Former WALK/97.5 FM radio host Mark Daniels has friends, and a lot of them: A petition posted on Change.org that seeks to reinstate him at the radio station had collected nearly 1,000 signatures by late Tuesday.
The petition, titled "Get Mark Daniels back on the air!," was launched Nov. 19 by Mastic resident Jason Linnick, 32, a former LI Ducks on-field host. Daniels was fired from the station Nov. 15. In a phone interview Tuesday, Linnick said "I posted it with the intention of saying that even though I had never had the chance to meet him, I wanted to use this as my way of showing him that we really loved him and to thank him for everything he's done and that his disappearing [from the airwaves] isn't just 'disappearing.' "
"Surprised? I really am," Linnick said of the reaction to the petition. "I thought it would collect 15 or 20 signatures then disappear into Change.org."
When Daniels, 63, was dropped, one of the longest on-air tenures in the history of Long Island radio also ended — a tenure that began 34 years ago. On the air every weekday, year after year, Daniels became an LI radio institution.
"This was just like the last straw," said Diane Maffei of Medford who said in a phone interview that she's been a listener for decades — a habit that she begins early each morning. "We really want Mark back and listeners should be listened to. He was very down to earth and told you what was on his mind. He sounded like how an everyday person would talk about things happening in his life. We knew his family. It feels almost like he was a family member and the family member is now gone."
James Condron, the station's senior vice president, said in a phone interview Tuesday "for years I've said that radio is a conversation between friends, and the on-air personality becomes the listeners' friend, so when you make a change, it's like taking that from them. We understand that it's difficult but at some point Mark also replaced a long-running show [in 1985]. I commend the listeners' passion ... [but] we're not going to make a change because of the petition. We're excited about the new show in January and think people will take to it, but like anything it takes time to adjust. Mark was on the air three years longer than Johnny Carson."
Some change.org petitioners were angered by Daniels' firing while the station was at the outset of its annual holiday music run. "There never is a good time, but with the changeover to holiday music the regular programming ["Mark and Jamie Mornings"] is less of a factor," said Condron. "It's an unfortunate time to ever have to do anything like this."
Linnick — who grew up in East Moriches and said of Daniels he "listened to him my whole childhood" — said: "I never thought the petition would change their [station management] mind. I understand. It's a business and they have to move forward."
But, he added, "it would have been nice for ... [Daniels] to leave on his own terms. Radio is a non-forgiving business."
A call and text message to Daniels seeking comment had gone unanswered by deadline.