Hearne: Star Intern Stubs Toe on KCPT ‘Bridge’ Puff Piece

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 2.31.43 PMThere’s a reason fledgling journalists don’t get many  front page story assignments…

That being it takes time and experience to sharpen the skills and develop the critical thinking necessary to report hard news, not just write whatever somebody says and run with it as gospel.

That’s where you can get into trouble.

Especially when the sources being quoted have an obvious vested interest in spinning the story to their advantage. That’s when you’re supposed to reach out and attempt to corroborate what’s being said with independent sources and/or experts in the given field.

Which didn’t happen in the case of Kansas City Star intern Tess Hart’s double-barrelled attaboy this week about Kansas City public television station KCPT’s recent acquisition of radio station 90.9 FM The Bridge.

“A good sign for the (Bridge) is that AAA stations have been dominating other markets around the country,” Hart reported.

Hold it right there.

“That just ain’t true,” counters veteran radio exec Bob Zuroweste. “Name the city AAA dominates. Probably the most successful AAA station in the United States is KBCO in Boulder and it’s ranked seventh in the Denver market.

“There is no AAA station in the country that dominates. Not one. Dominates means you’re No. 1 and there’s only a few around the country even in the Top 10. And those are in very highly populated college markets, like the University of Colorado in Boulder.”

KCPT honcho Kliff Kuehl explains the rationale for buying The Bridge

KCPT honcho Kliff Kuehl explains the rationale for buying The Bridge

There’s more…

Starting with that Kansas City already has a AAA station, Alice 102.1 FM.

Yet in touting The Bridge‘s chances for success, that fact was never mentioned.

“Alice does the format here and – it’s what? – 20-somethingth in the market,” Zuroweste says. “It’s pretty low.”

Actually, Alice ranked 18th in listeners 6 and older in the December ratings – four notches from last – and up from 19th the month before.

Meaning The Bridge will have to compete with an established, three year old commercial AAA station that fields a full compliment of 0n-air and promotional talent.

That said, even while based in Warrensburg, The Bridge garnered a following.

“It’s a good station,” Zuroweste says. “A lot of people like it, but obviously it’s not a kick ass format.”


Jon Hart

A big part of the problem facing The Bridge is programmer Jon Hart‘s vaunted “4,000 song playlist,” Zuroweste says.

“If you want to be commercially successful a 4,000 song playlist is insanity.  I mean, it’s not going to be successful with 4,000 songs. That will appeal to some people, but it’s just not commercially viable. If you want to be an alternative choice for some people, then you can do that – just like some people like to watch weird television shows – but that’s a very small percentage of the population.

“The typical radio station plays 500 songs – some more often than others – Jack and Alice probably play 800 to 1,000 songs,” says a radio insider who asked not to be named. “But neither of those stations is really successful here. They started off strong but had no staying power, because people want to hear music that they like. Do you want to go to a concert with Tom Petty and not know most of the songs he’s playing? Artists like that generally get booed when they play their brand new songs.”

That doesn’t bode well for Hart’s stated objective of playing tons of local artists that few people have heard of, let alone are familiar with their music.

“Look at the most successful radio station in Kansas City for the past 30 years, KCFX FM,” Zuroweste says. “And they’ve been playing mostly the same songs the entire time.

“The reason most people don’t care about Kansas City artists is they don’t know about them,” he continues. “Does The Bridge want to be successful? I don’t think they do. It’ll never show up in the ratings. It’ll never make money. And I don’t think it’s intended to.”

The Bridge points to public station The Current (89.3 FM) in Minneapolis as its inspiration.

Yet in the holiday ratings, The Current came in at No. 15 with a 2.5 share, four places behind commercial, local AAA station KTCZ FM with a 4.1 share. The No. 1 radio station in the market? Classic rocker KQQL FM with a 13.8 share.

logoCan KCPT sustain a radio station in the black by getting listeners to write checks?

“Can they survive? Yeah, probably,” Zuroweste says. “But I’ve never seen public non-coms do that well. My take is if they really think they’re doing this to make money, it’s not a good move.”

Especially given that KCPT is on record as borrowing $1.7 million to buy the station and move it to KC. On top of that KCPT says it raised another $400,000 to fund the first two years operations, indicating it will have a pretty good sized break even point going forward.

Will it be a Bridge too far? Stay tuned.

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24 Responses to Hearne: Star Intern Stubs Toe on KCPT ‘Bridge’ Puff Piece

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    Wow, surprising. I rarely listen to music on the radio; I stream a lot of talk from across the nation. I heard about the Bridge and tuned in. Impressed with the play list, I told my daughter. Now both our dials seem stuck there.
    No let downs so far, great selection of music with only one complaint. When you come across a great new artist or song, there’s too big a gap between announcing artists and titles. I’d like an option other than Shazaming every song I want to know.
    Otherwise, love the station.

  2. John Altevogt says:

    I’ll have to give it a listen, but I think stations like this are going to become less popular than more. As more and more people find online stations they can stream that play any genre they want to hear the need for commercial radio stations, like the need for daily newspapers will become less relevant.

    For instance, I listen to www. bassonthebroadband.com. I can listen to it at home on the computer, or in the car by streaming my cell phone through the car’s audio system. Or, I can create my own station, or stations through Pandora focused around specific artists. Add to that the many apps that allow you to stream any station in the country, or to listen to one of iTunes many genre specific stations and the competition will only grow over time. The Bridge, like PBS itself, is becoming a redundant dinosauer.

  3. Andrew says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been listening to The Bridge a lot at home—-streaming via my Internet radio.

  4. hot harley says:

    Pandora will take over…people are tired of the worn out old style of
    radio and want to choose the music they listen to.
    nice try…station sounds decent but its just another 4th tier
    selection for listeners….
    but good luck…we need more independent stations on the air
    that give local groups a sounding board…no matter how small
    the audience.

  5. kansas karl says:

    Mis-information seems to run rampant on this merger. Before the merger KCPT’s GM was doing on air promo’son KCPT welcoming 1.4 million music listeners to the fold…….Metro radio listening is around 1.6 million, so who knows what load of bull these public TV pimps are spouting. The Current is not the most successfull AAA, WXPN, home of the World Cafe, in Phillidelphia has a set-up with a local promotor located in the same building with 2 venues, a small bar and a 700 seat concert hall. Creating a synergy where the music of new bands gets airplay and the promotor brings the act in next door, it works. Over the past decade a good many of the NPR/non com’s have switched from the old school format to the cutting edge of AAA, trying to lower the overall age of listeners/viewers. That is the true purpose of having the Bridge is to bring young folks to the left end of the dial and cross pollinate with the TV station. The Bridge does not need to “dominate” to be successfull, it just needs to cover the nut.

  6. Libertarian says:

    “… Kansas City already has a AAA station, Alice 102.1 FM.”
    You’re kidding, right? 102.1 is corporate crapola, nothing more.

    KKFI has been playing AAA/local music for over 25 years. Listener supported even.

    However, I dont lean far enough to the left to agree with some of political programming, and I dont listen to public affair shows on the radio.

    I listen to the radio for music, and when KKFI isnt playing music, 90.9 is my 2nd place default station. They do okay, but they do play some of the same crap you can get further on up the dial. Boring.

    I felt like Christopher Columbus when I discovered the itunes radio section. So many streams…..

    Recently, I’ve been listening to an alternative station out of Germany that kicks ass.

    There is a TON of good music that never gets played on the radio. You just have to know where to look.

    KCPT made a wise move with the acqusition of 90.9 the bridge.

    Now if they could just hurry up and get a more badass transmitter to strengthen their signal, like they claim they are going to…..

  7. PB says:

    Eh, I don’t care about hardcore reporting when it comes to what is basically meant to be a fluff piece. FWIW, I must be one of those wierdos, Mr.Zuroweste mentioned as I like the station and as somebody who attends a decent amount of live shows during the year, I especially appreciate their pimping of local artists. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me what their ratings are or how bright their future might be, I’ll be listening, along with KKFI, as long as they can continue with this approach.

  8. admin says:

    I agree that having a local source of music and live music information is a huge plus for Kansas City and wish The Bridge well.

    With 100,000 watts, once they get their signal straightened out the sky is the limit in theory.

    All of that said, I think a more sober look at the station and its prospects was in order. Especially in light of the misinformation and factual errors in the Star story.

    KKFI undoubtedly plays its share of music, but its approach is so quilt-like with an hour of lesbian politics here, a union hour there – it’s just so all over the map that it’s kind of hard to follow unless you really make an effort.

    Alice may be commercial, but they’re still playing Triple A and if you look at Minneapolis, the commercial Triple A station there is beating the public radio version handily. So we’ll see, right?

    And like Zuroweste said, there’s nothing wrong with being an oddball, niche station.

    I’ve been zeroing in on oddball experiences myself for – I dunno – a lifetime.

  9. kansas karl says:

    Here is the real question will the Bridge take the same tack to fund raising as KCPT? KCPT raises no money on the programming they feature during the sweeps, instead they bring on goat gland doctors selling thier latest book on cleansing your brain with extract of melon balls, or some other “expert” pitching a book and dollars for the station. Though the latest non programming fund raiser is to plus up concert tickets with meet and greets, though the music featured never shows up except for fund raising. There is a dis-connect between what programing raises money and what the hard core PBS viewer wants to watch. Most of KCPT’s audience is not in the money demo, 25-54, they left that a few decades ago. Thus the puch for younger viewers/donors, but the day to day does not support that effort, catch 22.

  10. vienna sausage are canned bieber dicks says:

    That 102.1 station is not bad, it isn’t as soft rock as advertised. I just hope you all like the eagles.

    The fish fry with Chuck Haddix of UMKC is still the best local radio show, bar none. A close second is Slacker when he’s on form.

  11. John Altevogt says:

    I listened to 90.9 for the first time and found it sort of tedious like much of the music today. It’s really hard having grown up musically in the mid ’60s to ’70s during one of the most creative moments in music, played by some of the most masterful musicians to listen now to this tedious, overproduced, autotuned preppy white boy stuff and not be bored. Rap, coming on the heels of Motown, blues and jazz geniuses like John Coltrane also just sucks.

    Of course, I heard no rap while I listened, but what I heard just wasn’t that interesting. The first tune was lengthy piece, perhaps in the tradition of the great jam bands, but totally without the skilled musicianship of a Gov’t Mule, or Dead. The next thing up was sort of folky and reminded me of the kind of thing that hip folks in the ’50’s might have played around a campfire on a college campus, but neither of them produced an unce of emotion, or groove.

    KKFI, is far more interesting even when it plays the goofy tom-tom music that you burn John Wayne to the stake to. At least it’s different. Rock has the obligation to offend the previous genreation with something new and exciting, shocking even and the current batch just bore me to tears.

    I think a post on Facebook the other day summarized the current state of rack. It was a boy band caught singing live without the benefit of all the technological gimmicks to make them sound like they could hold a tune and clearly, they couldn’t.

    I’ll continue to stream my own stuf, thank you.

  12. admin says:

    Funny guy, John…

    How much you think Craig pays me to do his?

    For what it’s worth, Jon Hart is well into his 60s (I suspect) and is about as far removed from being a music hipster as one can get.

    Even in the mid-late 1980s and thru the 1990s I can’t ever recall seeing him at an alt rock band show. He’s an old KY jock who didn’t make the cut there long ago.

    Super nice guy and he definitely found a niche…a niche that theoretically just got a whole lot better if KCPT is really gonna lay out $200,000 grand or more a year to keep that puppy on the air.

  13. kansas karl says:

    At one time when John A was a little snot nosed red stater and Hearne was just figuring out how to use a pencil other than as a nose cleaner there were limited choices for music, even the vaulted KY in the early 70’s only played the progressive stuff after midnight. Limited choices for music meant the few songs played were beat into your head, day after day. A good bit of what is considered “classic” rock is really “popular” rock, ask musicians they listened to Lou Reed, never heard in KC, they listened to Long John Baldry, Brinsley Schwartz, the list is long but unfamiliar. Now if you like commercial classic pop/rock you can stream that all day and you will still be a red stater uneducated and ignorant of the evolution of rock music. The point is there has always been way more music than is aired on commercial radio, they are only interested in what brings in the masses. John your comments are like saying the only good art is done by that moron Kincaid, and all the rest is beneath consideration, but the reality is as a “red stater” really understanding beyond the sound bite is just too much work.

    Hearne, do a little research other than the big Z, Jon Hart and KTBG have won station of the year at the annual non commercial radio convention NON-COMM in Philadelphia, beating KBCO, KUT/austin, the current, WXPN etc. KTBG has real chops when it comes to finding and supporting new music, the number and breadth of diverse concerts in this metro are due to the wide ranging playlist of the Bridge, before the bridge it was only the blues, promoted by KKFI, that rang the register at the clubs and bars, now the fresh new takes on that demon rock fill bars and stadiums. Arcade Fire played a sold out Starlight, no commercial airplay only KTBG.

    Sticking one’s head in the sand wishing for 1973 again is like hoping the Gays, blacks and Hispanics would relearn their place.

    • John Altevogt says:

      I’m not even sure what you’re responding to. No one here is talking about politics nor are you even in the same conversation musically.

      Even before the advent of underground FM stations one could find, thanks to the broadcast range of AM stations, a wide variety of music. Where I grew up I could listen to CKLW, a Canadian station across the river from Detroit that payed the new Motown music. Late in the evening WLAC, a country station in Nashville, switched over to country blues. There I heard everything from Jimmy Reed, to Bobby Bland to BB King and Ike and Tina Turner. WLS out of Chicago played rock, the only rock of that era. Later, by the late 60’s and early 70’s there were enough FM stations playing album rock that the new “alternative” super groups could reach a wider audience.

      I’ve never known a time when the discerning listener couldn’t find alternatives to the pop music of the day and so your lengthy discourse is completely irrelevant to the conversation. Perhaps if you’d stop trying to make people fit into your ignorant little boxes you might be able to figure out what we’re talking about.

      • kansas karl says:

        John your knowledge of alternative adult music is woefully ignorant, yet you pass judgement like the 60’s and 70’s were on loan from god. Modern alternative music is vibrant and every bit as good as the stuff put out in an older time. You spent what 15 minutes and decided that the Bridge was just another outlet for the overproduced crap on commercial radio. Your observations remind me of the ignorant crap spewed by Sarah Palin. You quickly put the Bridge in one of your ignorant little box without any real research or knowledge just from the gut ignorance. Comparing “super” groups to what is occurring now in music is old tired thinking and again ignorance. Modern rock music is very diverse, a word that excites you to condemn it, folding in world music, yes the rest of the world likes music, blues, folk, reggae, and the Bridge brings all this to the table. The passion and dedication of the rock artists of today equals or exceeds the old tired and gray haired music of the past, if the old guys were so good where are today’s hits from them? You are just reliving your misspent youth through old music, instead of moving into this century and really listening, not just a quick ten minute review and quick condemnation.

        The original posting by Hearne was about the quality and misinformed article in INK, not the Star. Hearne needed to explore how much was actual reporting and how much was scabed drivel from the PR folks at KCPT.

        The idea that we all will be streaming music and video is still a decade away, there are cost associated with both and the general consumer, the majority of which still like their free media, free radio still touches over 90% of the market, at least according to the noise that the likes of arbitron and nielsen put out.

        Listen to your broadband repeats of lost time and youth, never progress, a liberal word, or evolve, another liberal word, beyond the ignorant place you are.

  14. wrong says:

    Shows what you know. Did you have the guts to call Jon and ask how old he is? He’s maybe 60. Not well into his 60s. And your comment about not cutting it at KY is again…wrong. He left KY to put the Bridge on the air in Warrensburg. So much hate over another choice on the dial. Bitch about the same stations playing the same stuff over and over again. Someone comes along to give KC another choice and bitch about that. Variety. Not a bad choice to have. I wish Jon and the rest the best. And your buddy Bob contributed the slide that radio stations gleefully participated in during the 90s would has led to the rise of internet streaming. Instead of going toe to toe with Ipods and the other choices listeners had, radio slashed marketing and promotional budgets, fired all the jocks who meant anything and…gave up. Consult with your buddy Bob all you want, he’ll give you the same corporate swill he has for years. He’s Lee Abrams in a different suit. While the Bridge may never garner the ratings, I’ll bet you their audience is much more loyal to them then most, if not all, commercial stations. Good radio sales people never sell ratings anyway, they sell qualitative audiences over quantitative audiences and I’ll bet the Bridge has earned that. If they continue to focus on local bands, they’ll be even more intertwined with the local music scene. I’ll take Jon’s hipness over your smugness anyday, and yes, he’s at all the shows that features artists the Bridge plays. You?

    • jon says:

      Wrong you’re right. Hart not making the cut at 99.7KY is absolutely wrong. He served the ressurected KY as its promotion director until the better opportunity presented itself in Warrensburg. So HC get your story straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. PB says:

    “And your buddy Bob contributed the slide that radio stations gleefully participated in during the 90s would has led to the rise of internet streaming. Instead of going toe to toe with Ipods and the other choices listeners had, radio slashed marketing and promotional budgets, fired all the jocks who meant anything and…gave up. Consult with your buddy Bob all you want, he’ll give you the same corporate swill he has for years.”

    Wrong couldn’t be more right about this.

  16. Radio Head says:

    Hearne get a life. Of all the things there are to report on in Kansas City you’re going after an article in the The Star. This city is lucky to have the Bridge and I’m grateful KCPT saved it from being purchased by an religious broadcasting company. My suggestion go out and find yourself some real news and quit your complaining about some article in the The Star and a decent AAA station. Doing so might require you to do some, I don’t know what do they call it, actual substantive reporting, so maybe you’re not up to the challenge.

  17. Gal says:

    I’ve been listening to The Bridge soon after it hit the airwaves. Car, home and at work. Where else can you hear World Party, Susan Tedeschi, Todd Snider, The BoDeans, Adele all on one station, and not hear the same songs over and over all day long? Jon Hart is the man! I love his interviews with musicians who are in town. Does Bob Zuroweste even listen to KC radio stations? Alice 102.1 is not a AAA station. And I have never heard a band or performer booed for playing new songs. Does Bob go to concerts? You and Bob need to get broaden your horizons before you start writing and commenting on something you know nothing about. Seriously, what a worthless and offensive article.

    • admin says:

      I see, Gal…

      One of the most respected and experienced radio executives in the Kansas City area – the country for that matter – knows nothing. You though – under your made up name with a handful of misstatements and and however many hours of anecdotal evidence gathered via listening to the station – are the expert.

      Got it!

      • kansas karl says:

        Bob is not working in the KC market, he is on the beach, the world has changed plenty since he was last successful. His knowledge of how a non-comm operates is non-existent, he has only worked on the commercial side. His opinion on commercial radio is unchallenged, but move to non-comm and he is a lost soul. KTBG has been honored by it’s peers many times more than any station Big Bob Z ever ran……well maybe KUDL 25 years ago. If writing about non-comm it would help your credibility is you actually spoke to someone knowledgeable.

  18. Gal says:

    I guess you didn’t read my comment before commenting on it. I didn’t say Bob knows nothing. He is absolutely respected and experienced. I actually used to work for him. Nice guy and super smart. But, by your article it didn’t sound like he was well-versed in what The Bridge is doing. No, I am not an expert, I just know what I like. I like what The Bridge is doing and hope they become even more successful. I’m not sure what my misstatements were. I also thought this was a forum to comment on the articles you write and give my opinion without you having a temper tantrum. Guess not. Over and out.

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