I sent the following letter to KMOX's general manager, Dave Ervin, as well as CBS Radio's Dan Mason and Greg Strassell, after learning KMOX canned host Paul Harris in an effort to cut costs. Taking one of their best personalities off the air because AM radio's audience is shrinking and hence ad rates are dropping seems like a sure fire way not to improve revenue but to accelerate audience losses. Mr. Ervin's e-mail is publicly available, so I linked to it above. I encourage anyone reading this blog who is a KMOX listener online or on the radio to send him a note telling him this was a bad idea.
From: Timothy R. Butler
To: Dave Ervin
Cc: Dan Mason, Greg Strassell, Paul Harris
Subject: Paul Harris and KMOX's Future
Dear Mr. Ervin,
I have been a loyal KMOX listener for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to Charles Brennan and Kevin Horrigan on “the Morning Meeting” when possible, and often went to sleep listening to “the Big Bumper,” Jim White. I am part of the younger demographic (I am 24) that is always said to be desirable to radio stations. To me, KMOX holds a mystique that places it with key St. Louis institutions such as the Gateway Arch and Ted Drews — KMOX is part of what makes the City of St. Louis great.
What makes KMOX itself great is its personalities, and the station suffered a lot over the last decade or so, especially after the launch of the station now known as KTRS and its initial draw of many favorite KMOX personalities over to its airwaves in 1996. Just a short time ago I was discussing with my family how it seemed that KMOX had finally returned to its former greatness by filling the entire lineup from the morning drive time through the evening with personalities truly of the caliber that the Mighty MOX was built on. One of the personalities that has been so important to this is Paul Harris, and I am incredibly dismayed to hear that he has been taken off the air. Frankly, the lure of satellite radio, online news and other media options like podcasts makes listening to AM radio less and less of an attractive option; it has been people like Paul Harris that keep me turning my dial to 1120 AM. During the day, I happily start my day with TI-AM and the Charlie Brennan Show, I enjoy Rush Limbaugh, and on the way home it has been a delight to hear Harris's unique, thoughtful spin on things as well. I do not agree with any of them all of the time, but I appreciate the quality and diversity of opinion that characterizes the KMOX lineup. This quality lineup has allowed me to turn on KMOX without the need to contemplate first whether something good was on — I knew there was something good on.
I realize that money is tight and that sometimes it is necessary to cut costs. But, Mr. Ervin, the way KMOX makes its money is through its listeners, and the reason we listen is not because KMOX is the only choice, but because it has been the BEST choice, precisely due to people like Mr. Harris. Without “the Paul Harris Show,” more than likely, I will not tune into KMOX in the afternoon. If Mr. Harris goes on another station, I will — for the first time — become a regular listener to a different local news/talk station. If he does not, I would rather find something good on my XM Radio than tune into “the Mark Reardon Show.” I have nothing against Mr. Reardon, but Paul Harris is in a different league. I presume that is why Harris was the one to go to the cutting block. But, if, in trying to cut costs, you lose more of your audience and thus your ad dollars, will this not make the balance book even worse off than before?
I realize it would be a difficult and unusual move to reverse a decision such as the one to fire Mr. Harris. However, I urge you to do just that. Prove to people like me, the listeners that make KMOX possible, that KMOX and CBS Radio actually care about their audience by bringing back “the Paul Harris Show.” KMOX as a St. Louis institution deserves to be preserved, and the only way it can be is to insist on the excellence that made it great. Excellence will keep your audience tuned in and patronizing your
sponsors into the future.
Timothy R. Butler