One need only to look at the recent booting of John Salley of "The John Salley Block Party" on Radio One’s KKBT-FM (100.3) The Beat and the chosen replacement of Dallas based personality Tom Joyner, to see the crisis in black radio in Los Angeles.
In the nation’s second largest media market that is home to almost one million blacks, there is only one daily talk show that focuses on issues relevant to blacks in Los Angeles and unless you’re up at 4:30 a.m., you miss it. And this is not a plug for the “Front Page” on KJLH, but it is what it is.
Please tell me that I am not the only black person in Los Angeles to notice the gradual yet progressive downward spiral of black radio into meaningless banter by obsolete personalities who are solely focused on their own lives and use four hours during morning drive time to tell you about it. And if it’s not the “Chatty Kathy” personalities then it’s the celebrity who has a new movie, television show, album, video, ring tone, sneaker, or whatever that just won’t shut up.
Then there’s the issue of community news, you know news about issues relevant to you and me. Well, that’s just about disappeared too. If radio stations read news, it’s usually Associated Press or City News copy that wasn’t written by us and usually doesn’t pertain to us. How many black radio news reporters do you know of? Off the top of my head I can only come up with one, Jacquie Stephens.
Let’s be clear here. There are only two black owned radio stations in Los Angeles, Stevie Wonder’s KJLH and Radio One’s KKBT.
KJLH gets a pass simply because they are home to the only daily black talk show in Los Angeles and they actually have a black reporter that goes out into the community to report our news. However, KJLH would do better by moving the “Front Page” into the “Home Team’s” time slot and vice versa.
Radio One’s KKBT has been a constant disappointment for years. I didn’t think they could go much lower after hiring Steve Harvey but then they hired John Salley and made a fool of me. It was a bad move to nix then KKBT personality Dominique DiPrima, but Da Poetess has been trying to hold it down over there for the community.
Consider this. Spanish language radio disc jockeys were the moving force behind the mass numbers of people in attendance at the pro immigration rallies and marches. They told their people where to go, when to be there, what to bring with them, and the people came.
When was the last time John Salley, Big Boy, or Cliff Winston told you to attend a rally in support of an issue that was important to blacks? My point exactly.
Illegal immigration is all everybody is talking about these days, everybody except you know who.
So imagine my own surprise when I found myself tuning in to KFI 640 AM of all stations to get briefed on the latest immigration news. Notoriously known for being Los Angeles’ conservative talk station, KFI has been the only station in Los Angeles to really address immigration in a language that I can understand, English. And even though I don’t always agree with their points of view, I can appreciate a station that is actually willing to at least talk about the issue. It was KFI not a black radio station that first asked blacks how they felt about illegal immigration and had blacks call in to the station to voice their opinions. Go figure?
Someone reading this article is going say, “Well, these stations play music. Their focus is not news.” That may be true, but if it’s a black station, we should also be able get our news from them as well. I don’t expect KFWB News 980 or KPCC 89.9 FM to do a special broadcast on community news specific to blacks, although it would be nice. I do however expect stations that cater to this community to address the issues that are important to us and provide us with comprehensive news that we can use to educate ourselves. Who was voted off of American Idol the night before is irrelevant when we are in danger of losing a community like Leimert Park.
Somehow I just don’t think a Dallas based radio personality who has no connection to the community is who we need on the airwaves in Los Angeles. It’s just a hunch.
Kennedy Johnson is a black writer who lives somewhere in Los Angeles. Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.