Foul Frequency

PR flops. Staff upheaval. Shrill talk-show hosts. The Cardinals' flagship station can't seem to find the strike zone.

"It's called marketing to the lowest-common denominator," says Joe Sonderman, a radio critic for the St. Louis Journalism Review. "They're appealing to the people who made American Idol the most popular show in the nation."

Media insiders say Dorsey told several of the fired staff that he'd been outvoted in the station change, leaving many to question the perceived 50-50 partnership between the Cardinals and Dorsey's group.

"The cruel irony is had Dorsey not been an equity party, he'd have been out a long time ago," comments a media source who asked not to be named in this story. "He mismanaged the station from the get-go. But the talent who took the risk to join the station, they were expendable."

Critics say The Kramer Show represents all that's wrong with KTRS.
Jennifer Silverberg
Critics say The Kramer Show represents all that's wrong with KTRS.
For years Tim Dorsey wanted the Cardinals on KTRS. But is it a dream come true or a nightmare in the making?
Jennifer Silverberg
For years Tim Dorsey wanted the Cardinals on KTRS. But is it a dream come true or a nightmare in the making?

Dorsey maintains he never had complete control.

"Yeah, I've been a managing partner and the president of the station, but I've never been in control. I answered to 32 board members," he says. "Now, with the addition of the Cardinals, there are probably 50 owners."

If the on-air hosts were startled by the swift and sudden change, the station's listenership was even more surprised, and responded by firing off more than 2,000 e-mails in protest.

Still, Law remains resolute that a change away from the news-talk format was desperately needed, and he dismisses the notion that he's dumbed-down the station.

"This is the entertainment business," offers Law. "If information is a byproduct of that, then fine. But information without entertainment doesn't work."

And if there's a bullpen closer in the new KTRS lineup it appears to be Keith Kramer, a guy Law predicts to be his star.

"I think Kramer is going to be huge — a real force in this town," predicts Law. "He has the talent and the brains. I find him immensely likeable."

Others do not.


Mike Anderson, moderator of the online message board stl.media.net, has established himself over the past six years as the region's most prolific — if not boundless — broadcast-media watchdog. During a late-night thunderstorm last month, Anderson critiqued the local television network's weather coverage live on his Web site as if calling a horse race.

"2:45 a.m. and 2's back on with the thunderstorm info, 4 drops out and 5 is still in regular programming. 2:50 a.m. and here's the rain. thunder's louder, lightning's brighter. no hail yet. 4 & 5 back with brief reports; 4 continues along with 2."

But few topics have captured Anderson's attention as much as KTRS' format change, and his message board reflects his dissatisfaction — particularly with host Keith Kramer.

In the past two months Anderson has posted on the message board such tidbits as comments Kramer's wife, Christy, made on her MySpace blog, joking of her desire to smoke crack and perform a ménage à trois before turning 30. Other entries skewer Kramer for using a Confederate flag on his Web site, www.godofradio.com, and one post even confronts the talk-show host to a fistfight.

"If you had any stones, you'd confront me in person," writes Anderson. "But you never will. I'm 57 years old, old enough to be your father (presuming you know who your father is) and handicapped, and you're still afraid to take me on man-to-man."

Kramer labels Anderson a "harassing little turd" and has threatened to release potentially damaging information on him should the attacks continue. Even some of Anderson's supporters say his attacks on Kramer have gone too far, but Anderson remains unapologetic. The reason?

"A major-league radio station should have a major-league team working for it," says Anderson. "But what did KTRS do? They went out and hired guys who may or may not be qualified, who weren't working or who were barely working."

Kramer was out of a job for several months before landing at KTRS. Tim "Monty" Montemayor, who replaced Randy Karraker in the sports department, was such a greenhorn at his previous radio gig in Sacramento that he was forced to supplement his income waiting tables at a local Chili's. Jay Anderson, who lasted less than two months before being fired for Dave Lenihan, reportedly was on air just one day a week before arriving at KTRS.

Whereas many of the old hosts commanded salaries ranging from $100,000 to $150,000, radio insiders estimate the salaries for the new staff at between $75,000 and $100,000.

"A salary dump was certainly one of the factors in the change-up," says Joe Sonderman of the St. Louis Journalism Review. "The fact of the matter is Dorsey poured a shitload of money down the drain. He paid his hosts big money to move from KMOX, and they weren't pulling the figures. Now I'm told they don't even care about programming. They figure people will tune into the Cardinals and then never change the dials."

But there's mounting evidence the format change isn't going as planned. Last month KTRS rehired McGraw Milhaven after firing him just four months earlier.

"We listened to what our listeners had to say," says Dorsey, who shrugs off the notion that Milhaven's rehiring suggests an about-face. "The number-one complaint they had was that McGraw was no longer on the station."

Dorsey further maintains that landing the Cardinals will turn KTRS into the station he first imagined a decade ago. Besides, it's a move right out of his old mentor's playbook.

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