Today they smothered the last vestige of what once was the most kick-ass radio news station in Houston when KTRH Radio fired morning anchors Lana Hughes and J.P. Pritchard. “Eh, yeah, 27 years…but it’s just not working out for us; we feel like we need to go in a new direction.”
(Full disclosure: I worked with Lana and J.P. at KTRH, liked and respected them both. I anchored afternoon drive with Jean Jangda, and then Tom Bacon, while they held down the mornings. In fact, I was already at the station when they were hired, separately, and then when they were made the morning drive team.)
Today’s KTRH (740 on your AM dial) is just a faint echo of the real news organization it once was: full of reporters and writers and producers who bested every other broadcaster in town, and competed with two daily newspapers despite the papers’ overwhelming advantage in resources. But that station is long gone, and I haven’t listened to KTRH in years. It lost all depth of coverage, all its authority…become almost feathery, just a series of short readers ping-ponged back and forth between the morning anchors, and the rest of the day filled with Limbaugh and Limbaugh imitators, local and syndicated. I can’t even turn it on for the Astros’ game (this part is not the station’s fault) because the Astros won’t can Milo Hamilton. Lana and J.P. were the last link to that past.
As is the norm in these cases, station management has nothing but the highest praise for those so hastily dispatched—“been blessed to work with” them—and J.P. is quoted as saying he knows this is “nothing personal,” just part of a changing business. But management let them know about “the change” after they got off the air this morning, and after 27 years they just won’t be back. Makes you wonder: if they were so valued, and so loved, why weren’t they given an opportunity to say goodbye on the air? To the audience, they will simply vanish, perhaps to be referred to by the new people, in mock reverent tones, for a week or two. And why has every scintilla of evidence of their existence already been scrubbed from the website, like they were never there?
Station management reportedly admits that this decision means the end of a “traditional morning news show” on the station, and they hope for something more like “Fox and Friends.” (Great.) They say they’re making this change based on research and feedback—ah, the magic words that signal another victory for consultants…
In 1984 KTRH was the powerhouse news/talk station in Houston, making a ton of money, when it committed ritual hara-kiri of the talk component because a new program director (who would go on to become a consultant!) proclaimed that talk was a dying format that appealed only to the older demographic…well, we’ve all seen how right he was about that! Since then subsequent management slowly brought back in the talk shows to fill time, because no one can bear to listen to the same news stories over and over and over again all day, but you need to keep the cume ratings up. Then the station was bought, and ended up absorbed into Clear Channel Communications, and like most of the other tentacles of that beast it became a rebroadcaster—of right-wing talk, and right-wing news. Today, they announce they’re going all the way…back to news/talk, but now with a partisan political point of view.
Hey, it’s their station (broadcasting on my airwaves and yours, free of charge), and they can do with it what they want. What they want is to make money, and I’m fine with that—but don’t any of you for one minute think that they’re trying to do anything other than that. Any informing or educating or entertaining, or whatever, that happens along the way, is gravy—they’re here to make money. Today’s decision is, ultimately, undoubtedly, one they believe will make them more money (which, as I said, I’m fine with). Any consideration about serving “the public interest, convenience and necessity” is an afterthought.
Lana and Jeeps: well done, old friends…sleep in.