The big switch in Bay Area talk radio went off this morning with a few hitches. First, KSFO announced that, beginning today, it was replacing Rush Limbaugh with a former Republican Arizona congressman, J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth was a talk show host at KFYI in Phoenix up until two years ago when he quit to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against John McCain.
Hayworth repeatedly told listeners during his 9-noon time slot that he was “live and local” though it wasn’t clear if he was doing his show from here or Arizona. (Update at 2:35 p.m.: SFGate’s Debra Saunders says Hayworth will do his shows from SF this week.) And there was a gaffe 30 minutes into the show when listeners heard two minutes of dead air.
Among other changes at KSFO, morningman Brian Sussman’s sidekick, Tom Benner (known on the air as OV or “Officer Vic”) is gone. Media blogger Rich Lieberman says Benner was fired on Friday, presumably as part of cost cutting by station owner Cumulus Media.
However, Melanie Morgan is back on the KSFO morning show after that station dumped her in 2008 in an earlier round of cost cutting.
Limbaugh started this morning at Clear Channel’s 910 a.m., which is changing its calls from KNEW to KKSF and branding itself “News Talk 910.” A month ago, KGO abandoned it’s longtime moniker “News Talk” when it fired most of its talk hosts and switched to all-news from noon to midnight.
Later today, two recently fired KGO staffers were to start their shows on News Talk 910 — attorney Len Tillem from 3 to 4, and Gene Burns from 4 to 7.
However, Lieberman reports that Burns
suffered a mild stroke experienced a medical problem and will replaced this week with other former KGO personalities:
- Today (Jan. 3): Bill Wattenburg
- Wednesday: Gil Gross
- Thursday: John Rothmann
- Friday: Rosie Allen
Meanwhile, Ben Fong-Torres, who covers radio for the Chronicle, described the meeting on Dec. 1 when KGO management fired its hosts.
- Ray Taliaferro, Gene Burns, Gil Gross and John Rothmann, who, along with Ronn Owens and Len Tillem, composed KGO’s roster of weekday talk show hosts, were summoned to a meeting on Dec. 1 with news and program director Paul Hosley and new VP/market manager Bill Bungeroth — individually, they thought, to discuss their shows.
- It was only after they arrived, and saw each other, that they learned they were attending the same meeting.
- At the appointed hour, Bungeroth appeared, with Hosley by his side, and, without any pleasantries, informed the four veteran broadcasters, along with several producers, that KGO was changing formats and that their services were no longer needed.
- He referred them to a human resources staffer holding envelopes for each of them, containing papers and final checks.
- And then, after confirming to a puzzled Taliaferro that he would not be on the air that night, he left.
- The four men, whose service ranged from Taliaferro’s more than 35 years to Gross’ four, may have been professional talkers, but they were speechless. One was in tears.
- Finally, after a few handshakes and hugs, they cleared out their spaces, surrendered their keys and departed, leaving shocked fellow staffers behind.
- And happy holidays to you, too.
- “It was quite devastating,” said Taliaferro. “The whole meeting took maybe 2 minutes and 45 seconds. When you think of who we are, and how we were big ratings grabbers for a number of years …”