The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

15 March 2006

St Louis, Missouri, Providence, Liberal Talk Radio


Failure To Learn From Past Mistakes Proves Costly

When managerial incompetence finally succeeds in killing off this still-popular radio format, what cause of death will be chiseled into talk radio's tombstone?

--- Will it have been the undermining of experienced talk radio programmers, by company managers who wrongly believe anyone can run the stations?

--- Or, corporate-mandated, low-quality syndicated talk shows that have displaced local hosts nationwide?

--- Or, as threats emerge from every possible direction, owners and managers who have no idea how to adapt?

While those remain key industry missteps, a lack of institutional memory is the most likely final nail in talk radio's coffin. If it didn't work a few years ago, what's different now?

Sadly, that never seems to stop these talk novices from wasting time and money, relearning someone else's past mistakes.

Need examples? Out of this week's news, here are two:

Unlearned lesson one: unless grandfathered-in via a longstanding, loyal "heritage" audience, talk stations need to choose a side: liberal or conservative.

Common industry knowledge for at least a decade, switching between right, left and sports shows is akin to playing classical, hip-hop and rock music on the same outlet. Audiences don't stick around.

Yet look what just happened in St Louis (via St Louis Media):

KRFT flips Wednesday ... from RadioOnline: Big League Broadcasting is launching "Talk Radio 1190," a new Talk outlet in St. Louis. Beginning tomorrow, Sports KRFT-AM will flip to a lineup of nationally syndicated talk programming, including Don Imus, Neal Boortz, Al Franken, The 2 Live Stews, Jim Cramer and Dave Ramsey. Big League also owns Sports/Talk KFNS-AM & FM (The Fan) in St. Louis.

"We are extremely excited to launch a second station in the St. Louis Market, especially with such a dynamic lineup," says VP/GM Evan Crocker. "There is something for everyone, from political talk on both ends of the spectrum to a brand new form of sports talk that brings a new level of energy to the genre. One thing is for certain - Talk Radio 1190 promises to be unpredictable and never boring."

How many Neal Boortz listeners are going to stick around for Al Franken? Or for sports and financial talk?

On the same radio station, that's at least four different formats, a recipe for disaster.

Unlearned lesson two: if it didn't work six months ago across town, it's probably not a good idea for your station!

Providence's WHJJ-AM was a previously successful Clear Channel conservative talk station that made an ill-fated decision to go liberal with Air America programming. After bleeding nearly to death, it finally pulled the plug on most of the shows.

Instead of returning to conservative shows, however, the station went milquetoast. The result: no ratings recovery.

So what did highly-rated, longtime conservative competitor WPRO-AM do? After years of right-leaning programming in the midmorning slot before Rush Limbaugh, it has imported an out-of-state liberal!

Excerpted from the Providence Journal:

WPRO-AM has hired Dave Barber, an outspoken, sometimes controversial talk show host from Flint, Mich., to take over the morning slot formerly held by Steve Kass.

WPRO general manager Barbara Haynes said the station heard about Barber through Holland Cooke, a radio consultant (and former WPRO DJ) who lives on Block Island.

Pullen said Barber has a flair for publicity -- but not all the publicity has been good.

In 2000, Rebecca Crossnoe, an employee at Barber's then-radio station, WFDF-AM, sued Barber and the radio station for sexual harassment. The Michigan state attorney general's office investigated but did not file criminal charges.

The Flint Journal reported the case was settled out of court.

"That's wrong. The woman dropped the suit against me. I didn't settle anything," Barber said. "I didn't pay her one cent. . . .the charges were completely false."

Barber said he didn't know if the radio station paid anything to the defendant. Crossnoe's attorney, Andrew J. Bean of Detroit, did not return phone calls.

WPRO's Haynes said she was aware of the case, did some research of her own -- she declined to specify exactly what that entailed -- and went ahead with her decision to hire Barber.

In 2003, Barber was charged with impersonating a peace officer at a bar in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Flint Journal reported the charge was reduced to illegal possesion of a law enforcement badge, and Barber paid about $100 in fines and court costs.

The Flint Journal said Barber had been given the badge by a former Michigan county sheriff who had issued hundreds, maybe thousands, of them during his administration.

Barber said the badge was visible in his wallet when he went to pay his credit card bill, and another patron at the bar made an issue out of it.

Haynes said she was not aware of the incident.

Unlike most talk show hosts these days, Barber usually comes at issues from the left, not the right. Pullen called him "a blue collar populist."

Barber is a close friend of film provocateur Michael Moore, although Barber said that doesn't mean he agrees with everything Moore says.

On his last day on the air, Barber spoke to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat. She was just back from the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., so Barber asked her about Rhode Island Governor Carcieri.

Granholm said she happened to be on a panel with Carcieri. "Had I known, I would have warned him about you," she said.

"He'll be a good subject for you. You are gonna love it. He's a conservative Republican, and he's gonna have a lot to worry about with you coming to Providence," Granholm said.

"Can you imagine that I've spent my entire life in Michigan, and the one time I pick to move I pick a state that has a Republican governor?" Barber said.

Aside from the questionable background and unwillingness to admit he's a liberal, if Barber's so great, why was he stuck in Flint for 30 years?

Beyond carrying Limbaugh, WPRO's strength has always been in providing an uncommon alternative to Rhode Island's hopelessly corrupt Democrat political machine. Because he serves as a rare check on their power, the station's listeners support Governor Carcieri a great deal.

Barber will be foolishly fighting the tide and WPRO will suffer greatly from this ill-advised move.

Thanks for your continued and vital Radio Equalizer support, via Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of what you ultimately order!


  • Those are the lamest graphics I have ever seen in a blog post. Evidently, B.M. wants desperately to join corporate America and generate loads of yawn-inducing PowerPoint charts using clip-art from the 1980's.

    Isn't this blog pathetically funny in its outlook? A rhetorical question, of course -- the pathos is what keeps us coming back.

    By Blogger @whut, at 16 March, 2006 01:24  

  • I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I think the goofy pp style graphics made sense for the story. Maybe these radio big wigs need everything fed to them pp and dumbed down.

    By Blogger Lonewatchman, at 16 March, 2006 02:53  

  • With Franken's show coming to St. Louis, that would make 79 actual local broadcast affiliates presently carrying some if not all of AAR's programming by my count, and 78 that carry Franken's show.

    Does anyone know how much revenue Franken's show actually generates for AAR? Does it come anywhere close to covering the costs to AAR of producing Franken's show?

    By Blogger Ironman, at 16 March, 2006 09:44  

  • WJNO is the top talk station in West Palm Beach, and features Rush, Glenn Beck, Randi Rhodes and Ed Schultz.

    By Blogger Justin, at 16 March, 2006 11:46  

  • By Lonewatchman, at 16 March, 2006 02:53

    --I agree

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 16 March, 2006 12:49  

  • If you knew the St. Louis Market, you'd realize that this station has potential to bring new revenue to the owners. The station had been running Sporting News Network and was used only as a dumping ground for programs that would conflict with big brother 590 KFNS.

    Imus can't possibly do worse than not showing up in the book. Boortz is likely to be the stations shining star. The Two Live Stews add an urban appeal the station never had before.

    It seems to me that it is being programmed like a Television Station. Who watches NBC all day? You tune in for shows.

    By Blogger _Gassoff, at 21 March, 2006 11:52  

  • Why do so many wingnuts hate Air America? Because it's the only place where you will hear the truth and people get pissed off when they hear the truth.

    Brian Maloney is bitter because he can't get a radio gig. All he can do now is attack others. He was fired in Seattle because he's conservative talk guy who has a very effeminite voice which doesn't ring very true when you're harping about no equal rights for gays.

    By Blogger veal, at 21 March, 2006 17:02  

  • This Guy does not know Sh*t!
    ...East coast bloggers already think they know about Dave Barber's

    Originali posted to by jason48420
    It just really bothers me that people out there talk as if they know anything about what Dave Barber is about. His opinions may not be popular to everyone, but who's are?? And it also bothers me when people say stuff like "So why was he stuck in Flint for 30 years?" Dave Barber is from Flint. He was born and raised here. It's home. I am sure he has had dozens of offers over the years to move on to larger markets and he turned them down. He liked it here. He couldnt imagine doing radio anywhere else. And now the people in R.I. are dumping all over him. No wonder he stayed in Flint all this time. Why move 1000 miles away for that kind of garbage? If I were Dave, I'd tell this guy who wrote this blog to kiss my a$$. just my $0.02.

    By Blogger Flintoid, at 02 April, 2006 17:01  

  • Dave Barber, Michael Moore and Ryan Eashoo.. Three Peas in a Pod. All crazy Democrats, and big time Liberals.

    They all three come from Flint Michigan!

    I hope they never come back to Flint Michigan.

    By Blogger FlintMan1969, at 05 September, 2006 20:30  

  • Dave Barber had Ryan Eashoo on his talk show numerous times. Talking about Michael Moore.. One time all three of them were on the show at the same time. They talked about how bad Bush is, and how bad america is.

    By Blogger FlintMan1969, at 05 September, 2006 20:31  


    Obama is going to make you and JOE THE PLUMBER pay REPARATIONS!!


    What do we want?REPARATIONS!!
    When do we want it? NOW!!!!

    Obama going to get you!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 October, 2008 22:20  

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