Joe Henderson: WMNF listeners let station know how they feel about Rob Lorei

rob lorei
The fired radio station personality is pleading for civility.

Rob Lorei was fired at Tampa’s WMNF community radio station in part for what his employer claimed was an inconsistency about using social media platforms like Facebook.

But here’s irony for you. There is an uproar on social media as people take to their keyboards demand the station co-founder and news director regain his job. It’s too soon to say it will work, but no one should say it won’t, either.

A Facebook post Sunday from Lorei about his termination had hundreds of comments, reactions, and shares within a few hours.

“Yesterday (Saturday), I filed the first step in my appeal to get my job back. The ultimate decision about whether this termination was justified is up to the radio station’s board of directors,” he wrote.

“The fifteen-member board will soon decide my fate by simple majority vote. I hope that if you are concerned about the firing that you will write our board president and ask him to share your message with all 15 board members.”

At a station like WMNF, there is power in the people.

General Manager Craig Kopp fired Lorei on Feb. 18 after nearly 40 years at the listener-supported station. Lorei said he was given a list of eight items where he needed to improve, including the use of social media. He agreed he could do better there but disputed the other seven points. The firing did not affect Lorei’s status as host of the political roundtable “Florida This Week” on WEDU-TV.

No doubt, station management understood there would be pushback from listeners, whose financial support is critical for the station. If it believed all this might blow over in a few days though, that appears to have been a gross miscalculation.

“I think the community is speaking loudly that they don’t like the decision,” he told Florida Politics.

Listeners share a sense of ownership with the station, and Rob Lorei had become one of their most trusted voices. Known for his even-handed interview style and straightforward presentation of the news, listeners came to trust Lorei in a way few media personalities receive today.

Listeners appreciated his even-handed and intelligent approach to deciphering issues. In contrast to many radio loudmouths, Lorei asked smart, civil questions in conversational tones.

Even as controversy envelopes him now, Lorei’s Facebook post is a plea to civility as much as it was a call to action.

“We all want the station to survive this crisis and eventually become stronger. We are all better off with WMNF than without it. So please be civil in your interactions,” he wrote.

“My heroes include MLK and Gandhi, who were peaceful, non-violent and persistent. That’s the way I hope we’ll all behave as we work to resolve this awful situation.”

In contrast to heavily programmed commercial stations, WMNF has a marvelous stream-of-consciousness feel to its mix of shows.

There is a variety of music offerings, from reggae, jazz, soul to, well … name it. Volunteers handle many of the duties there. A listener might get an update on the local art scene, or an earful of blues, or a blast of outrage at the local political goings-on.

Lorei has been the constant there. He knows what the station is about, and most importantly, what it isn’t.

Listeners have expressed that in emails, phone calls, messages of support to Lorei. There is an online petition to bring Lorei back. Many have said they will no longer contribute to pledge drives until Lorei returns.

Well, what should anyone expect?

The station has positioned itself as community radio, and the community is furious with what WMNF management did to Lorei. That’s one of the hazards of trying to have it both ways

When you say you are one with the community, listeners will take you seriously. They have been told they have a voice and they are not afraid to use it. They want Rob Lorei back on WMNF. That is the conundrum the board faces. Who’s really in charge here?

People will be waiting, arms folded, to learn the station’s answer.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


17 comments

  • Edna

    February 24, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    It’s absolutely unacceptable that WMNF fired Rob Lorei. Period.

    • Susan Curry

      February 25, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      I’m not waiting, you guys really blew it. Your handling of this has been pitiful and the fact that it happened right after the pledge drive destroyed any trust that I had in you. Also there is way to much talk. We are informed people, and don’t need to have it hammered into our heads 5 days a week between 9-2. It gets really old and repetitive. I have found a marvelous new community radio station called WERU Out of Maine. They are now my favorite little radio station on the planet earth.

    • Susan Curry

      February 25, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      Wow, I can’t believe you were censoring the comments. I have tried commenting twice and you say that a duplicate comment has been detected and that I’ve already said that. That is not true. Perhaps privately to the Board of Directors but not publicly on this Facebook post. Really bad WMNF

  • Sr. Anne Dougherty

    February 24, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Please reinstate Rob Lori!
    Sr. Annie Dougherty

  • Nina

    February 25, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Rob Lorei is essential to WMNF and this community.
    We want him back!
    What was Craig Kopp thinking?

  • Mark Bartholomew

    February 25, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Well said. Kopp and those he has chosen to align with seem he’ll bent on taking the community out of community radio. Rob is one of the few even handed and honest brokers left in radio. How Kopp thought getting rid of him would be a step forward totally eludes me. I can not support WMNF any longer. If Rob returns so shall I.

  • Bartholomew

    February 25, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Well said. Kopp and those he has chosen to align with seem he’ll bent on taking the community out of community radio. Rob is one of the few even handed and honest brokers left in radio. How Kopp thought getting rid of him would be a step forward totally eludes me. I can not support WMNF any longer. If Rob returns so shall I.

  • Ben Tucker

    February 25, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    “Known for his even-handed interview style and straightforward presentation of the news”
    Say WAT?!!!

    “Listeners appreciated his even-handed and intelligent approach to deciphering issues.”
    WTF am I reading?!!!

    • Anthony Joseph Cona Jr

      February 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm

      It seems to me that Lorei and Koop must have butted heads on a few issues dealing with station business that might have brought on a bit of animosity between the two. I just don’t think that Lorei did anything that was so terrible that it warrants him being fired by a station manager that has been at WMNF for just over 4 years. Don’t seem that 4 years at the station should “TRUMP” 40 years of dedicated service to community radio. Just hope that the board can see to reinstating Lorei to his job and that maybe the two of them can just shake hands and apologize to each other ,if that is needed, and just move on as if nothing happened .Hope it all works out for everyone involved and the station doesn’t suffer any damage fro the actions taken.

      • Ben tucker

        February 26, 2019 at 7:35 am

        “maybe the two of them can just shake hands and apologize to each other ,if that is needed, and just move on as if nothing happened”

        I don’t think this will lead to a ‘kumbaya’ moment.

        My idea is that Rob that a year sabbatical away from the station and see where it goes from there.

  • Susan Curry

    February 25, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    I have been tired of the 9 to 2 talk every day for the past two years. And then when Craig Kopp did this , It added more disappointment fatigue to an already very full plate. The timing was more than unfortunate. It was dishonest. After the pledge drive? ….I have loved WMNF for the 26 years I have lived here And I am sorry to leave it. There are other stations. Goodbye

  • Becky van der Bogert

    February 26, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Rob’s style is one that is so badly needed as we go through this tumultuous time. Hopefully you will reconsider and have Rob back. He is a voice us reason and will serve as a model of civility to help us return to what we should be.

  • Brian

    February 26, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Here’s hoping Rob Lorei gets his job back so we can all go back to listening and supporting OUR community radio station – WMNF.

  • ken

    February 26, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Craig Kopp should never have been hired to run a community station period!!! Reinstate Rob Lorei and get rid of the CANCER Kopp, or you’ll lose my support forever!!

  • Chh

    February 27, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    This action, termination of Lorei, is a mark of incompetence from an apparently troubled management and board. It is also a stab in the back, apparently, to Mr Lorei… in addition to those of us who supported WMNF as a community resource of fair and open talk. If Executive Session, interesting if Chamberlai-esqe, is the top-down direction of mnf…. no thanks. I’ll keep my time thoughts and money

  • Mike in Lutz

    March 1, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I am outraged at the firing of Rob Lorei. I’ve been a WMNF listener and contributor since 1992.

    Rob Lorei IS WMNF.

    This was not handled well. Rob didn’t use social media enough? DON’T CARE! That’s not what we count on him for. For the love of God, you dare to say this man is not doing ENOUGH for WMNF?!?!

    Not sure who Craig Kopp is but if he’s behind this travesty, I think he should go. Rob has earned the trust of the community and the listeners. Kopp….neither. He’s still wet behind the ears when it comes to this area/community. Something stinks here…not sure what it is, but it’s not Rob.

    If WMNF wants to fire him, they better have a damned good reason and NOT this “he didn’t use FB enough BS”. We could all improve! Everybody on WMNF could do better. There is a HUGE drop off in talent from Rob to the other folks who handle politics (John Gilmore is in 2nd place; Dan Ruth coming back for his Friday show would be a really good move as his voice is missed dearly).

    Rob Lorei and the listeners deserve better than this. And thanks for getting rid of HeatWave because it “wasn’t profitable”. Another nasty move that left people wondering what is going on at the station.

Comments are closed.


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