Don’t mess with my morning radio.
I mean it. Mornings alone in my car driving to work belong to me and me alone. I’m really particular about what’s on my radio dial. Since I’m a news junkie, I usually tune in to CNN on XM Radio or NPR to hear what’s going on nationally, then I move on to WURD. I love listening to the callers debate whatever the hot topic in Philly is. That brings me to the latest shake-up at the state’s only black talk radio station. The Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, who stepped in as host of Wake Up With WURD after Solomon Jones left in October, resigned last week, citing “creative differences” with management.
“I signed a three-month contract to try this out from October until the end of December to see how things would go,” explained Tyler, who used to host Urban Insight, a weekly call-in show on WURD. “At the end of the term, I just decided … that I still want to do radio, but I want to do it somewhere else.”
Tyler, who also is a full-time pastor of the historic Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, offered to “stay for 30 days to facilitate the transition.”
“I didn’t want them to feel like I was leaving them in the lurch by just walking away,” he told me. “So, I was surprised that my offer to stay and help make a transition was not accepted.”
His resignation was effective immediately. Tyler released a statement over the weekend saying as much and word trickled out onto social media.
But none of that registered with me until Tuesday morning, when I began fiddling with my radio after my usual stop at Wawa. I’d expected to hear Denise “the Writer” Clay, a freelancer who cohosted the show with Tyler, weighing in, maybe about the Mummers’ New Year’s Day antics. Instead, the station was airing a rebroadcast of an interview with incoming District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Here we go again, I thought. I don’t like new people on my radio. I remember feeling this way around 2012 after former WURD host Bill Anderson left the station to go to Fox 29. But then, his replacement, Jones, a weekly freelance columnist for the Daily News and Inquirer, grew on me. I used to call in weekly. I had just gotten used to this new crew that included Tyler, Clay, and Chris “Flood the Drummer” Norris.
“This is a very personal, intimate medium, and people get very connected to the hosts, and it’s a great thing in many respects and it’s challenging when there’s a change,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, the station’s president.
She declined to detail what the issues were with the show. “I knew that he was frustrated and I knew that I was frustrated,” she said of Tyler.
It’s been that kind of year. Philly’s own Wendy “Lady B” Clark lost her popular weekday afternoon drive-time show on WRNB 100.3, to D.L. Hughley’s syndicated radio show, which starts Thursday. Then came word that the beloved Tom Joyner of the long-running Tom Joyner Morning Show was retiring. Radio won’t be the same without the Fly Jock, as he’s known. And WURD won’t be the same without Tyler.
There had been friction between Lomax-Reese and Tyler over the show’s direction, with Lomax-Reese reportedly preferring a more local focus and Tyler interested in more national and international topics.
“Mark and Sara had different ideas of what the show should look like,” Clay told me. “And Sara would sometimes communicate these ideas in the middle of a show, which I never really knew until after [Tyler] called me up and said he had given his 30-day notice.”
“I didn’t realize that it had gotten to the level where he had decided that he wanted to leave,” she added.
Tyler says he expects to be back on the airwaves on an undisclosed local station within weeks. Will I tune in? I’m not sure yet. As I pointed out earlier, I don’t like messing with my morning radio routine.