KNST AM 790, the market's radio talk leader, has solidified its morning lineup and hired a new program director.
Garret Lewis will handle the station's morning show beginning Feb. 1. Chris Patyk is on board as program director.
"We felt in 2009, we fortified the lineup of the station. We felt like there was a weakness in afternoon drive, and we worked really hard to get Glenn Beck on KNST," said Clear Channel Tucson operations manager Tim Richards. "When Jim Parisi resigned in the fourth quarter, we evaluated what the future of the station would look like, and wanted to bring the best morning show in to complement the rest of the day. We feel Garret is all of that, and we're very excited."
KNST has been the market's news/talk leader for years. It sports the most recognizable syndicated lineup in the business, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Beck, who it wrested from KCUB AM 1290 over the summer. However, of late, it has dealt with a significant challenge from talker KQTH FM 104.1. In addition to its FM clarity and strong numbers from local morning host Jon Justice, KQTH has performed well in key areas such as the valued 25-to-54-year-old demographic, whereas KNST's strength has been with Tucson's elderly talk listeners. Lewis is a focal point of a concerted youth push.
"What we really need to do is establish around Garret and build on that. I think Garret's going to bring an entirely different vibe," said Patyk.
Lewis accepted the morning position at KNST after a five-year stint with KWTX AM 1230 in Waco, Texas.
"I'm on the younger side of that 25-to-54 demographic," said Lewis. "It's about doing a quality show. Just by energy—whether it's the image of the show, the music, the topics, the attitude, how quick it moves—that tends to grab younger people in, but it's still entertaining enough in topics relevant to people closer to 54. You can have that whole range in there.
"The bottom line is just being entertaining. If you can be entertaining, and you do your homework, I think the success speaks for itself. The attitude of the show is entertaining, insightful and smart, yet we'll not hesitate to rip people who need to be ripped, as long as it's in an entertaining, somewhat mature way. The show will not be afraid to take on anybody."
Lewis' willingness to pick sides is an attractive component for KNST after the departure of Jim Parisi, who left in December for KVOI AM 1030, which allowed him to pursue an Internet television talk-show venture along with his radio gig. While the Parisi separation was amicable and not something KNST management wanted to happen, there were concerns that he straddled the fence occasionally with his on-air persona.
"The station obviously leans conservative, and our previous morning show probably played the middle ground more than we're going to play it here," Richards said. "Garret has strong opinions, very intelligent, and all of that blends nicely with the rest of the lineup at the station."
As is the case with most locally produced talk shows, Lewis will focus on issues pertaining to Tucson and Southern Arizona while discussing topics featured in national headlines.
"In a city like this, there is a lot to talk about locally. If I could do local all the time, that would be great," said Lewis, who worked as a producer at KFYI AM 550 in Phoenix prior to his tenure in Waco. "At the same time, a lot of national stories are local. Health care can be considered a national story, but it can affect every person who lives in Tucson, so that's an example of a topic that can be national, but definitely localized. You have to do local, but it has to be entertaining. I wouldn't do a local story just because it's local if it's not going to grip people. You can't be boring."
But don't expect a Tucson version of Michael Savage in the morning.
"I'm not one to do an angry show," Lewis said. "I don't think good radio is yelling. Good radio is the ability to have a disagreement with someone, if they have a disagreement. I'm not here to save the world. I'm not here to convince you you're wrong, and I'm right. We can debate it. We can talk about it with a smile on our faces, and we can do it (while being) entertaining and funny. You're going to want people to listen. There's too much in talk radio that's yelling and angry and shockish in an unintelligent way. My show is going to be fun. It's going to be hard-hitting—the whole spectrum. It's going to be three hours every morning where you don't know what's going to happen next, and that's what will keep people tuned in."
Said Richards, "I couldn't be more excited to have him at the station. Long-term, he has a great future ahead of him, and I think he could be a syndicated talk-show host in the years to come. We're really excited about what KNST is bringing to the listening audience in 2010."
Meanwhile, Patyk will also act as program director for KWMT FM 92.9 The Mountain and COOL 1450 AM (KWFM). Patyk was operations manager at KUFO and KCMD in Portland, Ore., and has programming experience with stations in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
"The opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people and be close to family and friends couldn't be passed up," said Patyk in a press release. "This is the city I was born, raised and started my career in. It's great to be back. And it's great to see the sun again after a couple of years in Portland!"