Jason DeRusha Switching ‘CCOs
WCCO-TV chief morning anchor Jason DeRusha, who announced in May he was leaving TV to pursue other opportunities, will join WCCO Radio as its PM drive host on June 27. He had been talking to the station about opportunities for over a year, including its 2021 morning drive opening, before settling on PM drive, which is opening up as part of a larger programming shakeup at the station.
“I see this as something I could do for 20 years,” says DeRusha. “I have always enjoyed taking a legacy station and being part of moving it into the future.”
The Chicago-raised personality joined WCCO-TV as a reporter in 2003 after attending Marquette University and TV stints in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. (His radio career began doing sports broadcasts over WMTH-FM at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago.)
DeRusha, 47, has worked at WCCO Radio as a fill in host and guest on Chad Hartman’s midday show for over a decade. He will supplant Paul Douglas and Jordana Green from 3-6 p.m. each weekday. Douglas, local broadcast legend and entrepreneur, is pivoting to a role as the station’s chief meteorologist. Green will be paired with Chad Hartman’s sidekick Adam Carter in the 9a-12n slot formerly occupied by Cory Hepola.
WCCO has been looking to modernize its sound in recent years. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe in the people [ex-Hubbard broadcasting execs Jeff Gonsales and Brad Lane] running this station now,” he says. ‘CCO has cycled through PM drive talent since Steve Cannon’s retirement in 1997 (Don Shelby and Michele Tafoya among others), none catching fire with listeners. DeRusha knows breaking news, but also has a large social media presence, an ear for pop culture, and a strong interest in food and restaurants through his role as restaurant editor for Minnesota Monthly.
Describing himself as a “cautious risk taker,” DeRusha could have stayed in TV, but had few upside opportunities at WCCO, where 10 p.m. anchor Frank Vascellaro is solidly established. He believes if he stayed at WCCO past his 50th birthday he would have ended his career there, thus the impetus to try something new. He says he is “intrigued by the total creative freedom [of radio] without the tight clock of TV news.”
Still the move to radio is befuddling to “half the people in my life who can’t conceive why I’d leave TV,” he says. “I am going to have to show some of my friends how to find WCCO Radio.” DeRusha also offered to go to listeners’ cars on request, “and set a button.” He contextualizes the pivot as a move to “an audio company [Philadelphia-based Audacy], one of the biggest podcasters. I want to learn more about the new frontiers of audio. Audio is where it’s at.”
The move offers significant earning upside for DeRusha through the commercial endorsements which are the stock in trade of ‘CCO hosts and can theoretically dwarf the salaries of the most established hosts.
DeRusha says it will be strange to give up his journalist’s credential in three weeks, but he will be in good company—that of KFAN’s Dan Barreiro, former Star Tribune sportswriter, now the local king of afternoon drive. DeRusha hopes to emulate aspects of Barriero’s success: “Dan is incredible. He’s a great interviewer, and you never quite know what his take will be. I feel like over the years you knew each CCO host’s take. I hope to be surprising. People may even be surprised to find, yes, I have opinions.”