A win for Rush, a loss for journalism

In my Saturday column, I wrote that Kris Olinger, Director of AM Programming at Clear Channel here in Denver, decided not to add a left-leaning commentator during KOA’s morning newscast to balance Rush Limbaugh’s daily commentary.

This was disappointing because, in a previous email exchange, which I discussed in a previous column, Olinger seemed open to making her show more balanced journalistically. See my latest exchange with Olinger below.

From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2008 10:45 AM
To: ‘Olinger, Kristine’
Subject: Rush Commentary
Hi Kris …•
Last Saturday, I wrote a column (Read it here, if you want.) about the one-minute commentary by Rush Limbaugh on Colorado’s Morning News.
I suggested you add a commentary by Jim Hightower every other day to balance Rush’s conservative views. (Listen to Hightower here.) This would be in keeping with the journalistic values of KOA’s news department. I’m not suggesting you balance your talk lineup on KOA, just the commentary during your news program. Some readers thought I was suggesting that you need to add Hightower to your talk lineup.
Readers of my column suggested that talkers from AM 760 be given a one minute spot, but I assume this isn’t practical, since they don’t have one-minute commentaries ready to go. I could look into this, if you think you’d possibly use any of them.
So I’m writing to ask if you’re willing to broadcast Hightower?
Again, I respect very much your willingness to consider him and other options to balance Rush.

From: Olinger, Kristine
Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2008 3:56 PM
To: jason salzman
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary
I’m sorry it’s taken awhile to get back to you.  We’ve been busy with conventions etc.  I’m familiar with Jim Hightower.  I don’t think he’s the right fit for the Denver market.  He certainly doesn’t have the following or name recognition of Rush or Paul Harvey and he would be an expensive addition.
Beyond that, I’m curious why you’re not demanding that we air a conservative viewpoint on AM760 Colorado’s Progressive Station or that NPR add more conservative content? 
Kris Olinger
  From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Sun 9/7/2008 4:00 PM
To: Olinger, Kristine
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary

Hi …•
My point is that Colorado’s Morning News is a newscast that reflects journalistic values of fairness, except there’s a daily conservative commentary in the middle of it that’s not balanced by a liberal commentary.  I’m not saying you need a liberal talker on KOA for three hours to balance Rush. I just think that, in keeping with the journalism that you present on Colorado’s Morning News, you should offer a commentator from the left as well as the right.
There’s no newscast on AM760. There’s no news show like CO Morning News.
Please see my column for a longer explanation here.
From: Olinger, Kristine
Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2008 9:20 PM
To: jason@effectcommunications.com
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary
 Hey Jason,
First things first.  AM760 does carry newscasts.  From 6a – 10a we carry a CBS cast followed by a local cast Monday – Friday.  We carry a CBS cast every hour the rest of the day.  We carry a significant amount of CBS long-form coverage on national events.  Do you listen to the station?  Have you ever listened to AM760? 
You neglected to respond to my question about NPR…specifically in morning drive.  I’d like a response.
Finally, in answer to your concerns about Colorado’s Morning News, I read your column the day it was printed.  My issue with you has always been your lack of knowledge and accuracy about radio, not your viewpoint. 
See AM760 correction above and your lack of response to the NPR question.
You seem to have some admiration for the 850KOA News Department but still can’t help yourself from taking shots.  Colorado’s Morning News is not an ALL NEWS radio product such as WCBS or KCBS.  It is more like a newspaper (horrors) or a TV morning show that covers a lot of ground.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  Yes, KOA leans right and male.  That’s the audience we serve.  We cover a lot of sports (horrors) because that’s what our audience wants.  What audience does the Rocky serve?  What audience does the Denver Post serve?  Do the newspapers include “fluff” as you call it?  That would include features on anything from rock concerts to gardening to home improvement to movies to silly feature stories about Paris Hilton to features about Health or Kids?  Does that content take away from the hard work both newspaper’s reporters do each day?  Come on.  Can our anchors do better.  Of course, we can all do better. Should they robatically deliver only the “news”  every morning for four hours?  I don’t think so.

Finally, Rush is as entertaining as he is political.  Like it or not, he has a huge following and we will continue to carry his commentary and show as we will continue to carry Mike Rosen’s “tease” during CMN and his show.

I still want an answer on NPR and I would like you to include AM760 and KHOW in this debate.  Clear Channel Denver is offering listenings great options with KOA, KHOW and AM760.  Aren’t we?

Love the debate (horrors).  I think it’s healthy.

Kris Olinger

From: Jason Salzman
Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2008 9:58 PM
To: ‘Olinger, Kristine’
Subject: RE: Rush Commentary

Hey, I like a debate, too. And I respect you for answering my questions. Thanks.
  Yes, I listen to AM760. It’s got a puny newscast, nothing like Colorado’s Morning News. It’s not comparable. No reporters. The CBS cast is completely different. I’m glad you’ve got CBS and the headlines during Marvin, but if you’re looking for breaking news and serious news reports and fair-minded interviews in the morning in Denver on the radio, your choice is really KOA or KCFR…-though KCFR is much more about the national news from NPR and much less from Denver.

Still, your question about KCFR’s local newscast is more relevant, but please point out how it’s biased. I don’t hear a conservative or liberal commentator on the show every day with no counterpoint. Colorado Matters, the local interview show on KCFR, is journalistically sound, but it occurs outside the newscast anyway.
 I like CMN. I’d personally like less sports and fluff, and I like less in the newspaper, too. But I still like CMN partly because there’s at least an effort to be fair and accurate. (I try to be fair and accurate, too; please point out all errors you spot in my column. I’d really appreciate this.)

You’ve got two conservative commentators “teasing” during CMN. Their “teases,” especially Rush’s, amount to a political message embedded in your newscast, which otherwise strives to be fair. This degrades your show. Why not add a liberal commentator, as you initially said you might do, if you found the right one. Why isn’t Hightower right?
 Yes, I know KOA leans right. That’s ok. But your newscast, which acts like it’s a journalistic enterprise, shouldn’t lean right. Do you disagree?

Does CMN lean right?

Olinger never replied to my last email above, and she was too busy to talk to me on the phone the day before my column deadline last week.

I give her credit for engaging with me, but I still don’t understand why she won’t air Hightower…-if she wants Colorado’s Morning News to look more like a serious journalistic effort. I mean, why not, given that she understands the need for balance on her show?

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