By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
SANTA CRUZ, CA — The news/talk radio station in question is not owned by a hedge fund or multi-billion dollar conglomerate. Their ownership group doesn’t occupy the top floors of a big-city skyscraper. You will not see the morning or afternoon show brandishing seven-figure contracts, nor the corporate PD flying into town on the company Lear jet, or the “brand manager” moving from market to market implementing new strategies to grow the market cluster.
The fact of the matter is none of the above elements – which have become somewhat commonplace in today’s radio industry – at this station exist.
Carl Wolfson Back in the Talk Media Business. The former KPOJ, Portland morning drive host returns to the talk media game on Inauguration Day via the internet after raising $52,000 and counting via Kickstarter. Carl Wolfson was the morning host on Clear Channel’s former progressive talk outlet KPOJ, Portland before it flipped to sports talk in the New Year. Wolfson decided to use Kickstarter to fund a new avenue to get his brand of talk to the public and the “Elect ‘Carl in the Morning’ to a Second Term” campaign raised more than $52,000. So, beginning on January 21, Wolfson will stream live from 7:00 am to 8:30 am and make his show available via podcast. Wolfson says the money will go to buy office space, utilities, equipment, server costs and more. KPOJ was one of the country’s longest-running and more successful progressive talk stations and the news of its flip to sports talk that broke in November was disappointing to progressive talk fans in the market. As morning drive anchor and the local host, Wolfson attracted a loyal following on KPOJ. Now, he’ll get the chance to make a go of it in the digital realm.
WLS-AM, Chicago’s Jake Hartford Dead at 63. Chicago talk radio personality Jake Hartford (Jim Edwards) passed away after suffering a heart attack. Hartford was a longtime weekender and fill-in host on WLS, beginning his career there in 1989. Most recently he had been co-hosting the late morning show with John Kass from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. His family, via the WLS-AM website, gives the following statement: “We’re currently mourning the loss of Jake Hartford, a husband, father, and friend. This is devastating news for everyone in our family, and we greatly appreciate all of the kind words that have been offered to us during our struggle. It’s truly incredible how many people he has affected positively through pursuing the work that he loved so dearly. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts as we do our best to ‘spring forward.’”
The Todd Schnitt-Bubba the Love Sponge Case Goes to Trial Today. Actually the jury selection process begins today in Hillsborough County, Florida. The real interesting part will follow and is expected to last about three weeks. Todd Schnitt – who then battled Bubba the Love Sponge in morning drive in Tampa – filed suit against Todd Clem (BTLS) in 2008 claiming “false, highly offensive and defamatory statements” made by Clem about Schnitt and his wife Michelle. Specifically, Schnitt’s suit claims that Clem’s attacks on him and his wife – an assistant state attorney – went beyond name calling between public figures. He alleges Clem accused him of illegal activities including rigging the Arbitron ratings and taking “plugola.” Schnitt also claims Clem encouraged his listeners to physically attack him and his wife and that led to four encounters with Bubba listeners including being forced off the road by another car, being harassed at dinner and having their house egged. Schnitt’s claims are going to be hard to prove. First, he’ll have to show actual malice on the part of Clem plus he’ll have to prove some real harm came to himself and his wife. But the cast of witnesses should prove interesting in and of itself. The Tampa Bay Times reports Randy Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Cowhead, and other local media personalities are listed as possible witnesses.
Platform Plays Huge Influence on Public’s Perception of Content. According to noted radio consultant and TALKERS columnist Holland Cooke, the stage upon which a production is delivered plays a significant role in shaping the potential audience’s expectation of its content and value. Keeping this important piece of media theory in mind, FM and AM radio still have a tremendous advantage over podcasting and internet radio in giving its content instant gravitas simply because it is “on the radio.” Of course, as time goes by, this psychological advantage will dissipate unless radio continues to deliver product worthy of high expectations. Cooke illustrates this point by citing the fascinating story of the world-class concert violinist, Joshua Bell who performed as a non-descript street musician playing a $3.5 million Stradivarius in the Washington, DC subway system. If you don’t know the story, you should — especially if you are a podcaster. To read Holland Cooke’s piece, click here.
Truth is More Effective than Hype in the Online Space. According to noted radio digital consultant and TALKERS columnist Chris Miller, broadcasters should be mindful that the kind of hyperbole that marks the tone of on-air promotion doesn’t translate well on the internet. Radio broadcasters should tone down the sizzle and hype when translating on- air messages to their websites. In an exclusive article for TALKERS, Miller writes, “For anyone old enough to tell truth from fiction when the internet first really got hot, there is still a stigma about online information. It’s automatically suspect. What you say online (especially on your site) needs not only be true; you also need to present it in a way that convinces your fans that you are telling the truth. On the air, we like to add sizzle and excitement to what we promote, so we write promos and liners in call-to-action language and we gloss over important detail points. That’s fine on the air. When I was a PD, I would not have accepted a promo that was just a laundry list of rules for a particular promotion. When you go online with that info, your tone needs to change.” To read Chris Miller’s entire piece click here.
The Wall Street Journal Radio Network to End “The Daily Wrap” Program. Launched in the spring of 2011, the early evening program hosted by Michael Castner will end in 90 days as The Wall Street Journal Radio Network has decided to pull the plug on “The Daily Wrap.” WSJRN brought Castner to the show from Clear Channel’s WRNO, New Orleans where he’d been hosting the morning drive program. “The Daily Wrap” is a newsy look at the top stories of the day airing from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET. Whether the end of the program is the result of intense competition in the syndicated talk radio marketplace or the inability to have it make financial sense at a time when ad sales in the news and talk radio realm are extremely challenging, either way the show’s departure from the landscape will leave one less well-produced, newsy product on the air.
The DirecTV-Produced “Nick & Artie Show” Becomes “The Artie Lange Show.” Affiliates of the “Nick & Artie Show” – featuring comedians Nick DiPaolo and Artie Lange – will hear just Artie Lange when the DirecTV-produced late night talk show returns this evening. On the show’s Facebook page, it simply states that Nick DiPaolo is pursuing “some great opportunities” and the show becomes the Artie Lange show immediately. The program airs on DirecTV’s Audience Network channel and is distributed to radio affiliates via Premiere Networks. The program has a handful of radio affiliates including Cox Media’s WHPT, Tampa “102.5 The Bone,” Beasley’s hot talk WRXK, Ft. Myers and Americom’s sports talk KBZZ, Reno “The Buzz.”
Americom Flips KBZZ, Reno to Sports. The former hot talk outlet adopts the sports talk format using CBS Sports Radio Network. It will continue to air the Don Geronimo morning program (imported from CBS Radio’s KHTK, Sacramento) and the local Panama show in middays.
Hubbard Broadcasting Brings Jeff Dubay Back on KSTP, Minneapolis. Twin Cities sports talk personality Jeff Dubay returns to the radio after an absence of more than four years due to a high profile drug bust and his rehabilitation. Dubay worked at Clear Channel’s crosstown “KFAN” for 14 years before his dismissal in 2008. Now, Dubay joins Judd Zulgad for the 9:00 am to 12:00 noon program beginning today. Dubay had been very open about his arrest and subsequent rehab for substance abuse. He appeared on numerous Twin Cities media outlets over the past year or so to talk about his rise and fall. KSTP makes other lineup changes set to take effect in February: Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey move to 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Joe Soucheray’s “Garage Logic” slides to the 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm slot. Soucheray and Reusse continue to host the 3:00 pm hour together.
WPHT, Philadelphia’s Dom Giordano Featured in Philly Magazine Piece. Late morning WPHT, Philadelphia talk host Dom Giordano is the subject of a full-length feature piece by Sandy Hingston in Philly Magazine this month. The piece is written with the November election as its backdrop and with a hint of admiration for Giordano by the writer who is clearly far to the left of Giordano on the political spectrum, but who finds his success and his story fascinating. Read the piece here.
WGN, Chicago and Northwestern Agree to Three-Year Sports Extension. Wildcats football and Men’s basketball will continue to air on Tribune’s WGN, Chicago through the 2015-16 season the two sides announce. The Big Ten school’s football and Men’s basketball play-by-play have been heard on WGN since 1996. The school’s vice president for athletics and recreation Jim Phillips states, “The Northwestern athletics brand has experienced substantial growth over the past several years due in part to the massive reach and presence of WGN radio. We’ve been extremely proud to call the station home for 17 years, and to have a wonderful partner in telling the stories of our world-class student-athletes.”
Dave Ross to Host One Hour with Luke Burbank on KIRO-FM, Seattle. In TALKERS magazine’s report about Seattle radio personality Dave Ross moving to the news-intensive morning drive daypart (1/11/13), we stated that Ross is giving up his talk show with midday host Luke Burbank on Bonneville’s KIRO-FM, Seattle. That’s not exactly true. Ross and Burbank will work on the air together for the 9:00 am to 10:00 am hour before Burbank goes solo from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon.
On a Blustery Seaside California Day. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison paid a visit last week to the Monterey Bay area of California and the good folks at Zwerling Broadcasting’s AM talk siblings KSCO/KOMY, Santa Cruz as part of a fact finding tour on the effectiveness, importance and future of local radio in America. According to Harrison, “KSCO and KOMY are exceptional examples of the magic and special place that the good old-fashioned local radio station maintains in our culture. I came away from my visit there invigorated and optimistic about the future of this industry.” Pictured seated on what is affectionately referred to as the “corporate bench” overlooking Monterey Bay and the blue Pacific are (l-r) Michael Zwerling, owner and CEO, Zwerling Broadcasting; Harrison; and Rosemary Chalmers, PD of KSCO/KOMY and morning host of KSCO.
Whither Laura Ingraham? Affiliates Hear Tammy Bruce Today. The Talk Radio Network star has left the air amidst saying that she is leaving TRN, perhaps with plans to be back via another avenue in the near future. Although the departure seems abrupt, it comes as no surprise to industry observers who have long known of the not-so-secret friction that has existed for years between Ingraham and TRN’s top management. TALKERS has reached out to Talk Radio Network for information but has yet to receive a response. Former TRN syndicated talk host and current popular internet talk personality Tammy Bruce is filling in on the network slot where Ingraham’s program aired. On her website, Ingraham has posted the following message. ”After more than 9 years with the distributor Talk Radio Network, I decided it was time to move on. After much thought and reflection, I have decided to pursue my first loves — modern dance and the xylophone. In the highly unlikely event that these efforts do not prove fruitful, I intend to return to radio. Seriously — to the more than 300 stations that carry the Laura Ingraham show and to all my loyal listeners, I feel the time is right to expand and retool my radio program and to explore other syndication options, which I am now actively pursuing. During this brief hiatus, my team and I will continue to deliver thought-provoking and entertaining analysis via my website.”
Entercom’s KGMZ, San Francisco Names Chris Townsend PM Drive Co-Host. With the departure of Brandon Tierney to CBS Radio Sports Network for the morning show beginning in January, the Entercom sports talker fills Tierney’s spot as co-host of the afternoon “The Drive” show with midday co-host Chris Townsend. He’ll partner up with Ric Bucher in the afternoon slot and Matt Steinmetz will host the late-morning “The Pulse” solo, at least for now. Townsend was upped from his evening show at “95.7 The Game” in September to the late-morning slot. In addition to his daily talk show work, he hosts the Oakland A’s radio pre-game show “The Dugout.”
WBEN, Buffalo Talk Host Tom Bauerle Shares Cardiac Diagnosis with Listeners. Last week, long time Buffalo talk host Tom Bauerle told his audience that he’ll be undergoing a procedure to have a pacemaker/defibrillator put in after being diagnosed with Brugada syndrome – or as Bauerle describes it to TALKERS – the “he was so healthy and he just dropped dead” disease. Bauerle says he’s always believed in being honest with his audience. “I have a very close bond with people who’ve listened to me because I do not pretend to be something I am not and the real people appreciate the truth in the era of spin.” So he explained that he had a routine EKG prior to planned elective surgery when doctors discovered he has the syndrome that can cause a sudden and fatal arrhythmia. Bauerle, still in his 40s, recently signed a long-term contract extension with Entercom’s WBEN back in October. We at TALKERS wish him the best in dealing with this condition.
Bay Area Media Blogger Rich Lieberman Debuts Weekend Talk Radio Show. San Francisco-based media blogger Rich Lieberman’s 415 Media has been the source of opinions and news scoops for Bay Area media (and beyond) for years. He’s also made a number of enemies in the region who don’t like his style or his willingness to publish speculation about their business. Now, Lieberman is taking to the air at Michael Zwerling-owned KOMY, Santa Cruz with a three-hour weekend program that airs on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Lieberman tells Fishbowl LA the show will be guest-oriented. He opened the first program speaking to KTVU-TV, Oakland evening news lead anchor Frank Somerville who discussed his adopting a black daughter. He also interviewed KKSF talk host John Rothmann. Lieberman tells Fishbowl LA, “Next weekend, I will be talking with actor Patrick Warburton as well as Alan Colmes, formerly of ‘Hannity & Colmes.’ Colmes has a new book out, and we’ll also take a look back at the 2012 presidential election…The show is guest-oriented right now. I wanted to charge it up during the holidays and start with a splash. But in the long run, the zeitgeist of ‘The Rich Lieberman Show’ is going to be my rants and opines, and talking about those topics with callers.”
Bonneville’s Arizona Sports 620 KTAR-AM Adds Mixed Martial Arts Program to Lineup. The fast-growing popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA), especially among young men, has a number of sports enterprises exploring the possibility the sport can draw audience on a level worthy of dedicated programming. Bonneville’s “Arizona Sports 620 KTAR-AM” is adding a new program to its lineup beginning Saturday, December 1 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm called “The Power MMA Show” hosted by Jim Grieshaber, along with world-class MMA fighters and former ASU wrestling stars Ryan Bader and Aaron Simpson (pictured here, Bader at left, Simpson at right). The station describes the show as one that “will focus on the biggest stories of the week, the lives of fighters – from superstars to local talent, the growth of Arizona into an MMA hotbed and more.” Written and video content will be hosted on a new MMA section at ArizonaSports.com, with a team of Power MMA contributors providing local and national coverage. Bonneville Phoenix vice president of news and sports content Ryan Hatch says, “MMA is one of the fastest growing and most exciting sports in the world. We’re thrilled to launch the first-ever show of its kind in this market, hosted by world renowned experts and top notch fighters. This is going to be fun.”
Sports Talk’s Dino Costa Sparks ‘Battle’ with Chris Russo at SiriusXM. Sports talker Dino Costa – whose program airs on Chris Russo’s “Mad Dog Radio” on SiriusXM – has been getting some attention lately for his on-air jabs at the channel’s namesake and founder Chris Russo. A two-part interview with Costa appears on ShermanReport.com and Costa speaks frankly with publisher Ed Sherman about his battles with Russo – admitting to calling him a “has-been” on the air – and their strictly “professional” relationship. The bomb-throwing is even more interesting since Russo operates the channel and could oust Costa if he wanted. Costa is also not shy about expressing his desire for a bigger role in the sports talk world. Read the entire interview here.
Washington Tax Battle, Post-Sandy Clean-Up Costs, Liberty University-ObamaCare Case and Morsi’s Egyptian Power Grab Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (11/26). The struggle between the Obama Administration and House Republicans over coming tax hikes and spending cuts; the price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey; the Supreme Court’s ordering lower court to reconsider Liberty University’s argument ObamaCare violates school’s religious freedom; and the power grab by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.