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

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Radio Column October 20, 2006

Listening In

October 20, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Award-winning KNX reporter Luis Torres looks to new life in theatre, public radio

Luis Torres, award-winning radio journalist, filmmaker, record producer and aspiring playwright, is a man of two contracts.

Thanks to one good contract, Torres has been to take early retirement from his nearly quarter-century career at KNX-AM 1070, allowing him ample time to pursue a new life as a writer and playwright. He also has a contract with the prestigious Mark Taper Forum to complete a musical based on the songs of the brilliant 1990s album by the East LA band Los Lobos, “Kiko.”

“It’s a love story basically. I extracted characters from some of the songs on the album,” says Torres of his collaboration with songwriter and longtime friend Louie Perez. “They are really extraordinary songs.”

Torres, who plays guitar – “well enough to know how poorly I play” –produced an album for the band ‘a million years ago.’

“It’s an exciting process working on a play. I’ve written non-fiction most of my life. We’re in the final stages of the last draft.”

The show is “in development” with an eye towards a major production in 2008 at the Taper.

Torres is also in discussion with KPCC-FM 89.3, the non-commercial public radio station based in Torres’ hometown of Pasadena to work as a radio journalist. While he has a few reservations about moving into the world of public radio where he finds the “slightly elitist tone a little off-putting” he is nonetheless interested in reconnecting with his passion for news and the stories that continuously bubble up in what he calls the “cauldron that is our city.” He has worked there in the past as a substitute host on “Talk of the City.”

Torres’ career at KNX came to an end after he was called into a meeting with the new News Director Julie Chin about a month and a half ago. He was told he wouldn’t be doing any more reports on Latino affairs in Los Angeles.

“I had been doing three to four minute pieces on Latinos in LA about writers and musicians. The idea was to get people ‘in the tent’ in this city that is 50 percent Latino. I asked her, ‘Is this for the time being? Is it permanent?’ I was told, ‘I don’t have to justify myself to you.’ It was clear to me what the atmosphere there would be.”

After a brief period of reflection, Torres, a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, winner of a George Foster Peabody Award, five Golden Mike Awards, a duPont-Columbia award, an Edward R, Morrow Award and four Greater Los Angeles Press Club Awards, decided to “look for other things to do.”

“I was there for over twenty-five years – I took three years off to teach – and much of my time there was terrific. I think I’m a good reporter and this is a great city. The last couple of years hadn’t been all that much fun for me anyway – and I don’t mean that in a frivolous way, but it was not fun.”

For one thing, he found it frustrating that reporters were being asked to cut the time of their reports in half, doing in 30 to 40 seconds what they used to do 60 to 90 seconds.

Torres says he finds the change of direction at KNX puzzling, likening it to the ‘kids in the sandbox’ approach to journalism he sees on the KTLA-TV channel 5 morning show. Whatever the ultimate goal is, he thinks KNX should make up its mind.

“If you’re going to be a news organization, do news. If you’re going to do something else – call it something else.”

In the meantime, Torres says he having the time of his life, catching up on reading, working on his new musical and helping his wife complete her book, “Teatro Chicana” about Latino activist theatre in the 1970s.

“I’m very happy,” says Torres.

Howard Stern for free online

Sirius Satellite radio is offering some prime content for free over the Internet for a two day period next week to launch its Sirius Internet Radio (SIR).

To publicize the availability of SIR, listeners on will be able to hear The Howard Stern Show and Stern’s two 24/7 channels without having to pay the subscription fee on Oct. 25 and 26th, as well as commercial-free music, talk, entertainment, and sports programs. Listeners can go to to register for a free trial of Sirius.

“Howard being available live for the first time ever to a worldwide audience is an unprecedented event in the history of radio,” said Scott Greenstein, Sirius President, Entertainment and Sports. “Listeners can now get what they have been missing: Howard at the top of his game and more than 75 channels of the best radio on radio.”

Friday, October 13, 2006

Radio Column October 6, 2006

Listening In

October 6, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Hip hop Syphe and Eric DLux move up to Power 106 drive time

Hip Hop Power 106 (KPWR-FM 105.9) made the official announcement last week that it had decided to promote from within to fill its afternoon drive 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekday show.

“After an exhaustive national search, I couldn’t be more excited with the results!” said Emmis VP of Programming and Power 106 Program Director Jimmy Steal. “Syphe and DLux have been simply done an outstanding job filling in and I’m pleased that we were able to promote within.”

“Syphe” and “Eric DLux” filled in during the search for a new team and were so popular the station management decided to give them the job, according to a station spokesperson.

(Eric DLux and Syphe)

Both Syphe and Eric were raised in the Los Angeles area. Syphe attended Pasadena’s Blair High School but sidestepped college to focus on hip hop music production and mixing. He credits include a sound track for a Nike commercial. Eric DLux attended Carson High School.

They started out as part of Power 106’s street team known as “The Flava Unit.” About a year and a half ago, they got a chance to host their own weekend and overnight programs, eventually being promoted to evenings.

The pair joins long-time afternoon personality Tito, the real life janitor-turned radio sidekick, who keeps the atmosphere light with his homespun humor and distinctive Mexican accent.

Syphe and DLux fill the shoes of the Goodfellas – who kept the station in the top tier of the afternoon ratings for seven years. Romeo and Dejai have since moved from Power 106 to hosting evenings on R&B/hip hop KDAY-FM 93.5.

The 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. timeslot will be covered by Miguel Barrozo who arrives from San Francisco’s popular KYLD-FM on Oct. 16.

“This is a dream come true! I’m looking forward to moving to Los Angeles and joining Power 106!” said Borrozo.

Satellite vs. HD

Although satellite subscription radio has managed to acquire about 14.4 million subscribers, or about five percent of the American population over the last few years, new research indicates the growth may be tapering off.

A new study released by Bridge Ratings found that 48 percent of consumers with XM or Sirius satellite radios in their car did not plan to renew their subscriptions after their three to twelve month free trial ended. About 30 percent who purchased their radio at retail – either after market for their car or a home radio also did not plan to renew.

The Stern factor also appears to be fading. After all the hype last fall leading up to the launch of the Howard Stern Show on Sirius, Stern has managed to capture about 1.2 million subscribers. That’s about half of his estimated 2.5 “most loyal” terrestrial radio listeners, according to the study. By the end of last month, the Stern effect was accounting for less than 20 percent of Sirius sign-ups.

One analyst quoted by the study said that U.S. carmakers, struggling to maintain market share, are less generous in their promotion of satellite radio.

Another factor slowing satellite radio’s ascent may be the growing awareness of HD radio, which offers many extra channels at no cost.

Once you’ve invested in a radio with HD reception, you’re done. There are no subscription fees. You now have a radio that can pick up two HD signals where there was once one channel. For instance, you can hear HD KMVN 93.9-1 (“Movin’ 93.9) playing Rick Dees and rhythmic adult contemporary music (the same as on FM), while its HD second channel on 93.9-2 offers the KZLA country format (without the DJs). If you like pre-Beatles, “good time” oldies which K-Earth 101 no longer plays, you can hear them on KRTH-FM’s second HD channel: 101.1-2; and still listen to what the FM version of K-Earth 101 plays in pristine HD by tuning to 101.1-1. More than thirty Los Angeles-area stations are broadcasting in HD now, or will be soon.

Bidding with Star 98.7’s ‘Lounge for Life’

Last night, Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM 98.7) held a concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood to benefit City of Hope Hospital’s breast cancer research. On the bill were Ray LaMontagne, Jewel, Train and Teddy Geiger.

Today, the station begins running an on-line auction to benefit the hospital where you can bid for autographed guitars from the Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Snow Patrol, Jewel, INXS and many other items on the STAR 98.7 website:

The Star 98.7 Lounge presented live in-studio concerts since 1996. Many of the performances are available on the station’s CD collection which you can purchase online at the Star 98.7 website.