Sacramento a cradle of talk radio

10:52 PM, Feb 14, 2011   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - There are certain towns in the nation that inspire good talk radio and Sacramento is one of them.  From Rush to Imus, Morton Downey Jr. to Tom Sullivan, national careers have launched from the Sacramento market as syndicators carefully watch the ratings and the money generated by successful hosts.

See a gallery of Sacramento's radio stars

Alex Cosper is a 30-year veteran of Northern California radio stations.  He served as program director for the first alternative format station in Sacramento and now writes on radio history and research for PlaylistResearch.com. 

"It does take talent to make it to the national picture but it's also who you know and it's who you are affiliated with.  It's easier if you are already part of a network that has a lot of reach," Cosper said.

With regional reach through Clearchannel and a popular podcast, Armstrong and Getty have spent more than a decade with the listeners in the Sacramento and San Francisco markets.  They broadcast each morning from a closet-sized studio tucked into the side of the KFBK newsroom.  

Jack Armstrong stands throughout the show and Joe Getty is seated, watching the calls.

"We call it a visit to the human zoo," said Getty. "The beauty of California is we'll throw out a topic and have the most learned guy in America call and then have the biggest moron who screams at us and we have to dump him because he drops "s" bombs.  Then there is everyone in between.  There is a level of expertise or a strong belief in every topic to the area we broadcast to." 

Until recently, the team has resisted the attention of national syndicators for fear of losing touch with their core audience. "We've decided recently, partially because of podcasts and people listening online, that we're already spread out anyway,"  said Armstrong, "We are all for it now so we'll be trying to move that direction in the near future."

Of the other local talkers poised for national exposure, some have been there before.  Don Geronimo has already had a very successful career with Mike O'Meara doing the "Don & Mike" show.  With syndication on 30 radio stations throughout the country, that show ended in 2008 after the death of Geronimo's wife. 

After taking a break from the radio business, Geronimo decided to launch his solo career in Sacramento and has jumped 10 positions in the ratings since taking over the afternoon slot at KHTK last summer.

Rob, Arnie and Dawn of 98 Rock have also seen regional success with audiences in Sacramento, Reno, Alaska and now the ESPN network. 

"Why has Sacramento been such a hotbed of national talent? The question is an intriguing one," said Getty. "Maybe it's because it is a part of the world where everyone is ... every nationality and every opinion.  There are bitter debates on every big issue of the day both in the statehouse and around it.  People in this region have a taste for discussion and if it's lively and controversial, all the better."

The only thing concerning the team now is what radio will look like in a few years, "Everything changes so fast, you're just guessing," said Armstrong. "What is radio going to be in five years? I don't know. More people listen to music on ipods than radio now." 

"It's such a fascinating time in media and by fascinating I mean terrifying because nobody knows what is going to make money or how content is going to be delivered or how it's going to be paid for," Getty said. "We're trying to keep an open mind and not be old farts that poo-poo the social networks and the Internet.  We're just trying to figure it all out along with everyone else."

By Cristina Mendonsa, cmendonsa@News10.net

News10/KXTV

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