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CBS Radio Layoffs Hit Chicago

CBS Radio began a wave of mass layoffs nationwide on Monday morning. Supposedly, around 200 CBS Radio employees across the country are now out of work. CBS Radio's Chicago stations were not spared, either. According to insiders, ten local staffers are now laid off.

The majority of those released appear to be off-air positions (although a morning show host and an evening host in St. Louis were released, and possibly a few others), trimming back sales and promotions departments, as well as some producers. While no numbers are yet confirmed, New York seemed to have been the hardest hit with at least 25 employees released, largely from the CBS Radio sales teams. 13 staffers are supposedly out in Detroit.

CBS Radio management is maintaining strict "radio silence." Attempts at official confirmations or statements from CBS Radio Chicago and CBS Radio's corporate headquarters in New York have gone unanswered. No station manager appears to be willing to talk on record about Monday's mass layoffs, either.

Among those in the Chicago market who lost their jobs today are...

Scott Palmer, CBS Radio Chicago's Automotive Sales Manager. He was responsible for bringing in revenue from the Chicagoland auto dealers. Palmer had been with CBS Radio since 2008.

Dustin Paul Karolewicz, WUSN-FM/US99.5 Production Director. He has been in radio for over 12 years, including almost 10 years with NextMedia and the last two and a half with CBS Radio Chicago. He has also served as an instructor for the Illinois Center for Broadcasting.

Justyna Syska, WUSN-FM/US99.5 morning show producer. After three years as an associate producer with WLS-TV/ABC 7's "Windy City LIVE," she was recruited to join the US99.5 morning show as a producer in July 2014. She also was an on-air and website contributor (as "Justyna the Polish Queen"). After just one year at the station, she has been released.

Seven others, not yet confirmed, appear to include a producer, a promotions person, a newsroom executive assistant, and others from the sales team. No on-air staffers were released in Chicago.

Why did 200 CBS Radio staffers lose their jobs on Monday? The easy answer is that CBS Radio, like the majority of the radio industry, has been dealing with declining revenue in recent years, getting hit fairly hard in that regard in 2014. With less income coming in, belts need to be tightened and cuts need to be made.

Is there more to the story than the easy answer, however? The radio industry has been dealing with declining revenue for a while, but CBS Radio has largely avoided mass layoffs like what occurred on Monday. Why now?

In April, CBS Radio President and CEO Dan Mason announced his retirement from the company. Many insiders have said this was not a true retirement, but that Mason was gently pushed out from the company. As somebody who came from a radio background, including starting out on air, and later, in programming, Mason knew what it took to produce quality radio programming. He fought against pressure from other segments of the corporation that sought deep cutbacks, similar to what Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) did frequently.

Mason's replacement as CBS Radio President is Andre Fernandez, who has almost no experience in radio. Fernandez started his career on Wall Street and then took on many financial leadership roles in companies, with the only true media corporations he worked for being Telemundo and Journal Communications. He is a numbers person who helped broker the recent merger of Journal Communications and EW Scripps. He was not hired by CBS Radio to produce quality radio, but rather to deal with the company's shrinking numbers, and some fear, prepare the company for a future merger or sale.

The decision behind Monday's layoffs did not come from local levels, but rather, was ordered from the very top of CBS Radio.

When the Mason exit and the Fernandez hire was reported here on CRM, the report began with these words: "The biggest media story of the last week is not necessarily a local one, but one that could eventually have an impact locally." It would seem the impact is just starting to be felt now.

(Note: As more of the released employees names are confirmed, this article will be updated.)

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