Much Ado About Something at WHMI-FM

Radio can be many things to many people. A source of news and information. A hub for music and entertainment.  A gathering place, through the airwaves, for community. The voices we listen to can become our trusted and, in many cases, beloved connectors to the outside world. Moreover, where and when those personalities also become directly involved in community – including charitable initiatives – they become one of us. Over nearly 20 years that was the case with Jon King and Mike Marino. As of this past Friday, that all changed.

Air personalities come and go, often amid format switches, management changes, budget cuts or some combination of all three. It is an unfortunate fact of life in the industry. It’s a business and a tough one at that. With this morning team’s exit from WHMI-FM, however, something feels amiss, more personal than usual. For many, it stings. Early last week, co-host and news director King intimated on social media that he would be exiting the station (and not by his choice) on February 25th.  A few days later, on Friday (January 28th), he and Marino bid a surprising on-air farewell on what would be, they informed their listeners, their last day. Marino, we were told, was opting not to continue on without King. But that has not been the end of it.

Amid rumblings that King was asked to leave due to pressure on station ownership by an advertiser or advertisers over news content, Krol Communications issued a statement calling those allegations “completely false.” You can read that statement here. This afternoon, vowing previously that the whole story would be told, King appeared on Michigan Radio’s Stateside to discuss the situation and the intersection of journalism, ethics, diversity, and political leanings. Krol, Stateside said, chose not to participate.

It all has been a roller coaster ride of events. And one we typically do not see played out publicly. Pensions and/or severance agreements tied into non-disclosure arrangements often keep everyone quiet. Yet, there is obviously more at work here, including a concern for reputation and truth based on principle. As a longtime pillar and steward of his community, King has its ears, trust and multiple communications platforms available to inform – or at least, tell as much of his side of the tale as possible. Krol Communications, it has been reported, is commenting only through its statement.

For now, the Livingston County community and WHMI listeners both lose from the too early demise of the “Mike and Jon” radio show.  Yet, if ever there was a time, place and duo poised to make a successful comeback, via podcast or otherwise, it is them – in a marketplace already underserved by media and at a time when live, local (and unbiased) has perhaps never been more important.