When I started an internship at 790 The Zone in April of 2010, it didn’t take me long to learn about the budgetary restrictions of sports radio in the modern age.
I covered Georgia Tech Football (because I wanted to) for free. They gave me a press pass and told me to have at it. I went to the home games and attended all the post-practice media sessions because it’s what I wanted to do. I even drove to Clemson and UGA for road games to cover the team away from Atlanta, paying for my own gas and food along the way.
I did it because I wanted to do it. I also worked on the website and helped with the social media campaign. Three roles for one person, though I never would have complained about any of it. Working in Atlanta sports was my dream job, and I was finally doing it.
But it didn’t take long to realize there wasn’t much money to go around, even after I was hired for a paid position. The events we threw were great, and the celebrities and athletes we met as they made studio appearances were phenomenal. I got to meet Hank Aaron, Jamal Lewis and Gilbert Gottfried. I got to spend a day riding go-karts until my hands couldn’t grip the steering wheel anymore. I spent two days covering the ACC Media event at the beginning of a football season and got to sit with Jimbo Fisher, Frank Beamer and Randy Shannon.
Still, while those were all amazing experiences, none of it paid the bills, and what started at the bottom of the company has trickled all the way to the top, just three years later.
According to Rodney Ho of AJC.com, 790 The Zone dumped all their local talent Tuesday morning in favor of nationally syndicated shows. It will allow them to operate without having to pay show hosts or producers, but it also kills local coverage in one of the nation’s largest markets.
They’ll hold on to Atlanta Falcons broadcasts for one more season, but that’s about it.
It’s sad, but it’s reality when two other sports stations move in and set up shop on FM and you’re the only AM station left. If FM radio is dying, AM radio has been buried for months, and ratings can’t survive exclusively on AM.
The talent will likely land on their feet. Hell, if the three hosts of “Mayhem in the AM” are already employed after the bit they pulled last year, the guys who were on good terms should quickly find work with the competing stations in town.
I can only hope the producers of each canceled show can find work as easily. Much of the talent was distant from the little guys, like myself, who worked hard behind the scenes, but I became friends with several of the producers while I worked at The Zone, and I still keep in touch with a few of them today.
The Zone did so well for so long, but lately, it has become almost unrecognizable. They went corporate out of necessity, and corporate trimmed the fat.
It just so happens that the fat was the part that made The Zone so special.