The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

03 April 2005

Coverage Mixed Bag So Far

Big News Not Top Priority
Radio Cheapskates Pick Reruns, Infomercials Over Pope

(Newly updated: Sunday afternoon with listener reports)

I've been monitoring network radio coverage of the Pope's passing. So far, a mixed bag:

ABC: no rampant Catholic-bashing in early reports, no focus on perverted priests, a lot of good background material on sentiments in Poland, on his history, including refusal to join the Nazi Party and his anti-communism crusade. Tact, depth and fairness on a level I'd like to hear more often from ABC News.

Anchor even mentioned his association with Reagan on the effort to defeat the Iron Curtain and liberate his homeland. Comments on White House and Congressional reactions.

CBS: similar, a little bit dry as usual, but good analysis, heavy on guests.

listeners report KOMO-AM continued to air the Seattle Mariners preseason game rather than cut away to live network and/or local news coverage. Not smart for a station that wants to be the radio news leader. Report also that KIRO-AM, my former employer, went back to restaurant show after news broke. The station has recently mostly abandoned issues-talk, in favor of infomercial-like specialty shows, on weekends. KVI-AM went with live coverage.

Boston: local talk show host Scott Alan Miller openly attacks Pope just hours after his passing, blaming him for the various crises in the Boston Archdiocese, lacking any amount of tact or respect for the circumstances. He blamed the Pope for the scandal involving child-raping priests, made no attempt to include John Paul II's history of working with the Reagan Administration to fight communism and brought few, if any, actual facts to the discussion.

Not a person in tune with his station's audience and how they might be feeling at the moment. It was tacky and counterproductive to say the least and this program became more hate-filled as the evening continued.

Providence: listener reports say once-successful conservative talker-turned Air America disaster WHJJ-AM stuck with reruns of weekday talk shows rather than cutting away to the news. This was once a major radio station in Southern New England, now in ruins.

Any other reports from the front on how Pope John Paul II's passing is being reported? Post them below or continue to send emails (

This should be a lesson for news-talk stations running canned reruns on weekends, that big events repeatedly happen on Saturday and Sunday, including the death of Princess Diana, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the passing of President Reagan and now the Pope's death as well.

Cost-cutting on weekends makes these stations sound second-rate and listeners do take notice.


  • As one who went out of his way to listen to the final postgame show of spring training, I was thankful that KOMO shunted their Pope stuff over to KVI--a fact they noted every few minutes. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that KOMO has some contractual obligations to the Mariners that they had to fulfill. And I guarantee you that the M's bring them more $ than anything else.

    By Anonymous Timothy, at 02 April, 2005 19:50  

  • Tim:

    These contracts usually allow for break-ins for major news situations.

    The smart thing would be to move the game to KVI and let KOMO live up to its supposed "news leader" station imaging, very important in radio.

    It's the worst judgement call I've ever seen KOMO make.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 02 April, 2005 20:10  

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