Tampa Bay Times
WMNF fires Lorei again, but reasons are unclear
TAMPA — Longtime Tampa Bay broadcaster Rob Lorei has been fired a second time by community radio station WMNF, but the two sides disagree about the circumstances.
Lorei said he was fired Friday without explanation from the station he helped found four decades ago.
The station’s general manager, Rick Fernandes, gave a different account in a message to the Times on Sunday.
“Rob was informed Friday afternoon of the reason not only by the general manager, but a member of the board,” Fernandes said. “Rob is free to share the cause of his termination if he chooses.”
Lorei’s response: “The rationale was unclear. So I asked him to write it down. He said he’d think about it. And I’ve not heard back.”
Fernandes announced Lorei’s departure in a message posted online Friday.
“I want to inform you that Friday, April 9th was Rob Lorei’s last day at WMNF,” the note said. “I want to thank him for his service to the station. As one of the founding members of the station, he was a big part of our success. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
In his message to the Times, Lorei summed up his career at WMNF, 88.5 FM.
“I worked hard every day for the past 43 years to make WMNF a success,” he said. “Almost never missing a day of work ... I brought hundreds of local people to the airwaves for interviews on significant issues. I headed a diverse news and public
affairs staff that included people from many backgrounds. I broke significant news stories along the way.”
This is the second time in two years Lorei was pushed out at WMNF by management. In February 2019 he was fired by former general manager Craig Kopp, who said the station “ended its long-running relationship” with Lorei in an attempt to help move the station into “a new world” in media beyond radio broadcasting.
There was a public outcry, and some supporters canceled donations to the nonprofit station as Lorei appealed his firing to the all-volunteer board of directors. He was reinstated weeks later and returned as WMNF’s news and public affairs director, the position he held until Friday. His name still appears on the station’s website.
Lorei moved to Tampa in 1978 and joined a group of people who wanted to start a community radio station. They raised the money, even going door to door, and WMNF hit the airwaves in 1979.
He’s best known for hosting call-in and interview shows centered on news and public affairs, including Radioactivity with Rob Lorei at 11 a.m. weekdays. He also appears on TV, hosting the weekly panel discussion Florida This Week on PBS station WEDU, and moderates debates and political forums.
WMNF gets most of its funding from community donations, contributions from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and state grants.
“We started with nothing and now have a large budget, a state-of-the-art broadcast facility, hundreds of wonderful volunteers, a loyal audience and a track record of opening the airwaves to many talented local musicians,” Lorei said. “I’m very proud of what the staff, the volunteers, the audience and the board have accomplished.”