Media Watch

Once John C. Scott goes, will radio election coverage go with him?

There's always a trickle down public interest in the electoral process. The race for president dominates headlines, followed by the U.S. Congress, then governor and other state legislative races, and then the eventual crumbs left for local and regional contests.

So with that in mind, there's no real shock the coverage offered up by local electronic media would be as miniscule as it was for last week's City Council, school board and bond election.

Television has a bit of a built-in excuse. It recognizes a lot more people are interested in sweeps period prime time network programming, so with that in mind the occasional scroll with results on the bottom of the screen covered the bulk of their responsibility.

But local radio is a different animal, and many of the market's talk stations, which spent plenty of time during their local programming prior to the election espousing their agenda-driven perspectives on candidates and issues, could have utilized time in the evening schedule to provide updates and opinions related to the local election results. It's easier for radio to pre-empt its syndicated talk lineup and readjust the necessary national commercial responsibilities along the way.

Just one station bothered to do that. KEVT 1210 AM.

John C. Scott hosted an evening of local election coverage, and as usual, utilized his unrivaled radio experience in area politics to deliver a consistent flow of insightful analysis, even when inordinate amounts of time occurred between election result updates. He called on a knowledgeable panel that featured Emil Franzi, Jeff Rogers and others in the political know, and used it to carve out valuable perspectives on the area election machine.

Everyone else took the night off and prepared for the following day's lamentations.

That will certainly change for next year's election. Every talk radio outlet will offer up an evening block to analyze their take on the trickle down of federal and state election info. But when they had a chance to do it on a local scale, they all deferred.

Certainly, there are some differences to the dynamic. Scott brokers his show, which means he pays KEVT for airtime and then tries to turn around and sell advertisers spots. Many stations don't implement the brokered model, but that doesn't mean the opportunity wasn't available to provide coverage. They simply decided not to pursue it.

Fortunately, Scott did pursue it. Unfortunately, Scott is in his mid-70s, so how long he'll continue remains a constant unknown. When that election does happen, and Scott isn't behind the mic bouncing off results and their possible impacts with a panel of experts, Tucson radio listeners will be the ones impacted most.

Eh, it's only a half billion dollars ... in three months

A few years ago, Atlanta-based Cumulus Broadcasting thought it was an excellent idea to expand and buy a lot more radio stations. They purchased bankrupt Citadel, itself a pillar of electronic media business acumen, with its sights on better overall market penetration.

Basically, they were coming after Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia), which pretty much meant get a lot of radio sticks, put cookie cutter formats on them for every market at the expense of bothering to understand the nuances of a local landscape, and then wonder why ratings continue to decline. And why advertisers seem a lot less interested in the medium than the pre-millennium golden era, when more than likely most of the execs running these radio companies were cutting their teeth in enterprises that had nothing to do with the radio biz.

The results for Cumulus? By virtue of adapting this tried and true model of disaster? Um, not so good. Based on last week's release of corporate earnings, or more accurately, non-earnings, it's fairly clear why the company forced long-time head honcho Lew Dickey out the door.

Losing $542 million in one quarter doesn't seem a terribly effective business approach, and it doesn't help that just a year ago Cumulus posted a profit of $289 million during the same time frame.

For everyday investors, owning Cumulus stock has not been a pleasant experience. It traded in the 3.50 range a year ago. As of Monday it was steady at 29 cents.

While Cumulus isn't healthy on a national level, at least from a generic ratings standpoint, its stations are doing well in Tucson. Country format KIIM FM 99.5 rebounded from three terrible ratings books to deliver a top-of-the-market showing in the most recent summer book, classic hits format KHYT 107.5 FM routinely performs around the top-5, KSZR 97.5 FM has seen a significant uptick since its format flip to classic hip-hop and AM formats KCUB 1290 AM (sports) and KTUC 1400 AM (standards) do well against their respective direct competition.

Former TV critic really likes Broadcast News, and wants to share it with you

Alessandra Stanley will be on hand Thursday, Nov. 12 at The Loft Cinemas for a showing of Broadcast News, the 1987 film starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks that analyzed and satired the TV news industry.

Stanley considers it among her favorite looks into the world of journalism. She will be there to chat after the screening, which begins at 7 at The Loft.

This is the latest installment of The Loft's ongoing Journalism on Screen series, presented by The New York Times, the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, The Arizona Inn and UA School of Journalism.

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