Less than six months after launching a new career in talk radio with an afternoon-drive show on 1210 AM WPHT in Philadelphia, outspoken Friday Night Lights author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger has left the airwaves behind.
“While I enjoyed doing talk radio, I had increasingly come to the conclusion that it is fundamentally trivial,” Bissinger told me in an email.
He explained that he is contractually forbidden from discussing the specifics of his employment with or departure from the station. But he did say that he resigned in December, a fact confirmed by Andy Bloom, WPHT’s operations manager. “He had great talent and tremendous potential in talk radio,” added Bloom.
Although both sides maintain that the split was amicable, stories of a tumultuous six-month tenure have emerged from WPHT’s Bala Cynwyd headquarters.
Thanks to Bissinger’s frequent invocation of the F-bomb and other FCC-banned utterances, the station had to employ at least one additional “dump button,” the technology used to make sure that said utterances don’t wind up on the radio. “They had to be certain that there were a number of people who could hit the button when necessary,” says one WPHT employee. “He had multiple outbursts.”
There were also problems off-air. According to one well-placed source, Bissinger was involved in two separate F-bomb-filled office confrontations that resulted in him being charged with “creating a hostile work environment.” Once CBS Corporate in New York was poised to get involved with the second incident, Bissinger resigned, says the source. Bissinger would not comment on the record about the disputes. But clearly the station knew he was volatile. It’s one of the reasons they hired him.
Bissinger says his motivations for leaving were less about the radio industry and more about his true love: writing. “I missed my writing career,” says Bissinger. “And I missed doing things that I believed had some social value. I have plenty of assignments from the likes of Vanity Fair, the revamped New Republic, the New York Times … and another book left on my contract with Houghton Mifflin.”
“Trying to juggle two careers was becoming impossible,” he insists. “But the the management of the CBS group in Philadelphia, Marc Rayfield and Andy Bloom, treated me wonderfully. I appreciate the chance they gave me. Sometimes things are just not meant to work out.”
[PHOTO: Dom Savini]