The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

17 January 2007

Entercom Listener Contest Gone Awry, Sacramento, KDND, Jennifer Strange Death

TEN CANNED

After Listener's Death, Who's Being Held Accountable?






*** Major update below: homicide investigation opened! ***

In the wake of a now- infamous listener contest that left a young Sacramento mother dead, Entercom has fired ten staffers, including the KDND morning hosts who were present during the contest.

Given the severity of what occurred during this dangerous water- drinking contest, why have these sackings hit the lowest levels of the company? Why aren't upper- level managers accountable for Jennifer Strange's death?

And how about a personal apology from CEO David Field? Aren't Entercom's leaders ultimately responsible for properly overseeing their stations?


Compounding Entercom's rapidly accelerating public relations disaster are new revelations that KDND's morning jocks were well aware of the risks of this kind of contest. From Sacramento's Channel 13:


DJs Talk About Water Intoxication Risk On Tape


Steve Large Reporting

(CBS) SACRAMENTO A warning about the danger of water intoxication and even a prediction of death. It appears the DJ's involved in a fatal radio contest were well aware of the risks of drinking too much water during a contest in which listeners drank large amounts of water.

A mother of three died after the contest on the Sacrament morning radio show. CBS13 obtained a recording of the contest as it aired on 107.9 The End last Friday. CBS13's Steve Large listened to the four hour recording and reports on what went on.

"Can't you get water poisoning and like die?" Those words spoken by a 107.9 DJ before the water drinking contest even started. The question was dismissed.

Now 28-year-old Jennifer Strange is dead. The runner up in the contest died of water intoxication hours after it ended.

Donnie Logsdon was one of the 18 people the water drinking contest to win a Nintendo Wii game cosole. Now he's hearing the contest as it went over the air for the first time. "Shocked...I feel sick right now," Logsdon told CBS13 after listening to the show.

During the contest, a listener - self-identified as a nurse - called the live radio broadcast and warned that the game was dangerous.

"I want to say that those people drinking all that water can get sick and die from water intoxication," said the caller.

"Yeah, we're aware of that," replied a DJ. "They signed releases so we're not responsible, okay?"

Logsdon tells KOVR-TV news that they didn't hear that on-air warning in the room where he and the others were filling up way beyond comfort.

"Maybe she would have walked away," says Logsdon. "But we didn't hear that inside there."


For Entercom, it's clear this controversy isn't going to fade anytime soon. How soon will they recognize the serious damage this has done to their company's image and make high- level changes?

UPDATE - According to the Sacramento Bee, sheriff's deputies have now opened a homicide investigation:

Sheriff will review radio show death

By Christina Jewett - Bee Staff Writer

Last Updated 12:39 pm PST Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness, alarmed by audio recordings obtained by The Bee of the radio show contest that may have led to the death of 28-year-old Jennifer Lea Strange, has directed homicide detectives to look into whether a crime was committed during the water-drinking contest sponsored by the "Morning Rave" show on The End radio station (KDND, 107.9).

McGinness has said previously that he did not believe a criminal case is warranted because Strange took part in the contest of her own free will. However, after The Bee obtained a recording of the four-hour, 40-minute radio show that showed radio hosts discussing the possible dangers of the contest on air the sheriff said he believes a closer look is warranted and that his detectives will investigate. McGinness said there is the potential for a manslaughter charge if investigators find radio hosts did not render aid to Strange. McGinnis said he is meeting with District Attorney Jan Scully's office, also.

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11 Comments:

  • And how about a personal apology from CEO David Field? Aren't Entercom's leaders ultimately responsible for properly overseeing their stations?


    Yep! for once I agree with Brian.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 17 January, 2007 14:30  

  • MOP, sounds like a good idea to me. Question is will David Field offer the mea culpa? I'm not too sure about that, though. Even if he does it will be delayed and done in some kind of corporate speak.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 17 January, 2007 17:41  

  • And now for the cynical point of view on the story...

    No corporate honcho apology will make up for the loss of a life, nor should it have to, because this whole mess should never, ever have come to this. A symbolic "I'm sorry, so so sorry, please accept my apology" (/Brenda Lee) will do no good in this situation. The firings have pretty much gone as high as they're going to go on this one, unless it can be shown that the GM had knowledge of the exact nature of the contest and the exact dangers involved. Proving "knowledge" is a tricky business in broadcasting, and very difficult to establish.

    As to the media...

    Much of the heavy-duty TV reporting on this case has come out of both KOVR-13 and KMAX-31, both of which are owned and operated by CBS Television. Why is that important?

    KDND's main rivals on the SMF FM dial are CBS' KSFM-FM 102.5 and KZZO-FM 100.5. The local CheapChannel stations are more adult-oriented or talk radio, and Cumulus doesn't have much of a foothold locally.

    The latest development - the SacCo Sheriff opening an investigation - has pushed the story once again to the top of the local news, but KCRA-3 (NBC) and KXTV-10 (ABC) had pretty much (pardon the pun) had their fill of the story, but KOVR-13 and its simulcasts on KMAX-31 were still five-wide on the story. Coincidence? Well, anytime you can bash your rival over the head with its own stupidity is always most tempting to take, but 13/31 have been over-the-top on this one IMHO.

    Looking at the story from beginning to end, Entercom has been utterly stump-stupid in the way that they have handled the controversy, making Infinity/CBS look positively brilliant in the way they handled Opie and Anthony's previous depredations on WNEW/NYC.

    IMHO, the entire station leadership should have been cleaned out. Entercom has multiple divisions and could have easily filled in the leadership from elsewhere. Besides, that station is automated anyway, so very few day-to-day programming decisions are made. But, true to its corporate mindset, Entercom probably felt that canning everybody involved would be a tacit admission of "guilt," which of course cannot happen in a situation like this in CorporateRadioWorld.

    But what does it say about a society which, ostensibly for the want of a gift to children, people would knowingly put their very lives in danger for that 15 minutes of fame?

    There once was a time when, on the FM dial, it was the music that mattered. I would hope that the stations here in Sacramento, and others nationwide, heed the grim lesson learned out here by KDND and one unfortunate family who lost their mother merely for the want of a video game console.

    By Blogger JD, at 17 January, 2007 20:16  

  • "Much of the heavy-duty TV reporting on this case has come out of both KOVR-13 and KMAX-31, both of which are owned and operated by CBS Television. Why is that important?

    KDND's main rivals on the SMF FM dial are CBS' KSFM-FM 102.5 and KZZO-FM 100.5. The local CheapChannel stations are more adult-oriented or talk radio, and Cumulus doesn't have much of a foothold locally."

    Interesting point, there. Wonder what kind of stunt the last two stations mentioned tried that made KDND want to do what they did?

    "Looking at the story from beginning to end, Entercom has been utterly stump-stupid in the way that they have handled the controversy, making Infinity/CBS look positively brilliant in the way they handled Opie and Anthony's previous depredations on WNEW/NYC."

    And look what happened to WNEW-FM? After the St. Patrick's debacle and generally low numbers, it became a horrid format called Blink, then Rhythm-based AC as Mix 102.7 and now it's AC as Fresh 102.7 competing with Clear Channel's WLTW and ABC's WPLJ and in some essence Cox's WEZN Star 99.9 in the NYC and Bridgeport markets.

    And as for the WNEW calls--they're gone. WNEW-FM is now WWFS. Which means for the first time pre-1934, there's no WNEW in NYC--on AM or FM. The AM station at 1130 signed off in 1992 and is now Bloomberg's WBBR. For that matter, it's been 20 years since Fox took over Metromedia's WNEW-TV and changed it to WNYW.

    Speaking of the station that boasted "Where the melody lingers on", there's a website dedicated to the memory of the home of The Milkman's Matinee and Make-Believe Ballroom:

    http://www.wnew1130.com/

    And jd, there was a time when no doubt the music mattered. But the music industry is interested in putting out garbage for music and shoving it down our throats. It's become more fringe than ever before--too techno and FAR TOO MUCH RAP for my taste.

    Now I put down NPR, despite working for them. But there is one station I tune in now and then--90.7 WFUV--The Fordham station. And yes they stream at their website:

    www.wfuv.org

    There's music you don't hear on any of the corporate stations.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 18 January, 2007 07:39  

  • "...FAR TOO MUCH RAP...."

    There, I agree....but that's not even considered fringe for New York anymore...

    As far as the contest....isn't it laying on a little too much responsibility on the station and the hosts to say it's their fault this girl died? I say it, only because a few weeks ago, a 12-year-old got killed while spraying graffiti on the Long Island Railroad....and the parents promptly went out to file a lawsuit.

    If we all did what today's radio hosts encouraged us to do, wouldn't we all be dead now?

    To me, this sets a dangerous precedent...you have to be responsible for your own actions, no matter what wacko contest someone comes up with, no matter how much contempt they have for the listener.

    Would Orson Welles have been able to do "War of the Worlds" without getting his pants sued off for it, nowadays?

    Nobody should let any media figure dictate their actions, even in the name of entertainment....

    Just a different angle...

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 January, 2007 08:28  

  • I agree with Pat world on that, WFUV is an great station, only FM station I listen to becides WBAI in NY. Finally a common ground between me and a righty!!!

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 18 January, 2007 09:36  

  • WBAI flips back and forth during the course of the day....commercial FM radio programming (as it is) is as responsible for the death of terrestrial radio as exclusively partisan talk radio will be of AM terrestrial...

    I do enjoy "Shocking Blue", with Delphine Blue on WPS1 Radio and East Village Radio...

    WFUV, while too over-folky at times, gets props for solid and consistent programming choices without tears, and histrionics....

    The New York market is big enough to support good taste without redundancy and pandering, but never do they get it right (and this is not a new concept, it has been this way for years...)

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 January, 2007 10:18  

  • Common ground - I feel the love between MOP and Patriot World.

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 18 January, 2007 10:27  

  • Hehehehe
    politically never, but musically seems to be the case

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 18 January, 2007 10:59  

  • "Would Orson Welles have been able to do "War of the Worlds" without getting his pants sued off for it, nowadays?"

    Hash, Welles' script would never have made it past the Third Assistant VP of Legal Affairs.

    Had he tried to go extemp, he would have been dumped in favor of potting music before the Martians laid foot one down on terra firma.

    Feh.

    Whoever first said, "Send lawyers, guns and money" probably meant for the money to pay for the guns to mow down all the lawyers.
    _____

    My personal haunts for proper music are WUCF/Orlando (Jazz) and KPIG/Watsonville-Santa Cruz - streaming at KPIG.com with just un-frakkin'-believable music.

    By Blogger JD, at 18 January, 2007 23:23  

  • Morning shows in general are junk. Asking people to do humiliating and often dangerous stunts for concert tickets, CD's Gaming consoles nothing worth risking life and limb for. This poor dead woman got what? Justin Timberlake tickets.... *gag* Locally here we have a choice of Lex and Terry or Ass kisser and Ass as I like to call them and The T&A show with Tommy and Abbie. L&T play no music and are so obnoxious they pretty much disgust me. T&A play some music and aren't nearly as obnoxious mainly due to Abbie's influence, (she is a babe). They both have their pathetic hanger on regular guests who do anything and suffer any humiliation for their prescribed 15 mins of fame. At any rate thats just something I put up with in the car on the way to work. The afternoon program on the drive home is much better although the stations are reversed in their palatability. At work or home I listen to radioioeclectic. Radioio has several streaming stations that cater to almost any musical preference you could wish for. Its comercial free if you pay for it and comercials are minimal if you get it for free. Their eclectic station is a mix of all pretty much good music most of which I don't hear anywhere else from genres as diverse as country western to rap to alternative. All very easy to listen to. Cheers, good listening and death to all morning shows.

    By Blogger astolpho, at 19 January, 2007 09:02  

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