No more non-extremist talk with the death of the now old KGO; I’ll have to go back to listening to oldies music (if I can even find that)

December 7, 2011

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am a long haul driver and have so much time to listen to the radio I might not care that KGO radio dumped most of its talk show hosts and has replaced the ones I especially enjoyed and had the most occasion to listen to, the ones in the evening hours, with an all-news format.

(There is still some talk, I guess, such as Ronn Owens in the morning. But he is not going to be as good without the rest to complement him, I think, and notice I used the form of complement that means goes with or completes, as opposed to “compliment” with an i, saying something nice. He seemed to cry crocodile tears the day he acknowledged the format change and their departure — I’m thinking they would not feel like complimenting him too much now.)

But it was great to hear the issues of the day discussed and hear the wide variety of opinions from the callers and it was great that it was not just a constant ideological-driven diatribe that allows no real analysis or consideration. To be sure there was ideology. Gene Burns went through a metamorphosis in his long tenure at KGO from Libertarian to, I guess progressive, or, dare I say “liberal”? The Bay Area effect, no doubt. John Rothman, the college professor and expert on American political history (I would love to take one of his classes), was liberal but not always predictable and would listen to differing points of view and discuss them.

And for those who reside in the Bay Area, they had a public forum on community issues — that’s all gone.

I really don’t get it. The Bay Area already has an all-news radio station that plays the same stories over and over again, hard to figure that it needs another one. And since radio, that is not NPR, is limited in its ability to carry stories in depth, you really only need a five to ten-minute recap every hour or maybe on the half.

But business is business and while the new owners and management may or may not have made the right decision, they apparently had to do something to deal with the sagging ratings — ratings generate advertising and advertising pays everyone’s salary and the costs of running the station. But I did read that KGO has lost some advertising over its format change. I also read that the new management pays itself quite generously. Milk that cash cow for what its worth till it runs dry I guess.

I have read that even some KGO talk supporters thought the station was getting kind of stale.

I guess I saw KGO talk as an alternative to the right-wing diatribes and left-wing diatribes (a lot fewer outlets across the nation for the latter). Both the extremes on the political right and left are killing political discourse in this nation. Why do I want to simply turn into something that tells me what I want to hear (or all of what I don’t want to hear)?

I’ll even miss the egotistical, but highly intelligent and science and math savvy Dr. Bill Wattenburg — he was fairly right wing in his politics, but I think he was just trying to be patriotic (it  is possible to be patriotic and left wing, but it is some of the lefties that burn the flag and such.) Anyway, Wattenburg spent most of his time answering questions on subjects ranging from how to get a Caterpillar tractor unstuck from the mud to the theory of relativity. He is the rare college professor that feels as much at home with heavy equipment as heavy books. He did not suffer fools —  even though he often said there is no such thing as a stupid question, he would as much as call a person stupid for asking one — except he was quite patient with kids, many of whom called in with a wide variety of questions.

So anyway, maybe I’ll have to invest in satellite radio or just go back to listening to oldies music, but they seem to be dumping a lot of that too. We baby boomers are being edged out of the market.


I have listened to a little bit of Peter Finch doing what they call an evening newscast on KGO and well, like I say, more than five minutes of straight news on commercial radio is just too much, and besides, I’ve already heard the news — I want talk man. I saw a TV interview with Finch. An odd, but seemingly pleasant fellow, I thought.

Karel, the raving homosexual, is still on. He has quite a following that includes the straight community. As my mom always says: “they’re always so talented”.

I might have to get that satellite just so I can get NPR everywhere, except most of those stations play classical music much of the time (even classical music might be okay if I had a better speaker system in my truck).

And maybe I was listening to too much KGO anyway. I should be listening to foreign language tapes.

KGO Radio self-destructs; Reasoned discussion on the radio gets poor ratings

December 2, 2011

UPDATE (Dec. 3, 2011):

KGO Radio has sunk so low that it played re-runs of talk shows on topical themes, with references to news events that took place weeks ago as if they just happened, and was completely useless. Of course the new management is going after a different market — apparently the thinking public is not worthwhile to them anymore. And as I said in my original post, I did not realize that their ratings were slipping, falling for their self-puffery as the most listened to station (shame on me).  Also I did not mention all the fired talkers’ and other on-air staffers’ names , but they had an interesting and diverse group (although not enough women for talk show hosts).  I liked KGO because they aired incoming calls of all points of view, whereas the usual right-wing talk radio does not or only when they want to turn the tables on the caller and put them down (although some callers even got that treatment on KGO, depending on the topic and the mood of the host and whether they were actually making any sense at all). Worse yet, some right-wing callers to the most popular wingnut show have no brains and just tell the host “ditto”.


KGO Radio, San Francisco, has basically said F You! to all who like reasoned talk as opposed to hard right or even hard left talk (except in was hard left through the middle of the night).

In a format change just announced, KGO is supposedly going to all news, with the exception of keeping on their most popular talker and highest paid (highest paid in the nation, maybe) talker Ronn Owens (and he is pretty good alright, and quite full of himself). He said he was sorry to see his pals leave, but you know, he’s got a job, so that’s life, let’s move on.

And actually he is right. Although I was dumbfounded and even outraged when I first heard the news, I then realized that is life. The bottom line is that KGO was losing listenership, something I did not realize because they always say things like: “KGO, the most listened to station in the country” and so forth. It’s like sales puffery, it’s legal to proclaim things that are, well should we say, a slight exaggeration.

The culprit, I am pretty sure, is that with each succeeding generation beyond the baby boomers (that’s me, a baby boomer), the attention span has gotten less and less. Today if you cannot say it in the word limit of a Tweet (and I don’t even know how to tweet), they’re not interested (too much information man!).

I particularly enjoyed Gene Burns at night who could see every side of an issue. He began with the Libertarian bent, but did seem to turn rather progressive/liberal since the Obama election. But despite what his politics are or were, he could discuss the many sides and nuances of the issues (something we need). And John Rothman maybe was my favorite. A super liberal for sure, and curiously, he used to work for Nixon. But Rothman, a college professor, is an excellent political historian and very enthusiastic. He too could see all sides, even if he did promote the liberal one.

Ray Talliaferro, the night guy, an urbane black man, was kind of strange, I thought, and bombastic in his railings against conservatives and old white women who would say they really like their black maid. But he was cultured and interesting nonetheless.

Don’t know who or what I will listen to now. Discussions with the various sides of an issue presented or at least acknowledged, is something we are getting short of.

Mostly it is just yelling and screaming and a lot of ignorance — no wonder a lot of people shy away from both politics and current events. We are losing our journalists in favor of one-sided talkers.

Now KGO is supposed to be going practically all news, but will it be news or just little short bursts with not much effort put into it? We’ll see.


I guess there’s always NPR (even if it is a little left wing), but it is not as available and in as many time slots. When I want to hear some talk on the issues of the day, I often get classical music.

UDATE 2: (Dec. 3):

And so after writing all this I ran across what might be the real inside story on how the bloodbath at KGO proceeded:

Left leaning aside, what conservatives really dislike about public broadcasting is all that objectivity…

March 10, 2011

Except for the fact the public broadcasting provides a welcome alternative to what someone once called the “vast wasteland” of American commercial broadcasting, I have never given a lot of thought to the legitimacy of using tax dollars to fund public radio and television.

(In some nations that is all that is available — government broadcasting.)

There probably should be a re-examination on that whole concept in these times of economic uncertainty, but that does not mean direct government support does not have a place in public broadcasting.

I’m not sure that many would object to the cultural or educational offerings (unless there is some hidden agenda perceived in them), but when it comes to covering news, that is a different story — for where there is news there are opinions and people will likely feel chagrined to have their tax dollars used to disseminate opinions or at least interpretations that they don’t agree with (or don‘t understand).

Right now the Republican Party and the right wing as a whole and the Tea Party is on a campaign against public broadcasting, or at least some in those categories are.

And they have some dynamite ammunition with the release of a surreptitiously-made tape in which some National Public Radio officials were set up by bogus donators identifying themselves as some Muslim charitable group.

The fallout is that fund raising executive Ronald Schiller resigned after being caught on tape apparently making disparaging remarks about conservatives and Tea Party members. And then NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to the other Schiller, we are told) resigned because this happened on her watch. Oh, and she fired commentator Juan Williams several months ago for saying something about Muslims and airplanes making him nervous when put together.

(A New York Times story I read said that Public Television executives were also targeted in the right-wing sting, but did not bite).

All the hoo haw here is that such actions tend to show that NPR is biased against the political right and the Tea Party and makes light of their concerns.

(Kind of like Fox News but in reverse, but Fox is more transparent about its bias, and should sophisticated people stoop to pandering to the baser side of human behavior?) 

Some on the far right and some in the Tea Party I understand do not care for public broadcasting in the United States and object to the government funding it.

Now I think there are some legitimate reasons for them to not care for public broadcasting, the main one being that it does tend to lean somewhat to the left in its reportage and its news analysis.

But I think the thing that really gets their goat is that for the most part public broadcasting tries to be objective. It tries to look at all sides of an issue. It prefers factual background.

Maybe I shouldn’t say some on the far right or Tea Party, instead, “reactionaries” might be the more appropriate term. Whatever, the objectors to objectivity do not understand the concept of looking at all sides of an issue. They only see things one way. Background is not something they appreciate. They hate to be confused with the facts.

One of the major benefits of public broadcasting is not the news at all, but the quality programming: drama, science, music, and so on public broadcasting presents.

It seems that one flaw in the free market system is that it cannot guarantee quality programming, even though people like to watch it.

It’s hard to know whether people would actually pay commercial rates for the programming. One thing, a lot of people would not be able to. All television used to be free to the general public with commercial sponsors footing the bill for the chance to hawk their goods to the public — such as selling housewives soap while they watched soap operas.

In the early days of television there was some quality programming — playhouse 90, for example — and of course there was standard entertainment fare — sometimes people just want to be entertained and not weighted down by culture.

But sponsors found that cheap fare is cheap to make (unreal “reality” TV being the ultimate) and you can still sell your products and have more left over for your bottom line in the process. So the lowest common denominator won out.

On the news side, it is my observation that the big three networks at one time did a fairly credible job and did it at a financial loss, partly out of a legal responsibility and a social sense of responsibility and partly as a prestige and marketing thing. But then at some point they discovered that they could make money on what was billed as news. Success spoiled everything. News became entertainment.

Even the all-news network, CNN, which came along decades after the big three was captured by the entertainment aspect.

I wonder if the current crop of conservatives wish they could have the late William F. Buckley Jr. back with his “Firing Line”.

They’d probably have nervous smiles on their faces and wonder: “is he on our side?”

For that matter they must wonder if so-called conservative columnist and commentator George Will is on their side.



The “vast wasteland” remark was made by former Federal Communications Commission chief Newton Minow in 1961.

A slight difference, maybe, between commentator and analyst…

October 23, 2010

Not that it makes much difference, but in my just-previous post addressing the firing by NPR of Juan Williams I referred to him as a “commentator”. But I came to realize that NPR refers to him as having been a news “analyst” and furthermore, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller makes a distinction between the two terms in explaining why NPR feels William’s remarks about his personal feelings were out of line.

The distinction really is not that clear. When I took newspaper type journalism in college I was told that opinion pieces belong on the opinion page, not the regular news columns, except that one could run what is called an “analysis” piece, if marked as such, among the regular news columns and it could include opinions by the author. In addition there is a further muddying of the waters of objectivity in most (good) news stories in that the writer will feel it necessary to provide some at least limited background information to explain what people are talking about or even to point out an inconsistency, such as when a politician claims to be in favor of one thing but it is pointed out by the writer that the day before he said something entirely opposite.

(Outisde of journalism, I could see a real difference between a written report, such as on an investment, that offers a true objective analysis, the pros and cons, if you will, and a promotional flyer, which of course would only tout the claimed merits of something.)

One more thing, even though I continue to question the judgment and motives of NPR, which does receive public funding, for firing Williams, I also question Williams’ credibility for even being associated with FOX News. Perhaps it’s the millions of dollars FOX offers. Money makes ethics fly out the window.

Journalism is a strange business. Being a former working journalist, I have true empathy for all those journalists who worked so diligently for all those years for such low pay only to see these hot-shot TV and Cable TV so-called journalists pull down multi-million dollar salaries with some or many letting their ethics be compromised along the way.

I do not think that money always corrupts people, but at the same time I have observed that it often does.

I’ve gone a little crazy on this link to articles thing, but a good discussion on the Williams affair can be seen at:

NPR accuses Juan Williams of being not fair and unbalanced and fires him, but that is not right

October 22, 2010

In firing news reporter and commentator Juan Williams for remarks about people wearing “Muslim garb” while he is getting on an airplane making him “nervous” I believe National Public Radio has made a grave mistake. A news commentator — note I said “commentator” — should not be fired for telling the truth and for, well, commentating.

If his sole job was that of a reporter where his duty would be only to report facts, not his personal opinion, then he would have been off base.

It seems by what I have read so far that NPR was already displeased that he was working for another network, FOX, where he made his remarks.

While I personally would question William’s judgment for working for an outfit which does not even put on a pretense of objectivity and yet claims itself to be “fair and balanced”, I still think NPR was wrong.

And let’s be honest here: I have listened to public radio and television news over the years and have appreciated its wide-ranging and in-depth coverage. But while I have found public broadcasting to be more detailed and wide-ranging in its reporting than the others out there and somewhat more objective, I have also been aware that it does have that slightly left leaning stance. Many big three network correspondents had that too. So in reaction, FOX News was created. The only difference was that FOX, despite its claim to be “fair and balanced”, adding, “we report, you decide”, does not really give any effort to being fair or balanced. They are hard right wing, so much so that they are not a news organization that leans a little to the right, they are a propaganda machine.

But if the firing of Juan Williams stands, I’m afraid that NPR is in danger of becoming nothing but a propaganda outfit, as well.

I understand it does not depend solely upon taxpayer financing, but it does get some. If it is going to demand its news commentators only lean one way (and I do not understand really why getting nervous that someone might blow up your airplane makes you politically biased), then taxpayer funding should be eliminated. But I do not want that to happen. I think the person or persons who fired Williams should be fired and Williams hired back.

Again, I remind you that Williams was not just a reporter but a commentator. For that matter, as a former newspaper reporter, now that I think of it, I have almost never heard nor seen a broadcast news person yet who did not mix commentary with straight news, something that is considered a no-no in print journalism. The format and time frame for broadcast may make that necessary, I suppose — I worked once for a while as a radio reporter, although I do not recall mixing reporting and personal opinion during my stint.

Williams made his offensive-to-some-people remarks as part of a discussion about the perils of “political correctness” and thus became a victim of the same.

And in seems interesting and a bit chilling to me that the person who apparently fired him, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, later said something to the effect that Williams should not have made the remarks in public but instead should have told his “psychiatrist” (she later apologized for saying that — but she did not immediately fire herself). Accusing someone of having mental problems when they say something that does not agree with your political point of view is a tactic used by totalitarian governments, most notably communists — adding more to the claim that NPR is left-leaning (being as communists are said to be on the left — and I have always had a hard time with that since communists and Nazis act the same and yet one is said to be on the far left and one on the far right and even though Nazis are supposed to be on the right, and hate communists because they are on the far left, they, the Nazis, called themselves “national socialists“, but I have just digressed into a whole other issue or discussion).


In case you did not see or hear this yet, this is how all this came down:

Or for a more analytical take on what Williams said:



Don’t get to feeling too sorry for poor Juan, though, he has reportedly been offered a new three-year, $2 million contract by FOX (somehow you wonder if such journalists/entertainers feel the pain of the common man).



While good manners and civility are important, political correctness is Orwellian and a threat to free speech.

Not ‘kosher’ to publicly criticize your Jewish employers, or any of your employers

October 4, 2010

While there’s really no comparison here, I hope if I was ever to get fired from my job my colleagues would not be as giddy as all the talking head media folks were to see the admittedly egocentric Rick — and did you know I speak Spanish? — Sanchez, formerly of CNN, get canned.

The schadenfreude was palpable as they discussed why he was fired and tsk tsked about how he would dare say that the media to include his then own CNN was controlled by the Jews.

Well I don’t know. But strangely even though they criticized him for saying such a thing, I did not hear anyone dispute it. In fact, one tsk tsker commented that what he said was not “kosher”.

John Stewart of the satirical Daily Show, who apparently indirectly set Sanchez off on a rant, joked that if it was true then all he would have to do is “apologize and we’ll hire him back”. I understand Stewart is Jewish — guess I was the only one who had not been aware of that.


ADD 1:

Just listened to an interview with John Stewart on PBS radio recorded I think before the Sanchez flap, and well obviously Stewart is Jewish. But you have to understand I have only occasionally listened to or viewed his show and I did not grow up in an area of the country or at least at a time when much was made of Jewishness, at least not among young people I knew, although I became aware of the whole Jewish thing as years went by. Wouldn’t the world be dull if we all looked and walked and talked and believed the same? And where would we get our comedians?


Sanchez was of course the victim of his own ego and must have had a lot of boiled up anger and frustration inside of himself. Hey, I’m not a pretty boy who thinks I am or even is part of an oppressed minority — well I am white in California and we are becoming that — but I could identify with being frustrated and breaking out into a tirade — it never works and it is so unbecoming, unless you are part of the favored power elite and hold a high position. I had a boss once who kept all the admirers in the office in awe by occasionally being reported as going into a tirade during closed-door department head meetings. Actually I guess when you are the boss you can go into a tirade and get away with it.

At the minimum anyone going public in criticizing his or her own employer is using rather poor judgment to say the least, that is if job retention is important.

My one little problem or at least curiosity about Sanchez was that as a Cuban-born but naturalized citizen he could speak Spanish and he seemed to want everyone to be aware of that. On one occasion he was interviewing people via satellite hookup or phone or something in Chile concerning the story of the trapped miners there. He made a big point that he could converse with the Chilean news reporters there in their own tongue. While that is commendable and quite useful, he seemed to make that a bigger part of the story than the trapped miners.

Personally I preferred the old-time TV reporters and anchors who were not always all that pleasing in appearance — in fact I can recall a couple of on-air reporters who by these day’s standards, or any standards, would be considered quite hard to look at — but who concentrated on the substance of the news and did a quality job in reporting it. But apparently the viewers want to be entertained and dazzled by the presenters or at least confuse all the show businesses with quality news reporting and commentary.

Really, all of this was not worth commenting on, but I couldn’t resist when I heard that guy say that Sanchez accused the media of being controlled by the Jews and then added that was not kosher.

Also an immediate reaction in all of this by me and I see by at least by one of the commentators was that Sanchez should have been flattered that he was being mocked by Stewart and glad to get all the free publicity.


I’m a truck driver, but I did work in relatively small-time newspaperdom years ago and even did a stint at a radio station (not WKRP, but like it) .

Entire newscast devoted to Cronkite’s death; would he have done it that way?

July 18, 2009

Somehow I think the late Walter Cronkite would have been embarrassed and even a little sad that his old CBS Evening News show had come to this – devoting its whole half-hour broadcast Friday night to the reporting of his death (well, he might feel sad that he was the one who died, but I meant sad for what his former newscast has come to). Apparently as far as Katie Couric’s version or the modern CBS management’s version of the evening news is that’s the way it is today. The network news has become irrelevant as a reliable source for a re-cap of all the day’s news. Michael Jackson got the same exclusive treatment.

That’s a far cry from when Mr. Cronkite, who died Friday at the age of 92, was at the helm as the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and was known as “the most trusted man in America”.

Of course both he and Jackson were celebrities and as such merited coverage upon their death, but a serious news broadcast does not devote its entire length to an obituary of one of its own or of a pop star.

And I think it’s kind of my job or interest to comment on current events and bring up inconsequential things, so on the subject of Mr. Cronkite’s trustworthiness, kind of like your favorite uncle, that’s where I learned the word “avuncular” (uncle like). I was reading a story about Walter Cronkite years ago, maybe sometime in the early 90s, and the writer used that word to describe America’s most famous news anchor. Sometime later and while I was working for a newspaper I did a story on an assistant principal at a high school who all the kids seemed to like and look up to and I used the word avuncular to describe him. Got a lot of comments on that. “Avuncular” people would say with a slight smile, as if maybe I was throwing fancy words around. No, it just seemed to fit at the time.

While I certainly watched Mr. Cronkite a lot through the years, my earliest memories of concentrating on the nightly network news are of watching NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, one in Washington and one in New York. I understand they were in the solid lead in ratings among the three networks when Mr. Cronkite became anchor in 1962.

But what I admired about Mr. Cronkite was that he was an old newspaper and wire service reporter. He was to me a real newsman, who happened to get into broadcasting and was quite good at it.

He was not ugly, but of course he’d never make it starting up in the business today up against the pretty boys and pretty girls.

And that makes me think of some of the long-gone TV news correspondent pioneers. I can recall some rather good correspondents, one man who seemed to have bad teeth or braces or something and some women who were rather plain or dowdy, but you didn’t expect them to look good, they were just reporting the news – remember when it was the news that was featured.

Nowadays it often seems more of a beauty contest and there is a lot of interviewing each other and endless professional pundits. Although, interestingly enough, I think the idea of a bunch of professional news people and mouthpieces sitting around giving their opinions may have gotten its start with the coverage of political conventions, in which Mr. Cronkite took part.

To some extent, broadcast news has moved beyond the tunnel vision of the one camera and the correspondent interpreting for you what is happening with a broader picture and more sources (I think I am correct in that). And when you add the interesting but somewhat confusing and unreliable element of so-called citizen journalism, things have moved way, way beyond the Cronkite era.

But there is something to be missed from that era when the avuncular Mr. Cronkite removed those thick-rimmed glasses and announced the death of President Kennedy, choking back tears. Uncle Walter was telling us something terrible had happened.

And when he admittedly broke away from his usual mode of being super objective and not taking sides when reporting the news and told his audience that the Vietnam War was hopeless, President Lyndon Johnson is said to have commented that he knew he had lost the war or the public’s support of it at that point.

Objectivity in journalism is the ideal, but sometimes you just have to tell the truth and tell them “that’s the way it is”.

ADD 1:

I turned on the TV Saturday night and it was as if they were re-running Katie Couric’s Friday night broadcast — it was all about Walter Cronkite’s death again. I turned to ABC and the news had been pre-empted for a sports event, and then I turned to NBC and it was leading off with Walter Cronkite’s death — so I knew he was still dead. With all due respect, I hope they have found a new story tonight (Sunday night).

RIP Uncle Walter……

ADD 2:

Watched CBS News Sunday night and they did have other news, along with Cronkite’s continuing death.