Chicago radio hosts learn about firing from Twitter

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Staffers at an all-sports radio station in Chicago had no idea their station would shut down and they would be out of jobs — until they read about it on Twitter.

Alex Quigley and Ben Finfer of WGWG (87.7 FM) were at the helm of their morning talk show when a news article by local industry journalist Robert Feder crossed on Twitter. The article revealed the station, which had been launched earlier in the year, was shutting down and that staffers were being let go.

“This is a pretty crappy way to find out you’re out of work, basically,” Finfer said. “I’m going to blame our bosses for not doing this the respectful way. It’s pretty crappy to find out on Twitter, especially when you’re on the air, that your station is folding.”

Quigley, who is part of management, told his co-host he had been made aware of possible staff reductions the day before, but otherwise had no idea the station would be shut down.

“What are we doing around here?” Finfer said. “That’s crap. I had respect for our bosses until about five minutes ago. They still haven’t come in the room to say anything…now we’ve got to sit here and do a show for an hour and forty minutes. How are we supposed to do that?”

WGWG, branded as “The Game,” was launched in February by Tribune Media as an ambitious all-sports radio experiment. The channel — technically a television station that could also be heard on radio — was an expansion of Tribune’s WGN-AM, a hybrid news/talk station that carries coverage of several Chicago sports teams.

Tribune executives decided to pull the plug on the station due to an inability to offset salaries with sufficient advertising revenue, Feder reported. Overall, ad revenue for Chicago’s radio stations has been on the decline, and WGWG couldn’t top competition from two other sports stations already established in the market.

WGWG is operated by Tribune under a local marketing agreement with license holder Venture Technologies Group. The company plans to operate WGWG until December 31. It is unclear what will appear on the frequency at the start of the new year.

In addition to WGWG and WGN-AM, Tribune operates WGN-TV (Channel 9) and CLTV, a cable-only news channel. It previously published the Chicago Tribune newspaper until earlier this year when the company spun off its print assets into a separate company.