KID-AM Owner Explains Morning Show’s Departure

| April 23, 2020

Editor’s Note: This piece follows up on TALKERS’ April 20 report on the exit of KID-AM, Idaho Falls morning team Neal Larson and Julie Mason.  In it, station owner Richard Mecham explains what happened leading up to their resignations. He presents the email he sent to the duo. 

By Richard Mecham
President
Rich Broadcasting

 

SALT LAKE CITY — I spent a lot of time monitoring KID-AM the week of April 13 from my office in Salt Lake City.  While listening to the station I heard the following comments:

1.  Neal and Julie talked about a “mutiny” against the governor and that Idahoans were preparing to protest at the capitol.2.  The governor’s order is not really an order because it is not enforced.

3.  If you’re feeling strongly about the need to see someone and your heart is telling you to go see them, do it!  Don’t worry about an order or social distancing.

4.  I’m going to do what I need to do in order to support my family.

5.  If, in your heart, you feel like throwing a birthday party for 15 people and you know they are healthy, throw the party.

6.  Why are cashier’s bothering to wear gloves?  If they aren’t changing the gloves after every transaction what good is it doing?

7.  Later today we will be conducting a frustrating interview with Governor Little.

8.  Why do nail salons and other similar businesses need to stay closed?

9.  Complaining and or making fun of people who are wearing masks and gloves.  I’m not going to wear a mask and if I happen to cough at a store it’s not my fault if grandpa dies.

10.  I’m fortunate to have a job that has not needed to reduce my compensation.

My response to the comments:

1.  A mutiny against the governor and his stay at home order?  MUTINY?  Based on the overall tone of the show it came across as if you were advocating for our listeners to mutiny against the governor.  I went back and listened to the podcast to see if I had misinterpreted the comment or was taking it out of context.  I don’t think so.

2.  Basically you are inviting our listeners to ignore the governor’s order because it is not being enforced.

3.  If your heart is telling you the governor is wrong, that the stay at home order is for everyone but me and my family, and that social distancing doesn’t apply to me, I am going to do what my heart tells me to do and to hell with the governor.

4.  What does that mean?  Can you imagine how the employees of Dillard’s, Macey’s, Dicks Sporting Goods, The Malls, and every other major and small business owners are feeling having to close their doors while Costco has one of its most profitable quarters in their history?  Hundreds of thousands of people that have been laid off with no income, trying to figure out how to make their house and car payments, much less groceries.  The average American has about $4,830 in savings which means half of the population has less than that.  One house payment, car payment, and a couple of credit card payments and they are tapped out.

5.  You just told the governor to stick it.  My heart tells me you are wrong.  And how do you know if everyone at the party is healthy?  Has everyone in your family been tested?

6.  Cashier’s wear gloves to protect themselves from having to handle multiple transactions from people they don’t know.  You can’t see that?  There is no need for them to change their gloves after every transaction.  And when you get home wash your hands.

7.  Why “frustrating?”  That really makes our listeners want to tune in.

8.  Sounds a little self-serving.  (Julie owns a salon).

9.  Two of our employees, Josh and Chantel wear masks because her immune system is compromised by MS.  Dana wears a mask because he suffers from asthma.  Several of our employees, including me, are 65 or older.  And approximately 30% + of our audience is over the age of 65 and most likely grandparents.

10.  I can fix that!  Our salespeople are killing themselves trying to put money on the books in an extremely difficult time.  No opportunities for cold/new business calls, etc.  Our market is down about 25-30% over last years actual number much less our budget.  Salt Lake City is down 40% and Boise, 55%.  Here’s a proposed deal going forward.  What ever percentage of the budget we hit is the percentage of your salary that will be paid.  KID will not go over the part-time hour limit again.  Any overages will also be deducted from your paycheck.

My Thoughts Going Forward:

I listen to KSL and the sports talk stations a lot in SLC.  They do interviews twice an hour with clients that are struggling and talk about what their listeners can do to support them.  They are doing their best to lift their audience and support their clients/partners while KID uses terms like mutiny and tells our listeners why they do not have to support the governor/President Trump/the medical specialists, etc.

I may be one of the most frustrated “stay at homers” in America.  I can’t drive to my business/investment.  I can’t hire anyone.  And I am watching our sales go down the toilet.  In the meantime I had a daughter-in-law and a grandson celebrate birthdays.  We drove to their homes, left their presents on the porch, and had a great visit from the car.  I hate where we are as a country right now.  And I am going to wash my hands, maintain appropriate social distance, and stay away from groups.   One more “heart” comment advocating for our listeners to fly in the face of the governor’s order will be the last time.

I do not want to see a response to this email.  And I expect to hear a major shift in the tone of the morning show.  KID is not a Neal & Julie station, it is a Rich Broadcasting station.  You said you did not want to have to report to an operations manager.  With autonomy comes exceptional accountability.  I am going to continue to monitor on a daily basis.  If a more structured reporting system is needed it will be implemented immediately.

 
They saw the email at 6:00 am and resigned at 6:15 am.
On 4/20/2020 6:16 AM, Neal Larson wrote:

Richard,

We’ll complete our morning show and you’ll have our letters of resignation later today.
I don’t see anything is this email that talks about a disagreement between ownership and Neal and Julie.  What I do see is a morning show that is challenging the governor’s order, encouraging people to violate the order, and making fun of people that wear masks and gloves.  If grandpa dies it’s not my fault.
 
Finally, our Facebook post.
To The KID Newsradio Listener Family.

There have been a number of media reports and Facebook posts recently regarding the resignations of Neal Larson and Julie Mason.

Neal and Julie resigned voluntarily from KID. They were not terminated. Frankly, they were invited to meet over lunch to discuss their show going forward.

Neal and Julie are very talented and have been valuable members of the KID on-air lineup and Rich Broadcasting is sorry to lose them.

KID was granted a license by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to broadcast “in the public’s best interest.” As long as the governor of the State of Idaho has requested that citizens adhere to the stay-at-home order, social distancing, better hygiene, etc. it is in the “public’s best interest” to clearly follow those guidelines.

During the week of April 13, comments were made by Neal and Julie that were clearly in conflict with the governor’s order.  Referring to a mutiny against the governor… stating that the governor’s order is not really an ‘order’ because it is not enforced… if your heart is telling you to throw a birthday party for 15 people or go visit someone in their home, do it!  Don’t worry about social distancing or the governor’s order… I’m not going to wear a mask and if I happen to cough at a store it’s not my fault if grandpa dies. These comments encouraged our listeners to violate the governor’s order.

KID will always encourage the discussion of differing opinions and viewpoints. However, no announcers can or should consider themselves to be ‘above the law.’

There was no discussion of censorship or controlling the topics discussed on KID. Neal and Julie resigned before a discussion could take place.


Richard Mecham is owner of Rich Broadcasting.  He can be emailed at richard@richbroadcasting.com.

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