Say It Ain’t So…


By Don Riggs

Mixed emotions: glad I don’t work there any more….sad to see the change. When KMPS flipped to Christmas programming, the guessing was a format change would happen with the sale of CBS to Entercom. Even though mid-day jock DeAnna Lee pooh-pooed the idea (without actually using those words), promising the station “would always be country,” we now know how much management had confided in her: nothing at all. Christmas music stopped well before Christmas, and the new adult-contemporary format began, ending over 42 years as one of the more important stations in the country format. Entercom’s lone (now) country station, KKWF, The Wolf, will still have competition. Hubbard has seen a gap to fill, and has switched its AC station, KVRQ, to “Country 98.9.” Could mean more work for my favorite highly-respected consultant, former KMPS Program Director Becky Brenner and her team.

November 17th=moving van day for Seattle radio. The big Entercom-CBS merger includes getting rid of some CBS stations. Classic rocker KZOK, adult rocker KJAQ and all-sports KFNQ are all going to I-Heart Media, which will max it out here. (Same thing in Boston with various swaps there.) To make room, I-no-longer-hearts KUBE and KFOO. They’re for sale. Here’s your chance to be a big-time broadcast owner. The company is keeping those great call letters, swapping with a couple of stations they own in Calif. Just prior to the final shoe dropping, Entercom CEO David Field announced the sale will give them quadruple what they were first thinking, $100 million. (Which means his $9 million-plus salary is safe.) The savings come from eliminating even more corporate overlap, and selling off a few stations, as noted above. They plan to ax redundant positions in cities where they overlap. Which probably means a need for more moving vans. Entercom’s Jack Hutchison won’t need one. He keeps the corner office as Market Manager in Seattle. His new boss is Michael Doyle, overseeing nine markets, from Seattle and Portland all the way back to Rochester. And with my old stomping grounds which I no longer recognize, KMPS, and the most successful competitor it ever had, KKWF, now under the same Entercom roof, Country radio here may reach new levels of excitement. May.

Call swap. About the above-mentioned stations you might want to buy, KUBE is licensed to Eatonville, KFOO to Centralia. It’s not unusual for a big radio company to find mom-and-pop operations in small towns and scoop up those licenses for their big-city clusters. Major downside; you still have to mention that town in your legal station ID every hour. (Examples: KIXI, Mercer Island, KRWM, Bremerton, KQMV, Bellevue, all owned by Hubbard for the Seattle market, with studios in Factoria.)

Going and coming. Carl Gardner, who ran Bonneville’s operations here, has moved south, becoming Market Manager for the company in San Francisco.

Glenn Beck

Bucks for Beck. Glenn Beck has signed a long-term renewal with Premiere Networks. He’s been talking, aggravating, and occasionally crying on his syndicated radio and TV shows for 15 years. No details on length or money involved. Beck was raised in Mt. Vernon, and his radio background includes Seattle.

Busy Times for ‘The Eye.’ Entercom isn’t the only organization CBS (aka “The Eye”) is cozying up to. The CBS News division is making nice with BBC—together to better cover international news. It’s not a buyout or a merger; it’s being called a relationship. Not sure who’s buying the flowers.

Pre-wedding nerves may be hitting Entercom and/or CBS. They amended their impending vows to include an escape clause (how many of us wanted that?) saying, if the deal hasn’t been consummated (don’t watch) by the end of January, it can be called off. Or by next May, if the government hasn’t given its blessing. Makes it tough to book a caterer.

According to the list of radio stations CBS plans to dump…can…show the door…make available to others are KNFQ AM 1090 (carrying CBS Sports, for those few who listen), KJAQ 96.5 FM and KZOK 102.5 AM. The two Country powerhouses in Seattle, KMPS and KKWF, will be under the same roof.

Another CBS News deal is splitsville. The partnership with Westwood One ends Dec. 31, and the Eyeball goes to Arizona-based Skyview to handle marketing, sales and such. That company also just signed a 10-year extension for a similar deal with ABC Radio.

On the move. Matt McAllister, shown the door after 10 years at perennial Phoenix Country powerhouse, KNIX, is the new morning host on KKWF, the Wolf, replacing Fitz InTheMorning. Wanna be a co-host? The station has been shopping for one… David Dean, who came in as music director/afternoon jock at KMPS, was back out almost before the door closed. Wa-a-ay out; he’s now doing mornings at WILN in Panama City, FL… Katie Boer has made the not-unfamiliar step up from Spokane to Seattle, leaving KREM-TV to join KCPQ-TV. Her background includes news, sports and weather, so there’s no telling where or when she’ll turn up. She’s a Seattle native and one-time ball girl for the M’s… Tracy Taylor, long-time traffic reporter at KING-TV and later on KIRO-TV’s morning show is now the afternoon traffic reporter on KIRO-FM. She replaces Candy Harper, who moves to another desk to produce the Ron and Don Show… KING-TV weatherman for the last eight years, Jim Guy, has returned to Florida to be with his family … Danielle Leigh, at KING-TV the past four years, has headed east to join WABC-TV in New York City… Reporter Ranji Sinha’s road to KIRO-TV took him through stations in New Jersey, Michigan and elsewhere…Jessica Oh is also new at KIRO-TV. She comes from a reporting job at KUSA-TV in Denver… Natasha Chen and Jeff Dubois have left KIRO-TV—she to the CNN Newsroom in Washington, D.C., and he to “start a new adventure”… Lori Neeren, sales manager at KBKS-FM back in the ’90s is the new market manager for Alpha Media’s two stations in San Jose, CA. She’s spent much of her time between Reno and Las Vegas… Brenda Barnes is about to take over as CEO of KING-FM. She’s been president of the University of South California Radio Group, running classical stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She replaces Jennifer Ridewood.

Levy leaves. Former morning host Mitch Levy and Sports Radio KJR-AM have separated. Quit?…fired?…nobody’s saying. This follows the much-publicized story of six weeks earlier, when Levy was caught in a prostitution sting operation in Bellevue. The 23-year veteran says he’s sorry and hopes he can win back our trust.

Careeeer. People like Bill Yeend, Bryan Johnson, myself and others who’ve spent a good chunk of our lives on-air, can be in awe of (or feel sorry for) Art Laboe. Art began his DJ career at KSAN in San Francisco in 1943. Now at KDAY in LA, he’s in his 75th year on the radio and is in the Guinness book for the longest such career. He’s 92 and probably still wondering when he’ll get a real job.

Painted lady. Those who are not regular listeners to Seattle-based talker Delilah may not know of a sideline passion of hers, the sort of thing many successful radio people have. Her project to “paint the town” began in Port Orchard back in 2009, getting volunteers to spend part of a weekend painting the exteriors of buildings in parts of town that needed it. That’s grown to a once-a-year project, with this year’s in Springfield, Missouri. reports she likes to call the restoration efforts “second chances.” She’ll have to up the rate to more than one a year if she wants to hit every town where she’s heard. Right now, she’s heard on 180 stations and the Armed Forces Network.

All this has been put aside for now. Her son, Zachariah, has died…suicide after serious depression. Delilah has 13 kids, ten of those adopted, and lost another one, Sammy, in 2012 from health issues. She says she’ll be “absent from radio and social media for a time.”

MIW. Huzzahs and hoorays for Leslie Scott, PD at KNDD-FM for the last couple of years, honored as the first mentee for the Mentoring and Inspiring Women project created by Nielsen to help up the number of women in programming positions. She was selected from a field of 40 candidates.

The limit. Sky Daniels, one-time PD at KISW, now with KCSN (Calif. State Univ. Northridge), has been named by Billboard Magazine as one of the 25 best rock programmers in the country.

And Radio has named the best AOR stations of all time, with KMET in L.A. on top, and KISW, Seattle, rated 6th, 7th or 12th, depending on which pollster was asked.

Suiting up. Another yank on the Seattle welcome mat for Sinclair since it bought KOMO. Reporter Tracy Vedder has sued over being let go last January. She claims breach of contract, which had been extended to next October. She also claims gender and age bias (female, 60). She spent 21 years at KOMO-TV.

Gee wiz. One of my favorite people, consultant Becky Brenner, will again be one of the moderators at the Country Radio Seminar next February in Nashville. CRS boss Bill Mayne calls the five moderators “high-functioning wizards” in the business.

Unplugging. When you listen to a Mariners radio broadcast, the man who provides the mountains of facts the announcers spew out, and, in fact, makes sure they’re even on the air, is producer-engineer Kevin Cremin. Or was. He says the equipment was getting heavier, so, after 35 years backing up Dave and Rick and the rest, he’s gone into retirement. But…on call, if needed. Columnist Larry Stone had all the details in the Times.

To Murrow. Organized News Directors (it could happen) in the RTDNA have handed out Edward R. Murrow Awards for the year. That’s about as good as it gets. Local winners are KING-TV for its Continuing Coverage of the mess at Hanford, and KCTS for stories on sharks. (Why shouldn’t they have a Shark Week, too?)

At the top. Marc Kaye may need more room in the trophy case in Factoria. The Market Manager for the five Hubbard stations here has been named by Radio Ink magazine as one of Radio’s Best Managers for 2017. (No, I don’t know if an actual trophy comes with that.)

To the top. You can bet commercial broadcasters are taking note of KUOW going the top spot in the latest ratings. It had been number two. Former number one, KQMV, slipped to third, past Hubbard-mate KRWM, which stayed at two. The other non-commercial, KNKX, was 9th. In the Country wars, KMPS topped KKWF, 8th and 15th. (There’s no doubt in my mind KUOW’s eventual success was due to my four years as a student announcer there back in the way-back. My story…I’m stickin’ to it.)

Jubal-ation. The morning team at KQMV Movin’ 92.5, Brooke and Jubal, continues on the march to be on the radio in every city in America, adding KEZR-FM in San Jose, CA., to its syndicated list.

Hub-bub. NPR is reported to be working on a plan to create regional hubs for its 900-plus member stations, allowing stations within the hubs to work more closely together on regional news stories. A hub could be around 200 stations, with anywhere from four to twelve hubs around the country. There could be separate news staffs to run these hubs. Michael Oreskes, senior veep for news and editorial, says “local journalism makes our national coverage better.” He says this is not some sort of devious plan to take over NPR local operations. (Shame on you if that thought entered your mind.)  There are three major hurdles to overcome: who pays for it, where will the money come from, and how will the costs be covered. (Okay…one huge hurdle.) It may take a year or more for them to work it all out.

At the front. Most of us got most of our hurricane coverage this summer from television and radio. That’s where we usually turn when something big is going on. And that’s why broadcasters have been pushing for federal designation as “first responders.” Not just so reporters can be joked about standing in the wind and rain, but so camera operators can be there to get what you want to see, and engineers can make sure it all gets on the air, all without the prospect of getting arrested for crossing police or fire lines. Our Senator Maria Cantwell sponsored the “Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act,” or SANDy, which was passed after the winds started blowing bigly. It’s a presidential signature away from becoming the law of the land. I don’t know if this means getting a special patch for your logo jacket, but it will assure continued coverage when you want it, and when it’s needed.

News writers and broadcasters have reason to add another worry to their list, after a survey showing a lot of people believe the media are, indeed, involved in fake news. Propagandizers know that if you say something often enough, people might start to think it’s true. Our President seems to be trying that with labelling everything he doesn’t like as “fake news.” He doesn’t think reporters should write “whatever they want.” He’d like to yank NBC’s license (which current law does not allow). Media might want to ask those who follow his pleas to “trust me,” just how many of those stories actually turned out to be fake. And we may urge folks to look around at government-controlled press in other countries, and see how well they serve their public. I’m one of those who, when I hear “believe me” and “trust me” says to myself, or out loud, “why?…why trust/believe you?” The answer is often enlightening.

Survey says… A lot of nosy people make a living asking you for your opinion. No big surprise in a recent NPR/Marist survey showing a majority of those asked don’t trust the Trump administration. An even larger number don’t trust the national press. But here’s the conundrum: 61% don’t trust opinion polls. Reminds me of oh-so-many years ago when I was KXA’s morning man and Instant Surveys were the rage. So, I did an instant survey on the validity of such things. Result: most said they were not reliable. If you can believe that.

$? Further proof that those of us who get into radio news did it for the love of the biz. Hoftra University’s latest survey of radio news salaries show a modest hike of 2.3% from last year, to an average of $28,100. The most common minimum salary is $15,000. That was almost a decent amount when I started at KMPS…42 years ago!  And those of us commercial broadcasters who used to sneer at non-commercial stations don’t need to know that their pay is now about 39% higher.

More and less. KIRO-TV has begun a 7 p.m. newscast, going up against KING. The time opened up when the syndicated show Insider quit production. KIRO says it surveyed viewers about what they wanted, and it was: more news. (If they didn’t ask you, don’t feel bad. They didn’t ask me, either.) They provide in-depth coverage of major stories, “Seven at 7,” and a bigger role for the big personality of Consumer Reporter Jesse Jones. Manager Greg Bilte says the station is “stepping outside of a traditional production.” That’s not to be confused with their “outside the box” promotional blitz a while back, which had untethered anchors  wandering the set, as they still do. Nor with KING’s “Top Story,” which ballyhooed the same kind of coverage some years ago. But, more news is good. Although it’s not really more. KIRO’s “hour of news” at noon has been cut back to a half-hour, with a not-yet-cancelled syndicated show at 12:30. That didn’t get mentioned in the news release. KING fought back promotionally, touting an hour of “local stories” at 7, including its half-hour newscast and its long-running magazine show “Evening.” Channels 4 and 13, wassup?

Something’s brewing. KIRO-FM shouldn’t have much trouble finding an audience for its new Saturday talk show concentrating on craft beer and wine. They have yet to take my suggestion of changing call letters to KDUI.

Cal. Owner swap. KKDZ, calling itself Desi 1250 AM, has new owners. Universal Media Access of San Jose has turned it over to Akal Broadcasting of Fresno. The station serves the large Southeast Asian population around Seattle.

Dial crowding. The growth of hyper-local low-powered FM stations continues. Among the latest: KHUH, 104.9, in Central Seattle; KVRU 105.7 in Rainier Valley; KQWZ 106.5 in SeaTac; and KMGP, Magnuson Park.

Moving up. The Neilsen Company, by whose numbers radio and TV stations survive, has decreed that Seattle-Tacoma has moved up a notch in market size, to 12th.

Numbers up. Back in the day, if some question popped into mind, I’d use the usual news-gathering-dynamo methods of searching for the answer. If that didn’t work, I’d open the microphone and ask the listening world, and almost always got an answer. Another such question has popped in: what method is used to assign numbers to school districts in the state? I scoured the internet, with no luck. So, I asked the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Quoting Communications Director Nate Olson: “Great question, Don. I don’t know that there is an answer.” I don’t have ready access to a microphone any more, but I’ve got this keyboard. So, dear reader, got an answer? This is not yet keeping me awake at night, but the question worms its way into my head every so often. Now, it can worm into yours. Huge prize for the answer. A mention in this very column. Wowww! (Sorry, Nate. I don’t believe there is not an answer.)

Candle fire! WAZZU, KOMO and ABC Sports alum Keith Jackson had another mid-October birthday…his 89th.

Who dat? For what it’s been worth (nothing so far), I’ll keep asking KING-TV to do a better job of identifying who’s talking in their news stories.

Gutteral. Thanks to the people behind Beldon Northwest Leafguard commercials for bringing back a line unheard for a long time, the announcer saying “within the sound of my voice.” And Dairy Queen has brought back “often imitated but never duplicated.” Golden oldies.

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