TORONTO, ONTARIO - I've avoided comment on changes that started last week at KIRO-FM in Seattle, Washington. However, after listening (via podcast) to the new "co-hosting" arrangement on the Dave Ross show for more than a week with two different co-hosts, I'm finished. The Dave Ross Show, and by extension KIRO-FM, is no longer part of my regular radio listening experience.
I had made KIRO-FM's Dave Ross Show a part of my regular listening habits for most of my present period of unemployment for several reasons. While Ross has a largely left-of-center viewpoint, and expresses it in the opening features (such as the "News Through Ross-Colored Glasses") of the show quite freely, he runs a fundamentally ideas-driven show. He interviews people from across the political spectrum and asks them probing questions. His constant refrain is "trying to figure out what actually works" regardless of who suggests it, and his tagline for years was "crusader for common sense." With the exception of much of the lineup of KGO in San Francisco, such talk shows are rare in the world today--even the other shows on the KIRO-FM lineup either come from an uncompromising right-wing perspective or are not ideas-based.
Such an intellectually-based show could be boring (local public radio shows across the United States offer examples), but Ross injects humor, from lines bordering on stand-up comedy to prepared musical parodies, that makes the news fundamentally entertaining. One not only learns what arguments might make sense (mostly from Ross' left-leaning perspective, but also from guests of all stripes), but one can actually look forward to being amused. On an average day, I have felt like it was worth my time to listen to his show, relative to other options available such as Rush Limbaugh, Ronn Owens, or Jim Richards on our local newstalk station here in Toronto.
That era is over. KIRO management has apparently decided that Ross needs to have a talkative co-host, emulating the competing KOMO radio show "The Commentators" or perhaps more accurately, the afternoon Ron and Don show on KIRO-FM. For four days last week, Ross was joined by Luke Burbank, best known for his lifestyle podcast, TBTL. While Burbank can be witty when discussing deeper subjects and his previously-weekly banter with Ross was often fun, three hours of it a day was terrible. There was no longer time to take calls on most days, which eliminated the ideas-from-the-masses aspect of talk radio--it's hard to imagine a Dave Ross show without his trademark "APB" for callers of an unusual background--who often do call in and offer valuable insight. Instead, we had considerably less intellectually-inclined discourse, the epitome of which was Burbank asking former United Nations ambassador John Bolton about his mustache.
With Burbank away on other duty this week, Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur has been co-hosting with Ross. While one could understand that perhaps Burbank was intended to bring in a younger audience that listens to TBTL, it's hard to see what demographic Brodeur invites. With an even more liberal perspective than Ross, she certainly doesn't add political diversity to the show. She may have a future in talk radio--I think it would be interesting to hear her on a solo show--but I just don't see what she is adding more than distraction to Ross' show.
I suppose analysis of transcripts would reveal that Ross' opinions and argumentation are still making it to the air, but the co-hosts are so distracting that I feel like I have to listen more closely to dissect it from the inanities of the co-host, and I'm simply not willing to do that. I don't feel like I'm getting what I used to get from the show, so I'm not planning to listen anymore.
Of course, my preference would be for a return to the solo Ross show, but if a co-host is required, why not a right-wing ideas person--say, Kirby Wilbur--sitting with Ross? For all its billing, the supposed debate between John Carlson and Ken Schram on KOMO is not all that heated. KIRO-FM has the potential to out-Commentate the Commentators, but it won't happen with the Dave Ross co-hosts tried thus far.