Listeners and acolytes of KPOJ-AM's morning radio host Carl Wolfson were prepped for the bad news last Friday, when Wolfson took to Facebook after his show to announce his firing in light of a new direction for Portland's only reliable bastion of progressive political talk radio.
The station, over the weekend, was quickly re-branded as Fox Sports AM620 in what appears to be a money-making play by KPOJ's corporate owner, Clear Channel. Even though KPOJ's current format is still profitable, sources say, replacing it with the sports property and its national ad buys will make even more cash. Clear Channel already owns right-leaning local talk stations KEX and KXL, both of which,WW reported Friday, outpace KPOJ in local ratings.
But the gaping hole left by the changeover—expected as it might have been—was made all the more painful and glaring this morning when Wolfson's regular time slot came and went and all we had, instead, was another round of macho droning about mindless distractions. Wolfson's former listeners have begun rallying around the host, lamenting not just Wolfson's loss but also the idea that talk radio in this town is now officially the provenance of the likes of Victoria Taft, Lars Larson, and Rush Limbaugh. And, like clockwork, petitions to reverse the makeover are now making the rounds.
Blue Oregon's Kari Chisholm—a regular guest on Wolfson's program—has so far emerged as the effort's highest-profile champion, starting a website for his petition and also creating a companion Save KPOJ Facebook page.
From Chisholm's petition announcement:
It's true. It really happened. After word got out, Clear Channel flipped KPOJ to all-sports on Friday night. Never mind that KPOJ was plenty profitable. And never mind that there's already two full-time all-sports stations already in Portland.
I believe that we can reverse this decision. It won't be easy, and it won't be fast. But by demonstrating that KPOJ's progressive audience is dedicated and large, we can get Clear Channel to reverse course. And if they won't budge, then we'll demonstrate to another company, another station that there's an audience here for progressive talk.
Wolfson's been quiet and gracious so far, encouraging the petition-making and thanking his longtime fans. But he's not been shy about commenting on the economics at play.
Thanks to all of you for your kind comments and passion for progressive radio in Portland. And special thanks to Tom Dwyer, Bill Dickey, Tom Barreto and all of our loyal advertisers. KPOJ made money for Clear Channel for many years, and I will put our lineup up against the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Berry any day. More soon.
Take a look at the petition. I'm not sure how I feel about talk radio in general—true believers on the left are sometimes only a little bit better than the "ditto-heads" on the right when it comes to avoiding epistemic failures. But Wolfson's show was always better than that. I had the privilege of spending a slice of my Thursdays with Wolfson, talking about each week's Mercury, and was always impressed not only by how much he cared about national politics but also about what was happening here. That passion deserves a home somewhere.