Written on December 4, 2011 – 5:23 pm | by Cameron Hussey
The San Francisco-based station at 810-AM, owned by Cumulus Media and long known for its popular hosts and call-in talk shows discussing issues of the day, will make the switch to an all-news format from 2 p.m. to midnight starting Monday. Several of its most recognizable voices, such as Gene Burns, Gil Gross, Ray Taliaferro and John Rothmann will be let go, sources confirmed. Shows hosted by Bill Wattenburg and Joanie Greggains may also be canceled.
Twenty-year listener Carol Soc, of El Cerrito, said she’s mortified by the changes.
“I consider Gene and Gil to be companions in my life,” she said. “I recently learned that I have terminal cancer, and listening to KGO has become a major part of my life since I am now confined mainly to my home. I will miss both of them tremendously. Most likely nothing can be done to go back, but I miss ‘the old days’ already.”
A short explanation was posted on KGO’s website Friday morning, before the note disappeared later in the day: “After careful consideration we’ve determined our audience is looking for more news, which is why we are increasing our news presence throughout the day,” the post read.
Calls made to KGO executives and the Cumulus offices in San Francisco on Friday were not returned.
Gross posted this message on Facebook on Thursday evening: “It’s been fun, San Francisco. AdvertisementTruly the most fun I’ve ever had was at KGO. See you soon.”
The Ronn Owens program, which airs from 9 a.m. to noon, “will continue to be the place where the Bay Area goes to talk about current events and breaking news,” according to the KGO website, and talk shows will still be aired on the weekends on KGO and its sister station, KSFO. Host Brian Copeland will keep his weekend show.
Traditional radio broadcasting has been in flux the past few years partly because of the increased popularity of Internet and satellite radio stations, industry experts say. KGO, one of the few remaining news/talk stations in the country that generated most of its programming locally, had maintained its status as the Bay Area’s No. 1 radio station for nearly three decades, according to Arbitron, a consumer research company that rates radio stations. But KGO’s ratings have dropped significantly in the past few years, often beaten out by all-news KCBS 740-AM, and its FM simulcast at 106.9.
KGO radio operated as the West Coast flagship station for ABC until it was purchased by Citadel Broadcasting in 2007. In 2009, longtime weatherman Leo Ciolino and veteran reporters Greg Jarrett and Greg Edmunds were let go. Then Cumulus took over this year. Cumulus bills itself as the nation’s “second-largest operator of radio stations.” In the Bay Area market, it also operates KFOG-FM, KNBR-AM and KSAN-FM.
Radio-Info.com, an online community discussing radio issues, was buzzing about the changes Friday.
“Welcome to the brave new world! SAD! But we all knew it was coming,” one commenter posted. And another said, “San Francisco does not need a second commercial all-news station. Even L.A. can no longer support a second all-news station. Very sorry to hear about the firing of Burns, Rothmann, Taliaferro, and especially Gil Gross.”
A woman who said she was a longtime and “disappointed” listener wrote to the Oakland Tribune: “It is very disappointing and KGO will become a ‘news/gossip’ station without the information of those highly regarded persons. Will now have to change my car radio to … what?”
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