Service of Collateral Damage: Fallout from Joan Hamburg’s Unceremonious Firing

June 9th, 2014

Categories: Radio, You're Fired

Joan Hamburg. Photo:

Joan Hamburg. Photo:

There are few great ways to divorce or fire a person though some are better than others where collateral damage is concerned.

Two weeks ago the grande dame of New York City radio, Joan Hamburg, was unceremoniously fired with no warning minutes before the taping of her weekend broadcast. She asked for the chance to say goodbye to her listeners of over three decades and instead was immediately shown the door as though her employer feared that she’d delete a database.

joan hamburgHad they listened to this elegant woman they would have known how fair, compassionate and ethical she was, hardly the type to do damage. She was the moderate voice when she shared the microphone with foodie Arthur Schwartz years ago. While he would bash a restaurant, [I appreciated his insight and he was probably spot-on], she would either think of the tiniest positive thing to say about the place or in some way temper his observations.

Cindy Adams in her New York Post column claimed that the firing was part of “the war on journalistic women.” A New York Women in Communications [NYWICI] colleague felt that she was treated this way because of her age—79 according to David Hinckley–noting that this country has no patience with older people. NYWICI gave Hamburg a Matrix Award in 2006, the same year as Jill Abramson who was recently fired from The New York Times. [Is there something in the air?]

In the Daily News Hinckley wrote “Joan Hamburg, canceled by WOR after 35 years, says listeners deserved a goodbye,” and quoted Hamburg that these listeners are “tired of angry guys screaming at each other” and that “she had ‘a wonderful run.’”

When I left my job at a publishing company years ago I didn’t want a going away party, [I despise goodbyes], but there was one anyway. A friend told me that the party was really for those remaining at the company, which made sense. Those who fire might think of those left behind as well.

Hamburg told Adams: “If they want new merchandise…it’s their candy store.”

That it is. But what about the collateral damage to employees and customers of this store? “There but for the grace of God go I,” must be running through the heads of staff. Hamburg’s fans are outraged at the lack of respect shown someone they admire. What were they thinking? What do you?


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9 Responses to “Service of Collateral Damage: Fallout from Joan Hamburg’s Unceremonious Firing”

  1. Joan Goldman Said:

    Clear Channel has been doing ridiculous stupid things with WOR since it took over. They think they are going to get a younger audience. Little do they know they won’t. They are just alienating the audience that they have.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There’s hardly an industry that doesn’t do outlandish things to attract a younger audience. To survive, it’s important to attract all ages as eventually, older customers, readers and audiences will die off. It has always been a challenge.

    Like a restaurant that’s known for peppermint ice cream with hot fudge sauce, to cut this favorite from the menu is suicide.

    Talk radio isn’t something young people listen to. Invite young people to host a show—from the Columbia Journalism School for example–and who knows what kind of audience you might attract. At the same time, don’t lose the mainstays.

    In addition: I have never understood the lack of recognition of the purchasing power of older audiences. Don’t we give gifts and have roofs, autos, and bodies that need repair and updates like everyone else?

  3. CBG Said:

    Years ago when I worked for the U.S. Government, before I went overseas I received cross-cultural training. For example: Most Northern Europeans like to converse when standing two feet apart, whereas most Mediterranean peoples speak more comfortably eighteen inches from their listener.

    Later, I thought of this training while riding late in a taxi to the old World Trade Center, trying to figure out why my apparently Muslim driver was so rude, indeed why had I noticed so many apparently Muslim cab drivers being rude? Then it dawned upon me that in many Muslim countries, what’s considered rudeness is different than here, and that effusive politeness between master and servant is often frowned upon by many Muslims. My driver was not being rude, he was behaving as he would have been expected to behave in his country.

    The demographics of the power structure of the new power elite in this country are very different from what they were even fifty years go, and the extent of that elite’s strength and reach has expanded even more rapidly. The brazen arrogance with which Ms. Hamburg was fired is consistent with the behavioral characteristics typical of its demographic make up.

    This charming and gracious lady should be grateful that she is out of this brave new world which is now upon us.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thank you for sharing another potential reason why Joan Hamburg was so ungraciously dismissed. I think had she been given a choice between dismissal and working with the powers at the station, rough and gruff though they be, she might have opted to stay on.

    She’s never been stuck in the past and has always welcomed innovation and change. She so obviously loves being in the swing and has kept her finger on the pulse of New York—not an easy task—from theater to writers to restaurants to medical and diet trends.

    She read the books before speaking with authors on her show and saw the plays before interviewing actors.

    There must be impactful ways to reach the power brokers in ways that resonate. Polite notes might not work. Turning the dial on the “talent” that pays for the hours formerly filled by Joan Hamburg would be a start.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Ignorance is showing here, but since I haven’t listened to WOR in years, didn’t know of Joan Hamburg. Looked her up and learned that previous to being fired in the nastiest way possible, her original show was moved to the weekend in order to give favorable time to Rush Limbaugh. This explains a lot and is more than a war on women journalists, but rather a war on intelligence. The message is loud and clear. It’s not only women who should return the favor to that radio station, no longer listening, but so should anyone with half a brain.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t know the radio business but it might be less expensive to pay for a syndicated show than one custom-made for the audience as Joan’s was even though she had loyal advertisers. There seems to be a competition for Mr. Limbaugh between WABC and WOR, with WOR now holding the hot potato.

    When I drove into the city on Monday mornings years ago I’d often catch the first part of her program that started at 9 a.m. She moved to later in the day but for a while I’d hear her show repeated on the weekend or if I took a day off. She is generous in sharing news of her family; she has a great sense of humor and of adventure. No doubt millions consider her like a favorite aunt or girlfriend who is knowledgeable and fun to be with.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    After puritanical Pooh-Bahs banished Howard Stern from the air, his career took off big time on Satellite Radio. May something similar happen to Ms. Hamburg. WOR deserves a smart slap.

  8. lorraine sossin Said:

    What a loss to WOR. The station will go under in a short time due to management’s decisions. If Mark Simone is smart.\, he should leave the sinking ship. He is the only bright spot on the station. I do like his program, but my radio dial is no lonmger connected to WOR. I have been a WOR listener for the past 70 years, but that is over. I guess John Gambling was brilliant in leaving when he did. I found him and that is where I am tuned in now. I wish the WOR people all the bad luck they deserve.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I like Joe Bartlett the WOR morning newsman and news director. He’s one of the fairest most balanced people in the business. I am at work when Mark Simone is on but I hear him if they do repeats over holidays and I used to hear him on Saturday on WABC radio. He is very smart and has a handle on a remarkable range of subjects.

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