The Smothers Brothers Cumulus Show

I don't know if you ever heard of or remember The Smothers Brothers -- Tom and Dick -- who made a career of arguing on television about who mom loved more.

According to Wiki: Tommy's signature line was, "Mom always liked you best!" Tommy (the elder of the two) acted "slow," and Dick, the straight man, acted "superior." Here's a taste.

Why am I getting the feeling that the destruction of Cumulus Media, now the worst radio group in the world according to our ongoing poll, is all about "Dad liked you best"?

I have known CEO Lew Dickey for years even before he became "tricky" and he was always a smart, nice guy -- at least to me. I never saw the mean gene in him as I did with some of the Clear Channel predators.

People from within Cumulus say it's John Dickey, Jon Pinch and other lieutenants who are whipping the talented, loyal and vulnerable Cumulus people to death.

One reader writes:

"There is a common thread running through the majority of the problems with Cumulus; John Dickey.

John Dickey is a mean spirited little man with a big stick and no soul....From market to market, big cities to small towns, John's finger prints (sic) are clearly on the problems. From questionable programming decisions like removing popular morning shows for syndicated programs to complete format flips which ultimately flop.

His genius is in his spin in blaming the local management when the ratings plummet followed closely by the revenue. The reality is that John believes that the local managers are a collection of knuckle dragging, short bus riding miscreants who are over paid and under worked".

I don't know the man.

Never met him.

But he's sure bent a lot of his employees out of shape regardless of this Cumulus employee's personal opinion.

And you should know that Cumulus is cracking down on employees who kiss and tell -- who are letting people like me know that they are disgruntled. My advice, don't get on their wrong side. Nonetheless, there seems to be no shortage of pissed off Cumulus employees who need to vent.

1. A Cumulus Myrtle Beach talent who was fired after serving the community he loved for years was reportedly offered a severance package that contained a clause for $3,000 as an incentive. He claims he was watched like a hawk in his final days (not by spy cameras, however) and was "tailed like a criminal, because I refused to stay in the building for my '8 hours a day' ...Keep in mind that in Myrtle Beach we had no spare office space to work after our production shifts were finished, and it was suggested that I "wash windows". I had to take Cumulus to "small claims court" to get back some personal property and equipment that was not immediately returned to me when I was dismissed." Cumulus tried to settle the case again, according to the employee, and he turned down their "gag rule" as he put it. Eventually, it was thrown out of court and no one Cumulus showed up at the hearing.

2. More threats. As a writer put it, "You don't know the half of it...but you should know that staff has been told privately...not in groups or in memos, that your blog is not a 'friend of Cumulus' and it would not be 'wise career choice' to send cumulus stuff to you...We've also been told that all sellers now know the standards..and if we can't or won't meet them...the company will be happy to 'upgrade' with new staff. The assumption, I guess, is that the current staff is all no good and any new employee has to be an upgrade".

3. Bully tactics that would make Clear Channel look like Bambi. One industry figure who has a friend who worked for Cumulus wrote, " of the corporate programmers came into town and held a staff meeting at which he announced, 'I'm here to apologize to you. I thought you all would be able to execute a professional programming product on your stations. But I was wrong, you haven't been able to do that. I was wrong -- I gave you too much credit. And for that I apologize."

4. You've got to fire to keep your job. A former Cumulus manager tells this story: "I'm a former CMLS employee who got promoted to Market Manager (7 years ago). First day in my new job I get a call from Jon Pinch, congratulating me, then telling me the 4 employees I had to fire that day. I lasted one more year". Viktor Frankl chronicled in the outstanding Holocaust book "Man's Search for Meaning" how the incarcerated were turned against each other by their captors for something as seemingly trivial to the reader as an extra pea in watery soup. This tactic smacks of turning employee against employee the first day on the job.

5. One industry exec from another company wrote, "Supposedly each Cumulus GM has a quarterly revenue goal...and instead of a reward for hitting it, they will apparently get a 5% pay CUT if they don't. How's that for motivation" and a former Cumulus exec confirmed it with "The 5% deal is absolutely true! It's a 5% reduction in the MM's base salary (forever apparently) for missing the newly assigned quarterly rev(enue) goals". Cumulus doesn't talk about these things with me but I'd be happy to report that they reversed themselves on this nutty policy.

6. The fear that Cumulus Market Managers are being replaced with VPs of Sales. That Market Managers are not needed anymore. There are fears that entire sales departments will be blown up and that in the end management will blame the people it is hog tying now. Cumulus is doing a lot of recruitment advertising for a company that was forced to lay people off for lack of funds.

One of my readers sent this quote to me attributed to Roger Crawford that I think applies perfectly to the misguided situation at Cumulus where apparently fear and, to put it mildly, some unorthodox employee motivation programs may be backfiring in their faces.

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