Format change will take Cullen off WPTT

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Lynn Cullen's last day on WPTT-AM (1360) Radio will be Aug. 29, but she doesn't think it will her final day as a talk-show host.

Cullen's show is going off the air because the 5,000-watt station is switching in September to a financial advice format, said Alan Serena, vice president and marketing manager for the station's owner, Renda Broadcasting.

"It has nothing to do with her or her performance or her listenership or her sponsorship," Serena said. Facing strong competition from AM powerhouse KDKA (1020) and WPGB-FM (104.7), "it was slicing the talk pie pretty thin, and we just found that, quite honestly, it was like trying to push a boulder uphill."

Cullen confirmed that Serena had told her that her liberal political views had nothing to do with the station's decision and said she had already received feelers about resuming her talk show elsewhere.

She wouldn't be specific but said the interest was partly a recognition that she had a loyal audience "of a certain mind-set who are hungry to hear their own voice coming back at them on the radio."

Serena said he wasn't ready yet to announce the specific lineup of the new format but said it will involve changing the station's call letters to WMMY-AM and will include a mixture of local and syndicated financial advice and call-in programs.

Cullen, 60, has hosted her three-hour program on WPTT for a decade, combining her political views with a chatty, personal style and a knack for storytelling. Before that, she hosted a similar program for 10 years on WTAE-AM radio. She arrived in Pittsburgh in 1980 to work for WTAE-TV and appeared on the TV station's newscasts until 1992.

She said she had been told that she had the only program on WPTT that was bringing in significant ad revenue, much of it from such bedrock sponsors as Little's Shoes and Castle Windows. "The station is on for 24 hours, but my three hours were the only revenue-producing hours," she said.

Serena acknowledged her drawing power and said that when the station dropped talk-show host Doug Hoerth in December, it was partly because it hoped to cut costs enough to allow Cullen's program to survive.

Even though Serena said politics had nothing to do with the decision, the demise of Cullen's show fits into a larger national picture in which politically liberal talk radio has struggled. As Cullen put it, "You could drive from the East Coast to the West Coast and never hear anything other than a right-wing point of view."

"Recognizing that Western Pennsylvania has predominantly been a Democratic area," Serena added, "Lynn has offered an alternative, and that's probably what people are going to miss the most."

The station's format switch also means that the liberal syndicated talk show hosted by Thom Hartmann will go off the air as well.

Despite her disappointment over the decision, Cullen said she remains optimistic.

"I have no animus toward [the station]. They didn't do this because they were unhappy with me or my program. My head's up high, and I expect there will be opportunities in the future."


Mark Roth can be reached at mroth@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1130.


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