The Ron & Don Show on KIRO-FM was abruptly canceled last Thursday, with little explanation from management or the hosts. On Facebook, "Ron & Don Nation" listeners are perplexed. And angry.
Sometimes in the radio biz you never know if your last shift really is your last shift.
After nearly 13 years on drive time KIRO-FM, “The Ron & Don Show” was abruptly, and without explanation, canceled on Thursday. The staff was notified 11 minutes after the show ended that day at 7 p.m.
The management email said in its totality:
“A decision was finalized this evening between Bonneville Seattle and Ron Upshaw & Don O’Neill to end their 13 years at the station. Today was their last show on KIRO Radio. We want to thank them both for their service and contribution to the station, our company and to the communities we serve. They both have left long legacies on KIRO Radio and we wish them only the best.
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“We will have an all staff meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow on the Garden Level. We will announce the new afternoon show on KIRO at that time.”
It caught employees by surprise, and it caught listeners by surprise.
Neither the two hosts, nor management, offered details.
When contacted, Dave Pridemore, vice president and market manager for Bonneville Seattle, texted back, “I don’t have any comments for you regarding Ron and Don.”
In an email, the longtime friends who bantered about relationships, their lives and the news, wrote, “Life is not about what you got, it’s what you give. We are very appreciative to all our great advertisers and everyone in the Ron and Don Nation for giving so much of your time, your energy, and your resources over the last 22 years. Together we raised over 11 million dollars for causes in the community we all care about. From our families to yours, Thank You Seattle, Tacoma, Fife, and Fremont … ron and don.”
By Saturday afternoon, the show’s official Facebook page was at over 1,000 postings about the cancellation. The “Ron and Don Nation” wasn’t happy.
Wrote Teri, from Roy in Pierce County, “WHAT?????? NO. Not Acceptable. A key component to my drive home for years. The most honest, sincere and charitable team on the radio. Would KIRO please explain? Who’s decision was this?”
Wrote Kendall from Granite Falls, “im so tired of radio stations just taking shows off the air at a moments notice. no explanation after we have devoted hours upon hours listening to the shows we love. they get to treat listeners this way because we keep listening. Im done with KIRO.”
The show was promoted as making “a difference in the lives of real people. Whether rallying behind the families of fallen police and firefighters, or raising emergency supplies for victims of natural disasters … Ron and Don bring you the human stories behind the news.”
Ratings are what really counts in radio, but those figures are closely held.
Last March, Ryan Maguire, who had been a program director at a Miami sports station, was named director of news and programming at KIRO. Maybe he wanted to make some changes. Maguire did not return an email for comment.
Surprised at the happenings was Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, a trade publication for the industry.
He went through three scenarios that can lead to a show’s cancellation, and why they were unlikely in this instance.
The corporation was going bankrupt and it was cost-cutting. “Bonneville is a very successful company,” said Harrison.
The ratings were tanking. “I don’t see any evidence.”
Some type of scandal. “Ron and Don have good reputations.”
Beginning Monday, replacing Ron and Don will be the troika, “The Candy, Mike and Todd Show.”
A news release said about the new hosts:
“Candy Harper most recently served as the afternoon producer on KIRO Radio.”
Mike Lewis, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, “has worked at KIRO Radio as a reporter and fill-in host.”
Todd Herman “has been the afternoon show host on KIRO Radio’s sister-station KTTH-AM since 2015 and worked as a fill-in host on both KIRO Radio and the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show.”
The station promised, “Candy, Mike and Todd are a fun, entertaining and intelligent trio.”
First, however, Candy and company will need to figure out longtime listener Rose and the many other advertiser-coveted female fans who posted most of the Facebook comments about Ron and Don’s cancellation, “KIRO you are dead to me.”
Or “#lifetimelistenergone” Sue, “I am in complete shock. I will not be listening to Kiro anymore.”