On Friday, Dec. 2, many regular listeners of KGO 810 Newstalk Radio were shocked to hear that KGO's parent company, Cumulus Media, took the “talk” out of “newstalk” and made the sudden change to a mostly news-based format instead. Cumulus very unexpectedly fired most of the KGO talk show hosts. The only top newstalk show left in place in the daily slot appears to be the Ronn Owens program in the morning and a few of the other part-time hosts on the weekends.
I found out about the changes through posts on KGO's Facebook page. On Friday, their web producer said she would try to post an audio clip of the announcement made on Ronn's show earlier, but that was never posted. Instead, I learned from listeners who posted on that same Facebook fan page about what had happened that day. Later it was confirmed with local news articles from various news agencies. Note that I said I learned from listeners. This is actually what newstalk radio is really all about—learning from the listening audience.
Previously, Disney owned the ABC station until Citadel bought it in 2007. Cumulus Media acquired KGO from Citadel earlier this year.
Then last Friday, to the surprise of us all, Cumulus let go of most of KGO's top talent: Gil Gross, Gene Burns, John Rothmann, Len Tillem, Ray Taliaferro, Bill Wattenburg, Joanie Greggains, as well as the energetic and very informative weatherman Lloyd Lindsay Young, and more people and staff as well. Their new format appears to be straight news from early afternoon until midnight and then followed by syndicated programming overnight.
Much still seems to be up in the air. Since there is no info at the KGO website and very little info was given to listeners, there may be more to add, and as the late, great Paul Harvey used to say from his syndicated voice on KGO, and “And now you know the rest of the story...” But, I don't think we can say that yet.
KGO might be a Bay Area radio station, but they broadcast over much of Northern California and the station is streamed live over the internet too, with podcasts available as well. Because of this, it is heard worldwide. KGO was considered to be one of the leading radio stations in California for the past 30 years.
I have been listening to KGO regularly for about the last 20 years. I used to commute from Watsonville to Newark, and became a regular listener at that time. I continued to listen daily while driving or working from home even after I no longer commuted that distance.
You may be wondering why they changed the format. According to a brief statement on Friday from Cumulus Media, the listening audience wanted more news. I think they are wrong, did they really know their listening audience? Besides that, I have noticed lately how many non-news stories are told throughout their shorter time slots of news, and the network news even comes with silly sound effects to go with their non-news stories. Do we really need news like that for hours on end?
Reportedly, their closest competitor, KCBS news station, has beat them in numbers for the past few years. I just don't see how copying another station's format will increase those listening numbers. They had the top of the market with their niche in newstalk, but yet they feel the need to end that and copy another format. I do know that internet and satellite have taken up some of their market, and it is hard when you are a locally funded station, but to me this is a recipe for disaster for a station who served a very broad listening audience with a unique, and much appreciated, format.
Listening as often and for as long as I did, you get to know the hosts and even the regular callers. There are many people who have been listening for years, many disabled, ill, elderly who depend on the station for a means of company or entertainment to pass the day. For some of these people, this might be the only familiar voice they hear in a day, or a way of talking to someone and being a part of a community that they are unable to do physically. For many of these people, I am sure it felt like friends have moved away with no forwarding contact information. Just gone.
I also think about the upcoming events that are big for the community like Fundraisers that brought in more for the community than most venues could ever do such as: Thanksgiving charities, St. Anthony's Foundation, holiday food banks, cancer fundraiser drives, races and walks for charity, etc. Also, Gene Burns Dining Around Program was in the middle of picking winners for their annual contest for the best cookie recipes at an event later this month. The list of things lost to our community goes on and on.
The voice of the people is very important. Many stations have talk shows, where all you hear is someone spouting off their opinions and trying to convince the audience to conform to their views. There are many times that a host can be wrong or just tell outright lies, and yet there is no one to call in and dispute it and people take it as fact, though it is really opinion.
That is where newstalk is different. It is interactive. The callers can phone in and agree or disagree with the host and give their own opinions and in many cases, bring facts formerly unknown to light and clarity. It also teaches us to listen to other sides of as story. That is what happens when you have hundreds of thousands of listeners. The people speak up and we are advocates for the information we hear. We don't need someone to parrot news and info to us all day or tell their own opinions and state those opinions as fact. Unfortunately, that happens a lot more than most people realize.
As I said earlier, I didn't learn about what happened at KGO from their site or their staff, I learned it from listeners. Later, some local news agencies had articles about the changes on their news websites and . But from KGO, we heard nothing. This is exactly the reason we need to have a community voice. If we don't hear what people have to say, then we only know part of the story and it is possible for media companies to pick and choose what we hear, unless we speak up.
Newstalk radio gives the community a venue where your voice is broadcast and heard, and now a large collective, community voice in California has been silenced.
Here are some links with some information. Our voice is what made the station what it was, and your voice could also make difference now, you never know. But you might also just like to state your opinion or contact your favorite host with support. I will add more to the comments section of this post as I get more contact info or other pertinent information.
The contact information for Cumulus Media if you would to voice your opinion:
CUMULUS MEDIA INC.
CUMULUS BROADCASTING INC.
3280 Peachtree Road, NE Suite 2300
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
TEL: (404) 949-0700
FAX: (404) 949-0740
Here is some other information:
- To keep in touch with Gene Burns, you can join the Dining Around website and be an active member and post directly to Gene or other members with boards, or blogs, events, etc. There is a statement on there from Gene. http://www.diningaround.com/
- KGO's Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/kgoradio
- I found a site on Facebook called Bring Back Talk Radio KGO AM 810 at (not sure if there is another one out there, but this is what I found for now) http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Back-Talk-Radio-KGO-AM-810/209795655764570
I will add more contact sites for hosts if they become available on the comments of this blog.
Links to articles: