Geo’s Media Blog (Comments) 10/17/18

Hollis W. Dunkan: So you are descended from a Scottish Engineer. Well, then, Laddie, maybe ye can explain why KVIL Engineering in 1978 was such a disaster.Ye are of Clan Johnstone, I see, and fought at the Battle of Sark in 1448. How did that one turn out?

Geo: Actually Hollis, both my Grandfathers were English. Vince on my Mom’s side and Johns (Welsh name meaning, son of King John) on my Dad’s. My Grandmothers were both Scottish, Hunter, and Sutherland.
I’m a programmer so don’t know from engineering but thanks for the read.

Hollis W. Dunkan: Ah, thanks for the clarification. KVIL still sticks out as having the worst politics of any place that I ever worked, and all of it was in Engineering, centered around fellows names Spence, Smart, and Crossno. Sadly, none of the politics was aimed at getting Ron and the guys the Engineering assistance that they needed – that always seemed to be a side-issue.

Geo: Sorry, you had a bad experience at KVIL Hollis. I heard my fair share of whining from the air staff but I don’t recall many of the complaints being about engineering. Know this though, Ron could have anything he wanted, he chose spending most of the money on promotion.

Hollis W. Dunkan: Most of my time at KVIL was good. You always remember people who were a whole lot nicer to you than they had to be, and Ron, Larry Dixon, Ken Barnett, Dan Bell, Len Mailloux, Andy McCollum, and Mike Selden were among the really great people that I worked with. However, the studio at the Park Cities Bank was poorly wired with absolutely no backup for the studio or to either transmitter. At that time, Ron didn’t have control of the Engineering Budget and everything that I did for Ron would blow back on me because Crossno would become jealous and go running to Smart. I believe that my leaving caused Jerry Kablunde to come aboard as CE and I hope that he didn’t face the same situation. As an aside, I was hired by Crossno with instructions to never talk to Chapman because he was crazy. He was not. I am greatly enjoying your blog.

Geo: All of them were always very nice to me Hollis. 🙂

Jack Schell: Hiya, George. It should come as no surprise to you that I have read almost all of your blog essays. Always interesting…even the ones that take us back to your times singing and playing guitar. Maybe the connection stems from my having also been in a band…singing and playing electric bass and guitar. How about THAT!
Today is different. Your “Radio’s Over” hit me like sticking my finger in an electric socket. Ever do that?
Anyway, like you, I can’t help but lament radio’s current era. I’m close enough to DFW to listen to any or all of the stations I “helped”…mostly K— well, YOU know the one. Break’s my heart. AND, I refuse to accept that I am “…out of touch with today’s modern media or whatever.” I do hear some exceptions which make it somewhat better to catch a few personalities who are connecting with their audience. That’s a good thing…but rare.
One thing that might make me ALMOST feel like “I DON’T GET IT” is to hear stations send people to the internet. If I were in charge I tend to think I’d let the internet send people to my radio broadcast. Kinda like the use of newspaper ads, direct mail, magazine ads, and billboards. The internet is compelling…made so by some VERY clever folks. So. why invite radio listeners to go to a place where they might not want to come back? (Could the sales department have anything to do with this process?) I do see plenty of web ads popping up when going to the radio websites…oh well, that’s just me. You have to know that I joined the air wars when you’d better have a good reason for a double-spot or triple-spot. I think I heard a niner recently.
I’ll soon be suggesting that some of my longtime radio pals get together over lunch in Big D to cuss, fuss, and discuss their opinions…might be therapeutic for us all. Might even get Bill G. to fly in. Are you ever down this way?

Art Vuola: Joey Reynolds has been preaching this exact same sermon for the past ten years, but (seemingly) nobody is paying attention.  Next week there will be a ton radio people descending on Orlando for the NAB/RAB Radio Show, the biggest convention for the radio industry.  Everyone will be patting each other on the back and proclaiming how great things are.  I love radio with a great deal of passion, but realistically I agree with this entire piece and about WLTW Lite FM (an appropriate name) and it’s relationship to WCBS-FM.  Did Bob know that BOTH are programmed by the same man…Jim Ryan?  It’s true.  As long that the profit column is longer than the loss column, expect nothing to change in the foreseeable future.  Truly a sad commentary. 

John Forsythe: I just retired this year after 50 years in radio. Hanging out in Hawaii right now where radio still sounds original and fun. (although KKCN in Honolulu is big and is programmed like stateside stations but with local music)
I agree that original and fun is always better but comparing kids in the 60’s to kids today, come on, get real. Kids today have so many media choices. A boss jock “posting” a 42-second intro would not interest them. They will respond to a true talent making them laugh and sharing a social media or website video that they can share with friends. There is talent out there but it is a multilayered challenge that most of didn’t have to face in the past.
While in Orlando, check out The News Junkie on Real Radio or evenings on XL 106.7. Some talent is still connecting.

Bob Christy: I’m not an advocate of the “Way Radio Used to Be”. Our memories of the past are better than the reality. In the late 80’s, I bought a 68 Mustang GT. When it was restored, it looked and sounded great, the truth was it didn’t drive worth a damn, the brakes were lousy, it didn’t corner and there was no ventilation. The seats were terrible. I liked it but, it wasn’t a good ride. The reality is a V6 Camry is faster than any of the old muscle cars. Look it up.

What radio had then, what we did with it was terrific for the time and we pushed the business forward. We tossed out the old rules and wrote new ones. I don’t hear any of that energy or progress today. There are things from the past that are valid today. Attention to detail is one. Production quality and technique is another. There are many more, we can discuss later.
 Our California canyon house is almost a hundred years old, when it was built it had kerosene lighting and no central heat or AC. I wouldn’t want to live like that today. What our house does have is style and a certain “feel” to it To my mind those are the qualities that radio today is missing. It’s the same with the new Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers, they have the style and look of their predecessors, but are much better cars in every respect. 
George and I have discussed this at length, so much so, it drives my lovely wife crazy at times. We’ve gotten beyond the “Old days were great” stage and we’ve moved on. It’s time to discuss the way forward from where the business is right now and where it needs to go.
Geo: Yes, we have discussed this into the ground Bobby, it’s time to, “Walk the talk!” Lets create a Blog where we listen to radio stations all over America and then critique them. We could call it “Writing Radio’s Wrongs.”
Bob Christy: Remember the old yellowed memo I found, the one that stated explicitly, “No trumpets before 8 AM!”, it was written in the big band days! Must have shortened the playlist up considerably. Plenty to talk about.
Ron Below: Sadly, all above posts are true… as BB would say – The Thrill is Gone.
Bob Christy: We’re going up to wine country this weekend, I have to decide between the NFL Channel on Sirius/XM or something over the air, there used to be a pretty damn good morning team in Santa Maria. I think when we hit San Francisco I’ll tune in the smoking wreckage of KGO. 

Geo: I don’t think they’re done hurting that once great station yet Bobby.

Tim Moore: What Mickey created, Cumulus wrecked in record time. A group that couldn’t take “yes” for an answer. I had the fun of moderating at R& R’s last News Talk Conference in LA. Mickey was on my panel–a fellow Michigan guy by origin. He put his life into KGO. “Smoking wreckage” might be too soft.

Moto: Radio is dead. I think you boys missed the story. It was a few years ago and it received little notice. Few cared and more laughed at its demise. It had become such an awful entertainment venue, more of a dead skunk in the middle of the road, a putrid roadkill carcass. Deregulation was listed as the cause of death, with boring musical formats and even more boring personalities listed as contributing factors. The fact of its timely demise is hardly worth writing about and yet here we are, commiserating over the beating yet another dead horse. It was ruled a suicide.

Geo: We’re looking for the folks that killed it Moto, and I don’t think that just ownership who is is responsible for its demise. I’ve heard some pretty lame breaks on the radio lately that had nothing to do with their bosses. The jock was lame and a way overpaid.

Tom Hoyt: George & Bob,
Youse guys are smart…..but history makes for dull reading if not livened up. In Houston, my home again now, traffic is a nightmare. Mel Karmazin and I once had a fun conversation about how much we both loved traffic jams….that is still true today for radio’s savvy programmers in most medium to large markets. Small market operators we know have it figgered out for their cities and towns. Perhaps seek out those folks who ARE doing good radio…there is still $$$ to be made…somebody, somewhere is doing a great job serving their community, entertaining and informing. Radio is still an adventure, as is life…..not too negative boys…that’s my take on it.

Geo: Nope, we won’t be writing about history Tom, although we may use an incident or two from the past to explain a specific situation. Each station will get an hour to shine and then we’ll talk about what we found. We may even get people such as yourself to choose a station and then participate as we break them down.

Tim Moore: Tom is right guys. The difference is today’s ownership profile is a jagged EKG. As long as there’s a Cox, Hubbard and in secondary markets Mid-West Family (or Duke Wright’s Midwest) a Delmarva and more, some are still doing it right. Not Fairbanks or Susquehanna mind you but in scale, very good.

Geo: Tim, we won’t be comparing any of them to the great companies that you mentioned. Those stations had three very important things going for them, “A Dreamer, A Businessman, and The Son Of A Bitch.” In today’s radio world I think the only one still standing is, “The Son Of A Bitch.”

Paul Cavenaugh: Since you brought it up, I did find a station I thought worth listening to in Islamorada FL of all places. I’m seldom up early enough to catch the morning show down here, but I thought their “Hobie in the Afternoon Experiment” on Sun 103.1 in Islamorada and the Whale in Key West is a pretty decent morning- style afternoon show on both stations. Even more shocking, they played music and featured a local news minute too! Almost like real radio and in a small market like the Keys.

Warren Cosford: As George knows, I sing the praises’ of WMOM in Ludington Michigan. Small Town Radio, intensely Local, owned by a guy who has among The Best Ears for Music of any I know and a Passion which inspires The Kids he has working for him. They’re not ‘Slick’ and often sound ‘Hokey’ but there’s a real Charm to the station. They ‘cleaned up’ at the recent Michigan Broadcaster’s Convention yet there are 9 people working there. Elizabeth and I spent the evening with Colin Kennedy, once an Op at The Big 8 CKLW when Paul Drew was PD. Colin claims to have invented The Layover. All I know for sure is…..the first time I heard one was when I arrived in Toronto from Winnipeg to work at CHUM and saw Colin working with Big Tom Rivers. From a Production standpoint, it was like nothing I had ever heard. The two of them were creating Radio to an Extreme. Was that Radio as An Art Form? Could anyone in Today’s Radio do that today? Would anyone listen?
On the Other Side of that was Progressive Radio. My Fav was WLIR New York. As with Pat Martin, PD Denis McNamara had ‘Great Ears’ for Music and inspired a Creative Quirkiness between the Records. Showtime just aired a Documentary about them. really….perhaps it was the role that Music played in Pop Culture at the time. It seems that Music simply isn’t as important in the lives of My Kids as it was to me…..and now that they’re Adults, the only Radio they listen to is in The Car and it’s mostly News/Talk. The music they get on The Web where The Playlist is a couple of thousand.

Geo’s Media Blog is published weekly. For a sneak peek at some new Blogs, or those you may have missed, go to On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. You can also google, Writing Radio’s Wrongs to see a brand new Blog that Bob Christy and I are writing together about the state of radio today. Sharing and commenting is much appreciated.



10 thoughts on “Geo’s Media Blog (Comments) 10/17/18

  1. On Sunday, I had errands to run during the football games. I got in the car turned on KSPN 710 to listen to the Rams-Broncos game. KSPN is the originating station for the Rams and I think the games are on ESPN Radio. Plenty of generic promos during the breaks. I did hear the pbp guys did do a great ad-lib promo.. There was an oddball illegal motion call, The Rams center had double pumped the ball. The pbp team slipped in a promo for the upcoming NBA season, right off the top of their heads. The color guy Maurice James-Drew explained the penalty and J B Long said, “there will be a lot of double pumps from LeBron James when the Lakers start playing for real this week on KSPN.”
    I heard it sitting in the parking lot of the DIY Center when I heard it. The lady in the car next to me thought I was nuts when I yelled “Yes, god damn it.”

  2. Kvil was the only station in which I worked that had an engineer on duty over the weekend during the rating period which of course ended up being #1 12 plus. I had a turntable failure during one of my weekend shows but one call down the hall and repairs were on the way. I have no complaints.

  3. “I am a lot better when I work with Jack [Schell]. And I think that Jack is better when he works with me.” R. Chapman (1977).

    • There are two Ron Chapmans Hollis. Ron the PD and Ron the morning man. I loved hanging out with the morning guy, he loved to laugh, the other guy was serious and intense.

  4. One thing about Fairbanks Broadcasting during the Jim Hilliard-era was that although it seemed to the outside world it seemed that Fairbanks was a reckless spender of money (an impression Jim never discouraged), in reality, Jim hired managers whom would make the penny-pinching Dick Fairbanks happy. Jim hired people like Dick Smart, Roy Cooper and Dave Spence to be careful and RESOURCEFUL with Dick Fairbanks’ (and Jim Hilliard’s) money. If a piece of equipment was going to help in the mission to make WIBC or WNAP or KVIL number one, it was purchased in short order…if Ron Chapman needed something or some person, as George well knows, Ron would get it Although the battles between Spence and Chapman were legendary, keeping it in perspective, Dave was there to meet Hilliard’s impossible revenue demands and keep an eye on the money. Keep in mind that before Spence, KVIL had a problem with a short-lived manager whom shall not be named. Remember, a lot of money was rolling through KVIL, thanks to Ron Chapman, its promotions, its programming and the Hilliard-Johns vision of “How High is UP ?” There had to be someone down the hall to say “NO !” If Ron really wanted it, and George agreed, Ron got it. Believe me, when I worked for Jim at Blair, in Tampa at WFLA, I did not have that luxury. If it was needed, I might eventually get it, but when you work for a company like Blair (Fairbanks successor for KVIL and WIBC/WNAP) where the “excess” money was being drained from the radio division to pay for debt and ADVO (1985) instead of being reinvested, even the pennies were counted carefully.

    With regards to Dick Smart, with whom I worked at WIBC, Dick was a genius. If he seemed abrupt and aloof, it was not because he was rude or disrespectful. Dick did not have time for whining or holding up door frames by the coffee machine. He was always thinking, researching and designing something, what a small corporate engineer did in the 1970s and 1980s. The Chief delegated the detail stuff to capable people he could trust to carry out his wishes and slowly but surely picked his way out of the union-engineer deadwood at WIBC / WNAP. Dick was very resourceful, but he had his wish-list of what the station’s needed. Dick Fairbanks got in Dick Smart of money-conscious engineer whom was forward-thinking about how to make things better as frugally as possible. Dick Smart made good things (and often mediocre equipment) better.

    • Well said, Jed. The way the system worked at Fairbanks was Ron Chapman worked for me, Jerry Bobo worked for Dick Yancey and Dave Spence worked for Jim. I talked to Chapman every day as I’m sure Dick did with Bobo. Unfortunately, Jim wasn’t good at communicating with the Managers so a lot of times they were out of the loop. I’m sure this made them a little cranky.
      The problem was that the managers didn’t have anyone representing them at corporate, Chapman and Bobo had me and Dick. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a GM at Fairbanks, too stressful. Ask Roy Cooper what he thought when he saw some of his staff at WIBC/WNAP crossing the street every day to see us at corporate.

    • Tough sleddin’ Bruce, nobody want’s to hear it. They want to blame others, but everyone in radio at the moment has to take responsibility for how it sounds.

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