Ron Parrish, the publisher of Denver's first-ever newsletter devoted entirely to talk radio, says he's confident there are plenty of other locals as addicted to babble as he is. But so far, he doesn't have much evidence.
"I have a friend or two who listen to talk," reveals the 41-year-old Parrish, a machinist who finances his by-subscription-only Radio Report by crafting custom pool cues at a Westminster machine shop. "But they're not as serious about it as I am."
The reason he's so passionate about radio, Parrish says, has everything to do with his job. The sounds produced by the buzzing machines he uses to transform pieces of wood into works of sporting art are not nearly so lovely to his ears as, say, the wit and wisdom of Pat Buchanan. So in order to maintain his sanity, he wears a set of headphones all day long. His soundtrack of choice: nonstop talk. "I'm a junkie," he admits. "I've been listening as long as I've been in Denver. And now there's a lot more to listen to."
Indeed, within the past year, two stations, KTLK-AM and KHOW-AM, have gone gab, joining KOA-AM, KYBG-AM and KNUS-AM in the ranks of mainstream talk outlets. Add KRKS-FM, a Christian talk station, and you've got more yakkers on the Denver airwaves than ever before.
The result, for Parrish, was confusion. "The schedules were changing so often, especially on the weekend," he says. "And if I'd call the radio stations and ask them for their schedules, sometimes they'd send them and sometimes they wouldn't--and a lot of the ones I'd get weren't very updated."
Frustrated by the jumble, Parrish, who'd never used the journalism degree he earned from the University of Texas-El Paso, decided to do something to correct the situation. While driving to Arkansas to visit his parents last year, he came up with the idea for Radio Report. The main focus of the newsletter, which made its debut in August, is an updated guide that lets listeners know when to tune in, and for what. That's supplemented by biographies of local talk personalities, notes on special programming, advice on how to contact stations and a letters column that allows fans to blow off steam.
Before, says Parrish, "There was nowhere to complain if a show was canceled. You can call the station and they act like they're concerned with your opinion, but in the end nothing matters except the ratings. So I thought this could be a forum where people could voice their opinions."
Parrish was certain that cooperation from radio stations would be the least of his worries. He was wrong. "Most of the stations decided to take a wait-and-see attitude," he says. "Which means that they didn't return my calls."
Parrish wanted to interview KOA's Mike Rosen, his personal favorite among the city's radio personalities, but he couldn't get him on the phone. He had better luck reaching KTLK's Peter Boyles, but Boyles turned down his request for an audience. Contacted after his shift last week, Boyles says he wishes Parrish well but adds, "I can't think of anything worse than a talk-radio guide to Denver. God, just listening to it should be enough."
At the same time, Parrish had difficulty even shaking a schedule out of any station other than KOA. The situation improved at KNUS and KHOW, Parrish says, as soon as he made arrangements to buy late-night commercials plugging his publication: "Then they were pretty interested."
Thanks to his advertising contract, Parrish was given access to KNUS's Tom Jensen. A Jensen bio subsequently became the centerpiece of the first edition of Radio Report, which he planned to publish in June. But just as he was going to press, Parrish got word that Jensen had been axed by the station. Parrish responded by scrapping the initial issue and starting over. His next interview subject was KHOW host Claudia Lamb--but shortly after Radio Report's August debut, she and KHOW parted company over a scheduling dispute. "I couldn't believe it," Parrish recalls.
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Response to the rest of the eight-page Report's inaugural issue has been decidedly modest. In spite of his ad buys, Parrish says his readership is hovering around fifty people--and he estimates that 80 percent of those are elderly women.
"That surprised me," Parrish concedes, "but it's been great. I probably don't have anything else in common with them, but because we each like talk radio, we have an instant connection. When they've called to subscribe, I've wound up talking with some of them for an hour. And when they send me their check, they've included little notes saying, `I enjoyed our talk.' And you know, I did, too."
To satisfy his readers, Parrish says there will be some changes in the second issue, which he expects to complete in mid-October. "The next one is going to be sixteen pages long," he promises. "And there's going to be larger print."
Parrish says it's too soon to tell if Radio Report will be a profitable venture. But he insists he's in the publishing business for the long haul. "I'm just going to have to work my way up the ladder," he says. "Then, maybe someday, Mike Rosen will want to talk to me.