The Message

Hard Progress

Hundreds of people did, which Tim Brown, who's CEO of Newspaper Radio Corporation, KNRC's owner, sees as a good sign. KNRC, at 1150 AM, slipped to a negligible .2 ratings share among listeners ages twelve and over in the most recent Arbitron trend, but the e-mail barrage shows that people are actually listening. And while Enid fans may not like what happened, Brown suspects that they appreciate the station's willingness to let her air her grievances. "We actually encouraged her to say how she felt," Brown says. "She was very honest, just like she always is."

Brown demonstrates these same qualities when he talks about Newspaper Radio's other frequency, KCUV-AM/1510. He says the company twice had it under contract, but both deals fell through -- so he and his associates decided that instead of just letting it sit there, they'd try something new. At 8 a.m. on October 15, they'll introduce "Country's Underground Voice," a station that will concentrate on the alternative-country genre. Acts like Wilco, Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams will sidle up alongside C&W mainstays Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and so on.

Yep, it's a gamble. Alterna-country has a loyal cult following, and Austin's KGSR has done well playing such music, but Denver's country leader, KYGO, is a juggernaut that helps support KYGO-AM, a classic-country signal just up the dial from KCUV. Regardless, Brown is excited about KCUV's prospects and believes that good word of mouth and jocks like Radio 1190 grad Danny Birch will round up enough cowpokes to make it profitable.

Jason Salzman wants progressives to get their 
message out.
Mark Manger
Jason Salzman wants progressives to get their message out.

"We're trying to run it lean and mean," Brown concedes. "Hopefully, a lot of people who are disenfranchised with local radio today will appreciate hearing some really good music."

Careful with that ax: After reporter Dave Minshall was fired by Channel 7, he filed a discrimination lawsuit against the station and picketed its headquarters. Channel 7 vice president and general manager Cindy Velasquez defended the broadcaster against Minshall's accusations, all of which dealt with matters that took place the year before her 1997 hiring, but she must have been paying attention to the approach that ultimately netted him a jury award of over $500,000. On September 30, Ed Quinn, president of the McGraw-Hill Company Broadcasting Group, which owns Channel 7, arrived in Denver and promptly handed Velasquez her head. Two days later, Velasquez supporters staged a protest in front of Channel 7, and sources say she's exploring her legal options. She could not be reached for comment.

Whether Velasquez deserved to be sacked depends upon the criteria by which her Channel 7 tenure is measured. She took over the station at a time when the news operation was a laughingstock thanks to a format dubbed "Real Life, Real News" that was, in fact, real stupid. (Irony alert: Gannett newspapers have just launched a program called "Real Life, Real News.") Over time, she made many intriguing personnel decisions, like elevating Anne Trujillo to anchor, wooing Denver vet Mike Landess back to town and hiring weatherman Marty Coniglio away from Channel 4. Not everything she did worked (intolerably smug Fox Sports Net veteran Lionel Bienvenu is a lousy fit), but her efforts resulted in the resurrection of Channel 7's reputation. Today its newscasts are generally as solid as those offered by other Denver stations. Too bad their audience shares trail in virtually every time slot -- especially at 10 p.m., where bragging rights are established.

There were indications aplenty that things were getting desperate in the weeks leading up to Velasquez's firing, including a promo bragging that Channel 7 led the Rocky Mountain News in its coverage of the Air Force Academy scandal. Not only did this spot prompt raised eyebrows among journalists who know that a Westword article about the academy appeared about two weeks before Channel 7 took its first swings, but it virtually guarantees that the Rocky will avoid giving the station credit for its reporting whenever possible. (An October 2 article about the ousting of a cadet who ran a porn Web site is an example.) Besides, Channel 7's been bragging about its impressive Air Force coverage since February without experiencing any noticeable ratings bump.

In other words, this Hail Mary pass fell incomplete. What's left is to see if Velasquez will get a rematch in court.

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