TOMS RIVER – Several local on-air staffers who worked for Townsquare Media for many years will no longer be heard on area radio stations.
Those staffers were part of the radio network’s Ocean/Monmouth counties cluster and includes Liz Jeressi of Hot AC 94.3 The Point WJLK Asbury Park who was with the station for more than 20 years and worked 18 years in morning programming with Lou Russo, who will now work solo for the present time.
Also out is Justin Louis as APD/MD/afternoon host at AC 92.7 WOBM-FM Toms River. Before starting with WOBM-FM in 2007, Louis worked at WHYN Springfield Massachusetts and WMHX Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Taking over in the afternoon from Louis will be Townsquare Media Monmouth/Ocean Director of Content JB Wilde.
Also gone is Andy Chase who will no longer serve as APD/afternoon host at Classic Rock “105.7 The Hawk” WCHR-FM Manahawkin.
Chase worked at the station for almost 12 years. During that time, he promoted many local charities. Among them was a yearly “Billboard Radiothon” that raised funds for Ocean of Love, a Toms River based nonprofit that assists families with children who have cancer. The fundraiser involved Chase spending several days and nights on top of a billboard.
Chris Varacchi was also dropped and will no longer host his midday shift at WCHR-FM.
Chase and Varacchi’s departures represent a lack of local talent on the station. Some additional weekend and part-time hosts may have also been eliminated from schedules in that area but this has not yet been verified.
The layoffs were noted in social media with many friends and fans extending regret at their departures and wishing them well in seeking new employment in the future. A long-time friend and fan of Jeressi, Barbara Miskoff Farragher, posted to Facebook, “My heart goes out to my friend Liz Jeressi.”
“She’s so talented, incredibly generous and genuine. I was devastated to hear that she was let go after so many years on the morning airwaves bringing joy as part of the Lou and Liz Show. We go back to the college days and I know this broadcasting legend will land on her feet,” Farragher added.
Each of the four radio personalities fired on November 30 were described as “beloved” and “integral” to many listeners of area communities they served and will be missed by regular listeners.
Mark Kowalski a former employee of 92.7 WOBM for seven years and went by the name of Mark Anthony on the air said Louis, who was the assistant program director and afternoon drive host at the station, “was one of the kindest people I have ever met.”
“This is a man that is dedicated to what he does. He ingrained the notion that the station was bigger than all of us in our mantra because it was the truth. People came to WOBM for news, information, and good music – something that Justin did very well,” Kowalski added.
Kowalski said Justin “is a great person, a natural at radio broadcasting, and an incredible mentor. Chris Varacchi, Andy Chase, and Liz Jeressi are also great people. They sounded great, all the time. Andy Chase is a man that raised millions for charity while at Townsquare Media in the Oceans of Love Billboard Radiothon. He is iconic in the community, and he is an incredible radio personality and someone I truly enjoyed working with and learning from.”
Theresa Segui, Executive Director of Ocean of Love for Children with Cancer, told Jersey Shore Online “We are shocked and saddened by the decision to terminate Andy Chase. Andy has been an integral part of the Billboard Radiothon for over 13 years. His compassion and enthusiasm were a driving force behind the success of the event. We are so grateful for what Andy accomplished over the years at the Radiothon. Andy will always be an integral part of our organization and continue to support our cause and fundraising efforts regardless of his place of employment.”
Townsquare Media is the third largest owner of radio stations in the United States. It was unknown if any of the staffers were able to bid farewell to their fans on the radio.
The firings were blamed on cost cutting, noting that advertising dollars from local businesses had been impacted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The firm is a media, entertainment and digital marketing solutions company primarily focused on small and mid-sized markets across the United States.
The company’s assets include 322 radio stations and over 330-plus local websites in 67 U.S. markets, including NJ101.5 FM, WYRK, KLAQ and K2 in addition to a streaming radio app, radioPup, available for iOS and Android.
Townsquare Chief Operating Officer Erik Hellum was quoted in The Star-Ledger, stating, “we made a decision that we need to make a few changes to make 94.3 The Point, 105.7 The Hawk and WOBM the best stations they could be, providing the best possible local entertainment and information to our New Jersey audience, on air and online.”
Hellum added, “we appreciate the work they have done and wish them nothing but the best. But despite the fact that the pandemic has presented significant economic challenges, we are not eliminating positions, as we plan to hire.”
According to Hellum, the cluster will be hiring an assistant director of content for the cluster, a new morning co-host for WJLK and a promotions director who will also host afternoons on WCHR-FM.
The company did not respond to requests for comment for this article.