29 March 2009

A Sad Letter From Tom Joyner This Week

Radio jock Tom Joyner's letter this week to his Chicago listeners was an eye opener. The nationally syndicated radio host, who got his start in morning radio in Chicago, will no longer be on the air in that market. I don't listen to the radio very much - even more rarely in the morning - but when I do, I tune in to theTom Joyner Morning Show because I like what Joyner is doing. To me, our urban radio DJ personalities are powerful people. They have the ear of their listeners at least five days a week. Even if you go to church on Sunday, and Wednesday night for prayer meeting, most black people who listen to the radio regularly are exposed to their local DJ a lot longer than they are to their pastor.

What's going on in black radio? I haven't done any research, but I could imagine how XM radio, IPods, and CD players have reduced their audiences, along with the broadening of black listening habits. For the upwardly mobile, well educated set who has to let you know they aren't "typical", the line "I listen to NPR" has as much cachet as vacationing at Martha's Vineyard in the summer does.

Joyner's show losing ground is symptomatic of how changing demographics and the economic slowdown are going to affect all black media companies in the next couple of years. The Johnson Publishing Company has admitted that falling revenues from its flagship publication, Ebony Magazine, and its sister publication, Ebony/Jet Digest, have put its business at risk. TV One is suffering its own budget woes, even as the country's first African American president presents a prime opportunity for the cable network to expand its reach.

But back to the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Getting rid of Tom's show is one thing. Replacing it with The Steve Harvey Show - now that’s a travesty. You can't drive five miles in the morning without hearing to Joyner give someone somewhere some money to stay in school, remind his listeners to donate to a black college, or promote something related to higher education. There is no black radio DJ in the country who demonstrates his level of commitment to increasing the number of black kids who go to college.

Not one. Not even close.

To do this week in and week out in addition to all the other community issues he explores and promotes while still producing a show that entertains a mass audience is tougher than tough. Ask the people at NPR's News and Notes if you don't believe me - this black issues oriented news is either off the air or will be soon due to budget cuts, but the reality of their situation that I'm sure was taken into consideration was the size of their audience - I would imagine that it wasn't big enough to be near the top of the NPR food chain, even with nationwide distribution.

The reality that Joyner has to face is the age of his audience. I need to look it up, but I think the bulk of his listeners are in the 35 year old to 55 year old range. I have no idea what marketing guru decided that getting new customers for your brand should take a major share of your advertising budget. I've got a sneaking suspicion that the people over 30 make most companies much more money than their new ones will, but changing the conventional wisdom in the ad game is well nigh impossible.

So the Tom Joyner Morning Show - or the "TJMS", as they refer to it on the air - won't go on forever. So I'm glad Tom got his money out of TJMS while it was hot. And you don't have to feel too sorry for Mr. Joyner - he is a significant, if not the majority shareholder in Black America Web as well as a host of other media properties. His "Party With A Purpose" might have a smaller audience, but I’m certain the party will go on.


  1. Truth be told I think it's the natural progression of things. It's just Steve Harvey is a joke and everyone knows it's just bubblegum. Who knows if he will turn it into something more but for right now I don't listen to them. Ish I don't even listen to NPR for the sake of having stupid things I can do nothing about conversations.

    Things are more readily available in different mediums. People just don't want to change with the times. How many people have VCR's? What if someone felt sorry for VCR manufacturers? Times change and people want it in the new medium. If Tom Joyner is unwilling or just plain too old then I say let's thank him for his service and see who steps up to fill the void.

  2. This is indeed sad. Add to it that print media is dying a slow death in this country. It is truly indeed a sad day when "The Beauty of The Week" is in danger.

    And you're right, TJMS has been on the front lines when it comes to creating educational opportunities for minorities for a very long time.

    It's not a case of just him not changing with the times or the tim4es catching up with him. It's about the economy, and the fact that Black America feels the brunt of the fallout worse than any other ethnic demographic.

    I've listened to him for years, but not as much these days as before. He used to wake me up at 5am and was the morning drive and early morning office station for me.

    Times changing my ass!

    This is about our people always being the first to go. Coupled with the current dumbing down of America; Black America included.

    Awesome post Brown Man

  3. You really can't compare the two shows. Unfortunately, fluff usually wins hands down over substance and that seems to be the way of things today. Steve does do something with the Hoodie Awards and I guess that's a positive thing??? Other than that, it seems to be a series of un-funny characters and LOTS of tour promotions (and now book promotions) for him and his nephew. There should really be room for BOTH. If not, clearly one would not be missed...AT ALL. There was a 50/50 shot of getting it right, and well, they didn't.

  4. Merry x-mas from chicago Mr.Cliff loves the Tjms and would love to hear my favorite x-mas song " Christmas Day., by Frank McComb " Butch its a killer...Play it in the last hour of the show so I can jack the box it work.. Hollier


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