KXTA SHTICKS IT TO BIG JOE; TALK-JOCK JOE MCDONNELL STILL BAFFLED AFTER DISMISSAL.
Joe McDonnell slid slowly down in a booth Tuesday night at his favorite restaurant, Trani's. He couldn't seem to decide whether he was too angry to talk about the decision last week by KXTA-AM (1150) program director Mike Thompson to take him off the air or so relieved he doesn't have to worry about his job status at the station any longer.
``I'm baffled,'' McDonnell said finally.
``You can't tell me I was doing a bad job. I was never given any indication of that. All I can figure is he had a preconception of me as a reporter and journalist - and I won't disavow that - but he wanted pure shticks. And I'm not going to be that way because people who do that have no substance.''
Four days earlier, Thompson waddled out onto Weyburn Avenue in front of Blimpies sandwich shop in Westwood where McDonnell had just finished doing a remote show in preparation for Saturday's UCLA-USC game. As McDonnell put equipment away in his trunk, Thompson told Los Angeles' most recognized and respected sports-talk host that he decided the station would eat the rest of his contract.
Hold the mustard.
In the meantime, getting a clear read on why this happened is about as murky as the Arbitron ratings used to measure listener interest.
Not once during the four hours Thompson took over the airwaves Monday and fielded calls from genuinely heartbroken callers during McDonnell's regular 3-to-7-p.m. slot was a palatable answer given. Instead of explaining how something like Karl Malone's two-hour publicity stunt continues while someone like McDonnell was expendable, the mantra Thompson delivered to at least the 50 callers who got through was the same: ``It was a business decision. . . . We're taking the station to the next level.''
Ratings couldn't have mattered much to Thompson. The latest numbers that the station shows its advertisers indicate that McDonnell has been among the leaders citywide in keeping listeners and increasing his quarter-hour rating with the all-important men 25-54 demographic during that four-hour afternoon period.
So is that a level-headed decision?
On his own Web site - thebignasty.com - McDonnell has been quiet. A brief note in ``Joe's Views'' thanks his listeners for their support. He writes that as soon as his contract is settled, he'll be back to tell us ``exactly what happened.''
Except that four days after quotes from him in the Daily News indicated he felt his job was somewhat secure while the station underwent a lineup facelift, McDonnell said Thompson told him the decision to buy out his contract was expedited by that story.
``I have no problem with them firing me,'' said McDonnell, who has worked at eight stations in L.A. since 1975. ``But it was one of the most classless things he (Thompson) could do - fire me in the middle of the street while I'm at my car. Why was it so urgent to do it right then? Why couldn't they treat me like a human being?
``I mean, I asked if I could at least record a message - just 20 seconds - to thank the listeners on the air. He wouldn't even let me do that.''
McDonnell said he felt ``kind of embarrassed'' but also pleased by those who phoned the station Monday to express their disappointment. He said he's received about 200 e-mails a day since Saturday.
Apparently, the response was enough that station manager Roy Laughlin, playing the good-cop role, phoned McDonnell Wednesday morning and put an offer back on the table - McDonnell can have the 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. slot, left vacant by Ben Maller and Dave Smith's pending move to the 1-to-3 slot when Malone's courtship with Vic Jacobs ends.
If McDonnell takes it - and there's no reason to believe he will - it'd be an incredible change of heart.
``I've distanced myself already,'' he said Tuesday. ``As much as I want to work in L.A., and it doesn't have to be in sports talk, I wonder how long I want to keep doing this.''
After spending Thanksgiving with his relatives in La Habra, McDonnell said he plans to just ``get out of town and take a long vacation.''
As for the future of sports-talk in L.A.:
``I have questions about the direction of the station,'' McDonnell said. ``L.A. has always been a different market. If this station turns out to be successful, great, because L.A. needs it. But with what they're doing . . . I just have my doubts.''
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Inheriting McDonnell's weekday afternoon spot starting Monday will be Newy Scruggs, the KCOP-Channel 13 sports anchor and guest host for Jim Rome's syndicated radio show, and Dan Denholm, who has worked in radio and TV in Cleveland the last six years.
The two have met. Once.
Also Monday, the morning team of John Ireland and Steve Mason, the station's highest-paid employees, are expected to announce their departure effective mid-December rather than stay on at a reduced salary. Their stand-by replacement stands to be Brian Whitman, Rick Dees' sidekick on Jacor sister-station KIIS-FM, with some sort of support team.
And when Malone's 1-to-3 show eventually suffocates itself, Jacobs will take a cut in pay and a cut in hours, going back to news reading and acting as a human promotional toy for Thompson to send out on errands.
Adding Jacobs to the news crew will likely mean the departure of Jeff Biggs in another cost-cutting move.
By Tom Hoffarth E-mail: sptmediaaol.com
ESPN Classic dusts off two USC-Notre Dame football games from the vault today. At 4 p.m., it's the '74 contest, in which the defending national champion Irish led 24-0 before the Trojans and Anthony Davis reeled off 55 points. At 9 p.m., it's the '86 thriller at the Coliseum when Notre Dame won 38-37 on a field goal that the TV audience missed. In between (6 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m.) is a replay of the '71 Nebraska-Oklahoma ``Game of the Century.''
The former USC tag team of Larry Kahn and Mike Lamb addA former Trojans coach John Robinson to the party for play-by-play coverage of the Arizona-Arizona State game today at 3:30 p.m. on KRLA-AM (1110).
ESPN's Chris Fowler, Mike Tirico, Chris McKendry and Dan Patrick are in a new commercial for Head and Shoulders. The spot ends: ``Three things you'll never see on ESPN: Team hopscotch, competitive knitting . . . or flakes.'' You know what we need right about now, Dan? Go ahead and spell it: R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
You think 8 a.m. is too early to watch a college football game? How about playing the actual game at 10 a.m.? That's what ABC has done scheduling the Texas-Texas A&M contest today in Austin, Tex., so it could also cram in the Colorado-Nebraska game (at 11:30 a.m. PDT) and have time (on the East Coast) for the 6 p.m. start of Peter Jennings and ``World News Tonight.'' Texas coach Mack Brown says the Longhorns have a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call, with a pregame meal set for 6 a.m.
WHAT SMOKED ON LOCAL TV
The top 10 Nielsen-rated sports events (with their share numbers) on L.A.
television from Nov. 19-24:
Event Date Station Rt/Sh.x
NCAA: USC-UCLA 11/21 KABC 17.4/44
NFL: Miami-New England 11/23 KABC 16.0/26
NFL: Oakland-Denver 11/22 KCBS 13.8/32
NFL: Green Bay-Minnesota 11/22 Fox 11.7/27
NFL: Seattle-Dallas 11/22 KCBS 6.8/16
NCAA: Michigan-Ohio State 11/21 KABC 6.2/18
NFL: New Orleans-San Francisco 11/22 ESPN 6.0/10
NCAA: LSU-Notre Dame 11/21 KNBC 2.2/6
World Cup of Golf 11/22 Fox 1.7/4
LPGA Tourn. of Champ. 11/22 KABC 1.6/3
Note: Ratings for Wed., Nov. 25 not included because of Thursday holiday.
x-One rating point equals 50,092 TV homes in Los Angeles; a share is the percentage of all the TV sets in use at that time.
Box: (1) SOUND BYTES (See Text)
(2) WHAT SMOKED ON LOCAL TV (See Text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Nov 27, 1998|
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