Defriended: Is station founder Mike Friend out at WNRN?

Mike Friend, who founded the station, is not currently in charge of day-to-day operations at WNRN. Reached by phone, the station’s assistant general manager Anne Williams confirmed that she is currently Acting General Manager.

She and other employees deferred questions to Maynard Sipe, chair of the station’s Board of Directors. "Any changes are the result of the growth and success of the station," says Sipe, who confirmed that Williams has been in charge of WNRN’s day-to-day operations since about late April. "Mike is still a valued employee."

One employee said that Friend, who had no comment on advice of counsel, was “stripped of his duties” but still at the station. The source said Friend was also considering filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, although Friend’s name was not involved in any civil suits pending in Charlottesville or Albemarle courts this week.

Sipe said he would be surprised if Friend were planning to sue. He says that Friend has been placed in charge of a large project that the station was hoping to announce by the end of the week.

Friend, a former Operations Manager at WTJU, incorporated STU-COMM, Inc., in 1993 “as a Virginia non-profit corporation with the purpose of building a non-commercial FM radio station for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.” WNRN went on the air in 1996 and is registered as an educational nonprofit. Today the commercial-free station broadcasts in markets including Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Staunton, and is working to expand its signal in Lynchburg.

In the press Friend has been known for a thorny public persona, banning the phrase “the corner” from WNRN when competing station WCNR “The Corner” went live in 2007. During last year’s uproar over programming at WTJU, he seems to have posted a long comment on The Hook’s website criticizing the station and its volunteers.

Updated at 1:56pm with quotes from Maynard Sipe.

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