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WUSF-FM cancels its jazz programming

Bill DeYoung



Interplay performing at WUSF studios in 2018. Photos by Steve Splane.

Changes in programming are common at radio stations, but this week’s news that WUSF-FM was ditching its veteran late night jazz show resulted in a social media shock wave.

Jazz has been a nightly presence, with local hosts, on the Tampa-based public radio station for 56 years. Until last spring, the music was played all night long, from 9 p.m. until 5 in the morning.

Jazz was cut to three hours – from 9 p.m. to midnight – in March.

It will be “replaced with great public radio programs beginning Monday, October 31,” WUSF General Manager JoAnn Urofsky told Creative Loafing editor Ray Roa Tuesday.

According to Urofsky, “WUSF 89.7 will become entirely focused on news and information, including weather and safety, so we can better serve the residents of Florida.”

She told Roa that jazz programming will move to the station’s online-only Arts Axis site. The station has posted a job search, for an “Arts Axis Florida Jazz Brand Manager.”

Calls and emails from the Catalyst to Urofsky, as well as Program Director Sheila Rue, were not immediately returned.

On-air host Steve Splane, who’d been part of the WUSF Jazz team since 2017 (after starting behind the mic there in the 1970s, followed by a 25-year stint with CBS News in New York), also spoke with Roa for his story.

Splane was fired by telephone Tuesday morning.

Mike Cornette.

Mike Cornette was the station’s Jazz Director from 2008 until his retirement a year ago.

“When I was there, the share – which is the percentage of audience that’s listening – was always Top Ten in that time frame,” Cornette said. “So I don’t understand what their logic is for getting rid of it, but I have a feeling they’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

Upon his departure, he added, “They wanted to put the thing on autopilot, without a Jazz Director. It’s not a part-time job. They assigned it to another staffer, from a different department, to handle a lot of the day-to-day stuff. But he had a full-time job; he didn’t have enough time to do that correctly. There was a lot of work involved.”

Cornette, like his predecessor Bob Seymour (35 years at WUSF), was a well-known figure on the Tampa Bay music scene. WUSF Jazz was heavily involved in local concerts and other community events, along with artist promotions and in-studio performances.

“Over the decades it’s been on the air, there’s been a community built,” he said. “You can see it in the number of jazz concerts that are happening throughout the year. We have jazz concerts all summer long at the Palladium.

“Part and parcel, I think that’s because of the role WUSF Jazz played in the jazz community – where all the young players out there listened and got their inspiration. What we were trying to do is get the gospel of jazz out there to the masses.

“And I think we were doing a pretty good job.”

Bass player Philip Booth is a member of Acme Jazz Garage, a venerable Tampa Band that’s appeared often on WUSF Jazz programs.

“It feels like an old friend has been taken out back and shot, and thrown in a ditch,” Booth said. “And nobody wants to take responsibility for it.

“My question would be: Do they really believe that there’s a much larger audience of serious news listeners who want more BBC News or NPR news content? Has that proven to be a real financial bonanza for other stations around the country?”












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  1. Avatar


    October 19, 2022at5:54 pm

    The last thing my wife and I need late at night, when we’re on the way home from somewhere, is more news and information. It’s always a pleasure to turn on the radio at night (always tuned to WUSF) and enjoy good jazz.

  2. Avatar

    William Conrad

    October 19, 2022at9:38 pm

    I’m so pleased! I listen to the BBC after midnight. I look forward to the program change!

  3. Avatar

    John Zumwalt Stephan

    October 20, 2022at9:55 am

    Shouldn’t take too much thought to find a BBC feed at any time. The All Night Jazz program was a unique beacon of quintessential American art with a focus on the Tampa Bay Area. This is a tragic loss.

  4. Avatar

    Alan Whitman

    October 20, 2022at7:52 pm

    All Night Jazz truly helped to make Tampa Bay a much more Cosmopolitan community! Losing this great cultural beacon will be a HUGE LOSS not only to our music scene but also to the perception visitors get when they come to the area and try to decide where to spend their money. All Night Jazz was one of the reasons I moved back here 27 years ago. Needless to say, but WUSF can kiss my donations Goodbye.

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