WMNF fires station founder Rob Lorei again, but he says he won’t fight to get his job back

The community radio station’s news director was let go Friday.

click to enlarge WMNF fires station founder Rob Lorei again, but he says he won’t fight to get his job back
Kimberly DeFalco

When Rick Fernandes was hired last fall to replace Craig Kopp as general manager of Tampa Bay community radio station WMNF 88.5-FM, station founder and news director Rob Lorei invited Fernandes to introduce himself to listeners on the station’s “Radioactivity” news program.

In a clip from that program, a listener emailed to ask if Fernandes had any plans to fire Lorei, who’d previously been unceremoniously let go by Kopp before soon protesting to the board and getting his job back. Lorei and Fernandes had an innocent chuckle about the listener's inquiry.

Today, that exchange feels less lighthearted.

Last Friday, Fernandes sent a message to WMNF volunteer programmers and staff to say that after more than 40 years at the station, April 9 was Lorei’s last day.

“I want to thank him for his service to the station, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.  If you have a program that is impacted, please email directly to discuss,” Fernandes wrote.

In a statement to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Lorei said Fernandes’ reasoning was unclear and that he asked the GM to write a letter explaining his reasoning, but Fernandes disputed Lorei’s claim.

“Rob was informed Friday afternoon of the reason not only by the General Manager, but a member of the board. Rob is free to share the cause of his termination if he chooses. Again, we thank Rob for his many years of service,” Fernandes wrote to CL.

Over the weekend—much like when Lorei was let go by Kopp in 2019—wondered what a station without one of its founders and its news director would look like. But unlike that period of uncertainty in 2019, it does not look like Lorei will appeal to get his job back at WMNF.

Today, Lorei told CL that “While I disagree with the GM's decision about my employment, for the sake of the station I'm not going to fight it.”

In his statement, Lorei—who leaves behind staffers Sean Kinané and Daniel Figueroa IV in the news department—alluded to big changes Fernandes has planned for WMNF. Those changes may be outlined in a station meeting set to happen virtually on Wednesday night

“Let's hope WMNF succeeds. I'm proud of what we've accomplished for the past 43 years. For all that time the station has been financially secure, we opened the airwaves to thousands of new voices and made a positive impact in the community,” Lorei wrote to CL. “Trying to keep my job now would just further divide the factions in the station and not be helpful. The WMNF listeners, volunteers, staff and board have made WMNF a role model for the country. And my hope is that WMNF will continue to be sustainable, committed to the original mission and have much success in the future.”

Lorei still hosts WEDU’s “Florida This Week” news program and has been a bedrock of Tampa Bay’s news ecosystem for the last four decades. CL asked about his next moves and will update this post as more information becomes available.

This is a developing post.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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