WFAN announced the most wide-ranging makeover in its 30-year history on Wednesday, hiring four new hosts to succeed Mike Francesa in the afternoon and Craig Carton in the morning, all to take effect on Jan. 2.
But it was not just the large freshman class — Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray for the afternoon, Gregg Giannotti to join Boomer Esiason in the morning — that signaled a new start. It was the diversity of those hosts.
Mark Chernoff, WFAN’s vice president of programming, said broadening the profile of the roster “ranked very high” among his priorities.
WFAN's afternoon hires gives 'Mad Dog' pauseChris Russo’s big issue is Bart Scott being part of group replacing Mike Francesa.
“I think it’s important to reflect the listeners we have out there,” he said, adding that as good as Francesa has been for the station, his departure on Dec. 15 offered an opportunity to “have more of a reflection of what’s out there — male, female, person of color.”
Scott is the first African-American host on the daytime schedule since 1993 and Gray is the first woman since 2001.
Chernoff said he will encourage hosts, new and old, to address social issues related to sports.
“One hundred percent, yes, absolutely, no question,” he said. “We’ve done it since we’ve been doing sports talk here 30 years ago and we will continue to do it.”
Esiason made the announcements on the air between 9 and 10 a.m., with the newcomers in the studio, and got right to a key question facing Scott. As a football player from Detroit, how will he handle the FAN’s longtime core topic: local baseball?
“It’s just sports, man,” he said. “You know me: I’m always prepared. I’ll do my homework and I’ll be ready to go. I’ll lean on these guys and they’ll lean on me and we’ll have a fun time.”
Chernoff said Scott grew up an avid Tigers fan and will study up on the Mets and Yankees. “I’m not worried,” he said. “If I felt he wouldn’t be able to do it, he wouldn’t be there.”
The voluble Scott likely will be the emotional center of the show — called “The Afternoon Drive with Carlin, Bart and Maggie” — for better or worse. As a Jet in 2012 he first encouraged teammates to boycott the media and later ripped fans for jeering during the “Butt Fumble” game.
Carlin, who is from New Jersey, is a former producer for “The Mike and the Mad Dog” show. He and Francesa no longer have a close relationship and have not spoken in several years.
“When the call came it took about five seconds to say yes,” said Carlin, who had been at WIP in Philadelphia. “It’s New York and it’s home and it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Gray, who grew up in Binghamton, said getting the job “is totally shocking to me, and it’s all sinking in now.” She said she would offer her own points of view but was pleased a woman’s voice now will be included.
“It’s kind of a different time,” she said on the air. “Women are having a seat at the table now . . . Obviously, this is a big platform. I’m not scared of it. I’m ready for it.”
Scott joked that the “street cred on this station just went up” with his arrival.
The morning show will be re-christened “Boomer and Gio.” Giannotti called it “the moment of all moments for me” as someone from Suffolk County and a former midday producer at WFAN.
Giannotti said he got a call Tuesday wishing him well from his predecessor, Carton, who resigned on Sept. 13 after his arrest on federal charges of wire fraud and securities fraud.
“He was about as class of an act as you can possibly be,” Giannotti said, “and it really meant a whole heck of a lot to me.”
Jerry Recco has filled in most of the time for Carton over the past two months and will remain on the show in his former role as the update man.
“I couldn’t be happier to work with you guys on what I think is the best crew in radio,” Giannotti said, adding, “I’m really happy that I’m not the fattest new hire. That’s Chris Carlin.”
Chernoff acknowledged what was a “long and not an easy process,” which greatly was complicated on Sept. 6 when Carton was arrested.
“Everybody thinks we offered a hundred people the jobs,” Chernoff said. “It was really that we had a lot of conversations with a lot of people.”
Some declined, notably Kimberly Jones and Chris Simms. Others were unavailable or not the right fit.
The verdict will arrive in the form of ratings next year. For now, Chernoff said he was glad the process was over.
“Hopefully,” he said, “I can get more than four hours sleep now.”