Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Post-holiday scribblings (travel edition)

With the nation's 232nd birthday firmly in the rearview mirror, this is a good opportunity to catch up with a few happenings that we missed. And seeing as the Fourth of July weekend is a heavy travel weekend, and ridiculously high gas prices have likely kept many motorists closer to home, we here have decided to do the traveling for you.

Get your kicks on Route 66

From the 'blink and miss it' file comes word of what is arguably the most obscure liberal talk station in the country. KSZL (1230AM) is a little AM station smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I'm sure most people claimed the best thing coming out of Barstow was Route 66, in either direction. Well, supposedly, KSZL has been a pass-through outlet for Air America Radio programming since it adopted the format three years ago. For all we know, this station may still be running Air America, but nobody, not even a simple Wikipedia editor, has stepped forward to verify this. The only thing I've really found regarding current programming is that they carry Paul Harvey. Then again, is Paul Harvey still broadcasting?

Nonetheless, KSZL and its three sister stations have been sold by Roland Ulloa’s Dos Costas Communications, according to Tom Taylor at Radio-Info. The buyer is Dex Allen-run California Communications of Barstow, a.k.a. Dallas-based First Broadcasting Investment Partners. The selling price is $4.3 million. First Broadcasting specializes in upgrades and move-ins of existing stations. No word on the fate of their new acquisitions. Hell, I don't even know if KSZL's still running progressive talk (my guess is not). If there's anyone reading this that is in the know, drop a line, okay? After all, Google Analytics tells me that this here blog has gotten traffic from 53 countries around the world, in places like China, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya (lions and tigers!) and even Norway (crabs!). Certainly someone reading this must live in or has been to the California desert. Hell, even I've been there!

Northern Exposure

From the Mojave Desert, we now travel to the Alaskan coast, more specifically the remote state capital of Juneau. KXLJ (1330AM) is a fairly new sign-on, and allegedly, they are indeed carrying a straight feed of Air America Radio. This was one of the stations announced last fall by the network as a new affiliate, and supposedly, they signed on in February. To the best of my knowledge, they did just that, and to prove it, they even offer two streams (!!!) for their on-air signal.

The station's owner, Ketchikan Television, also owns the local CBS television affiliate, and once owned WKIZ, a former Air America affiliate in Key West, Florida.

Not quite the Great White North

And now we travel to Minneapolis, home to several of Minnesota's 10,000-plus lakes. A couple weeks ago, Minneapolis played host to the annual Conclave, a major industry convention where radio people gather to talk shop, listen to speeches, get drunk and pass around tapes and resumes. On Friday, Fargo, North Dakota's own Ed Schultz delivered the afternoon keynote address.

According to accounts by AllAccess and Radio & Records, Schultz doled out advice for aspiring radio professionals and managers alike, talking about his love of challenges and dealing with naysayers like the manager he said signed his release from his local Fargo contract in 2004 to allow him to go into syndication. The manager then crumpled it into a ball and threw it at Schultz, asserting, "You'll never make it."

The talker's pep talk also exhorted managers to encourage risk-taking and new ideas. "You want dreamers," he said. "You want believers. You want passion."

Schultz, who told the audience that he taped a television pilot sitting in the late Tim Russert's chair in Washington the previous day, joked, "How come this didn't happen to me when I was 40?" but answered, "I wasn't ready."

"You’ve gotta keep believing in yourself," Schultz said, tailoring his remarks to younger talents for the Conclave. He said, “I’ve got the best black Lab in the world” and says his dog “goes after rabbits (at his rural North Dakota lakeside home) the way I go after a radio show.” That is, with passion and fire in the belly. “Your reputation in this business is so vital, and I made mistakes that have come back to bite me.” He also dispensed more wise advice: “You don’t know who you’re going to be working with” in the future – so think before you talk and act.

In closing, he said "be willing to bet on yourself." After Schultz went into syndication, he had to pass up multiple opportunities to appear on cable talk shows because nobody in Fargo had a video uplink. So he and his wife sucked it up and invested $150,000 to get one. It paid off.

Head for the Rockies

Congratulations to KKZN morning host Jay Marvin, who was named Best Talk Show Host by both readers and editors of the print edition of 5280 Magazine in the publication's annual "Top Of The Town" issue, spotlighting the best of Denver.

The magazine noted that Marvin is among the few talk show hosts truly interested in having conversations with the listeners instead of yelling at them.

Speaking of Denver, the Colorado city will take center stage come late August as the Democratic National Convention will roll into town. And nominee-in-waiting Barack Obama announced yesterday that he will accept the nomination and close out the convention not in the Pepsi Center but down the street at Invesco Field, the 75,000 seat home of the Denver Broncos. Naturally, the news media is bitching about the logistics of covering two places at once, but seeing as they can immediately dispatch helicopters in the air to cover even the most mundane car chases and stake out camera crews outside of L.A. County Jail at the last minute to watch Paris Hilton walk out of lockup, I'm sure they should have no problem with getting a seven week heads-up to put a few cameras and microphones in an NFL football stadium.

Way down yonder down in N'awlins

Some snide jokesters are claiming that, like Obama, even Republicans can pack stadiums. Speaking of New Orleans, remember WSMB? The Entercom-owned station was formerly a progressive talk outlet. Following Katrina, the station flipped to a time-shifted simulcast of talk outlet WWL. With that idea not working out at all, and the flip of a local sports talk station to gospel music, the station spins the format wheel once again, this time picking up the ESPN affiliation and going all-sports. Okay, it's not all sports. The station will still continue to air Tom Fitzmorris' long-running "The Food Show." In afternoon drive. Must be a New Orleans thing.

How Swede it is

Sirius is evidently giving even more people a reason to subscribe to satellite radio. Yesterday, they launched a groundbreaking channel designed to attract even more subscribers. This thing could be even bigger than Howard Stern! So, what is this monumental moment in broadcasting? Well, they're devoting a whole channel to the music of (drumroll)... ABBA. Yes, ABBA. It's a movie tie-in, naturally, for this summer's scariest horror flick movie musical, Mama Mia! which could likely rival both Moulin Rouge! and The Blair Witch Project as the most irritatingly awful film of the past decade.

In what could provoke international outrage, Sirius' satellites do travel an orbit that can easily hit Guantanamo Bay, leading human rights observers to worry about cruel and inhumane torture techniques that could be carried out upon al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners being held there.

Nonetheless, pain aficionados can find ABBA Radio on Sirius channel 3. Hey, you know you want to listen...

Across America in a few keystrokes

And finally, you may have noticed a few minor changes to this blog. First, most of the major blog graphics have been moved to Google image servers (a.k.a. Picasa). That should speed up loading time somewhat. In addition, there is a slew of new stations added to the listings at right. Many of these new additions may carry only one or two liberal shows, such as Ed Schultz or Stephanie Miller. They were added in order to inform readers of stations in their home towns or whatnot that may be carrying these shows. For scheduling, please refer to the individual station websites (if they have one). Did you know that you can listen to Schultz in red states such as Oklahoma or Alabama? You can. Or that you can tune into the top 40 hits station in State College, PA to hear Miller in the late evening hours? Yep.

Be sure to check out the list (which should be somewhat accurate). Of course, many of the small town stations listed may also carry stuff like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, but hey - at least they carry some liberal talk. And that's getting somewhere, right?

And for those of you who like keeping up with comments (and that means you too, Mensa Man!), a widget on the left side of the page lists the five most recent ones. You can also subscribe to the comments feed by clicking here.

Happy traveling!


FSL said...

KXJL's website says they carry Randi Rhodes. Of course, maybe they haven't updated their website in a while.

Stations that take the straight AAR feed shouldn't be called "affiliates." They should be called "repeaters."

Big Ed is even more of a grifter than I thought. He won the lottery and now he's helping to rope in other marks for a dying industry that treats employees like dirt. The fact is because of Big Ed there is one less opportunity for a local host in each market that carries him. The same is true of every other syndicated host. The "naysayers" are usually right. But he makes a speech, collects his honorarium and the industry gets an endless supply of minimum wage board ops.

ltr said...

Turns out, there is someone out there who has listened to KSZL. Here's an email I got from a listener:

KSZL out of Barstow, California has been a stalwart in progressive talk for about three years. I first tuned in on my way home (central Calif.) from Vegas in '06 and again just last September. During my first encounter, I noted they had virtually no ads and some dead air and filler music with a straight AAR feed. Last year on our way to Vegas they had high school football that Friday night, then back to AAR after the local talent wrapped up coverage of prep football. They even had some reassuring local advertising when passing through the area late last year. There is a major military base located within the signal coverage, ta boot. Can only imagine troops huddled around the radio, listening to Randi (though not anymore)... I hope they stay on, because I would much rather listen to KSZL than I would Alex Bennett and Lyn Samuels on my Sirius radio, but that's another story.

Mikeg said...

Hello guys..yes Air America is alive and well in Barstow California. Its on 24 hours a day/7 days aweek! Dispite the many complaints from this primarily conservative town. Air America has has finally started finding an audiance after 3 long years. Dispite the many threats of boycotting the station from some local business, The Owner Roland A Ulloa, has stood strong behind Air America and its progressive stand on politics. And He will continue to support Air America as long as he owns these stations...until the new owners come and take the station key...."FROM HIS COLD DEAD HAND".....The community of Barstow would like to thank Mr. Ulloa for all he's done and wish him well.

Paul Harvey (or his annoying son) are not on the station anymore!, niether is rush limbo, dr laura, or dr dean edell---THANK GOD!

FSL said...

LT: I did see the widget and figured out its purpose. Good idea.

What does it profit AAR to lose XM and retain Barstow? I guess KSZL is an historical oddity of sorts: The last boondock weak stick turnkey to take the entire AAR feed.

Wait a minute: Ullola will continue to "support" AAR as long as he owns the station? But he's already sold the station, hasn't he?

The community would like to thank him? All 21,000? Then who are those people complaining?

Ullola, except for being on the other side of the fence politically, sounds like he has a lot in common with Zwerling: A guy with enough spare change that he can indulge himself with a hobby station.

I give the Drobny's credit. When they started, they too were people with money and an agenda. They were smart enough to learn they have to become broadcasters to make it work.

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