Judge, Jury, and X-ecutioner?
How far will LBJ Holding Co.-owned 101-X go to placate angry listeners?
Maybe too far, if the recent firing of deejays Michael (Fletch) Fleischer and Kara Krauser are any indication. The two uncontracted jockeys were reportedly canned after making less-than-tactful comments in the wake of the A&M bonfire tragedy two weeks ago on 101-X's morning show, where they were auditioning to take over for Sara Trexler and Jenn Garrison, the long-reigning queens of the station's morning circuit. According to Krauser, a part-timer at the station for over three years, the controversy started when highly rated evening deejay Fleischer played the UT fight song while Krauser reported the news early Nov. 18, before the extent of the casualties was known; Krauser commented that dying under a pile of logs was "a dumb way to go," and before the pair could say "retraction," Krauser says, "everyone was calling us and telling us we were horrible people." (Neither deejay taped that morning's show, a fact Trexler says is unfortunate but not unusual.)
Among the callers were numerous Aggies and, Krauser and Fleischer claim, several advertisers, who were outraged by the deejays' apparent insensitivity. The next day, Friday the 19th, the two went back on the show -- helmed this time by Trexler and Garrison -- and, at the insistence of station management, apologized for their comments. Later that day, they were suspended and sent home for the weekend; on Monday, Krauser and Fleischer say, they were fired. (Station vice president Bruce Walden says Krauser offered her resignation.)
Did advertisers play a part in the station's decision to fire the two popular disc jockeys? VP Walden says it didn't; to his knowledge, Walden says, no advertisers pulled their commercials off the station in response to the comments. "You can pretty much say anything on the radio and someone will complain about it," Walden points out.
But Fleischer says he believes ad revenues at the station played a role. "I told [listeners], listen, I'm not laughing at this; you guys just misread what I was saying," Fleischer says. "But obviously, the station pays more attention to advertisers than it does to deejays." KLBJ morning shock jock Dale Dudley, who (unlike 101-X deejays) has a contract with his station, took up the banner for Fleischer and Krauser, sending a letter to LBJ management defending Fleischer and lambasting their decision to let him go.
Walden says that not only did the deejays' comments go beyond the pale even by morning radio standards, the pair were unrepentant until forced to apologize by station management. "All morning, there were people calling and getting upset, but they didn't apologize. They just kept defending their stance," Walden says. "We didn't feel that their attitude toward this really changed from that day to the next. ... They were still kind of defending their point of view."
But others at the station say Fleischer was on LBJ management's hit list long before his tactless comments about A&M pushed station managers over the edge. Trexler, the station's current morning deejay, says that although his handling of the tragedy was "insensitive," Fleischer was ultimately terminated because he didn't fit into the station's vision. "There were philosophical differences in terms of where (LBJ management) wanted the station to go," Trexler says. "There are certain expectations for behavior ... It's a sad, unfortunate situation to put people in, but I agree that it had to happen."
Fleischer, who is currently auditioning for a spot at a radio station in Dallas, says he's resigned but disappointed about his termination. "They say if you're in radio and you've never been fired, you're not a veteran," Fleischer says. "But everyone at that station was disappointed with this decision."