Thursday, May 26, 2005

Portland Radio News

I want to thank one of the earliest posters who turned me on to the Portland Radio website, which has a link to the right. Most of the notations are about history and format and, my favorite, radio pre-sets. It's very entertaining, despite name calling and some things we won't do.

Here's my take on Portland radio news :

Other than KINK and OPB radio, when was the last time you heard a special report (1-3 minutes) on a major topic on KEX or its Clear Channel Portland network, KXL or KPAM? Radio's formats don't really allow it. I don't clock things, but with so many commercials per hour (15 - 20 minutes?) where would they get the time. In morning drive, shows are so heavily formatted that it keeps a station from showing off its reporting. Remember how Chris Sullivan became a star (other than hard work and talent)? He did a number of special reports - as did a number of the men and women, who are pretty much (my observation) assigned to faking live news (live from the newsroom) in the early morning.

And for afternoons? Forget it. Again, other than the cut ins (and OPB & KINK), where are the newscasts? Again, news wasn't making money. Radio news here is too repetitive and no one on the AM dial seems to be willing to brand themselves as different and special. Everyone is team coverage and traffic and weather together... I will say the radio people I know work very hard (they have to - they're sent everywhere) and care deeply about their own product.

So here's my brief thoughts about the station which do the lionshare of the reporting - you can add the always excellent John Erickson to the mix, but he works for Clear Channel too. I will say, you are more likely to hear stories on the radio that TV is shying away from - city council, legislature, etc.

KEX - The deepest team and the most experienced. Brad Ford runs a good operation and some their people are top notch. Like most, they are drawn to crime and accidents, but they do get around. They have lots of voices (Neal Pendland, Jim McLaren (who sounds like Jim Howe)) that have been in the market a while. KEX's strength is familiarity and they don't change much. They do slip in a feature or two that bounces around the network, but it's too rare. Don't hear too many grumblings other than work load and other issues. The reporters here seem to understand their job and do it well. Over at 103, John Erickson is the dean of news readers (like Pat Boyle and others) who is a draw.

KINK - How do they slip in all that news around all that music? Sheila Hamilton anchors the team with the excellent Jacob Lewin out on the street. They delve into lots of topics (politics, land use, environment, etc.) that no one takes real time to cover. They also have the freedom to do so because of their history and reputation. They make few changes so this is a very stable place.

KOPB - With Morgan Holm piloting the ship, you can guarantee they will not get caught up in crime (unless there's a big trend). There's lots of politics, lots and lots of environmental stories, lots of stuff from Salem, and a little attention to Portland government. They have the biggest audience to feed, so they try to be big picture. Kristian Foden-Vencil sounds like an Englishman trying to fake an American faking an English accent. Get past that, he's a pretty good reporter. They have the best reporter (my estimation) in Colin Fogerty - good pipes, boils down issues to understandable working person language.

KPAM - Who is listening? This still sounds like an experiment, although they obviously paid huge bucks to get Bob Miller - did he bring an audience? The news here always sounds like catch as catch can, and they keep letting reporters go. Bill Gallagher who really wants his talk show back is the news director. He does know the market. They were smart enough to hire Peter Linsky who watches business better than anyone - KXL showed Peter the door. And Frank Lenzi would be killer at a station where people listened (hello Sheila Hamilton).

KXL - They finally have a news director - Doug Carter, but this is the house that program director James Derby built. They do a better job than KPAM sounding like an all-news/talk format. The morning team of Steve Leader and Rebecca Marshall do an okay job, and at least they're willing to spend some time with their "experts" from Washington and locally. But it's clear from their promos and their nod to Lars that they want listeners to think they're Fox News Portland. Fair and balanced. Kevin Allen (great pipes) and Charlie Maxton are hustlers and seem to be everywhere.

It's hard to be comprehensive here and I hope posters add their two cents. For all the trouble radio formatting is in (and how people are flocking to satellite), would it hurt some of these news operations to slow down and let their reporters be reporters?

One last thing: the radio stations news pages suck. You can't get a sense from them what's happening, or get any real legs from some of the reporting. Doing their sites would be very labor intensive, and we know that (putting text and/or audio) would divert them from getting out in the field

43 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apart from traffic and weather information, the primary role of news on a music/personality radio station is to assure the listener that he don't need to switch to an "information" station. Simple reassurance.

Evaluating the depth and quality of news on most radio stations is like evaluating the salads and sandwiches at Starbucks. It has absolutely nothing to do with the core business.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with morning radio news, is that the time spent listening may be anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour tops. So most stations, like KEX, are trying to get as much in as possible. That includes the traffic and weather every ten minutes, local headlines, national news, international news, business, sports, entertainment, and breaking news if there is any, PLUS spots. That is why you don't see the long form stories. It's news on a roll.

I believe the question to ask then is would more people listen if a KXL or KEX tried to do more long form non-crime stories, or would they lose the audience who visits them every morning looking for a little of everything.

If these stations didn't have the syndicated daily shows, and were news only stations like KOMO in Seattle chances are good you would see more long form stories throughout the day. Technically, KEX, KXL or KPAM fall into the category of News/Talk not News stations.

It's fine to say that satellite is a competitor to radio, but I believe you will find that most of those people who chose satellite, are choosing it for the music/entertainment elements, not the information elements. For the time being you won't be getting local news from satellite like you get from a KEX, KXL, or a KPAM.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous dotyoureyes said...

As a longtime NPR listener, I'm often disappointed at the quality of local reporting at OPB radio.

The hourly news updates are nothing more than AP wire copy. They rely way too much on Tom Banse's reports from Olympia on stories that don't affect most of their viewing audience.

Oregon Considered loves talking panels of experts, but doesn't tell stories. It's a snoozefest in comparison to the quality news that surrounds it.

Every once in a while, Kristian will do some wonderful reporting (his stuff from Iraq was amazing), but their day-to-day material pales in comparison to what KUOW and KPLU are doing.

If KUOW can do three(!) hours of local call-in shows a day, surely OPB could come up with a half hour of local content that doesn't make me change the dial.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a place I can listen to the "old" KXL?

You remember: Bickel, Gallagher and news I could actually believe.

Now, they do the FoxyNudes thang, badly.

I weep for what once was.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous tv/radio person said...

I don't work there, but Brad Ford should get real props for his dedication and hard work...he is responsible for more than anyone could guess over there...and for living through major changes on what seems to be a daily basis.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:31:00 PM  
Anonymous none of your business said...

Complaining about news at OPB is like complaining that your gf gives you oral sex only 6 days a week.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frank Lenzi is wasted on KPAM. He is a loyal employee though- has been there since its inception. But he would shine at a higher profile station. You have to hand it to him to rise through the ranks as quickly and deftly as he did. He is a great example for the next generation of news people to follow.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? No mention of community radio? What about KBOO? (90.7 on the FM dial) They have special reports on all the time and they have news on in the morning from 7:00AM until 7:30AM and then in again in the afternoon from 5:00PM until 6:00PM.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second what Radio/TV person says.
Brad Ford is a first rate pro. And a decent human being.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 2:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, Dotyoureyes! OPB pales. Considering their numbers, we deserve public radio on a scale with Seattle, or even better, Minneapolis/St. Paul, where Minnesota Public Radio sets the gold standards, and yet has roughly the same metropolitan market share (5-something) as OPB--which often sounds like a training ground.

Portland commercial radio news consists of:

--getting phone tape on crime news from Brian Schmautz. Surprised if he doesn't give you a countdown and a lockout.

--Turning Oregonian stories into phone tape. What, it's not a story until it's in the paper?

--Covering scheduled events. get a crowd chanting on the steps of city hall, and bingo, we're all over it.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 4:32:00 PM  
Blogger MAX Redline said...

Actually, I prefer KPAM in the mornings. All KXL and KEX do is recycle material over and over. All of them do, of course, but Bob Miller and company tend to throw in some great interviews and other material that you just don't get at the X stations.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 5:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Rebecca Marshall the News Director at KXL?

Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radio news is like Walmart fashion. It's not a matter of them doing it poorly. It's a miracle they do it at all.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:44:00 PM  
Anonymous none of your business said...

dear annonymous. i hate to tell you this but nobody, audience or employees, DESERVES anything in broadcasting. to believe that one does displays a gross ignorance of the true nature of broadcasting, which is to make money. period. be real.
Maybe public radio pays more in Seattle. Ever think of that?

Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:55:00 PM  
Anonymous none of your business said...

p.s. numbers at a public station do not translate into higher salaries.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an odd post. The public most assuredly does deserve the very best, particularly when they support public radio as much as they do, in this town. I'm sure public radio pays better in Seattle and Minneapolis than it does here; that's reflected in the calibre of the product. And yet the public here continues to listen to OPB in numbers that rival any public radio affiliate in the country. Perhaps what that tells us is that it's NPR, and not OPB, that people are tuning in for.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KEX, KXL and KPAM are all pretty much cut from the same cloth...short reports and staffs that are no where near the size they were a few years ago. You asked when the last time you heard 1-3 minute stories out of any of the three news operations. Its been awhile. When KPAM first went on the air I remember hearing a lot of longer stories out of their reporters (Bob Chase, Lea Garnett, Scott Schlegel, Bill Bernsohn, Bill Cooper...). A lot of very good in-depth reporting on politics, the environment, schools, medicine, you name it. But eventually they evolved into the same homogenized news product everyone else has. KEX and KXL also used to do longer reports and series, but not anymore. Talk to management at any of the stations and they'll probably tell you they operate the way they do because of financial considerations.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares who the News Director is at KXL...they have nothing to direct.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous none of your business said...

in broadcasting, as in politics, the public gets what it wants AND deserves. elect bush? you get our current mess. fox network and fox news #1 in the numbers? you get more of the same. you asked for it? you got it. not enough people tune in? you're outta here.
somebody isn't living in the real world. and it isn't me.
i have always known that my employment has nothing to do with how good a TV or radio product I make. do i deserve to be fired if not enough people watch or listen? even if it's a great show? you will not find "deserve" in any broadcast executive's vocabulary.
THAT'S the real world.

Friday, May 27, 2005 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would someone please give us your prediction/observation of the recent news accounts that the Bush Administration is trying to penetrate and control public broadcasting through this guy at CPB and others? Is NPR really vulnerable to that kind of pressure?

Friday, May 27, 2005 5:32:00 AM  
Anonymous somebody said...

NPR is totally vulnerable. the influcence of tomlinson on programming is already evident.
one good resourse is handsoffpbs.com from media matters for america.
the piece in salon about tomlinson's connnection to fulton lewis jr. is one of the most frightening things i've ever seen. and according to somebody inside the building at OPB, there has been a flurry of emails in the all-staff box from those very concerned about it...including one higher-up.

Friday, May 27, 2005 6:50:00 AM  
Anonymous somebody said...

make that handsoffpublicbroadcasting.com
sorry

Friday, May 27, 2005 7:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if there was ever a 24-hour news station in town, the other stations might be forced to step up their game. I don't mean news/talk either... just news. I know the format is unrealistic, so I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, May 27, 2005 8:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to leak some OPB memos on this, no?

Friday, May 27, 2005 8:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a station went 24 hour news, its more likely that the other news/talks would cede the "22 minutes" that all news pulls from listeners, and ramp up their efforts in Talk, to get the 3-4 hours of TSL that follow after listeners get their quick all-news fix. Their news would evolve into more sensational and tabloid presentations, to drive the talk.

Friday, May 27, 2005 9:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone think there is enough local news to sustain an all news station in PDX? (I ask that as a question and not as a comment.)

Friday, May 27, 2005 9:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A 24 hour news station in Portland?

KGW-TV has trouble filling its five-minute CNN Headline News segment some days and that includes 90 seconds of weather.

Welcome to Puddletown.

Friday, May 27, 2005 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Puddletown is exactly what it is. Some days we have some news and some days, well, that's a mighty big hole to fill with day-old wire stories from downstate over and over and over again. (Doesn't help that AP here isn't worth a damn).

The real problems for all-news in Portland are 1) the small population. All News is a high-cume, high turnover format. When you don't have millions and millions of people punching in, your numbers are going to suck. Along with that is the fact that this is a comparatively quiet news town, traffic is not unbelievably horrendous, weather is rarely life-threatening, and so all the reasons why people in huge cities require an all-news utility are not present in Portland.

Also 2) it's a beastly expensive format to run. Unless you're plugging in a network (CNN Radio, for example), then you're paying anchors, editors, reporters--easily a million dollar payroll and probably much more. Then you have expenses like wires, vehicles, and whatever bells you think will juice it up like a TV weather guy, etc. You're not going to bill enough in this market to turn any profit at all--let alone the 50% profit that corporate owners are demanding.

Just like MLB, it ain't going to happen in Portland.

Friday, May 27, 2005 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Up there a ways, this point was raised:
***Who cares who the News Director is at KXL...they have nothing to direct.***

I've been thinking about that. I think it would be a fearsome responsibility. How do you preserve the integrity of the news product, when the talk programming has staked out such ultraviolet ideological territory? How do you get politicians to talk to your reporters, if the tape is going to end up getting barbecued on a spit by Lars? How do lay claim to honesty and impartiality, when your very slogan--"Fair and Balanced"--has become a coded buzz phrase, like "Right to Life?" The only hope is in presenting a news product that drips with integrity, that treats Diane Linn and Lloyd Marbet with as much respect as Bill Sizemore and Lon Mabon, and that keeps its focus on covering the news honestly, and not on pleasing or pissing off the people who are tuning in to get their conservative strings strummed. And that's a big job. Who's the fellow? Doug Carter? (I never listen beyond :58 and :07, when you hear pretty much what they've got, news-wise, and must admit I think they're pretty good.)

Friday, May 27, 2005 2:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KXL..."Integrity of a news product"
You debunked that theory with the Fox News, "Fair and Balanced".
KXL is a mouth piece for Fox, Lars and Traffic and weather. It's a shame to listen o such pandering...but, they are not alone

Friday, May 27, 2005 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Fox and Lars and that sociopath Michael Savage have made KXL the KBOO of the far, far right . It'd be nice if some KXL news insider could come on here and tell us what it's like to do news there. Does management dictate that the news pander to the right? Does Lars come in to the newsroom and try to influence stuff? Does the news have any integrity at all?

Saturday, May 28, 2005 4:35:00 AM  
Anonymous none of your business said...

having done network and local talk radio, i wonder sometimes what i would do if i got offered a job at kxl. know what? i wouldn't take it. i would rather write for Exotic. at least the whores there are open about it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 5:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best pal is a long-time voice at KXL. Long time!

He would love to post here, but Lars Larson is locked and loaded -- so no way anyone at KXL will ever post here.

Life is too valuable.

Monday, May 30, 2005 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK... Here's the deal: KPAM started out as the commercial OPB. A great Idea with a lot of great people. Unfortunately it fell victim to a gd consultant who ruined the station. If they had stayed the course we would have had great talk shows from Gallagher and Sheila Hamilton and maybe there would have been space for the increasingly shrill Victoria Taft. The news was superior.. it just needed a little tightening up. Getting rid of PS was a good idea. Its too bad Miller couldnt have been part of the original package. But a lot of good folks passed thru the suite 790 door... THe Late Bob CHase, Bill Cooper, Eric Mason, Norm Gunning, and a lot of great people are still there... Pat Boyle.. one of the best female anchors in radio. SHe's more than you hear on the air folks, she's the whip that keeps that newsroom humming. Plus the aforementioned Franke Lenzi.. and of course Mark Provost. Not to Mention Bill Bernsohn.. (a great radio writer) and Heidi Tauber and some other folks I've failed to mention. Let this be the lesson: Don't start a great format then screw around with it a few months down the road. End of rant.

Monday, May 30, 2005 6:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about podcasting? Anyone see a future in that?


http://www.portlandpodcasting.org

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 5:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feb-Mar-Apr Arbitrends
12+
KKCW 5.8
KUPL 5.3
KWJJ 4.9
KEX 4.6
KKSN 4.6
KPOJ 4.0
KXL 4.0
KGON 3.8
KXJM 3.8
KNRK 3.6
KINK 3.6
KUFO 3.3
KKRZ 3.1
KRSK 3.1
KRVO 2.8
KVMX 2.7
KFIS 2.5
KLTH 2.2
KPAM 2.2
KFXX 1.7
KWBY 1.5
KPDQ 1.1
KWIP .8

25-54
KKCW 5.9
KWJJ 5.8
KGON 5.0
KUPL 4.8
KPOJ 4.5
KKSN 4.5
KINK 4.4
KNRK 4.0
KVMX 4.0
KEX 3.7
KRSK 3.7
KUFO 3.2
KXL 3.0
KRVO 2.9
KFIS 2.8
KLTH 2.7

Sunday, June 05, 2005 7:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean KXL is barely in the Top 20 for the demographics advertisers love? No wonder all Lars Larson has is PSA's, penis patch and RotoRooter ads. How far the mighty have fallen. I remember when KXL owned news radio in this town... in a time we radio faces call B.L. -- Before Lars.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 2:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amused but not surprised by KXL's weak punch in the market. People can take only so much of these sons of Tricky Dicky who smirk, whine, and pander all day long. I dropped in long enough to hear Lars clucking about the Hispanic surname of a criminal suspect--not saying he's illegal, just saying he's Mexican--and I remembered why I don't even bother with KXL any more. At least they now have Fox Newscasts on the hour--none of that librul CBS, no sir. Surprised they don't play banjo music behind their ID's.

Thursday, June 09, 2005 4:28:00 PM  
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