18 October 2004

State of Talk Radio in the Valley 2004

A belated roundup this year, so many changes to the local talk radio scene, had to wait for the dust to settle and the microphones have swapped around a lot over the past year. KFNX 1100 AM became a major player in the market, grabbing a big share of the Valley audience with a vastly improved all-local talk lineup that bested rival offerings. But then when 1010 AM made the switch to Air America national, progressive talk radio programming, that dumped syndicated talkers Michael Savage from the Phoenix market. Mike Barna and KFNX then jumped at the opportunity to nab Savage, Jerry Doyle and Tammy Bruce, discarding their previously heralded all-local lineup. Bad move I believe, but then again, I'm no fan of nationally syndicated programming and prefer to listen to local talent. KTAR 620 AM was a bit battered by the new competition, it seems, as it said goodbye to longtime talker Preston Westmoreland. Ted Simons assumed Westmoreland's position and Bruce St. James, in turn, was given Simons slot.

While it may rankle the ream of righties that revel in the all-conservative KFYI 550 AM programming, the local shows there will rate at the bottom of my list. The criteria I am applying is simply what appeals to my ears – I like to be intellectually challenged and enjoy listening to intelligent folks share their thoughts. Not that the host has to be a PhD, just that the airing of independent takes is permitted or interesting guests booked. Blindly parroting talking points of another is a quick way to get me to tune out, no matter which partisan side presenting. Engaging dialogue with reason, with thought provoking discourse. I accept that market forces often dictate the converse; more are satiated with Jerry Springer than a CSPAN Booknotes show. Nor does it mean I have to agree with the host and a majority of program callers – again, I desire to be exposed to many different perspectives, potentially bringing light to matters I may have been oblivious to, or overlooked, locked into my own stance. Or maybe just learn about something I didn't know about too much before.

Now, onto the roundup.

  1. Vernon L. Bolling – A victim of new KFNX lineup changes, but in protest, I'm placing Vernon at the top of the list. The Vernon L. Bolling show was a perfect illustration of what talk radio can be, a meaningful forum where contrasting views can be broadcast, and harmoniously discussed in a civil way. I reckon many would rather hear a host bloviate answers and belittle callers dissenting, but a superior approach is to ask the proper questions and conduct a meaningful dialogue. Truly, that is the method of affecting consensus. Good luck to Vernon and I hope he ends up somewhere on the radio dial.

  2. Nikki Buchanan / Steven Gregory – The best programming on KFYI 550 AM is relegated to the 4-8 PM time block on Saturday night, where the AM listening audience is at off-peak status. If I happen to be stuck in an automobile at that time, it certainly is a treat to tune the dial for the On the Menu and FYI Guy programs. Banter on the valley's restaurants and Gregory's enjoyable take on the entertainment industry. Too bad that quality can't carry over to the sorrowful weekday lineup at KFYI.

  3. Bob MohanBlow out the phones, the weekly hour where Bob gives each caller 30 seconds of uninterrupted time and all the wackiness in the Valley gravitates onto 1100 AM, alone gives Mohan high marks. Then there's the possibility that Mr. Mohan will blow his top at the remote reference of cell phone squawking, SUV driving soccer moms or a young men wearing a baseball cap backwards, dining in a restaurant. Upon his reentry into the Phoenix radio market, he seemed to become easily unglued at the variety of callers on the new station, opposed to the steady stream of GOP drones he was dealt during his lengthy KFYI employ. But he's settled in, and even accounting for over-emphasis on Moonie Times propaganda pieces, his show is still worth a listen.

  4. John Dayl – A wise sage and longtime Valley talker, polite and respectful to callers, but recently banished to weekend duty to make room for controversial host Michael Savage. Despite the frequent phlegm pauses, the opinionated Dayl still provokes callers from all ideological stripes. He's been like a cockroach burrowing through the Phoenix talk radio scene, so it will be no surprise when he lands somewhere else on the dial, or shuffles into a new schedule shift.

  5. David LeibowitzReal Life is an informative, balanced show. I gave David top honors in last year's roundup, but am downgrading for this go-around. Increasingly, it sounds like Leibowitz is auditioning for his own MSNBC news program, plunging head first into the center stream, celebrating the status quo. On the plus side, David does a good job giving time to state and local issues and is internet savvy, keen in dispensing the hot topics circulating in cyberspace. But, critical study seems to elude him, and he's exceedingly eager to parrot the conventional news organization banter, even when empirical data from the frontline illustrates the contrary.

  6. Mike Newcomb – "Nuke'em" Newcomb is a rising star, literally erecting KFNX from infomercial alley to prominent AM player by himself. A year later, and my, how times have changed – he's not paying for air time now as he did initially, and is featured in drive time, albeit now sandwiched between conservative Mohan and the radical right Savage. On second thought is a fast paced program, jam packed with callers, including a steady fare of irate callers, vexed over the presence of a liberal talker on their Arizona radio. The program could be worthier if Dr. Mike included more topics of local interest and let up a little on the Democratic talking points – it's irksome, no matter which partisan hack is dispensing. Still, it's refreshing to hear a partisan hack from the other side, as the ratio now is probably 6,438 to 1. Newcomb earned Phoenix New Times Best Radio Talk-Show Host award.

  7. Charles Goyette – The switch to morning drive time not agreeable for Charles, as his program is much more suited to afternoons. There's too much information to assimilate, with the variety of guests and need to pack in traffic reports, extra ad time, and extended news. He's brought on candidates for all the major parties, and is eager to expose stories that are cast aside by the mainstream media. Goyette is better when he stifles his penchant for protracted pontification and allows callers and guests to share their thoughts without abruptly aborting their participation in a opprobrious way. He's getting better in that regard, but still, much room for improvement remains.

  8. Ted Simons – "Leibowitz Lite", needs to lose the Larry Gaydos bits. Decent show, strives to sport the "fair and balanced" streamer.

  9. Bruce St. James – It's been nearly several months since St. James hopped aboard the live and local KTAR host line, but he still doesn't have a bio posted up on the KTAR website. Perhaps he's just a temporary fill-in until a more suitable host is signed. I haven't sampled enough of St. James to pronounce an evaluation, sparing that he's an improvement over anything on that 550 station.

  10. Jay Lawrence - Not even sure if he's on the air anymore, he's been preempted quite a bit. His KTAR web page is outdated (my, the web site deal for KTAR is indeed lame, though the other stations are not much better, still sporting circa 1996 style presentations…). Jay schedules topical shows with involved parties, especially on the local slant.

  11. Bruce Jacobs – Love him or hate him, there doesn't seem to be a middle ground here. Personally, loved listening to him doing sports talk but he's way out of his element doing current events talk. But he's better than the rest of the weekday KFYI lineup.

  12. Joe Crummey – Joe's got his own USENET newsgroup too, though it's deteriorated into mostly Britney Spears spam. A great radio voice, a shame that it's wasted in the Clear Channel echo chamber.

  13. Liddy & Hill"Shiddy and Shill" is the place to be, if you all itch for is incessant inculcation of all the daily GOP talking points. Listening to their jocular coverage of the DNC convention was a humdinger of hilarity where the pretense of objectivity was most laughable. A died in wool Republican delegate and son of convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy (who besides the Watergate case, allegedly plotted to assassinate journalist Jack Anderson, in the service of Nixon). Liddy, is the smooth talking lawyer man who easily disposes of what little screener setup is shoved at him, and Hill plays the quintessential Ed McMahon.

  14. Barry Young – The passion for the job has been completely drained from Mr. Young. About the only thing of significance remaining here is the colossal ego. Everything about the show is stale and crusty, from the platitudinous monologue to the inured and soporific callers. And that includes the interminable seventies style audience sound effects.

Willy Bills, Willy Bills, Willy Bills… …still no sign of the legendary radio man…


Overall, quite an excellent article, and very well written! Kudos!

I agree with your take on Vernon L. Bolling. He was definitely the best local talk host. I am sure he'll end up on the air somewhere. Hopefully, we can stream him. I disagree with your 2nd choice of Buchanan and Gregory, (fluff). I would have placed Mike Newcomb 2nd, with "Blow Out the Phones" 3rd, Other than for BOTP's, I would have placed Mohan 5th for his entertainment value. 4th place would be Charles Goyette for his stance on the war in Iraq, and for his tenacity in sticking to the truth for so long when he was pretty much alone in that position, (aside from a few left-wing talk hosts). I don't particularly care for "Charles Angels." Blah, blah, blah, and fluff.

I completely agree with you about Liddy/Hill, Bruce Jacobs, and Barely Young. Although, I would place Jacobs at the bottom of the list for his gross ignorance, ludicrous jabber, startling illiteracy, and his perverted obsession with Brittany Spears. Barely Famous is a joke! When is he retiring? At least he gives the listener something to laugh at, him!

I agree with your position on KFNX, becoming a "major player." And, a fine one at that! I also agree with you on KTAR-pit taking a dive. When is KFYI going to take a dive themselves? They suck. They've hung on to that fat-ass, hypocritical, racist, Rush Limbaugh. What a waste of air time. They definitely are at the bottom of the list.
I barely have to ever change my dial anymore since KFNX has come to valley. It's what the old crew at KFYI used to be. I enjoy the lineup from Tammy Bruce - Jerry Doyle on KFNX. As long as too much doesn't change there I'll be a steady listener. I have to agree with author that Barry Young lost his fire, I stopped listening to him about a year ago, I don't know if it's the corporate structure he hates or what. Something definatly changed in his radio show, most of KFYI lost it's fire when the coporate structure came in. It's the same stories Bush/Kerry blah, blah, yawn!
Thanks for ther info. I'm new to the state (never heard that before, huh :)

I nearly flipped my lid when 1010 went for Air America. I read theat on a press release first. I posted that it seemed like hell hd got a little colder with the news.

You're abolutely right about local talent. There's absolutely nothing better to talk both about local and national issues (and non-issues) I was spoiled in Washington ovr this.

I've been listening heavily to Air America. Mostly because I want to support the greart decision - and because it's entertaining.
Regarding John Dayl's problems with phlegm, is there some reason that KFNX can't afford to provide him with a microphone that has a cough button?
Local talent??

I spent a week in New York City recently and had days mostly free, so I scanned the radio dial there. What a pathetic wasteland -- there were many "local talent" broadcasters on talk shows, and they were boring as hell. It was a joke. The city that boasts being among the major centers of Western Civilization lacked radio worth listening too.

I've long thought this hue and cry for more "local talent" on radio is just a rebellion against right-wing oriented radio talkers who are nationally syndicated.

Local talent is not necessarily better or more interesting. In fact, I don't even listen to the local talent here in Phoenix, on KFYI or elsewhere. Never even tune to KTAR. The nationally-syndicated Leftist talkers are better than the home grown Leftists, for that matter.

The absolutely fabulous Phil Hendrie Show is now heard on AM 910 Sports Radio from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. weeknights. He has political views all over the board, but his satirical bits range from great to priceless. He is Robin Williams on radio.

Dennis Prager (10 a.m. KKNT) and Phil Hendrie are the two radio programs I most enjoy and go out of my way to hear.
It's waaaaayyy past time for the "merely heinous Barely Hung" (a.k.a. Mr. Kim Komando) to pack it in. Infatuated w/the sound of his own voice ... arrogance to burn ... relies entirely too much on the "caller mute" button to make himself sound smarter than he actually is.

What KFNX needs to do is bring someone like Mike Barna back in to stop the madness there!! The brokered talk format is embarrassing, and the station would be so much better with local, entertaining news shows. The incessant chatter of holistic docs and pseudo psychics paying tons o' money to inflate their already inflated egos is just horrid to listen to. Even KXAM has outdone KFNX in that department. I find the only thing worth listening to on KFNX is John Dayl in the morning. For something mindless and somewhat fun (with some great giveaways and silly contests) during afternoon drive, check out the Jeffry O'Brien Show on 1310 KXAM. It's a hoot, and is sure a break from the sound-alikes on KFYI and the yawn inducing KTAR crew. I tune in to KTAR only for the DBack's games. Enough said??
Either update this page or cut it down.

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