Columns appear in print in the U Entertainment Section of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Radio Column October 21, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

October 21, 2005

Ex Channel 5 airborne reporter Jennifer York joins KFSH-FM

Former TV reporter Jennifer York has joined morning personality Billy Burke to co-host on the “family friendly” KFSH-FM 95.9 “The Fish.”

York adds a vivacious female voice to the morning hours of the Christian contemporary music station. She is a familiar face to millions of Southern Californians after 13 years as a KTLA-TV Channel 5 airborne traffic reporter. Her accurate and clear reporting from “Skycam 5” on earthquakes, floods, fires and other breaking news stories earned her numerous Emmys and Golden Mike Awards. York first gained recognition as a radio traffic reporter for news station KFWB-AM 980. She is credited with being the first woman traffic reporter to fly in a helicopter.

“We’re very pleased to have such a well-known personality join the 95.9 The Fish family,” said Terry Fahy, Salem Los Angeles vice president and general manager. “Jennifer’s passionate persona and sense of humor will play well with Billy Burke’s energetic, easy-going style. We look forward to seeing the morning show’s popularity expand even further.”

Jumping from huge exposure on the number morning TV news program to a niche format on an Anaheim FM station doesn’t appear to be a step down for the multi-talented York. The synergy should work well considering she is also a professional electric and acoustic bassist who has recorded two CDs with the Christian rock band “Rachel, Rachel.” She has also recorded two jazz albums with her own “York Quartet.” The group has been together for 11 years, performing at jazz clubs and festivals throughout Southern California. They have opened for John Tesh, and most recently at the Anaheim Pond for Boney James, Macy Grey and Seal.

Tracey Miller Dies

Radio news anchor and talk show host Tracey Miller died two weeks ago after a three-year battle with cancer. She was 51. Miller co-hosted a morning news talk program with Terry Rae Elmer, “TNT in the Morning,” on KFI-AM 640 in 1990 after six years as a reporter for the station.

In 1994, she moved to KABC-AM 790 and co-hosted with Peter Tilden in afternoon drive and then mornings on “The Zone” KTZN-AM 710. For me, her best work was with Tilden on KABC, where her husky voice and wry humor was perfectly balanced with Tilden’s rapid-fire wisecracking.

This remarkable broadcaster is widely acknowledged to be a pioneer in news/talk. As a talk show host Tracey seamlessly shifted from serious news to humorous banter and was both a credible news anchor and entertaining personality.

Clear Channel radio heads roll in payola fallout

The investigations by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into “pay for play” practices and payola involving the Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Clear Channel radio programmers have reportedly resulted in two employees losing their jobs for misconduct and others are being disciplined.

Clear Channel, the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, is not naming the individuals or the stations involved.

Eric Boehlert reported on the problems at Clear Channel in a series of articles for the web magazine back in 2001. Most industry observers say payola – the practice of record companies or their agents bribing station programmers to play songs regardless of artistic merit or popularity - has been a chronic issue with pop music stations of all genres.

K-Earth 101 looking for a new program director

K-Earth 101 KRTH-FM 101.1 Program Director Jay Coffey has departed and the search is on for his replacement. Coffey is looking for a fulltime on air job along with voice over work after 18-years with the oldies station. Coffey also did stints as evening host and was music director under KRTH’s previous program director, Mike Philips. The San Francisco native was a bass player in a Bay Area rock band before getting the radio bug. After stints in smaller California cities, he landed a gig on legendary top 40 programmer Bill Drake’s KIQQ-FM in Los Angeles in 1977. Coffey joined K-Earth 101 in 1985 as a weekend host. He was most recently heard doing the overnight shift from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Radio Column October 7, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

October 7, 2005

PHOTO: Frank Pastore (left) and Terry Fahey
KKLA celebrates 20 years of Christian radio

Christian radio has come a long way since KKLA-FM 99.5 “The Spirit of Los Angeles” first took to the airwaves broadcasting from a tiny North Hollywood studio on Oct. 15, 1985. The station is celebrating its 20th anniversary next week.

Salem Communications, founded in 1974 by Edward Atsinger III in Camarillo, Calif., has grown to operate 105 stations nationwide. It has diversified from airing Christian teaching programs into pop music radio – Christian Contemporary and secular, conservative talk. Since going public in 1999, Salem’s healthy profit margins have won the respect of Wall Street analysts.

Salem has come to represent a significant counterweight to the generally secular, often anti-religious tilt of the so-called “mainstream media.” This has come in part by adopting mainstream media aesthetics to make the programming more appealing to general radio audiences. On KKLA, programs are introduced by presenters Jim Governale, Ted Ziegenbusch and Steve Geiger, who provide friendly chat and promote the rest of the station’s lineup.

This practice of making religious radio sound like “normal” radio was carried to a new level when KKLA launched an afternoon talk show, “Live From L.A.” in 1986. Ex-rock radio DJ and “Mighty Met” KMET-FM program director Warren Duffy was chosen as host.

“It was a big leap,” says Terry Fahey, Salem LA Vice President/General Manager who runs Salem’s LA “cluster” –KKLA-FM 99.5, KFSH-FM 95.9, KRLA-AM 870, KTIE-AM 590 and KXMX-AM 1190. “Basically we took three hours – that meant giving up a lot of time we had to sell [as block programs]. But it was a good compliment to what we were doing and the advertisers supported us.”

Duffy was succeeded by former Cincinnati Red pitcher Frank Pastore in early 2004. He is not what most people expect to hear on a Christian-themed talk show.

“We do everything from a Christian world-view,” says Pastore. “We do the news of the day, politics, pop culture, the silly stories as well as the serious.”

Broadcasting from “intersection of faith and reason,” Pastore brings a hard-charging, unpretentious yet passionate flair for religious and political debate to the table. He strives to dispel any preconceived ideas of Christians as wimpy “doormats,” who’d rather turn-the-other cheek than defend their beliefs in public.

“What motivates me is that Christianity is true,” says Pastore, who holds advanced degrees in political science and theology. “What was lacking before was the ability of Christians to articulate a political philosophy. Politics is theology applied. I’m getting back to our roots as to what it means to be a Christian patriot.”

KKLA’s block programs have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years. Even though the programmers pay KKLA to air their shows, the station has always been very selective, according to Fahey.

“We have had really good programming; we have syndicated bible and teaching shows – the best out there,” says Fahey, who has counted “Focus on the Family” with Dr. James Dobson as client since “day one.” Other programs airing on KKLA from the beginning include “Focus on the Family,” “Insight For Living,” “Thru the Bible,” “In Touch,” “Grace to You” and “Haven Today.”

KKLA, now comfortably situated in modern facilities in Glendale, attracts about 250,000 listeners a week, according to Fahey. The new KKLA Speaker Series is drawing as many as 1,500 to the events. KKLA has subscribed to Arbitron, the company that measures radio audiences for advertisers since acquiring news/talk KRLA in 1999. While KKLA does not enjoy “big ratings” – its afternoon show audience has nearly doubled since Pastore signed on as host in early 2004 – half of KKLA’s revenue is still derived from selling the longer-form religious programs.

This hybrid business model – selling both long form programming “blocks” along with 30 and 60 second spots – has helped keep KKLA’s revenues consistent and growing for two decades – avoiding the industry’s cyclical ups and downs that affect the bigger commercial stations.

Despite its close identification with the film industry, LA has the largest number of evangelicals in any major U.S. city - nearly a million, according to a new study by the Ventura-based research firm, The Barna Group. The study estimates there are also 3.6 million born again Christian in the greater LA area, leaving KKLA with plenty of potential listeners within reach of its 10.5 thousand watts of effective radiated power.

“This is exactly where I should be, where the battle is most intense,” says Pastore of his radio mission in the midst of Hollywood, the “Belly of the Beast.” “That’s where Paul went - to Athens and to Rome.”

Radio Column September 26, 2005

Listening In

By Sandy Wells

September 23, 2005

K-Earth 101 and KLSX host concert to aid Katrina victims

Oldies station K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) and FM talk station KLSX-FM 97.1 are pulling together and hosting an oldies concert at the Greek Theatre Sunday to help out victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Frankie Valli

The lineup looks like a blast. So far, the stations have recruited The Beach Boys, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, guitar legend Dick Dale with his 13-Year old “guitar prodigy” son Jimmy Dale, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, the Surfaris, actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, Dean Torrance (of Jan and Dean), Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night) and comedian Paul Rodriguez are slated to appear at the charity event. Come to think of it, now would be the perfect time for the 80s pop band Katrina and the Waves (remember their 1985 hit “Walking on Sunshine”?) to make an appearance.

“Our audiences are so diverse,” said KLSX/KRTH Operations Manager Jack Silver. “It’s good that we are able to promote this event on both stations. The synergy is getting better,” he added, noting that sister AM news stations KFWB-AM and KNX-AM are also helping to inform the public about the event.

The money raised by the two Infinity radio stations from the concert will benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

“We are truly grateful that we are able to help the people impacted by this terrible disaster,” said Frankie Valli, whose falsetto vocal work with the Four Seasons was a staple on AM top 40 radio in the 60s (“Walk Like A Man,” “Rag Doll,” Sherry,” etc.) and later as a solo artist (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and the 70s disco smash, “Swearin’ to God”).

The American Red Cross is collecting funds in greater Los Angeles and elsewhere, to support the disaster relief operation and has also been training local volunteers and sending them to the affected areas.

“So many times the Red Cross has been of invaluable assistance, helping those in desperate need as tragedies occur. It adds another level to what we are able to do as entertainers when we are able to participate in an event whose purpose is to raise money for such an outstanding organization,” said Beach Boy icon Mike Love.

More than a thousand families that have come to Los Angeles on their own from the hurricane area are being helped by the Red Cross. Over $750,000 in direct financial assistance has been offered to these families to help with their urgent needs for food, clothing and emergency medical items. The Red Cross has also placed especially desperate families in Southern California hotels to insure they have a safe place to stay.

“The Red Cross is responding to the largest domestic disaster in our 125 year history,” said Roger Dickson, CEO American Red Cross Los Angeles Chapter. “We are providing assistance to over 100,000 families. This is an enormous job. We are very grateful to Infinity Broadcasting radio stations, K-Earth 101 FM and KLSX 97.1 FM talk and all these artists for contributing their time and talent to help those that need it the most.”

Tickets are $40 and Ticketmaster is waiving all additional service charges for this event. For those with a little more cash to spare, a very limited number of VIP packages are being sold for $100. VIP ticket holders will have a chance to meet the artists.

“Music is the great unifier that brings people together in love, spirituality, sadness and joy. K-Earth 101 is so thankful that these musical performers are donating their talents to help our southern neighbors, especially since their songs have been such an important part of the soundtrack of Southern California,” said Maureen Lesourd, K-Earth 101 Vice President and General Manager.

Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets including Tower Records, Wherehouse Music, Robinsons-May and Ritmo Latino. To charge by phone, call (213) 480-3232 or (714) 740-2000. Tickets can also be purchased online at or at The Greek Theatre Box Office.