Seeing Red

For better or worse, KHOW's Scott Redmond has people talking.

Like anyone who's lasted more than a week as a talk-show headliner, KHOW's Scott Redmond is accustomed to being ripped by callers. In most cases, though, the blows hurled at him come courtesy of folks he doesn't know, not from colleagues who traipse the same hallways he does. But that changed last week, when KHOW program director Elizabeth Estes-Cooper phoned Redmond's gab-fest to say his decision to close off access to his Internet message board made him look like "a wuss."

Redmond -- who joined KHOW last spring to fill the afternoon-drive slot previously occupied by Denver Bronco turned commentator Reggie Rivers -- wasn't surprised by Estes-Cooper's comments. He'd already discussed the situation with her, emphasizing that the reasons he'd asked the station's Webmaster to hammer the board (located at www.khow.com) had nothing to do with delicate sensibilities. More precisely, he says, he was concerned that "a few individuals were using the message board we'd created to viciously attack anyone in agreement with me. It's fine if people don't agree, but I felt we were giving a few individuals an opportunity to abuse faceless victims."

This argument, which Redmond repeated over the air, didn't make much of an impact on Estes-Cooper, perhaps because he hadn't asked her permission before having the message board disabled. She learned about its removal from angry e-mails of the sort that also made their way to Westword. "I used the message boards to engage in some debates with conservatives from my liberal perspective," wrote one individual, who requested anonymity. "So it angers me that Redmond...shut it down in a fit of pique."

Like this scribe, the majority of respondents to a KHOW online poll favored the board's return. But even if they hadn't, Estes-Cooper told Redmond and his listeners, the results would have been the same: It's going back up -- and it did, on January 10. After all, her vote counted more than anyone else's.

Such electoral irregularities are actually good news for Redmond, because Estes-Cooper remains solidly in his corner despite the message-board incident. She concedes that his ratings are no higher than those garnered by Rivers, who was viewed internally as an Arbitron underachiever. "There's a lag time from when you change a show, and you don't usually see immediate results," she explains. But, she adds, "the advertisers on the show are happy, and there's a lot of chatter in our building and from people on the street. That's why I feel very positive about how things are going."

Redmond does, too -- but he knows he's a long way from completely winning over local talk buffs. Although he refuses to reveal his age, because he doesn't want anyone saying he's of the wrong vintage to discuss certain subjects, he admits to having worked at a slew of signals over approximately thirty years in the business -- and at each stop, he acknowledges, a percentage of listeners warmed up to him more slowly than did others. In the past, however, resistance to his charms has been more short-lived than it's proven to be this time around, and he thinks he's figured out why.

"I don't know if it has to do with Alan Berg, which is a name I always think of, but this market, collectively, has a strong ownership in talk radio," Redmond says "That's true to some degree in every market, but I find it particularly evident here. There just seem to be a lot of people who resist change. If I'm on the air for ten years here, the show will change; it'll evolve with the times. But some people in Denver don't appear to understand that. They've got an idea in their minds of what talk radio should be, and anybody who deviates from that is a bad person.

"I find it interesting," he continues, "that if people come from somewhere else to play for the Avs or the Broncos, they're welcomed with open arms, whereas if you come in from another state to do talk radio, you're considered an outsider. But this city was built by outsiders -- outsiders who came here because it's a wonderful place to live and work. That's why I came here, and why I hope to be able to stay for a good, long time."

If this dream comes true, it'll be the first time in quite a spell that he's been in one place for an extended period. He was born in New Orleans, and he landed his initial job in radio, as a gofer for news-talk purveyor WWL-AM, while he was in high school. He eventually worked his way up to a producer position before convincing his bosses to hand him the morning slot at a rock-music-oriented FM sister station in 1974. "Back then, FM was popular in the afternoons and the evenings, but not in the mornings. And no one was doing personality radio in FM," he says. "But I thought, 'People are people; if they like personality on AM, why not do personality on FM?'" Using the name "Scoot," he interacted with several characters of his own creation, and otherwise attempted to be (his word) "zany."

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