ITHACA/CORTLAND -- After three months, the search to find a new Morning Newswatch host for News/Talk 870 and 95.9 WHCU has ended. The station announced today that Lee Rayburn will take over as host on April 30. Rayburn comes to Ithaca from KNWZ in Palm Springs, CA, where a local newspaper says Rayburn and station management are in the midst of being sued by a local business owner.
A quick Google search for Rayburn's name resulted in an article from the Palm Springs Desert Sun on Tuesday, in which Rayburn told the paper he was moving "back east" for a new job, but he didn't disclose that he was moving to Ithaca. He also refused to tell the paper whether his decision to move had anything to do with the lawsuit, filed in December.
According to the newspaper, a man named Peter Chryss sued Rayburn -- along with the station's news director and general manager -- for defamation, libel and invasion of privacy. The suit details comments Rayburn allegedly made on the air, which "painted Chryss as a wanted felon who collected child pornography," wrote Desert Sun reporter Kate McGinty. GM Jay White and KNWZ owner MCC Radio LLC have denied that any falsehoods were broadcast, and that Rayburn's shows were "in the public interest."
A press release from the Cayuga Radio Group issued today mentions the positives of Rayburn's career, including winning a "Local Radio Personality of the Year" award for two consecutive years in Madison, Wisconsin. Rayburn also worked for the now-defunct Air America Network for two years, and he has filled in for nationally-syndicated host Thom Hartmann (whose show, incidentally, is carried nightly by WHCU sister station Progressive Talk 1470 WNYY).
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring Lee to Ithaca to head up Newswatch,” said VP/GM Chet Osadchey in the press release. “He is an incredibly gifted broadcaster who will help elevate WHCU to historical heights. To have Lee here, working alongside our talented News and Program Director Geoff Dunn and with reporters Brendan Callahan and Katie Husband...it will make for an amazing team.”
"I am excited to be part of a very successful operation and an exceptional team," Rayburn said. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and has more than ten years experience in the radio industry.
Rayburn's hiring fills the vacancy created in January by Dave Vieser's departure from WHCU. Regular CNYRadio.com readers might remember that operations manager Chris Allinger had been filling-in on WHCU for awhile, stepping aside from his regular morning shift at Q-Country 103.7 (WQNY). But then, WQNY afternoon drive host Marty Brandon, who was Allinger's morning show backup, left in February. That move forced Allinger back over to WQNY. And to the best of our knowledge, that position is still open. Here's a link to the original job posting announcement.