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March 19, 2004

BizJournals is a site worth registering for because it provides you with a wealth of good information about cities and towns all over the country. For those of you not registered, though, here's an excerpt from a recent story in the Denver edition. The article explains how and why a 'both sides' talk radio station is becoming ever-more conservative.

KNRC 1150 AM riding out rough airwaves of change

Denver-based KNRC (1150 AM) isn't even 2 years old, yet the talk-radio station has had more than its share of turnover and turmoil -- mostly in the past two weeks.

Through either resignation, firings or layoffs, KNRC has lost a program director, morning talk show host, evening talk show co-host, reporter and promotions.

The most dramatic departure was the resignation of Greg Dobbs from the morning talk show, arguably the most important time slot of any talk station.

Dobbs was well-regarded for his experience as a longtime ABC News reporter and provided a balance for the "hear both sides talk" format the station promoted. Dobbs was considered more left-of-center in an AM talk world dominated by conservative talk shows.

For the record, Dobbs left because of serious health problems.

NRC has permanently replaced Dobbs with one of his temporary replacements, conservative Jimmy Lakey. Some listeners have written the station, asking why NRC did not hire Reggie Rivers, who filled in for Dobbs when he was first on leave. Rivers did not want the job and NRC couldn't force him to take it, Brown said. The CEO has been trying to respond personally to every e-mail he has received about the decision.

"We'll recover -- I hate to use that word, but Jim has big shoes to fill," Brown said.

More changes followed. Shortly after Dobbs resigned, program director Alan Eisenson decided to leave in what Brown called a "mutual decision." Eisenson's contract was going to expire in March anyway, and the station supported his move, Brown said.

NRC promoted afternoon host Doug Kellett, also a conservative, to program director. NRC canceled the weeknight "Dominick and Bill Show," with co-hosts Dominick Brascia and Bill Thorpe. Brascia was fired, Brown said. Thorpe will stay on as an assistant to Kellett and may help Lakey out in the morning. The syndicated, conservative "Michael Reagan Show" now fills that timeslot.

Michael Reagan? He's dreadful.

Here's the kicker:

Lee Hood, an assistant professor in broadcast journalism at the University of Colorado, said the move toward right-of-center ideologically reminds her of the national success Fox television news has earned following that format. KNRC may just be making a sound business decision, she said.

"[Fox] found a significant audience being conservative and not apologizing for it," Hood said.

Fox has received criticism from journalism purists who say it shouldn't take a side, but it's built an audience.

It always gets back to ratings. Why don't liberals listen to talk radio? Or do they all listen to NPR, the way I do?

The article goes on to say they're moving away from an actual news-station format to...I'm not sure what. Something more informal. Chattier. Less based in actual fact. When I turn on talk radio, I'm looking for facts. Presumably the audience this station is searching for won't be.

We're told that they've bought 8 FM stations (subject to FCC approval) in Colorado mountain regions. One assumes they're hoping to push their format out to a wider audience.

Ratings are currently at less than 1% of the Denver listening audience, so we can only speculate whether or not toward opinion and away from fact will draw more of their target audience.

We also learn that notorious conservative Philip Anschutz is bankrolling the station.

Interestingly enough, this same Qwest-founding billionaire has also just snapped up the San Francisco Examiner, the free, five-days-weekly tabloid. Sources close to the man himself (he never grants interviews) says it's just wrong to think he might want to influence editorial opinion on the paper.

And checking out the newspaper's site leads me to the story of The Bushman.

Tourists beware: The Bushman is back in business.

On Thursday afternoon, a jury acquitted Fisherman Wharf's growling leafy leaper of four criminal misdemeanor charges of being a public nuisance.

An hour later, The Bushman -- whose real name is David Johnson -- was back on Fisherman Wharf's Jefferson Street, celebrating with a fresh branch, a milk crate, a money bucket and crowds of easily amused visitors.
"It's incredible to behold the joy and the laughter again," he said. "In a way, it felt like Jesus going to the cross. I was fighting a crime I didn't do."

With that, he did what he has been doing for 25 years: He jumped from his crouched position with an improbable growl that sent two women scurrying sideways like a couple of crabs.

"This cracks me up," said Marcello Bernal, a 21-year-old Sacramento resident who was drinking a Heineken out of a paper bag and eating chowder from a sourdough bowl. "Man, this is the best dollar I ever spent."

Johnson, 51, grew up in Indiana and worked on Market Street as "Dr. Shoe Shine" before experimenting with various street performance styles. He tried the silver robot thing for a while, and then one day in 1980 he saw some freshly cut branches in a dumpster.

"I saw the branches, and I saw dollar signs," he said.

Thus Johnson created The Bushman -- and the controversy. Standing behind a camouflage of tree branches, The Bushman's performance consists of waiting for an unsuspecting victim to approach before leaping up and startling them.

He figures he has been arrested close to 1,000 times, but it wasn't until new public-nuisance laws were passed that the cops and the District Attorney's Office had the power to give Mr. Bushman a real scare.

In late January, Johnson was locked up five times in five days in a concerted effort by the police and the District Attorneys Office to once and for all rid Fisherman's Wharf of The Bushman's antics. The action followed years of complaints by a handful of area business owners.

Across the street Thursday, two business owners shook their heads at the acquittal. Simon Lee, who owns Golden Gate Leather, and Ted Kim, proprietor of Graceland Gifts, said The Bushman's crowds of onlookers blocked their front doors and scared away the elderly.

"People think it's funny, but not if you have heart disease," Lee said. Other merchants said they were glad The Bushman was exonerated.

"It's a lot of fun," said Eric Chen, owner of Lucky Gifts. "People stop in front of my store and watch The Bushman, then maybe they come in and buy something."

Juror John Conley said that the jury was not all that sympathetic to The Bushman's plight during the trial but that the prosecution and police presented a weak case against him.

Conley said many jurors found The Bushman "sadistic" and thought there was something unseemly about wanting to watch others get "scared and humiliated." But the police had not kept written records of the number of complaints lodged against The Bushman, and the prosecution's two witnesses were unconvincing.

"They were asking us to believe estimates of complaints when it was clear all they wanted to do was get rid of this guy," Conley said.

Central District police Sgt. Carl T -- he recently legally changed his name from Carl Tannanbaum -- said cops would continue to watch The Bushman.

"I think he crossed the line from street artist and street performer," he said. "It goes beyond annoyance into a realm of criminal behavior."

While the rest of you are debating whether this guy should have been locked up for being a public nuisance (there can be little doubt that he is one), I'll be over here in the corner, wondering why Carl T made such an unlikely name change.

Back to the BizJournals, take a look at this. It showed up in the Denver edition under the headline, "Bush wants to limit risk from SBA venture capital program" and was longer than this on-line version, by the way. The essentials are here, though.

Bad investments made through the Small Business Administration's venture-capital program will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion, according to the White House's budget office.

Bad investments made through the Small Business Administration's venture-capital program will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion, according to the White House's budget office.

SBICs say they lost money for the same reason conventional venture-capital firms lost money: the high-tech collapse and the economic slowdown.

But the president wants to limit the government's future risk by increasing the SBA's share of profits in SBIC's equity investments by 300 percent and charging SBICs a lot more for the use of the government's money.

The proposed changes would kill the equity investment program if they are enacted, said Lee Mercer, president of the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies.

Private investors would not invest in SBICs because their returns would no longer be worth the risk, he said.

Remember this when people say Bush is all about supporting business, and you can shout triumphantly, "Not small business, he isn't!"

Also, a comment earlier from Jonathan Dresner reminded me that I hadn't had the chance to check out Cliopatria since I got back to town and so I did and now I'm telling you to go on over and read all of the recent posts, all of which are good, but especially to read this one as Jonathan takes on one of my favorite topics - rhetoric. Specifically, the kind of flawed thinking that makes so many of us so difficult to talk to about serious issues. Numbers 1, 4, 6, and 8 are all pet peeves of mine.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:37 PM