Jaz Mckay Reading Assignments For Kids

An Appeal For Jaz And Laura

Jaz McKay has been a talk radio host in Bakersfield, California for just over 10 years now. I have been a regular guest on his show on 1560 KNZR for a couple of years, and he is one of few people in this world that I consider to be a friend.

Jaz is a stalwart conservative warrior in the liberal stronghold of California, giving his unabashed opinion on the air for 3 hours a day every weekday. You can hear Right Wing News’s own John Hawkins on with Jaz every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 PM Pacific Time at KNZR.com.

Recently, Jaz’s wife Laura has fallen ill. She needs a liver transplant, and the doctors have given her 3 months. Because of Laura’s illness, they have had to travel to UCLA for regular doctors’ appointments, and the costs are adding up.

Jaz doesn’t know that I’m posting this here; I know how difficult it is for him to ask for help. But I also know that conservative America sticks together, and will always come together to help a friend in need.

If you can donate to help a conservative brother and friend to Right Wing News, please do. If you can’t give a lot, please give a little. If you can’t give a little, please give them your prayers. Some friends set up a GoFundMe page, and people across Bakersfield have already come together to help them out, but the need is great.



What follows was written by Jaz McKay.



It was January 19th some 10 years ago I guess. My fellow talk radio host Ralph was celebrating his 2nd year at KNZR. He was doing a live show from the basement of a restaurant called Zanders on 19th street downtown just east of Chester.

I didn’t want to go, but I thought I should. So I headed down there with the intent of supporting TRBS.

I parked in front of the place but then I noticed a Woolworth store across the street. It was now a consignment store that I’d always wanted to check out. So instead of going directly into Zanders I took a stroll through the Woolworth.

I saw some real cool collectibles and things I thought would be a nice gift for my co- worker. It was his 2 year anniversary after all. So I got him a Raiders coffee mug for three bucks and decided I’d give it to him next week. I was just going to get back in my car and go home.

As I was walking back to my car and a woman having a smoke in front of Zanders somehow recognized me and yelled: “JAZ MCKAY!”

“Hey come on inside, I love your show. My husband and I are here celebrating with Ralph and I know my husband would love to meet you.”

“No thanks” I said, I’m just going home but thanks any way.”

“NO WAY! You get in here right now. There is NO going home here Jaz.” She had been drinking and she was instant. So I did as I was told, and inside I went.

In the basement of Zanders Ralph was doing his show live for his BIG 2nd year anniversary at KNZR and I waved as I walked by and followed the woman who had invited me into the bar. I met her husband, a very nice guy, and we talked and had a few drinks.

The place was about half full, and for 4pm on a Tuesday that wasn’t bad. I took a seat at the bar with the woman and her husband and we talked.

They told me their stories and I told them mine. I mentioned to them how I had just moved from Fresno after being let go from my gig at KMJ doing a night time talk show. At one point they asked me if I was married. I told them no, that my last girlfriend and I had broken up about 4 years earlier.

It was a tough break up, she had cheated and I was still holding a lot of broken heart stuff in my soul. Honestly, I was still hurting over it.
The conversation quickly turned to one of those “You have to find a good woman” things and “I’ll bet we could hook you up with so and so.” ….. “We should introduce you to such and such.”

I explained that I was not interested in meeting any one in particular and that I was just waiting till the right woman came along and wasn’t the least bit interested in “going on the hunt.”

“If God wants me to be with someone he’ll drop her in my lap, otherwise I am not going to do the silly dating thing or looking for a woman in a bar.” I laughed.

It was about at that point that they pointed out this young woman sitting alone at a table across the room.
She was a beautiful blonde wearing a patriotic Tee Shirt with an American Flag and GOD BLESS AMERICA emblazoned across her chest and an AR-15 on it.

I had not noticed her before but I was attracted to her and stunned by her, to say the least.

I was sure her husband was in the bathroom and if I talked to her I would get my ass kicked at some point. I kept looking at her while carrying on a conversation with the woman and her husband who had dragged me in there.

But I simply could not take my attention away from the blonde with the “God Bless America” Tee Shirt.
DAMN, she was cute.

“Hey Jaz. That looks like a woman you should meet.” the lady said. “Yeah Jaz, go over and introduce yourself.” her husband added.

“No, she has to have a boyfriend or a husband.” I said, “And besides he’s probably in the bathroom and will not be happy if he sees me talking to his woman.”

But they kept hounding me until I finely told them I just wasn’t going to go over to her and to please drop it. I just wasn’t interested.
So the subject was quickly changed to something like how much liberals “suck” and that they are the ruination of our country, how we better nominate a true conservative in the next election and we better stand up for our gun rights and… blah… blah …blah.. yada… yada… yada.

But, I’ll admit…….. I did keep looking out of the corner of my eye and noted that never did I see any man come out of the bathroom and go sit back down next to her.

Maybe she didn’t have a husband after all, I thought.

About 15 or 20 minutes later as we talked about how WE would deal with illegal aliens crossing the border, or the best way to handle the Islamic threat ….. the woman and her husband started to smile.

I mean an ear to ear smile. Her eyes lit up and she looked up at me…. and in a nonchalant way motioned with her head to look behind me.
So I slowly turned around.
And there she was.

Standing behind me, ordering another glass of wine was the blonde in the “God Bless America” T-shirt with the flag and an AR-15 emblazoned on it.

I looked at her and asked…. “Can I buy you a drink?”
(I guess my natural man thing kicked in….)

She looked up at me with those awesomely deep green eyes and with a smile said “Sure, but who the hell are you?”

“I’m Jaz McKay”

“Oh crud,” she replied “Really? You’re Jaz McKay? The guy on KNZR after Ralph?”

“Guilty as charged.”

” You know I hate you right?”

“Really? Why?”

“Because you’re a loud mouth Asshole.”

“And that bothers you?”

“I can’t stand you. You are such a jerk. You have no idea how much I hate your show. You berate people, you use foul language, you talk shit about people and you think you’re smart and you’re NOT!”

“So can I buy a drink or not?”

“OK….. I’m drinking a chardonnay.”

“Fine then, hey bartender, another beer for me and a glass of chardonnay here.”

So we stood at the bar and talked for about 5 or 10 minutes and then went back to her table together and talked some more. I forgot the husband and wife team that had been at the bar with me.

“So why do you hate me?” I asked.

“Because you’re so rude.”

“Rude to who?”

“To everyone.”

“In what way?”

“You have a foul mouth, and you use language I would never use in front of my mother.”

“But, I’m not in front of your mother. I’m in front of a microphone.” I said.

“But, my mother listens to your show.”

“OK, but she can change the station.”

“No she can’t.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I listen to your show, and she has to listen to the radio station I listen too. And she likes you.”

“And you hate my show?”

“Not exactly, I just hate you. You’re such an ass.””

“But you listen to me anyway?”

“Well, yes but, I still don’t like you.” She said with a wink in her eye. That’s when I knew she was just having fun with me.

“Look,” I said standing up, “I have to go have a cigarette.”

“And I’ll join you” she replied and we both walked up the back stairway outside for a smoke.

We made our way outside the back door of Zanders into the ally.

We stood out there and just talked.

We talked mostly about politics, current events, politics, family, politics, the economy, politics, political correctness, guns and of course politics.

We didn’t agree on everything, abortion for instance. You have to understand that at that time I was, well, I was kind of pro-choice.
I was only “kind of” pro-choice. I just hadn’t fully thought out the topic. I was more of a Libertarian on the subject. While I was solidly pro-life in my own world, I just didn’t want the government deciding what was morally right or wrong. But that was before Laura explained to me how I was wrong.

Anyway we talked together, we laughed together, and I realized for the first time in years, I had met a woman I really liked. She was so cool.

We must have spent 45 minutes or more in that ally behind Zanders that night just talking to each other.

You have to understand, I had been single for about 6 or 7 years and I had given up on meeting a woman that was just right for me. The perfect fit. Until that night. Don’t get me wrong I had dated many wonderful women over those single years, but I just hadn’t met “her.”
Laura was a staunch conservative, a gun owner and NRA member, a Christian, a dog lover, a fan of old TV shows, a football fan, and she had no baggage. In other words, no ex-boyfriend or children.

What she did have was a mother whom she lived with and cared for.

Remember, I had spent 5 years before moving back to California living with and taking care of MY mother in Houston. Mothers are VERY important to me. Very special. And all of those things I learned in the 45 minutes we spent talking in that ally that night.

There was just one thing. Earlier in the evening she had told me she “hated” me. So what was up with that?
I had to ask her.

“So why did you say you hate me?”

She looked down at the ground, shuffled her feet and replied, “I don’t hate you. I just don’t like the rude language you use on the air. Look, I’m no prude but I ….. just feel like you should be a bit more humble. I think you could be a little nicer on the air and win more people over to our side.”

I thought about what she had said and I told her, “Well, see I’m not trying to win people over to “OUR” side. That isn’t the point of my little ole’ talk radio show. I could give a damn about “changing the world” or other peoples’ opinions, I’m doing my own thing, saying what I feel, what I really feel and I’m gambling that people in Bakersfield feel the same way I do. I’m figuring that the workin’ hard playin’ hard folks in Kern County will identify with me and MY point of view!

“What I’m doing is breaking all the normal rules of radio about being all things to all people, or just telling people what they want to here. I refuse to pander to the masses! I’m about defiance, with a celebration of the middle finger!!

“I fully believe that I’ll attract listeners who see the world just like I do but, don’t have any way of expressing their opinions!

“And I also fully believe, that if I don’t get fired first, I can do what my job at KNZR is really all about, building BIG ratings!! That’s the name of the game!

“In a year from now I want people to walk up to me and say, ‘I listen to your show and I just want to say you’re the only radio host who thinks just like I do.’ Or ‘I don’t agree with you 100% but I love your passion.’ Passion, that’s what it’s all about. You have to have passion for what you do. I don’t care what you do in life, you HAVE to have passion! And I have that passion.

“I have faith in what I do Laura. I have passion for what I do. I’ve been at this for a very long time. Just trust me. I really do know what I’m doing. I’m just saying what I really feel in my heart and in my gut.”

I think she understood where I was going but maybe she wasn’t yet convinced.

“But why do you have to use such foul language? Why do you have to call people assholes? That’s just crude!” she asked.

“YES Laura, it is crude, it’s rude and it’s foul, I agree with you but, how do real people talk? In the REAL world, with their friends and family members? They use the same language I do, well, not everyone but, my show isn’t for everyone.

“It’s for those frustrated people who are sick and tired of being called bigots or racists by the left!! People who have had it with all the insults coming toward them from the Democrat party and those brain dead liberals!! I’m speaking to the people who are fed up with being nice and want desperately to tell those leftist asshats to go just FUCK OFF!!!!!

“The problem is they have no way to do that. My listeners can live out their frustrations through me. They can call in and use this forum of talk radio to vent and rant to their hearts content!!”

She just stood their looking at me. I thought to myself that maybe I was winning her over. That’s when I guess I kicked it into fifth gear and I raised my voice even more in the ally behind Zanders that night.

“Look, Laura, I’m no pussy, I’m no PC radio host dancing around every word I say for fear of offending someone!! If I offend you good!! Maybe you need to be offended!! Maybe you better wake the fuck up! I’m pissed off Goddamn it!!! And trust me if you aren’t pissed off too, you just aint paying attention!

“My language is honest, my radio show is honest, I promise you that I am the same guy in real life that you hear on KNZR every day from noon to three!

“I love my country, BUT I HATE MY GOVERNMENT! I fear my government and that aint the way our founding fathers intended the people of greatest nation in the history of the world to feel!!!! Screw the government!!!!

“Yeah maybe I do use coarse language Laura, maybe I do offend people with the way I say things, but the fact is people need to just get the hell over it and listen to what I’m saying, NOT the way I say it!!!!”

Then there was silence. A looooong silence. She just looked at me. She just stood there.

I thought to myself, “Oh shit, you blew it. You finely find a great woman and you just yelled at her in the ally behind Zanders.”

That’s when the unexpected happened. I swear I didn’t see it coming……..

Of all the things I could have imagined it was the last thing I thought she would do. The last thing you would think she would…..

She kissed me.

I’m not talking about a little peck on the cheek, I’m talking about a full on passionate mouth on mouth, sloppy wet, uber kiss.

A kiss isn’t even strong enough word to describe that moment. I mean it was a KISSSSS!

It was the kind of kiss that knocks you off your feet, you loose your balance and fall back a little. The kind of kiss where you drop your cigarette, where she throws both arms around your neck and presses her lips full on yours with a pressure that could only be rivaled by the pressure it takes to create a diamond out of a lump of coal.

She pulled me close and started to say something. But she just breathed heavy for a second. A split second.

Then she pushed me away, looked me in the eye and said something else that was unexpected. She said, “OK, well we better get back inside.”

I was still kind of in a state of shock as she turned around and started to walk back to the door and into the restaurant.

I gathered myself together and followed her back into Zanders …..from the ally ……. that night.

After heading back into the restaurant Laura and I sat back down at her table and continued to talk…. just talk.

You know the kind of moment I’m referring to right? The kind of moment when you’re completely oblivious to everything around you. The kind of moment where someone could have exploded a hand grenade in the middle of the place and you wouldn’t even notice. A moment where you are so focused on the conversation you don’t even see the world as it spins in the background. All that matters is the person you’re talking to.

She told me about her mother Katharine and how they came to live in Bakersfield.
She told me she and her mother listened to talk radio every day. Mostly KNZR, and that she didn’t like the other talk stations in town that much.
She told me about the “spy store” her mother and she had owned and operated inside American Indoor Shooting Range in Oildale.
She told me about her love of guns and shooting.
She told me about her brothers Mark and Todd and her father Carl, who had worked at IBM.
She told me that her stepfather was a doctor in the army and she had traveled all over Europe in her youth.
She told me about how she had spent a few years taking care of her grandmother before she passed away.

We talked and talked and talked, telling our stories as if there were no other living person in the entire place but her and me.

That’s about when I noticed we were about the only people in the place. Ralph and the KNZR crew were all gone, the woman and her husband who had dragged me into the place were gone and the only people left were the bar staff cleaning up and us.
I looked at my watch and it was after eight o’clock. I realized it was time to pay my tab and go.

“Can I have your phone number?” I asked.

“Tell you what, I’ll call you,” she replied “You know Jaz, I haven’t even been on a date with anyone in almost eight years. Let me think about this, what happened here tonight and I’ll let you know if we can get together again.”

So at that point I took a pen from my coat pocket and grabbed a napkin from under her wine glass to write down my number for her.

“No, don’t give me your number,” she said, touching my hand and shaking her head. “I know where you work. I’ll call you there.”

“Well, OK I guess. Can I at least walk you to your car?”

“Sure let’s go.”

So we walked out into cool January night holding hands still talking, still laughing. There wasn’t a cloud over head and the stars were shining bright in the Bakersfield sky that night. In a way they seemed to be shining a little brighter than normal. It seemed the moon lit up 19th street a little more brightly than normal. And, I felt a little bit taller than normal.

We walked to her car, we looked into each others eyes, we paused for a moment, and we kissed.

Now folks, once again I’m not talking about some little “goodnight” peck on lips the lips. I MEAN A KISS.

A kiss that goes far beyond the mere physical side of a kiss. I’m talking about a long, wet, passionate, “hold me and please don’t let go” kind of kiss.

I held her tight in my arms, she held me. I squeezed her tighter and she returned that emotion. I didn’t want to let go, and neither did she but ….. we did.

And as we did, I saw her look up at me with those bright green eyes of hers.

She had a look on her face. That look. You must know the “look.”

A look I hadn’t seen in the eyes of a woman in a very long time, if ever. A look that I just can’t explain or describe here.
A smile that I just can’t explain or describe here.
A face that, at that moment I can only say was the most beautiful face I had ever seen in all of my life.
And although I can’t tell you what the look on my face must have been, it had to have been goofy as hell, because I felt like a blob of green Jello in her arms.

I took her keys from her hand, unlocked her car door and opened it for her.

“Call me?” I asked

“If I call you, you’ll be the first to know,” she responded “Or maybe the receptionist and then you’ll be the second to know.”

We laughed and she got into the car and started the ignition. She closed the door and put down the window.

I leaned over and she kissed me again and said, “Goodnight Jaz.” And she put her car in reverse backed out, turned west and waved at me as she drove away down 19th street to Chester Avenue and turned left.

And there I was. Standing alone in the middle of the otherwise deserted 19th Street. As I turned to walk back to my car I felt about twenty-five feet tall maybe thirty, but who’s counting.

I felt better than I had ever felt in years. I was grinning like a crazy man.

I wasn’t just grinning from ear to ear, I was grinning from the left to the right side of my damned forehead. My face must have looked pretty dadgum silly at that point.

And that’s when I did something I have never done in my life. Before or since. Something I didn’t think could actually be done except in cartoons or by professional dancers or ice skaters…… I jumped in the air and clicked my heels. I swear to you I jumped in the air AND I clicked my heels together.

I really did it ya’ll. Yes I did. I jumped into the air in the middle of freakin’ 19th Street in downtown Bakersfield, clicked the heels of my Tony Lama’s together and sent a fist bump to God and cried out, “YES!” as loud as I could.

And at that point I couldn’t contain myself, I just needed to tell someone. I had the urge to call someone, anyone to tell them what had just happened. I wanted to talk to someone about what had just happened to me. I wanted to relive that night right away.

I was so excited I felt the need to share it with a friend. But who? See I had only one problem, I didn’t have any friends in Bakersfield.

None except Ralph. The only reason I had met her was…well, because of Ralph after all. Well that and the woman who forced me into Zanders that night, and I couldn’t even remember her name at that point.

Laura had told me that she was a regular listener to his show and a regular caller too. So I took out my cell phone and called Ralph…….

Turns out he was at another bar downtown.

“Yeah…” he said

“Ralph, I just met a girl at your remote named Laura. Do you know her? Well I just had a great night talking to her, and guess what? We kissed. She kissed me.”

“Laura? No, never heard of her.” he replied.

“She was there because she listens to you and she said she is a caller of yours.”

“What does she look like?”

“Blonde hair, green eyes and she was wearing a T-shirt with “God Bless America” and a gun on it.”

“Sounds like one of your groupies Jaz, not mine.”

“NO! She’s not a groupie. She is a listener though, and I just thought you might know her.”

“You aren’t going to go out with her are you?” he asked.

“Well, yeah why not?”

“Oh NO Jaz, you NEVER date groupies.”

“Ralph, she’s NOT a groupie!” I said getting a little pissed off.

“If she listens to you on the radio she’s a groupie.”

“So, in your opinion if someone listens to you on the air their just a groupie.”

“Yes, and you NEVER date a groupie.”

“No Ralph, she’s not a groupie, She’s a listener.”

“That’s the same thing Jaz. Never date a listener, or a groupie.”

“Thanks for your opinion, Ralph, and by the way?”


“You don’t know shit asshole!”

Then he hung up on me. OK I deserved it but how dare he call her a groupie? After that brief conversation I knew that he was clueless as to what we in radio do, after all he had been in the radio business less than 6 years at that point. I’d been doing it 3 times as long.
It’s sad for someone who thinks they know so much about something when the truth is they know very little. Those who think they know it all but are oblivious to everything.

See, here are my thoughts after 37 years in radio. While it’s sometimes true that you should not date listeners, I don’t think that doesn’t apply to talk radio.

Do you know why?

Well, who listens to talk radio?

Are they stupid morons and idiots who love the Kardasians “soooo much”? Caitlin Jenner followers? Are they stupid people who watch TMZ or Oprah or Kelly and who ever? Do Talk Radio listeners pray to the gods to Jay Z, or Kanye West? Maybe if those people are listeners of your show you shouldn’t date them.

The listeners of Talk Radio listeners are engaged in the real world. Talk Radio listeners are paying attention. Talk Radio listeners are smarter than other radio listeners Period.

I would NEVER want to date a woman that never listens to talk radio like my friend Ralph does, because they would not be on the same intellectual plain as me. They would be more interested in TMZ than Fox News.

That may please people like Ralph, but not me, I want a woman that is smarter than me. And that’s what I got. That woman is awesome.
A few months after this story I married Laura Goetz Mackey, and I love her more than life itself. I will never give it up.



101 Things All Young Adults Should Know

by Sir John Hawkins

John Hawkins's book 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know is filled with lessons that newly minted adults need in order to get the most out of life. Gleaned from a lifetime of trial, error, and writing it down, Hawkins provides advice everyone can benefit from in short, digestible chapters.

Buy Now
You probably won’t run into Alice Cooper or John Tesh shopping at Lansing City Market; they don’t live here. But you can hear them on the local airwaves night after night, a reminder that radio programming isn’t what it used to be.

Before the consolidation of radio networks in the late 1990s, local studios were buzzing with vibrant energy and DJs were musical trendsetters who connected with youth culture while chatting live over the airwaves.

How times have changed.After a number of corporate buyouts, much of the localon-air talent in Lansing (and beyond) is gradually being replaced by nationally syndicated shows that are recorded and produced in other regions of the country. Yet, somehow radio is still clinging to the “live and local” ideal.

Lansing radio veteran Deb Hart, 42, is one of the survivors. She’s hosted morning shows since 1997 for WMMQ-FM (94.9), a classic rock station now owned by Cumulus Broadcasting. She said she’s not able to comment on the recent Cumulus buyout; however, she did voice her positive thoughts on the future of radio.

“They said television was going to kill radio, they said MTV was going to kill radio, they said cable was going to kill radio,” Hart said. “But it’s an immediate medium. People can pick up their phone and be a part of it. You can e-mail us and hear it read on the air. That is fun for people, I think.

“I am absolutely blessed beyond words to still be working in morning radio in Lansing for 21 years now. I feel really fortunate to have been given enough freedom to do and say what I want to on the air. I think I have earned that, after proving myself to be reliable after 21 years. I still love the freedom of radio. As long as radio will have me, I’ll be here.” 

An endangered species

At some stations, though, live DJs are an endangered species. The human host has been replaced entirely by a computer that plays automated selections of music and programming, an impersonal practice in what used to be a copiously personal form of media. How are homegrown listeners supposed to phone in song requests when a microchip is manning the board?

Like businesses, in recent years there’s unquestionably been downsizing in the radio industry. The blame is placed on a mish-mash of circumstances: the slumping economy, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, the Internet, iPods and the Internet station Pandora Radio.

“I think FM, or music radio, is now at a serious crossroads,” said Michael Patrick Shiels, 44, host of Michigan’s Morning Show on WJIM-AM (1240) for the past five and a half years. “People can get in their car, plug in their iPod, they can get their music any way and any time they want.”

While technological growth in the past decade has undoubtedly left a sizable gash in the radio waves, the current state of radio seems to be a mixture of many fluctuating elements.

Another hazy piece of the radio puzzle is the effect corporate media conglomerates have had on local stations. Are these companies dehumanizing the programming? Or are they keeping the stations alive? Either way, bulky media companies are incessantly buying and selling bundles of stations across the country, which has led to tight consolidation and job losses.

Tim Barron, 51, has seen it firsthand. He has become one of the most recognized voices in Lansing radio since he first hit the city’s airwaves in 1985. He’s now hosting a morning show on WLMI-FM (92.9), but he spent time working alongside former Lansing personality Jaz McKay, and alongside Hart for 15 years on the Tim & Deb morning show on WMMQ-FM (94.9).

Barron said after Citadel Broadcasting bought out WMMQ’s previous owner, Liggett Broadcasting, he knew his days were numbered. In 2005 he was let go from the station, with severance pay. He was replaced by Rich Michaels, who worked for another of Lansing’s Citadel stations.

“Citadel comes in — and I knew the clock was ticking because they’re going to consolidate,” Barron recalled. “Why would you pay Rich Michaels and Tim Barron all that money to fight it out when you own them both? Why wouldn’t you kill one and elevate the other?”

Over the course of two years Citadel decided that would be its strategy. Barron said when consolidation began spreading across the radio market conglomerates began firing what he calls highly paid radio “dinosaurs” in an effort to save money. It was much different than the on-air environment he first encountered when he started his career in

“The trend when consolidation occurred was to take the old, big money guys and do an ‘Old Yeller’: Take them out, shoot them in the head and bring in a younger talent to do the same job, supposedly, for a lot cheaper,” Barron said.

As far as the increase in automated programming and syndicated shows, Barron said it all comes down to money. His station, which is owned by Midwest Communications, has created methods for localizing programs that aren’t recorded anywhere near Lansing.

“Local guys cost money: air conditioning, toilet paper, they have an hourly rate,” Barron said. “Syndicated programming can be very effective, but it will never beat a local person.“There are also local sounding things that can be done within station groups. For instance, when I leave at 9 o’clock, a guy in another state (Chuck Lakefield, a.k.a. “The Laker”) is doing the mid-day show. He knows Lansing, he gets memos from us every day and he sounds much warmer and very genuine because he knows he’s broadcasting to my audience after I leave. That is a local sound to a large called-in show, but it’s still not the same as a local guy.”  

As for the sometimes controversial Michaels, who was fired from WMMQ by Citadel in December 2010, he’s been back on the air since July 2011 — only this time in south Florida working at talk radio station WIOD-AM (610). He’s ditched his on-air name and is now using his real name, Rich Minaya.

Locally owned and operated stations have become a rarity in the business — and with conglomerates being able to own four FM stations, and two AM stations in the same market, many stations owned by the same company share offices.

Each of the top stations in Lansing is owned by one of three corporations: Midwest Communications (of Wausau, Wis.), MacDonald Broadcasting (based in Lansing) and the latest conglomerate to come to Lansing, Cumulus Media, Inc. (of Atlanta), which formed in 1997.

On Sept. 16, Cumulus acquired all stations across the country owned by Citadel Broadcasting (of Las Vegas). The deal was finalized after months of negotiations and Federal Communications Commission approval. The now-defunct Citadel, formed in 1984, was a leader in the radio market; it was in the ranks with industry giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. In 2007 Citadel’s reported revenue was $719,760,000. But in 2008 Citadel began facing severe financial trouble, letting go hundreds of personalities and staffers. In December 2009 it filed for bankruptcy and then re-emerged in June 2010 — but only lasted until September 2011. After this merger Cumulus has become a major part of the Lansing media industry. It now controls WMMQ, WFMK-FM (99.1), WJIM-FM/NOW-FM (97.5), WJIM-AM, WVFN-AM The Game (730) and Lansing’s frontrunner in the ratings, WITL-FM (100.7). So what’s the story with this new massive company that recently planted its corporate roots in Lansing?

Lansing-based Cumulus representatives refused to comment on the merger. Before the Citadel merger, Cumulus employed roughly 3,400 full-time employees. With the completion of the Citadel acquisition, Cumulus Media is the second largest radio station owner in the country, owning or operating more than 570 radio stations in 120
markets and a nationwide radio network serving over 4,000 stations.

Buying and selling

J.P. Hannan, Cumulus Media Inc. senior vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer, estimated the Citadel purchase to be $2.4 billion. This is the company’s first acquisition since 2002, and it’s Cumulus’ biggest buy to date. Before that, the company did 145 acquisitions between 1997 and 2002; only a few periodic one-off deals followed, until recently.

With corporate buyouts often comes loss of jobs. Although Hannan said he feels the stations Cumulus acquired from Citadel are strong, he isn’t sure what the Lansing stations can expect. "Our operating team is out evaluating (in Lansing),” he said. “I mean, I’m not familiar with what’s on the ground in Lansing, so I don’t know what the team will be doing there.

“It’s a unique property acquisition for us. We take our time, we’re evaluating it and we’ll see. These are great assets — we didn’t buy this company to gut it.”

Scott Truman, Midwest Communication’s market manager in Lansing, said he’s been through this type of sale (in July 2010, Midwest bought out his previous employer, the Rubber City Radio Group) and he understands the apprehension former Citadel employees may be feeling. Truman manages WJXQ-FM (106.1), WQTX-FM Big Country (92.1), WLMI-FM and WVIC-FM The Edge (94.1), all out of the same building in Holt. Altogether, Midwest owns 47 stations. 

“For us, just coming off a sale — immediately, I sympathize,” Truman said. “I have friends over there. I know what it’s like to be bought and sold and have the uncertainty of what your job is going to be. I was very fortunate with Midwest. It’s a company that talked to us in advance. There was a lot of dialogue I had with management before they actually took over the stations.”

Shiels, whose “Michigan’s Morning Show” has been simulcast on FOX-47 television for the past two years, said the purchase of his station didn’t come as a surprise, adding “that’s the way it’s going in the industry.”

“These stations switch hands between these giant broadcasting companies on a regular basis all across the country,”
Shiels said. “There are a number of big ones now. As far as I understand it, they may own it from Atlanta, Las Vegas or New York, but there’s a definite value to a local face.”

Shiels said listeners of his show, which is recorded live at a storefront studio on Michigan Avenue in the Stadium District building, won’t notice a change in his locally themed program, which often invites area politicians, business people and newsmakers on the air.

“Nobody that’s listening right now on Michigan Avenue cares that (WJIM) is owned by Cumulus,” Shiels said. “They care that they get the person they want to hear, the information they want to hear, and the music they want to hear. I don’t know how much it affects the average person. When Citadel owned it, we were still a local radio station.”

As for the longevity of radio, Shiels said talk radio has an advantage over music-based stations. “The thing that gives talk radio the upper hand is that it’s totally unique," he said. "On a day-to-day basis you get the freshest and latest of what’s going on — and you get it with personality. Right now it’s on AM, but there’s a national trend to move talk shows on to FM. I think eventually that will happen.”

Chris Holman, publisher of Greater Lansing Business Monthly and the Michigan Business Network website, spent 14 years on the air, 12 of those at WJIM-AM.  He said he feels mom-and-pop operations are a thing of the past. “Small, locally owned stations are not making it,” Holman explained. “Most of them grow because they want to be bought by somebody bigger: They’re all waiting for Clear Channel to buy them, basically. It’s more of a dollar game than a radio game.”

Brock Elsesser, 32, started as a rookie disc jockey in 1997 on 92.1-FM The Edge, which signed off in 2003 (it’s now back on the air at 94.1 FM). He also spent a few years as program director at 88.9-FM The Impact, the Michigan State University radio station. He left radio altogether in 2009 after a four-year stint at Q101-FM in Chicago.

Elsesser said he feels the radio giants dropped the ball on the creative side of radio, as well as the opportunities the Web offers, and now the industry is suffering. He said he began to lose faith in the industry after attending a few National Association of Broadcasters conferences while working at The Impact.

“Every year I’d see the people that would get together, the big head honchoes who are in charge of radio, so to speak,”
Elsesser recalled. “I’d hear them talk, hear their plans. Honestly, it was a big group of 60-year-old white guys who used to be sales managers, who didn’t have an artistic bone in their body and had absolutely no idea what the fuck was going on.

“They dropped the ball on podcasting, dropped the ball on any Internet content whatsoever. They were so backwards. … They were saying stuff like, ‘We really need to push the fact that terrestrial radio is live and local, and blah, blah, blah’ — all this bullshit. Now, 90 percent of radio stations across the country are automated.”

’Its days are over’

Elsesser, who now teaches audio production classes at Lansing Community College, said listeners are turned off by the preset programming radio depends upon.

“It’s the cheap way to put something together,” Elsesser said. “It’s all about dollar signs and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when there’s no real thought behind it people can feel that and are not going to take it seriously.

“People are not as dumb as radio broadcasters like to think they are. You can only push so much shitty content for so long before people just say, ‘Why?’ It’s too bad it’s become what it has. Aside from talk and sports radio, in my opinion,
there’s no future for music radio. Its days are over.”

In Elsesser’s eyes, program directors — who were once responsible for determining what went on the air and how it was presented — have been taken out of the mix by the conglomerates. “They’re essentially just managers of the employees,” he said. “They really don’t have a say over the programming or the music they’re playing — they don’t have the ability to be creative or innovative. It all comes down from the head office.” With batches of stations across the map being owned by the same companies, Elsesser said it’s simple to spot the striking similarities, even across state lines. “You can drive across the country and listen to a conglomerate’s radio stations, and as you cross Michigan, Illinois, allthe way over to California, you’re going to hear the same music, same imaging, many times even the same voice guy: There’s no differentiation,” he said. Elsesser may be fed up with corporate radio today, but he spoke highly of his early days at The Edge, as well as his time at the student-operated The Impact, a station that’s been managed by Gary Reid since it debuted in 1989. Reid is a 35-year MSU employee and also WKAR’s director of radio and television broadcasting services.

“We struggle every day to try and remain relevant to our listeners,” Reid said. “We try to be open-minded enough to find new music that will be of value to listeners and move forward.”

Back when The Impact first hit the airwaves, the Internet didn’t even exist. Reid, 58, said his student staff today is technologically savvy. “They think much more broadly about radio and what radio could be in today’s world,” Reid said. “I find they have broader tastes in music and are interested in doing other things than just being a DJ. We have a bunch of people who are interested in video; we have a branded YouTube site. The young people look at media in a much broader way than we have in the past.” 

Robert Waggley, 55, a former Cumulus employee and now the general sales manager at MacDonald Broadcasting, has a more optimistic look on the slumping radio numbers. MacDonald, which owns WHZZ-FM/MIKE FM (101.7), Power 96.5 WQHH-FM, WILS-AM (1320) and WXLA-AM (1130), is one of the few private, locally owned broadcasters still in operation.It owns stations in just two markets, Saginaw and Lansing. 

“In the industry, radio revenue is down some,” Waggley said. “It’s not down huge — some people would call it huge, I guess. But I firmly believe the radio industry can re-grow some of those numbers and move back in a positive direction. The last couple years haven’t been easy for anybody.” 

Peter Tanz, 51, vice president of Michigan operations for Midwest Communications, said even with the intense changes, he feels what comes out of the speakers hasn’t waned.

“What the audience experiences and what the audience feels isn’t necessarily what’s changed,” Tanz said. “It’s how we deliver content and how we look at our own internal business model; it’s just changed dramatically. Change is constant. There’s constant change, but as long as you continue to serve the advertisers and serve the community, you’re going to continue to do well.”

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