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Radio in the Bay Area, Anyone remember KGO's mass firing last year ?

Original post made by Former Radio Listener on Jan 2, 2013

Hey Palo Altans and others. I just happened to be reminded of the changes at KGO radio about a year ago when KGO, fired most or their talk show hosts and drastically changed the nature and format of their station in order to be more profitable.

Does anyone else remember this or note it as a fairly large change in local radio? It was a big deal at the time for me, I used to listen to KGO constantly in my car while driving and certain shows I would go out of my way to catch at home as well.

I wonder if there are others out there who believe this was a sea change in terms of radio "entertainment" but also in terms of a fairly important democratic ... small "d" democratic ... institution that is now gone, but not replaced? A kind of public forum, much like the Palo Alto Online Town Square Forums.

As inadequate as KGO and other stations were at being democratic institutions, they fulfilled an important niche by keeping average people up to date on the news and interpreting the news by relatively intelligent, well informed, well known people. People like Gene Burns, John Rothmann, Bill Wattenberg, Gil Gross, and others. This last year during the election I particularly missed the analysis and discussions that I got used to hearing on KGO throughout decades. Although some of these hosts have moved to other stations, in the local Palo Alto area I don't get as good or even acceptable reception of those stations as I did KGO.

Nothing is perfect, and KGO had a long history of being quite imperfect, moving in the 70's from a ranting right-wing platform to a mature diverse platform for discussion starting in the 80's on. What KGO did offer throughout past decades when it was intact was a place where public discussion could take place, a function of the media that one could point to in order to prove that they at least were trying to serve the public interest. But after many years, KGO went farther and did better than the many talk radio shows you might hear if you crossed the nation sampling the AM radio stations on the way.

I think KGO and other radio shows were a really asset to the Bay Area, and a model for the rest of the country. Sadly, with the firing and decimation of KGO a year ago, nothing has taken up the slack or replaced KGO in this function. There is still KQED, which is still under attack, and there are some smaller, and in my car at least, weaker and more difficult to get AM and FM stations that do have some alternative talk, but by and large now, most of what I head on the radio is pretty bad, irrelevant to the news, mostly uninformed propaganda such as FOX News Radio.

I find that most of the music I like, rock, jazz and classical is not gone from the radio, and there now there is rarely any intelligent talk, with the possible exception of a small piece of KGOs remaining talk shows; occasionally Ronn Owens and Pat Thurston. The other talk shows particularly the syndicated ones are really horrible, worse than useless.

I seriously doubt that this change did anything to bolster KGOs bottom line, or increase its listenership. Does anyone know? Can anyone point to any online data on this question? I scan by KGO on the dial every once in a while when there is nothing in my car and I forget my iPhone and its audiobooks or other media programming - I never hear anything that interests me - and more ads than ever on products that I have always wondered who on Earth purchases.

Does this not bother anyone as much as it does me. I cannot imagine that KGO is doing any better selling advertising or gaining listeners with the noise it broadcasts currently. To me it is almost unlistenable and without value.

Where is our FCC which is supposed to ensure that our broadcast media on the public airwaves functions in the public interest? Can citizens demand that the FCC or broadcast media start again to fulfill their function? What can we do to bring back public conversation and discourse in our local area?

Comments (8)

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Talk radio which in the Bay Area used to be such a bastion of it not progressivism, then thought and discussion is pretty much wiped out in the last year, it's all canned syndicated BS because what is going on is not competition in media, it's a political war.

It's clear that's why the buy up franchises and then put no money into programming, they just syndicate all over the nation reducing the relevance and service to the public, and then use the money they save to expand more ... this is a media economic blitzkrieg by the right wing.


Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Somewhat already covered in this prior post: Web Link


Posted by old 810 fan, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I had an electrical issue in my car recently; I didn't even bother to program a button for 810 this time.

Too bad, I missed it as a decent centrist between KSFO and the other right stations and the occasional leftie station that surfaces now and again.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 4, 2013 at 1:01 am

> Somewhat already covered in this prior post: Web Link

Thanks Palo Parent ... guess I saw that back when it posted. I guess not many people agree that they miss KGO.

Old 810 fan ... I'm with you, I don't even go to that spot on the dial anymore, though I occasionally check out Pat Thurston's podcasts as the only thing left on the station.

I cannot imagine that they are making more money or gaining the young listeners they thought they would. Does anyone know?

The only thing I have heard that is "lefty" is the Alan Colmes show, but all it is is Alan Colmes taking calls from people who insult him and yell at him. He does a good job showing them up, but that is not like the KGO format that was really unique.

Thom Hartman can be interesting, but I don't know where he is and never hear his show.

Of course Dean Edell quit long before this mass firing, and Bob Brinker left at about the same time.

Whatever ... can what is there now be better in any way?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2013 at 9:36 am

Ronn Owens is still on, and he is still "the master" of regional talk radio, and a centrist, which I like. I dislike Pat Thurston - seems very oily to me. The elderly hosts that KGO laid off were...elderly, perhaps that's why a change of format was needed.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Howdy neighbor .... Ronn is the one who seems oily to me. Mentioned by a lot more people than I ... but I do appreciate Ronn even as a centrist he is far superior to what used to be talk radio in the 60's and previously - when to me it was abusive, right-wing and unlistenable.

What I like about Pat Thurston is not her beliefs or ideology it is her professionalism in that she allows others to talk without interruption - something that is primary to me in a talk show host. She is inquiring and curious and open-minded. She is left oriented, that is true, but she is not doctrinaire or dogmatic, and she is almost always polite to the other side unless she is insulted or attacked unfairly.

The old hosts, mostly Taliafero and Wattenburg were a bit much, although on rare occasions I could listen even to them and enjoy it. They both were more abrasive that I could tolerate.

Gene Burns was wonderful but I think with his health in question probably had to go sooner rather than later. Even though I would disagree vehemently with Burns on occasion I really miss him for his civilized manner and discussions.

Gil Gross I started out not thinking much of but over time I got to appreciate his style and intelligence, even if not so much his clownish sense of humor.

John Rothmann had no sense of humor, but he was amazing in his political and historical knowledge. I really appreciated Rothmann's show even if after a while I think he got burned out - as any political discussion lasting over 10 year will do to anyone! ;-)

I think KGO could have tried new hosts and developed ones with talent, even tweaked the format a bit instead of discarding the whole station ... it is really unlistenable now. I wonder if there are regular listeners or what is going on with KGO after a year now?

One thing that does not get past me is the large number of strange incidents with the hosts they chose, and why that was the case. I know there were historically some odd occurrences with the talk show hosts, but in my tenure as a listener there was the odd suicide of Dwayne Garret, the arrest and conviction of Bernie Ward on child porn charges. Some of the very late hosts such as Chris Clarke seemed to know insane over time at this job and really seemed to lose it. That is no fun to listen to.

Perhaps they just could not find anyone would could devote their whole life to a show, and take the pressure of being on the spot almost every day of the week in earshot of the whole West Coast.

It would be very interesting to know how and why what happened with KGO and what is different at the station now.

I enjoyed the talk shows because as music changed from my generations music and became to diverse and chaotic melange music is today I shifted from listening to music to enjoying hearing discussion ... civilized discussions of the "news of the day" as KGO used to say. KGO was tops at having some cool discussions and interviews - I miss it very much. KQED is great, and the other PBS station in our local listening area, but sometimes it's just nice to hear real people talk - after all this is America.


Posted by Area Man, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I find this a rather odd statement: "KQED is great, and the other PBS station in our local listening area, but sometimes it's just nice to hear real people talk - after all this is America." Seems to me I hear real people talk on KQED and also KALW. Most all of them are Americans, except on BBC World Have Your Say (on KALW) on which most callers are not Americans but people from all over the world. They're real people, as well.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Hey Area Man ... I don't know about anyone else, but KQED does have a lot of talk, which I appreciate and enjoy, but it rarely has LIVE talk or discussion ... as far as I know Michael Krasny's Forum show is the only call in show I have heard on KQED. If you know of others please let me know.


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