Static Freefall

Carroll's departure from KMOX paced by station's ratings decline

Criticism of Carroll's flashy style and obsession with her public image surfaced in rants on www.stlmedia.net. Her panache seemed to irritate folks as much as her work habits. One poster referred to KMOX as a "joke" under her guidance and offered that Carroll "looks and acts like a 21-year-old LA club-hopping chick." The 55-year-old Carroll, a former high-school pompom-squad member and National Honor Society student from Overland, did display a penchant for expensive clothes, abundant jewelry and mentions in Jerry Berger's column.

"No one 'resigns' at 5:15 p.m. on a Monday, particularly with an ego the size of Karen's," read one Web site post. "Every time she breaks wind, Berger tells us what it smells like."

But even that anonymous critic gave Carroll her due while damning her: "While she was once great, and she was as good as anyone, Karen grew into a monster over the past ten years.... There is a pathetic image of her now, asking Mr. DeMille for her close-up, while she lobbies for her grief-stricken 'comrades' to follow in her footsteps."

Carroll did not return calls for this or other recent coverage concerning KMOX, including her firing of Jaco. She also declined comment on her late-2001 decision to suspend John Carney for one week without pay for a joke he made about an advertiser's toupee when Carney emceed a public dinner [Wilson, "News Clipped," December 19, 2001]

Since the Infinity lawyers came in and settled the dispute with Jaco, the veteran newscaster has landed a part-time gig at KIRO-AM in Seattle, which plans to send him to the Mideast so the former CNN correspondent can cover the attack on Iraq. Jaco says he will be leaving in a few weeks to do "my shows from wherever, probably Qatar and then maybe Baghdad -- who knows?"

Tim Dorsey, the boss at KTRS (550 AM ) -- KMOX's main competition in the news-talk field -- avoids direct criticism of Carroll but sees her departure as yet another sign of the top station's slide after decades of dominance.

Dorsey, who worked at KMOX from 1975-90, has tried to fashion KTRS into a competitor to KMOX since he and his investors took over the station in 1997. He has won the broadcast rights to Rams and Blues games, but overtaking KMOX is still a tall order because of the ingrained habits of St. Louis' radio audience.

"Anytime you do anything in news-talk radio, it's slow," says Dorsey. "We're all creatures of habit. There are people who have had their dial set to KMOX for 50 years. It's hard to get people to change habits."

Any way it's sliced, the recent ratings report was a bad one for all news-and-talk stations, including KTRS. Dorsey thinks the numbers also mean KMOX is destined to be just another horse in the stable -- its days as Secretariat are over.

"If you check their latest print ads and look at their outdoor [advertising], everything is geared to a war," says Dorsey. "They call it 'Showdown with Saddam.' I don't know how you build your programming on that. That station used to be built on personality, on Jack Buck and Jack Carney and Rex Davis and Jim White. Hyland built that station on sports and personality."

But Buck, Carney and Davis are dead, Jaco and White are gone and the Rams and Blues have left KMOX's signal -- clear signs that the station's old formula has expired. Maybe Carroll, despite her protestations to the contrary, realized that no matter what she did, the salad days were over.

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