Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Current fires Barb Abney

Broadcast media is a fickle animal — particularly radio. On-air DJ firings and format flips happen regularly. It’s practically expected because it’s just another business chasing a larger profit. When an on-air DJ is fired from a public radio station, though, that’s shocking. When Barb Abney, now-former mid-day on-air host at 89.3 The Current tweeted last night that “I Loved My Job” it was immediately apparent what that meant. It’s a rarity when a public radio DJ is fired. I believe that it has only happened once before at 89.3 The Current in its ten year run and that happened to be Thorn whom Abney replaced.

Barb Abney was definitely an outsider when she came to Minnesota after her former on-air home 97X WOXY in Oxford, Ohio was sold and flipped to a cookie-cutter ass-rock format. She has always had the chops for modern rock and alternative radio. I used to listen to the 97X WOXY stream and remember Abney and instantly recognized the name when she landed in the Twin Cities. I emailed her a short pronunciation guide for some of our hard-to-pronounce-for-outsiders sit names on what must have been her first day on the air at The Current. A few days later she emailed me back and thanked me for listening to her show.

I routinely listened to at least half of her show on The Current and her cover to cover segment was a breath of fresh air and tonal real was like stepping back in time to simpler days. She knows how to connect to the community and even if her style wasn’t for everyone you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesota music fan who hadn’t seen Abney at a local show at least once. She is passionate about what she does and it has always showed in the way she is the biggest fan of the music she has played. The fact that Barb Abney said that “I Loved My Job” was the best statement she could have ever made. It was obvious, given her passion, that the biggest fan of The Current very well may have been Barb Abney.

Her mid-day on-air replacement, Jade Tittle, will need a lot of patience from MPR management because while she has been on the air doing overnights and fill-ins, her style seems custom-tailored for late nights and overnights. Her mellow tone, to me anyway, seems to be the complete opposite of what is needed for the heart of the 9-5 workday. Her age, too, is exactly what The Current is after as far as listener and member demographics. MPR wants and needs younger listeners as The Current is a feeder for their classical music and news services as those Current listeners age.

I’m not saying that Abney was fired due to her age and a perceived disconnect with the younger listeners the station wants as members but it sure seems possible.

But Barb Abney will survive. The great DJs always do. Maybe the Pohlad family hasn’t completely finalized their on-air line-up for Go96.3. It sure would be a welcome treat to hear a knowledgeable female voice who has shown that she can connect with the Minnesota music scene show up on a locally-owned station which seems to cater to the exact same audience as The Current.

Good luck Babney.

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