Being in management is no walk in the park…
Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions based on your opinion of what’s right or wrong, and you need to have the courage of conviction to stick with those decisions when the going gets tough.
So says, longtime Kansas City radio chieftain Bob Zuroweste.
Not only has Zuroweste borne witness to some of the toughest calls in KC media history – like when former general manager Herndon Hasty blew up KY102 – he’s been smack in the middle of some of the biggest, baddest, most controversial radio controversies here of all time.
Knocking classical station KXTR off FM and onto an obscure AM signal, blowing up Smooth Jazz 106.5 FM and converting it to country music, axing Royals broadcaster Fred White – to name three.
To Zuroweste’s thinking, it wasn’t so much a case of Walt not deserving to be on the air as it was of KCUR general manger Patricia Cahill not having the gumption to stick to her guns and do what was right.
“In my opinion, Walt was only allowed to stay on the air because Cahill wasn’t strong enough to stick with her decision,” Zuroweste says. “When somebody in management makes their decision, they need to stick with it and not let the vocal minority or somebody’s friends pressure them into reversing their decision.
“Was it Walt Bodine‘s fault that he wanted to die by the radio mic? No, it was his passion and he loved what he was doing. You can’t blame Walt Bodine. He loved radio and he loved what he did.”
Nor was it KCUR or Cahill’s fault that Bodine sucked in his later years, their job was to act in the best interests of the station.
“Part of running a business is making unpopular decisions,” Zuroweste says. “Channel 9 fired news anchor Christine Craft in 1981 and got national news exposure and a lawsuit from her that cost the station a half million dollars, yet they still stuck to their guns and she didn’t get rehired.”
Kinda like Zuroweste’s decision on KXTR.
“Oh my god, you raked me over the coals in the Kansas City Star on that one,” Zuroweste says. “My wife even gave me grief on that one. She put a ‘Keep Out’ sign on the bedroom door – she studied classical piano as a child – and I even had a guy try to pick a fight with me at a restaurant on the Plaza in front of my family.
“I was with my wife and three young kids and some guy comes walking up to me and said, ‘Are you the fucking jerk that took KXTR off the air?’ Finally I stood up and put my face in his and looked down at him and he backed off. But I mean, he put his hands on my shoulders like he was pushing me and said, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.’ And my son was 8 or 9 then and he said, ‘Dad, you almost got in a fight. Why?’
“I had death threats. One guy said, ‘Somebody’s going to find you in an alley for doing this.’ So of course I can understand how difficult it was for Cahill, I’ve been there.”
Then again, Cahill may have had threats from financial backers of KCUR as well.
“We did too,” Zuroweste says. “We had a major, Kansas City-based insurance company call and cancel everything they had with us on all nine stations. It was a $100,000 plus hit and they didn’t even advertise on KXTR because they told us it didn’t fit their demo.
“Do I understand why Cahill bowed to the pressure? Yes, but you have to expect that and you have to deal with it and move on.”