” for WCCO.”

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“This new afternoon lineup promises to be five hours of pure engagement,” said Wendy Paulson, Program Director of WCCO Radio Minneapolis. “You’ve got Don Shelby the icon, known for his wit, intelligence and incredible ability to communicate. Michele Tafoya is a multi-dimensional personality, who is nationally renowned for her sports coverage and is also a wife, mother and fearless business women, whose interests range from politics to pop culture.”

The regular cast of characters including Jeff McKinney will remain in midday’s and afternoon drive on WCCO Radio.