Joan Hamburg Fired From WOR

Joan Hamburg

Joan Hamburg

Radio veteran Joan Hamburg was suddenly fired from New York talk station WOR after nearly 40 years last Thursday, prompting outrage among her fellow broadcasters and loyal fans.

“[I was] In my office just before airtime [and] I noticed the human resources person you see before ‘OMG, somebody’s getting fired,'” Hamburg told friend and New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. “My phone rang with ‘The program director wants to see you.’ She’s with the program director. Holding a large envelope. I’m told only: ‘They’re changing programming. Your position’s been eliminated.'”

“Unprepared and due at my mike in minutes, I said: ‘You’ll explain when I’m off the air,'” Hamburg continued. “Like I’m some clerk from somewhere, they answered: ‘No. Leave now. You can’t go on the air.’ Excuse me? Pushed out? No goodbye to my audience of 35 years?’ It was, ‘No. No farewell.’”

“Three boxes of belongings plus my computer arrived at my home immediately.”

The rudely abrupt canning comes after WOR, an independent radio station long owned by the Buckley family, was sold to syndication company Clear Channel in December 2012. The company moved its most popular hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to the outlet from WABC 77AM, at the start of the year. Hamburg, who was on five days a week in the mid afternoon, was bumped to the weekends.

John R. Gambling

John R. Gambling

Many have noted how third generation broadcaster John R. Gambling was given a week-long sendoff before ending his show earlier this year, and question why Hamburg was not given the same courtesy. Adams blasted the firing as “the war on journalistic women” in her column. Outrage has been roundly directed at Clear Channel by radio insiders, friends, and her loyal fanbase.

“It’s chickensh– that they didn’t let Joan say goodbye to her listeners,” New York radio programmer John Mainelli said. “She would have been completely gracious, if sounding shocked. I have to believe the decision was out of [WOR Program Director] Tom Cuddy’s hands — along with many other odd-to-ridiculous decisions since CC bought WOR. I wouldn’t work for that bunch if they offered me eternal life.”

“Clear Channel has miscalculated WOR,” wrote friend and columnist Roger Friedman. “It was the station that made New York a small town [….] You could call in to find out how to cook a turkey or find a restaurant for your wedding. WOR made a big city accessible, and created a community. That is now all but destroyed.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Hamburg’s daughter and sometime co-host Liz Hamburg noted the personal touch her mother gave both listeners and sponsors.

Not everyone has been sorry to see Hamburg go.

Allan Sniffen

Allan Sniffen

“Joan Hamburg is lucky to have lasted as long as she did,” New York Radio Message Board moderator, Allan Sniffen, said on his weekly podcast covering the industry. “That is what everyone should be celebrating here.”

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Sniffen’s commentary on Hamburg’s firing begins at the 16:05 mark

Sniffen went on to argue that Clear Channel was correct in firing Hamburg because the content of her show, and the way she did it, contributed to the branding of WOR as “World’s Oldest Radio”.

Hamburg remains non-plused about her firing. “If they want new merchandise, it’s their candy store,” she said.

The radio veteran is reportedly in talks with other stations about returning to the New York airwaves.

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