Friday was the last day on the air at WIBC-FM 93.1 for longtime radio news personality Steve Simpson.
Simpson was informed Friday that his contract would not be renewed by Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp., which owns WIBC.
“We now have more empathy than ever for what the [Indianapolis] Colts went through with Peyton Manning,” said Emmis market manager Charlie Morgan. “This certainly has nothing to do with Steve’s performance. … This should not be taken in any way as our lack of appreciation for Steve’s 22 years of service at WIBC.
“He’s just not the right guy for what the role of host now requires,” Morgan added. “What we’re asking our hosts to do is offer opinion and perspective, and [Simpson] was not comfortable with that. He was more comfortable in a more traditional news role.”
By early afternoon Friday, all mention of Simpson had been removed from WIBC’s web site.
Simpson’s slot, weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., will be filled by conservative news talk show host Tony Katz, Morgan said.
Katz, who is based out of Los Angeles, had been doing a show on WIBC from 9 p.m. to midnight. Katz is in the process of selling his L.A. home and moving to Carmel, Morgan said.
“Tony’s is a local show,” Morgan emphasized, “not a syndicated show.”
Katz will take his new post as morning news host June 30. Until that time, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz will fill in during the morning drive-time slot.
With Katz in the driver’s seat, there will be no less emphasis on news, traffic and weather, Morgan added.
“It’s just that the role we’re asking our host to take has shifted,” he said.
The shakeout, Simpson said, didn’t catch him completely by surprise Friday. When reached late Friday afternoon, Simpson remained pragmatic about his departure.
“Times change, and the direction they were headed is a place I couldn’t take them,” he said. “I had a nice, long run at WIBC and certainly still have some friends there and wish them the best of luck.”
Simpson, 50, said he’d like to stay in Indianapolis and is considering a number of future career options. “I have some ideas on what I’d like to do … anything from public relations to being a spokesperson to writing are some of the things I’d consider.”
Simpson said he’d also consider another radio gig if one came available.
“I’m not shutting any doors,” he added. “I’m a free agent, so we’ll see what happens.”
Simpson, who also was senior producer at WIBC, is a veteran who was featured on all-night coverage of the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections and also anchored much of the 9/11 coverage on WIBC, which was simulcast on all four of Emmis’ Indianapolis stations. He provided updates to news/talk sister station KTAR in Phoenix and also provided news for Emmis’ New York and Los Angeles stations following the attacks.
“He was a consummate news man,” Morgan said of Simpson. “He was the voice of calm in the eye of the storm.”
Simpson, a Syracuse University graduate, started his career in Syracuse, New York at WHEN and WKFM. He moved to Indiana in 1987 to work at WKLR-FM, and in 1992 made the move to WIBC.