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Columbia Missourian

A voice for Columbia is more quiet now

By Tom Warhover
February 13, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Dear Reader,

Jefferson City woke up this week with Michael Smerconish in its ears.

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I don’t know Smerconish. I bet he’s a swell guy. WBHT radio bills him as the city’s premier talk radio morning host – in Philadelphia.

Jefferson City’s KLIK-AM radio went all-syndicate this week. Mornings belong to Columbia on KFRU, but with deep cuts in its news gathering.

We all lose.

David Lile, the station's morning drive-time host, said he doesn’t recall “being as distracted by work as I was this past weekend.” On Monday's program he talked about the story in the Columbia Daily Tribune and about the larger implications at sister stations.

Colleagues lost jobs as Cumulus Media fired on-air personalities across its seven stations in mid-Missouri. Off-air workers and managers went from full time to part time or to no time.

It’s not a new phenomenon in radioland. Drive from Columbia to Columbus, Ohio, and you’ll hear pretty much the same, standard fare of canned programming.

KFRU is different. It’s an institution. Your parents, and their parents, might have listened to the same kind of hometown news and opinion. At 15, my daughter is far too mature for the likes of AM radio and too far away to listen locally anyway. But sing the Quicky Quiz ditty and she’s 8 again. (“It’s time for quicky quiz, that tricky quiz …”)

When we talked on Wednesday, David said he feels honored to be part of such a long-running radio station. He doesn’t blame anyone in particular for the layoffs – corporations are in the business of making money.

Still, he worries that he’ll be witness to the end of the public service component that made stations like his so invaluable to small towns across the Midwest.

For now, David and others at the station will do their best to keep the local conversation going. I expect we’ll be able to hear the mayor or police chief or local legislators for a while yet.

Pray that we don’t wake up one morning to hear the radio voice of Philadelphia.

Tom