Kris Olinger, boss at KOA, KHOW and AM 760, leaving Clear Channel Denver

Update, 11:56a.m.: Clear Channel Denver president Lee Larsen weights in on Kris Olinger's departure below our original item, originally published at 8:20 a.m., with a new e-mail communique included after our 10:16 a.m. addition.

Kris Olinger, the longtime overseer of AM programming for Clear Channel Denver is leaving the operation.

Late last night, Lee Larsen, president and market manager of Clear Channel's Denver branch, sent out an e-mail alerting staffers of the change at the top. The note suggests that Olinger's reasons for splitting are personal rather than professional.

Here's the e-mail:

Its never easy to see one of our teammates leave us and such is the case with Kris Olinger. She has been part of our AM stations since the 1980s with a short three year hiatus when she went to Seattle. Kris served as a news person, news director, on air talent, program director and ops manager. Her efforts contributed mightily to the numerous awards the stations have won over the years and the strong ratings the stations have enjoyed in one of the country's most competitive markets. The last year or so has been difficult for Kris personally with the loss of her father followed by a major illness that effects her mother to this day. As Kris ventures into new areas lets all wish her the best, lend her our support and thank her for the many contributions she has made to our group of stations.

Lee Larsen

President/Market Manager

Clear Channel Denver

No question that these are tough times for traditional media businesses, and particularly for terrestrial radio, which is being assailed on all sides by technology, not to mention a horrific advertising downturn. Moreover, Clear Channel's three Denver talkers -- KOA, KHOW and AM 760 -- aren't exactly tearing up the ratings. In the baseline twelve-plus category, which doesn't take into account all-important target demographics, Radio Online reports that KOA is the fifth most listened-to outlet in the market, with KHOW placing 18th and AM 760 registering in 31st place out of 41 signals making a mark on the most recent survey, covering April.

Still, it's very difficult to imagine Olinger being scapegoated for this performance. She's a big part of the reason why both KOA and KHOW are known in the radio biz well beyond state lines, and she's stuck by AM 760 long after more nervous execs might have pulled the trigger.

Olinger's voicemail says she'll return on May 17, suggesting that she may have been out of the loop for a while now. A message has been left there, as well as with Larsen and Olinger's assistant. When and if we receive responses, we'll update this post.

Update, 10:16 a.m.: Lee Larsen gives away very little in discussing the departure of his longtime colleague, Kris Olinger. When asked if she left for personal reasons, he replies, "I really wouldn't be able to tell you one way or the other. All I can tell you is what I said in the e-mail -- that she's gone, and that she made great contributions here. Why somebody leaves is not something we're allowed to discuss."

Beyond that, he confirms that her last day was yesterday, and he notes that she didn't share future plans with him. As for Olinger's assistant, she says she doesn't have a forwarding contact number for her previous boss. Hmmm...

In terms of current listenership numbers, Larsen concedes that "we'd always like the ratings to be larger for all our stations. As you know, we have a new ratings system, and under that system, those are pretty good ratings for each of those individual stations, especially if you dig deeper and look at our target demographics.

"But we have eight stations, and I'd like all of them to be in the top five. That's a physical impossibility, but that's my goal."

The health of the radio market in general "has been getting better," he allows. "In the first five months of this year, the market is up about 10 percent. It's the first up year we've experienced in several years, so there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It's just that periodically, it's blinking. Things are moving up, but not in a straight line."

Regarding a replacement for Olinger, it doesn't sound like there's a rush to find someone. "I'm beginning the process of making the job public," Larsen says. "We'll be interviewing people over the weeks and months to come until I find somebody as good."

Update, 11:56 a.m.: Here's a new e-mail sent by Larsen to Clear Channel Denver staffers this morning. The tone suggests that Olinger's departure may have been sudden:

Sorry for the Denver all but I want to be sure all those involved with AM programming have this info. If you are not part of our AM programming you may stop here or just for grins you can read on.

With Kris's departure I want to make sure we don't miss a beat. In order for that to happen I need to ask each of you to be extra vigilant in your communications with one another. Who needs to know what you are or aren't doing? Is there something you believe is being overlooked? Is someone who needs to know out of the loop? Is there an unanswered question somewhere? Lets not let this change allow us to lower our standards in any way.

Kenan and Jenny will continue to lead our promotional and digital efforts while taking on the additional responsibilities that Kris handled in those areas. In addition to keeping the News and Traffic operations at peak performance Kathy will work with me on any news-programming cross over issues. Joe Bevilacqua will handle all the company issues for us and at the heart of our communication cluster will be Bailey. Please let her know anything you believe is not being handled by one of us. If you have a major issue, question or concern or you feel something is not being covered please feel free to bring it to me.

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