Fired, or contract not renewed? It doesn’t matter

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By now you’ve read about the dust-up over KLBJ-FM personality Dale Dudley’s termination. Shortly after Dudley was let go he did what most of us would: share the news on social media.

KLBJ’s owner, Waterloo Media, was quick to defend itself — stating that Dudley wasn’t fired. As reported in Radio INK:

Waterloo Media sent this statement to KVUE-TV in response to that post: “Dale Dudley was on KLBJ-FM for just over 34 years and we greatly appreciate his years of entertaining generations of Austin audiences. Dale fearlessly talked about his personal life journeys with wit and passion. Dale was not fired — it’s just time for the station to try something a little different and Dale’s contract was not renewed.”

Was Dudley fired, or did Waterloo Media simply choose not to renew his contract?

It doesn’t matter.

While the station had every right not to renew Dudley’s contract, after 35 years there was an expectation from his local audience that he would remain an on-air fixture. True locally-focused radio companies understand the relationships, cultivated over many years, between talent and audiences. In fact, on its homepage Waterloo Media touts its “local personalities with loyal followings.”

Let me be clear: Dudley should have had no expectation of an automatic renewal of his contract. But the right thing for KLBJ to do would have been to let him know weeks in advance that it woud not be renewing his contract. After 35 years, imagine the positives that could have come from Dudley sharing decades of on-air memories, interacting with loyal listeners, and thanking advertisitng clients for years of support. (I’m confident KLBJ could have turned Dudley’s departure into a revenue opportunity.)

What happened to Dudley has happened to thousands of live, local broadcasters over the last two years. For your career and your family’s well-being my advice is to create a plan for your future — and update it regularly. In the end your talent, community service, and relationship with your listeners are no guarantee that you’ll be the one who decides when it’s time step away from the mic.

Steve Holstein is the Publisher and Chief Content Creator with InterPrep.com