Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Old KGO was a Special Place when Big News Broke; 9/11, Colorado Massacre, Loma Prieta Quake illustrate Importance of once-mighty 810 AM; Sunday Post

Of the old KGO, before Cumulus destroyed it and its loyal listener base, the thing I most miss was its distinct place to be when big news broke.

Especially when it involved major tragedies, like, for instance, the Colorado massacre, the Gabby Giffords mass shooting, or on an even more tragic scope, 9-11.

The old KGO was a special place where after the news broke, people could gather and listen, and eventually, commiserate with others. It was like having a cyber-bar where, even when the most god-awful things happened; be it, yes, a massacre, a plane crash, a natural disaster, an earthquake, one could quickly go to KGO and have the chance to vent, to react, to air it out, so to speak.

I still get tons of e-mail from readers who remember the night of 9-11. Ray Taliaferro opened up the lines and callers collectively found an avenue to grieve. It was especially comforting for older listeners to be able to have a place, however trivial it may have seemed, to gather near a radio and relay their emotions after such horrible events of the day.

Ditto the moments after the Milk-Moscone murders, the Loma Prieta earthquake, the 101 California street highrise shootings and the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping and subsequent aftermath.

It was that type of bond and loyalty brand that KGO established in both the local and national domain. KGO was that special. An independent radio station that was really more than a mere radio outlet; indeed, KGO was kind of like the most trusted member of the family--an audio Cronkite, if you will.

I'll never forget the day of the Moscone-Milk murders. It was a most tragic time here in the city still reeling over the Jonestown massacre only days earlier. KGO, most specifically, Ronn Owens, provided a most necessary service for the many thousands of people who, like Owens still says, needed a place to "vent." And vented they did, God bless the old KGO.

On the night of the Giffords' tragedy, I recall driving home from an event and listening to Christine Craft interviewing a former KGO producer who worked at a Tuscon radio station who gave a chilling account of the scene. It was not only informative and incredibly compelling radio, but quite necessary on a day that shook the entire nation, (another mass shooting--notice these things keep happening, but that's another story).

The bottom line is that KGO was not just your typical "news-talk" station--indeed, merely labeling KGO as a SF radio station sold it short. As I said, KGO was so unique, so infinitely special and trusted that it evolved into a Bay Area institution. That's not just my opinion, that's the opinion from many others not only in this market, but other markets as well. An industry marvel that clicked on every level and was the envy of all in the business and beyond.

Hell, thirty-two straight years at #1 in the market. That's a lot of good books and money in the bank--lots of happy salespeople hoisting a few.

Sad to say that bond has been destroyed and a once-great radio station has been run into the ground.

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  1. And, yet....if anything of import happened on a weekend KGO would seldom break format to cover it. I recall the Oklahoma City memorial service, President Clinton speaking, and good ol' KGO did not break away from it's Sunday show ( Spenser Hughes...the putz) to cover the memorial. For the most part KGO was A-One but once in awhile they'd let you down

  2. Your post is a painful and poignant reminder of what we have lost in the Bay Area with the demise of KGO.

    1. Boo Hoo, and I even can't find any new videos for my Sony betamax player.

  3. I remember the death of Duane Garrett in the mid-90's, when we listeners got the chance to give back to the station the support and caring it provided to us.

  4. That is why many of us get so enraged when the NY comedian and her ilk are put on air. We remember what KGO used to be. Putting people like her on is a kick in the nuts to the listeners everytime. I still remember listening to John Rothman at night on the day of 9/11. He accurately said the USA will never be the same

  5. KGO is gone. Get over it shitheads!

    1. You are the type of jerk who tells Jews to get over the Holocaust. Let people grieve in peace you jackass! Now get back to shining Jared Hart's shoes

    2. I love the way this blog allows for intelligent and differing opinions......

  6. Yes, and I just tuned my TV to CBS to see Walter Cronkeit and gee whiz, he wasn't there anymore. Boo hoo.

    Things change, crying about it won't help.

    1. Hey asshole, things changed for the worse.You'd have a point if the new product was an improvement over the previous product. It is not. The NY witch, David Weintraub and Spencer Hughes at 10pm are no match for Dr. Bill. I have a feeling Weintraub is the troll...he got a good ass kicking here three weeks ago and he is back to troll, I can sense it...

    2. OK, so things changed for the worse. Do you think if you stomp your feet and hold your breath till you turn blue things will revert back to the way they were?

      And why the name-calling?

    3. You called people shitheads you troll..

  7. I concur with your comments. Having lived in the Bay Area for over 40 years, I feel like I have lost a good friend. The dribble they now have on KGO is sad. They sound like they are just reading the Chron all day long over and over. And weekends with Monte and Karel - ugh. My thinking is no longer being stimulated and turn off KGO except I have to admit for Ronn. At least he is some what entertaining.

  8. OK, KGO Radio as it was know is GONE. Dead. Buried. It's never coming back so let it go. Get over it already.

  9. Drivel, Anon @ 6:23 PM.

    Anyway Stacy Taylor was on during the midnight to 2 slot this and yesterday a.m. Dunno if it is a permanent gig but it sure was nice to hear him back on the radio instead of being stuck with the NYC comedienne or the FBI chick who does not seem to know local crime story details.

  10. Hmmm..sounds like 4:29 pm, 6:22pm and 6:47 pm are the same person...make that troll.

    1. Yes, I agree. It is the same type of troll who surfaces each time this topic is brought up. The ink on the pink slips was not dry yet and the trolls came out of the woodwork to say: GET OVER IT. THE EIGHT TRACK SAW ITS DAY, GET OVER IT!!!

    2. There is nothing wrong about strolling down memory lane now and then but Rich has taken up permanent residence there.

      Time to face the world as it is, not as we remember it. There is no UNDO button.

    3. This is more than just strolling down memory lane; it is strolling down quality lane. We lost quality. Quality is much more than just a memory. A loss of quality is significant and definitely worth revisiting in order to regain what has been lost.

    4. RAJKIRK,
      So you're hoping to regain the quality that's been lost? Good luck with that. How much have you regained so far?

    5. @ 9:20: Check out 910, baby. Getting better by the day!

      Yes, you folks think you can feed your listeners Pink Slime and we'll "get over" having had Harris Ranch beef before.

      And thus, we're on to bigger and better! We listeners!

  11. easyer said then done.. when you thought you where going to at lest spend your last days with the great KGO 810.. Think of all the folks who use radio .. the blind, the this and that.. The poster Rich has said it! You none belavers will never get it and your Pawns... I cant even hear you.. Your words sicken the world and the generations to come.

  12. Yes it is a loss to the Bay Area and the West coast listeners.

    I think AM radio is pretty dead to hope for a revival of the old format by anyone else, certainly with the diverse talent KGO put together.

    I do not know what the demographic of KGO listeners was before they spun into the ground. Did the young people listen? I do not know.

    True enough that things change, but was this change really a boost to the stations owners and stockholders? Did the salaries saved by firings actually boost the bottom line given their ratings loss.

    With Owens leaving sooner than later that wil make the conversion complete, although I did not find Ron's style to my liking.

    1. Listen to a little bit of Maureen (the comic from NY) last night, she is so unprofessional, was scrabling for her notes to back up what she was saying. Listening to Ronn this am with Rich Wolcoff (sorry if it spelled wrong) say what you will about Ronn,but he is a true professional, an excellent interviewer, lets Rich talk, makes a very smooth transition from calls to commercials, to talking to Rich. They contrast is stark, and makes you realize how low the current Cumulus standards are, that they give someone like Maureen a permanent sloth.

  13. Here is the $ 64,000 Cummulus making more or less money now at KGO than it was under old owners Citadel, Disney, ABC.

    My guess is they aren't. They let go high paid "talent" (can't call them all, but I bet revenues have fallen faster.

    Bottom line a bad business model.

  14. KGO was off the air. KSCO was the only station on the the entire bay area. Remember what happend to the KGO xmitters.

  15. re: the question is Cummulus "ahead" now for having slashed cost and quality, or behind? Consider the analogy I have used before, e.g., the guy who decides to burn the furniture and the siding of the house instead of buying firewood. Short term? The house is warm, and no money was spent on firewood; we appear to be ahead. Long term? The house won't last, and the guy will figure out the meaning of penny wise and dollar foolish.

    Cummulus saves $$ in the short term by ditching pricey talent, and pulling out of 900 Front to fold 2 more radio stations into the space designed for 4 (no square footage was added). So short term, they are in fact ahead, the "furniture" burns nice. Long term, they've sold out the quality and the good will, the accumulated habits and saved car-radio pre-sets are all changing. Once "the mighty KGO" is a faded memory and the dial yields only syndicated cheap-rate schlock and wanna-be talent, the gig is up: no-one will care, no-one will listen, and the "house" won't be worth anything any more.

    Another familiar parable applies about the same lesson: The farmer whose goose layed a golden egg every day decided to kill the goose and open it up to get all the eggs at once, but it turned out that once the goose was dead there were no more golden eggs at all. Cummulus has done about the same with both KGO and KSFO, so far.

    1. Like your post and analogy, goose and golden eggs, but let's hope Cumulus does the same to KNBR 680.
      Then I will rejoice.

  16. It is sad to contemplate the 'death' (as we know it) of a venerable industry that still has much to offer. AM and FM radio are the only media platforms that are still free. All of the other mediums need to be paid for (unless you don't have cable TV). Yes, a lot of young people today would rather listen to their i-pods and get their news off the internet in small snippets, (from mostly the same sources...AP wire, etc) and that's sad too.

    The problem with the latter situation is that we've now got an American public that is increasingly naive and historically illiterate. Most don't know anything about basic American history;
    the Great Strike of 1877 which kick started the labor movement in this country, the McCarthy witch Hunts of the 1950s, even the more recent triumphs of our space program. I am astonished at how
    many people who come here from abroad in an effort become citizens, seem to know more, and care more about our country than many who were born here.

    Without a strong press (including radio) we were doomed to continue to make more of the same foolish mistakes that have plagued us in the past.

    Unfortunately history DOES repeat itself, time and time again in this country.

    To those who say: "get over it!" guess what? Many of us are mad as hell that our media has been hijacked by a tiny band of pea-brained corporate weasels who seem to have no sense of duty or obligation to anyone but themselves and their sacred shareholders.

    What was it that Cornelius Vanderbilt said when someone told him that the railroads should serve the public? "The public be damned!"

    Unfortunately that's the attitude of many of these
    corporations today, and we need to pressure out congress and senate to pass laws that will closely regulate our precious media industry so that it doesn't become just another source of capital for greedy CEOs and shareholders. These fools seem to have forgotten that our system of government has allowed them to become rich and use our public airwaves to sell commercial time to fatten their already swollen portfolios.

    1. 9:57 is nibbling at the edges, but hasn’t really gotten to the heart of the issue. Passing new laws ain’t gonna work, unless you fix the deeper problem, and I don’t know if that is possible.

      The KGO situation is not an isolated case but is symptomatic of a much deeper problem in western (particularly American) society. That is, the worship of money to the detriment of everything else. I’m not knocking money, I LOVE it! It’s a wonderful tool. But when it is a goal in and of itself, it becomes a destructive cancer that gnaws at the fabric of society.

      It may sound trite, but it’s true: Do good work and the money will follow, and the greater society will also benefit. The old KGO did good work, we (the public) benefitted, and the money did follow – just not enough for Cumulus. What makes the KGO situation REALLY depressing is that it’s not an aberration – rather, it’s just one of many recent examples of “doing it for the money” to the exclusion of all other values.

      The following may sound a bit off topic, but it gets to the crux of the matter.

      Recently a bluefin tuna, ONE FISH, fetched $736,000. If money is the only object, bluefin tuna will become extinct, because as their numbers dwindle, they will fetch higher and higher prices, creating an ever growing incentive to eradicate a species that is already in rapid decline.

      If this mentality does not change, not just the tuna are doomed, but so are we.

    2. How is this any different than the slow death of the railroad?

      Riding trains was once the principle way people got from here to there. It was a routine part of people's lives and their experiences on trains, great times, bad times, etc. became indelibly part of their memories and their history.

      Now trains still exist but play a reduced role in modern society, replaced generally by cars and planes, whatever.

      Many may remember fabulous or at least unforgettable experiences on trains and feel that sitting stopped in their car on a freeway in bumper to bumper traffic is a lot worse than sitting back in comfortable railroad car while it's rolling down the track.

      They might be right but no matter how much you bitch and moan, things have changed and there's no turning back the clock.

      But whether you like it or not

    3. Oh! Oh! Oh!

      But did you know HOW the auto industry destroyed America's great train systems?

      Also, did you know that the Bay Area Key System eventually ran the same terrain that BART eventually took over?

      And a ride to San Francisco from the East Bay was pretty much the same amount of time as what BART does today.

  17. When I was 6 years old, I remember KGO's Ira Blue reporting the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake and urging everyone to evacuate the coastal regions. Though the tsunami never hit the Bay Area, listeners in Crescent City -- who heeded the warning -- were saved. I was a KGO addict from that moment on. Through the years the quality remained outstanding. The first noticeable crack was when Disney took over. But Citadel and Cumulus are as reprehensible and irresponsible as I have ever seen in radio. As for those who say, "Get over it!", they obviously have never been exposed to excellence in radio. And that my friends, is too bad.

  18. It is immoral that one company or individual was able to destroy something so critically important to our collective society, especially those of us that live in the Bay Area.

  19. KGO was the town-hall-meeting that we could all attend. We didn't even have to leave the house ... but it was fully portable, if we were out-and-about. We could choose to speak, or just listen to our neighbors, without our preference being judged.

    We didn't have to pretend to be happy with what we heard. Argument and debate were encouraged, as it invited MORE argument and debate.

    Like Jim Eason's "office party," it never stopped - just open the door (turn on the radio), it was there. We were welcome for as long as we wanted to stay -- and welcomed back, after we'd left.

    Once, KGO used the tag line: "The American Way of Radio." It was.

    Some taunt: "Forget it. It's gone." I hope Cumulus is paying them extra/per post, but I doubt it.

    No, we won't forget it. Let's figure out a way to get it back.

  20. 1:23 makes a good point; greed and the worship of the almighty dollar have driven our world to the brink of economic chaos. We do have the resources, both in human numbers and in raw material to make things work, but a small number of individuals take advantage of
    our liberal laws to 'run the table,' in their favor.

    Still, I'd like to know where in our US Constitution does it mention anything about the rights of corporations to plunder and benefit at the expense of the rest of the public?

    I am constantly amazed at people who blame our government for the problems we're currently facing. Yes, there is corruption, and certainly there are many elected officials who are pressured into 'looking the other way,' while the wolves of industry fleece our country. There's not better example of this than the oil, mining and cattle interests, which profit at the expense of the people by paying miniscule fees to exploit public lands while making obscene profits on their products.

    As bad as things are today however, we should be thankful that conditions aren't as terrible as they were during the 'Gilded Age' of the late 19th and early 20th century, when corporations could call on governors or the President to call out police or federal forces to violently confront and if need be, shoot down workers, in an effort to silence those who only wanted a fair wage for long hours of toil.

    Unfortunately today, unions are being marginalized, and that's especially true in the Bay Area radio scene, where AFTRA has become an endangered species. Media companies today would rather fire highly paid, competent, experienced professionals, and put rank amateurs on the air while paying them peanuts to save money. This is shortsided thinking, but more importantly, it's cheating the listeners and eroding one of our most important assets: a free and open minded media that acts as a watchdog.

    What about public service, which is a part of the obligation written on the license that they signed to own a local radio station? To quote one of the most infamous magnates from that distasteful era of long ago: "THE PUBLIC BE DAMNED."

  21. All this nostalgia and hand-wringing is over the top excessive.
    The industry has changed and the economics have to change.
    KGO's billings and ratings in the key demographics were declining steadily prior to the Cumulus takeover and KGO would not have been able to sustain the cost structure for much longer.

    Problem with Cumulus is the ham-handed way in which they implemented the changes and alienated listeners by hiring hosts who have little to offer other than shouting like Monty.

    I don't see how putting on loud-mouths like Monty or the "witch" will attract a younger demographic.

  22. Fair and BalancedJuly 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    I'd like to know where in our US Constitution does it mention anything about the rights of corporations to plunder and benefit at the expense of the rest of the public?

    That's not quite the point of the US Constitution which defines the powers of the three branches of government. The government enacts laws and regulations that pertain to corporations. If corporations violate those laws, there are penalties.

    Is your point that corporations have escaped punishment for violating existing laws or that new laws should be enacted?

  23. What do you think? Just as an example: Are you happy with what the banking and broadcasting industries have been allowed to do because of lack of oversight and deregulation?

    In theory, unfettered capitalism might work, but in reality, it's historically been proven to be a dangerous idea. There are unfortunately too many people in power who have been irresponsible, and it's cost this nation dearly. For a historical reference, look at how long labor had to fight (from the 1870s through the 1940s) before workers had the most basic of rights
    (40 hour work week, basic health care, vacations, etc)

    Many companies have bought their way into getting the Congress and Senate to deregulate and Citizens United, which was upheld by the Supreme Court has accelerated that process.

    I can't believe anyone, with the possible exception of the few who have been profiting at the public's expense, believe that's a good thing for our country.

    1. Fair and BalancedJuly 23, 2012 at 8:04 PM

      So you think we need new laws and regulations?

    2. yes,to assure that the public airwaves are licensed to multiple owners who provide a multiplicity of views, to serve the public interest, need and necessity.

  24. I agree that the bay area has lost something truly special. Mr/Ms "Anonymous" might be a current employee who profited from or supported the change, or as I suspect, someone with nothing better to do than intentionally stir things up for his/her own amusement. SO... I say ignore this person. It'll drive him/her crazy.

  25. I love these little Numb scull twits who say: "get over it dude!" You sad, uneducated, lazy, brain dead weasels are a prime reason this country has gone to the dogs! The only time you ever seem to read anything is when it's some misspelled, truncated text message that one of your 'buds' just sent you, or some inane 'tweet' about some poor dysfunctional celeb on rehab.

    When I think of how everyone was so hopeful and looking forward to seeing an enlightened, motivated, and worldly new crop of young people emerging in the 21st century, and then viewing the current crop of dreck, it really saddens me.

    I read the juvenile drivel from some of these pimply face trolls on blogs like this one and it only confirms my worst fears: much of the young generation today seems to be more concerned with acquiring the latest electronic gadgets, thus increasingly isolating themselves from other people while forgetting how to use basic face to face communication skills.

    I wonder what kind of a sad legacy you're going to leave when you reach your 'golden years.'

    1. @6:57
      Change and "progress" may not necessarily be for the better but it's unrelenting and irreversible.

      Name-calling and complaining isn't going to help.

  26. So maybe when Cumulus drives KGO into the ground, someone else will buy the radio station at a firesale price. And they'll buy it because they'll know that there is a market because of the many comments being written continuously by former listeners. And with these blogs the word will spread quickly. Am I being wishful? Naive? Maybe. Or given how quickly the station is falling apart I don't think Cumulus will keep it too much longer before they flip it.

    The only reason KGO still has as much marketshare as it does is because it has a strong signal. 910 am has a much poorer/weaker signal. It will be difficult for 910 to reach the same audience, even with good hosts. Or maybe 910 will improve their signal quality (I'm in the South Bay) and reach a wider audience.

  27. Well Rich, as a former KGO/KSFO flunky, I agree with you completely. The KGO call letters pre Cumulus stood for the best of the best; excellence, brilliance, trust, a service to the community and darn good radio. Sounds to me like you're grieving and I believe that many past listeners and employees are too. It was a good long run and to experience the demise of a radio station which was a dependable friend to many and a vital resource to more is sad! You've provided a forum for folks to vent and that's good.
    And you've given a lot of space to the evil Cumulus (and I agree) and the former KGO on air talent which is the obvious talking point because it was so sad for so many to lose their jobs in a split second, particularly those who have not been able to return to radio. But how about paying tribute to the former management of KGO/KSFO during all those award winning, rating busting years of number one? I'm talking about Mickey Luckoff, Jack Swansan and Ken Barry. These three guys created a product which listeners in the San Francisco Bay Area not only enjoyed but relied upon for information and entertainment 24/7. It was no accident that the station was #1 for thirty three years in a row. How about giving your readers a treat and a bit of broadcasting history by reminding them of the brains behind all that success. There are a lot of good stories to tell....if only the walls of 900 Front Street could talk!

  28. Yes, there were plenty of good times and things to be proud of and that's worth celebrating. KGO was a great station as was KNBR back in the era of 'the good times' when they had personalities such as Frank and Mike, Carter B. Smith and Leo LaPorte.

    Sadly, the world has turned on its head and there's no going back.

    Who would have thought however, that an industry as vital as radio would be dealt such a bad hand, and that the alarming turn for the worse would happen so quickly?

    Yet it also happened in many other industries and who's to blame?
    Right now our whole society is in the midst of a confusing transition that will probably not clear up for at least another decade. By that time, the recent past will be as recognizable as the early 20th century, as that's how quickly things are changing.

    Its this a good thing? Who knows...but it's reality. Life goes on!

  29. to 6:04 pm...yes we do need new regulations and rules. We need more oversight and greater scrutiny. Over the last 15 years, the leash has been loosened and look what has happened.

    Radio should not be in the hands of a few mega companies. Competition may be a good thing, but in recent years, we've allowed
    mega-corporations to swallow up smaller companies, off shore work, downsize jobs, and lower the quality of a product.

    Just take a look at one area where quality has gone to the dogs:
    customer service. How many businesses even have a receptionist anymore, or someone who even answers the phone and can help you out?

    Most of the time you get routed to some call center in India where you can't even understand the person who is talking, and they know nothing about what your problem might be.

    Unfettered capitalism is not a good thing..and don't confuse that with democracy. China is a classic example of what happens when capitalism runs amok. I was talking to an acquaintance of mine not long ago, (this gentleman owns several businesses in China), and he was telling me with a smile how "I can pretty much do anything I want with my businesses over there!"

    The strength of this country has always been its middle class. They generate 70 percent of the dollars that buy the goods and services offered by these mega companies. But they're being squeezed and marginalized, losing their jobs because of consolidation.

    You can't tell me that's a good thing, because we're going through the worst recession since the great depression, and there's no end in sight. Stronger regulation, more taxes for people who are making over 250 k, and greater transparency is needed if we're to get out of this mess.

    I can't believe that so many Americans listen to the propaganda pushed by these politicians who are in the back pockets of these companies.

    You want to go back to the 'Gilded Age' when the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers and the Jay Goulds ran this country while fattening their bulging waste lines?

    People like fatso Rush Limbaugh certainly do, because if we had more diversity in the media, we wouldn't have to suffer this blowhard spewing out his dreck on 700 stations nationwide. Instead we'd have local commentators and talk show hosts talking about local and regional issues of importance. And they wouldn't be trivializing, sensationalizing, and simplifying the issues as people like Limbaugh are wont to do.

  30. Karel claims all talk show host run pre-taped shows

    Karel ‏@talkradiolive
    @Phoenix_m so basically you're just an ill informed asshole with a twitter account
    Hide conversation
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    8:55 AM - 24 Jul 12 via Twitter for iPad · Details

    20 Jul John P. Martin ‏@Phoenix_m
    @talkradiolive Thats why you'll never make the big money in radio you prerecord your shows. Do you think Beck, Hannity & Limbaugh prerecord?
    Reply Delete Favorite

    1h Karel ‏@talkradiolive
    @Phoenix_m I work seven days a week. Yes Friday and Monday are recorded that day. Every other host does it. Many are not live in your area
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    8:54 AM - 24 Jul 12 via Twitter for iPad · Details

  31. Wow, KGone still has some very talented news anchors (KGO staff from before the station trashing) but what has happened to the technical aspects? Dead air, recorded stuff that doesn't play, missed cues... this goes on nonstop. Ok, that's the good stuff.... Cumulus is insulting what little audience that they have left by hiring such "trashy" talk show hosts for the weekend. The witch=0, Karel has rare flashes of intelligence but for the most part uses his air time to whine, simper, cry, trash other personalities and tortures listeners with the most blatant self promotion I've ever heard. KGone should charge him ad rates while he is on air. To those who may respond, turn off or change frequencies.... save your texts... I already have!! Thanks for a great Forum Rich.