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Why in the World Would Hollywood Listen to KFWB?

KFWB’s long-time slogan has been “Give us 22 minutes, and we’ll give you the world.” Now, with a new direction charted to accentuate entertainment coverage — and differentiate itself from sister AM news station KNX (1070) — it also uses the tag, “Hollywood listens to KFWB.”

Honestly, I’ve tried, but I keep asking myself — other than wanting to know whether traffic is moving on the 101 freeway between Barham and Western — why on earth “Hollywood,” which presumably knows something about its own machinations, would listen to something as ill-informed as KFWB?

If CBS Radio (which operates both news outlets) is genuinely committed to carving out an entertainment presence on the Los Angeles station, the company needs to hire a few people that have some feel for the field, which actually does require a modicum of specialized expertise. By contrast, having your newswriters and anchors simply read truncated versions of stories out of Variety and the Los Angeles Times‘ Calendar section — instead of reading stories out of the Times‘ front section, as they used to — won’t cut it. Listeners are too sophisticated for that — even those that aren’t directly part of “Hollywood.”

This opinion is informed in part by the fact that I’ve done two recent interviews with the station (980 on the dial) about articles published in Variety, and each time, the anchors seemed to have only the slightest clue as to what we were talking about. Listening to the station strictly as a consumer/commuter, I find that to be true on a regular basis.

As it stands, a station that once proudly jousted with KNX for news listeners sounds as if it’s dying the death of a thousand cuts. The stations experienced significant layoffs last October (who hasn’t?), which clearly excised a good deal of institutional knowledge. KFWB also inked a deal to carry Angels baseball on weekdays beginning this season.

As the Times‘ Jim Rainey reported, KFWB now airs infomercials pretty much around the clock on weekends, so unless you’re looking for quickie mortgage advice while sitting in traffic, it’s essentially useless as a news source those days.

In April, director of news programming Andy Ludlum told the Times that KFWB’s focus on the business of entertainment represented “the ultimate local story.” And that it might be — if the station covered the industry in a more intelligent manner, instead of like some half-assed, wire-service version of People magazine.

With CBS radio revenue down more than 20% based on second-quarter results, throwing money at the problem seems unlikely. But until someone addresses these shortcomings and embraces this new niche, there’s little reason to afford KFWB a second thought, much less give it 22 minutes to prove that there’s not much left of local newsradio except weather and sports.

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