Beginning tonight from 6:00 -9:00 pm Tom Duggan takes his Paying Attention show to WHAV 1640 AM and streaming on-line at WHAV.net. Tom was let go from WCAP and until today hasn’t spoken publicly about why he feels he had been let go. I asked Tom 5 questions involving his exit and plans for the show.
So Tom what happened, why did you and WCAP part Company?
The short answer is that one of the station owners Clark Smidt, was a petty tyrant who tried to micromanage my show and tell me what I was allowed to say and do even when I wasn’t at WCAP. He also wanted me to give him all my advertisers from the paper and didn’t want to share the WCAP advertisers with me. He had Paul Bettencourt call every one of my advertisers MONTHLY and harassed them to advertise on the station. He was using my name and my affiliation with the radio station to try and get them to buy ads on WCAP.
Two weeks before he canceled my show I got a call from Smidt saying he wanted a meeting to discuss how we could work together and do revenue sharing, how we could expand the show and take it in a new direction. But it was a lie.
When I got there, Clark, Sam Poulten and another station employee launched a two-hour attack on me about things I had posted on Facebook, which had nothing to do with my show or the station. Then he trotted out a long laundry list of things he didn’t like about me, my show, and things I was doing outside the station that was none of his business.
He criticized relationships I had with other media outlets, whined about show topics he didn’t approve of, and kept bringing it back to the fact that I wouldn’t let him ‘lure in’ my advertisers to spend money on the station.
But they weren’t sharing advertisers with me. It was supposed to be a one way street with this guy and he had no shame at all about it. But, they were right, by the way. I had been dealing with a guy (Smidt) who gave his word to me on a dozen occasions since he took over the station and he never once kept his word to me. He broke every agreement we put together.
So yeah, there was no way WCAP was ever going to get their hands on my advertisers at the Valley Patriot as long as Clark Smidt was there, period. Besides, I tried that once and it was a total disaster.
True Story and you can call Joe to verify this!
When Joe Zingales of Remax Prestige was putting together “The Biggest Loser contest” to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network I urged him to call Clark and see if we could get the station in on the charity event. This would have been good for everyone. WCAP could strike up a relationship with Remax and it could’ve turned into a lucrative contract for the radio station. Not to mention all the other sponsors of the event that Smidt could network with at the event.
But an hour later I got a call from Joe Zingales saying he would never do business with Clark Smidt or WCAP, and that Smidt had accused him of being a fraud. It almost cost me one of my best advertisers and not only did Smidt never apologize he wanted me to send other advertisers his way. That just wasn’t going to happen.
After that, I made a conscious decision not to subject my advertisers at The Valley Patriot to Clark Smidts temper tantrums, tirades and dishonesty.
The whole six years I was at WCAP I was never paid a dime and I had never asked to be paid. I only asked that they let me do my show, send them breaking news stories and leave me alone. A week after my little “Facebook meeting” I found out that WCAP was charging political candidates for interviews and I posted it on line questioning the ethics of WCAP management. Just imagine, I spent six years building a loyal audience who depends on me calling it like it is and these clowns were going to make me do fluff interviews that the candidates were going to pay for… on my show! My show is not an infomercial and I wasn’t going to let them turn it into one. They might not care about their credibility but I certainly care about mine.
Clark called demanding another meeting to talk about my “Facebook posting” like I have time for that foolishness. I refused. He then had employees of the station call me and write me emails harassing me an calling me disloyal to the station. One station producer even started a blog called Tommy Duggan’s Hypocrisy reiterating all of Clark’s attacks against me (with his spin on it of course.)
A few days later Smidt called me on the phone to say he was giving me the week off, but shortly after my “week off” ii got another phone call from Clark saying the show was canceled and they were severing their ties with me completely.
Six years of working for free, building a listener base, giving them live breaking news, and everything else I had done for the station… and they call to cancel my show on the phone?
Seriously, it was the height of pettiness and lack of professionalism. And when it was over they leaked inaccurate stories to the Sun to slander me, which I never responded to.
Do you feel the station can survive as currently run?
Sure they can survive. WCAP has been an institution in Lowell for half a century and will continue to serve a small demographic in the Lowell and Dracut area. But they will never be a cutting-edge radio station that people will seek out for honest, accurate information as long as one of the owners thinks that the future of talk radio is stifling free speech, and micromanaging the lives of their on air talent.
And, as long as they are making candidates pay for “interviews”, as long as listeners don’t know if what they’re listening to is real or a paid infomercial, as long as Smidt goes on swearing tirades while dealing with potential advertisers, as long as they keep watering down the news and what commentators say on the air; they will be mediocre at best.
There is a great deal of talent at WCAP, Ryan Johnston and Teddy Panos are great on the air and Jack Baldwin is a very unique personality that draws people in. But those who run the station have no clue how to harness and cultivate that kind of talent. They have no clue how to deal what talk radio in the year 2010. I suspect that as long as Dean Johnson and Clark Smidt are programming the station and as long as Mr. Smidt is part owner over there WCAP will never expand or grow beyond what it is now.
Will you have more listeners on you new station?
The beauty of WHAV is that it’s an untapped resource in The Valley. I don’t know how many listeners they have now, but I know that my loyal listeners and readers in the Valley Patriot will follow me there because they love the show. Once they know Paying Attention! is back, they will find the station, and they will become loyal WHAV listeners even when I’m not on the air just as they did with WCAP. I have a very loyal base.
And, unlike the relationship I had with Clark Smidt, I have no problem sharing advertising revenue with Tim Coco at WHAV because he won’t be screaming at them on the phone. He wont be looking to ‘lure’ away my newspaper advertisers while offering me nothing in return. It’s a whole different environment at WHAV, nobody is looking to take advantage of anyone. Nobody there has an ego, they aren’t looking to prove anything, they just want to do good radio and treat people with respect! Whatever the listenership is at WHAV I am sure we will help them grow in a very short period of time. Besides, there were more people listening to my show on the podcast during the week than were listening live on Saturday mornings when I was on WCAP. So those internet listeners don’t care what station I am recording at, they are going to listen on-line anyway.
Will the Valley Patriot Circulation be affected not having you on the radio in Lowell?
Yes, but not the way you might think. In the six years I was at WCAP I never got an advertisement, a business partner, a new drop off point or a news story as the result of my affiliation with the station. The only exception was the Athenian Corner, which is owned by one of the station employees.
In fact, in the four weeks since leaving WCAP I’ve gotten more Lowell, Dracut, and Chelmsford ads, writers and volunteers, more confidential news sources and more cooperation from elected officials than in the entire six years I was with the station.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a lot of business owners in the Lowell area who had been treated really badly by Mr. Smidt were avoiding The Valley Patriot and refused to advertise with us because they didn’t want to deal with anyone affiliated with that station.
Since leaving WCAP we have doubled our distribution in Lowell, Dracut, Tewksbury, and Chelmsford. So I would say the answer is YES, not being on WCAP will and has indeed affected the Valley Patriot, but in a good way! We are expanding every month in the Lowell area and very shortly I will have another announcement to make that will increase our Lowell area profile.
Will you include Lowell/Dracut guest on your show going forward?
Of course. Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill are the anchor communities that affect the North Shore and even the state. Most people don’t realize that Lowell has more murders, more corruption and more problems than even Lawrence has, but nobody is allowed to talk about it in Lowell. Everything is swept under the rug. The news doesn’t talk about it unless they have to. Local officials won’t talk about it unless they are cornered. And even the cops in Lowell are a lot more closed mouthed than in any of the 30 communities I cover.
Any time I tried to talk about a Lowell crime issue on WCAP or criticize the way things were done in Lowell, the hammer came down from station management. They were more worried about angering local officials than they were concerned about telling their listeners the truth about what was going on. If there was a story involving one of the “favorite sons” in Lowell, I would talk about the story on my show anyway but, once the show was over I paid a very heavy price.
So yes, I will be focusing on Lawrence and Lowell as always, but now I can focus even more on Lowell because I won’t have the petty tyrant to contend with when I bring up things like the murder rate being triple that of Lawrence. Or, how violence and sexual abuse crimes in Lowell dwarf what is going on in Lawrence.
Paying Attention will be the same show! Paul Murano will continue to be my co host as he was before, we will have call-in’s from Shawn Hansen promoting comedy events and DJ Deeb to talk about Dracut, Gerry Nutter to talk about Lowell issues, and I bet you everything I own that within the first two weeks my regular WCAP callers will be right there on the line waiting to go on.
WHAV is a perfect fit for the Paying Attention! Radio show and I’m glad that of all the stations that showed an interest in picking up the show, I waited to hear from Tim Coco before making a final decision because this is really where I wanted to be!
Full Disclosure: Beginning today I will be calling into Toms Radio show on a regular basis and writing monthly for the Valley Patriot. By participating on the show and in the paper it gives me the opportunity to promote this BLOG.
I also have given WCAP Management a copy of this BLOG post and have offered them the opportunity to respond and let them make sure EVERYBODY GETS IT!