The Message

Little Big Man

In the end, Brown decided that rather than let 1510 AM sit idle, he'd use the KCUV call letters he already owned to promote music that wasn't being widely heard. Dubbing itself "Colorado's Underground Voice," the station specializes in Americana, which encompasses genres like country, roots, bluegrass and the blues. To play it, Brown hired some expatriates from Radio 1190, a University of Colorado broadcaster whose sound he loves, along with the Denver Post's G. Brown, brought in immediately after the veteran rock critic resigned in the face of plagiarism accusations ("Looking Glass," November 20).

"I think G. is very talented," says the other Brown. "I understand that [Post editor] Greg Moore made a decision based on how he wants to operate, but even though I think G. may have been sloppy, I'm not prepared to give him the scarlet letter because of that. He adds a lot to the station with his background and his knowledge." To get even more mileage out of these abilities, KCUV has added a Web page on its site called "What Can G. Brown Do For You?" The cyber-zone is slated to feature profiles, reviews and the like about artists the station plays; one focusing on 16 Horsepower cannibalizes material from an article the scribe wrote about the group for the Post.

That's not all. Last May, Tim Brown acquired nine stations in Colorado mountain and resort communities in a pair of transactions: NRC shelled out nearly $4.7 million to Salisbury Broadcasting Corporation for properties in Eagle, Oak Creek, Basalt, Aspen and Hayden, with over $3.3 million going to American General Media for facilities in Glenwood Springs, Vail, Hayden and Breckenridge. The latter, KSMT-FM, has got Brown most excited. "I want to make KSMT the best indie-rock station in the country," he declares. "I'm going to put so much energy into making it a model of what KTCL used to sound like back in the '80s. I want all the people in Denver to know that there's a beacon of great alternative music as soon as you go through the Eisenhower Tunnel." The other mountain stations sport a range of sounds, from classic rock and country to adult album alternative. As for KKHI, his newest baby, he hasn't yet decided what he wants to do with it, but he says he won't be driven by the desire to maximize revenue.

At the same time, Brown doesn't want anyone to think NRC is simply a plaything given to him by a generous father-in-law. "It's absolutely a business," he stresses. "Quite frankly, Phil has expectations of us being self-sustaining, and today, we're not profitable. I'll be the first to admit that -- although we're getting better. It just takes a while." Perhaps that's why he expects that he'll take a break from a spending spree that's topped the $30 million mark: "I'd like to make sure the twelve stations we've got are doing well before we start thinking about other things."

Nonetheless, Brown says he'd be satisfied as "a boutique broadcaster. I don't want to be a seven-share FM [a rating comparable with the city's top performers]. I'd much rather be a three share and have very, very passionate and dedicated listeners."

If the response to his essay is any indication, he's headed in the right direction. According to Brown, his memo was downloaded 1,231 times in the first three and a half weeks it was available online, and he's gotten plenty of e-mails from readers who sense a kindred spirit. "They've said, 'Now I know why I'm feeling the way I am about radio,'" he recounts. "It's good for me to know that I wasn't the only guy in 2001 who felt that way -- nice to know you're not alone in the world."

About a boy: One of the biggest news stories in Denver during late 2002 and early 2003 centered on young Oscar Hernandez. Every major media organization in the city closely tracked the plight of this six-year-old leukemia sufferer whose illegal-immigrant parents, Pedro Hernandez and Susana Nieto, were unable to pay for a bone-marrow transplant that might save his life. With high-profile politicos ranging from former Denver mayor Wellington Webb to Congressman Tom Tancredo soliciting on Oscar's behalf, more than $400,000 was raised from local donors, despite the revelation part of the way through the fund drive that a hospital in Oakland had offered to perform the transplant at no charge ("Give and Take," January 30). In February, the procedure was performed at Children's Hospital in Denver, with seemingly the entire city hoping for a happy ending.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Oscar died early on November 23 -- but astonishingly enough, word of this sad news didn't break for another ten days. Moreover, the facts got out practically through happenstance.

On November 24, the principal at Fairview Elementary School, which Oscar attended, wrote a letter announcing his death to concerned parents, including one who's a Westword staffer. Editor Patricia Calhoun began making calls and was able to confirm that Oscar had died. She spoke about "The Sounds of Silence," her resulting column, during a December 3 appearance on the KHOW radio program hosted weekday mornings by Peter Boyles, who'd also pitched in to assist Oscar. Hours later, Ralph Torres, the attorney for the Hernandez family, released a statement corroborating this development.

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