For the first time since 1990 the Northeast Pennsylvania radio and television airwaves are Rusty Fender free.
Entercom Communications, the company that operates WKRZ, WILK, Froggy 101 and 102.3 The Mountain, terminated Dale Mikolaczyk on Monday. Rusty Fender is the trademarked name Mikolaczyk has used since 1990 to offer traffic reports and banter on the air with disc jockeys and talk show hosts.
Ryan Flynn, market manager for the Pittston Township office of Entercom, said the company decided to go in a different direction and confirmed Monday was Mikolaczyk's last day.
He said the company has advertised the traffic reporter position and hopes to fill it in a few weeks. He pledged to keep the reports done live and local, rather than contracting with an out-of-area company like some other stations do.
Flynn declined to go into specifics on the reason Mikolaczyk was let go other than there was a decision to retool the traffic position.
In addition to Rusty Fender, Mikolaczyk also broadcast on radio using the name Shadoe Steele when he hosted Saturday Night Live at the Oldies, which has been running since 1988. That show broadcast for the last time Saturday night, Flynn said.
Mikolaczyk, whose Entercom business card identified him as Traffic Guru of All Media, said his days on local radio are finished.
I've been in radio for 42 years, starting at age 15 at WVIA 89.9 FM, he said. When you work for the top cluster (Entercom) there's nowhere else to go.
Mikolaczyk, 56, has worked as an engineer for NBC in New York and its local affiliate, WBRE. He hasn't ruled out returning to work at WBRE in the future and said the station has already contacted him.
To be honest, I would have been hurt if they hadn't, Mikolaczyk said from his Old Forge home Thursday.
While he wasn't happy with the station's decision, he said he has other projects to keep busy. In addition to teaching part time at Wilkes University, he's also produced two episodes of a television show that's been pitched to PBS, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel.
I always have stuff brewing, he said.
And while he enjoyed the friendships and his experiences at the radio stations, he said he was saddened to see the direction the company has taken in recent years.
The industry is changing. It's become cold and impersonal, Mikolaczyk said. But he also sees something else in the decision to let him go and it may lead him to file an age discrimination lawsuit against Entercom.
I am indeed looking into it. As soon as I get some more information, he said.
Flynn said that was the first he's heard of this possibility and declined to comment on the allegation.