Chicago radio DJ Norm Winer is leaving WXRT FM 93.1 after 37 years. He announced the news on Wednesday (March 2), weeks after losing his position as program director at the CBS Radio adult album alternative station. Friday will be his last day.
“I have been exceptionally fortunate to have been here, surrounded by people who mean so much to me,” he wrote in a letter announcing his departure to the station’s staff. “For many, many years, we have stood together, defying conventional ‘wisdom’ governing the way we execute our collective responsibilities. Against all odds, our positive impact has been indisputable. Few in our industry have chosen to relate to their audience with the style, humanity and lofty ideals to which we have aspired.”
As local media journalist Robert Feder reports on his blog, since mid-January Winer has acted in the vaguely defined role of director WXRT music initiatives and special programming. The station’s program director position had been eliminated and Winer’s former responsibilities were split up between operations director Mitch Rosen and music director Kelly Ransford. The 67-year-old Winer was reportedly unhappy with the diminished role.
“When you think of the Mount Rushmore of ‘XRT, Norm will always be front and center,” Rosen told Robert Feder.
Winer joined WXRT in 1979 after working at progressive rock stations in Boston and San Francisco. Last year, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events awarded him the Fifth Star Award honor, saying, “few program directors are as closely identified with a major market commercial radio station. In a radio world often focused on playing the hits, WXRT has for decades brought new artists and music to the ears of Chicagoans. While others regularly change format and personnel, WXRT has remained remarkably consistent while remaining at the forefront of new music in Chicago and the world, and no one is more responsible for this than Winer.”
WXRT had a hard run last year with sales declining more than 21 percent.
Winer thanked the station’s staff, employers, talent and listeners in his letter, saying, “In some ways, I still like to think we made it up as we went along, with mutual support from the people of Chicago and each other. With honesty, humility, and humor.”