They describe KVI as a "hellhole," a lifeless, atmosphere where creativity, vision, and paranoia has replaced hope, faith and charity.
Staffers are discouraged, bored, fearful, and disheartened. Many have been laid off or fired already -- lifers watch spellbound as the heritage Seattle station "circles the drain."
"Sometimes I envy those who have already been fired," someone told us. "I don't want to be the last rat off the ship."
General manager Jim Clayton, a Fox teevee veteran from New York is seen as stuck managing the radio stations, a situation he abhors. Most believe he hates radio in general, and KVI in particular. That's not a great situation for once-loyal employees who thought they'd have long careers in Fisher radio.
It's exacerbated by middle managers who are seen as blindered, timid and interested only in keeping their own jobs.
(photo: Jim Clayton)
It doesn't inspire confidence that KVI is lodged in studios in Fisher Plaza, the lavish, downtown, high-tech space that could be sold out from under them at anytime. "It's weird to know the company can't afford the ground we're standing on," says a sales person, "We hope [the building] doesn't sell anytime soon, but at the same time we know the company's in trouble if it doesn't sell it."
KVI managers pump staffers up with hopeful visions that they'll get Rush Limbaugh back and the former glories will be restored. "It's a pipe dream," says a producer. "How much does Rush cost? half a million bucks a year? These jerks aren't about to spend that kind of money on radio, especially KVI."
(The station helped propel Rush to national fame in the early '90's, but after 12 years, they ignominiously lost him to KTTH in 2003, a stumble from which KVI has never really recovered).
Once number one in talk radio in the Seattle market, the station has only one locally produced program left: Kirby & Company, (m-f, 5-9a) which most agree won't be around after its host, Kirby Wilbur's contract is up in late 2009.
"Clayton hates Kirby, too," says the producer. and points to the way the morning show -- once no. 3 in its early morning time slot -- was handled.
After complaints that Wilbur was doing "1993 radio in 2007, " and that he was unwilling to change with the times, programmers changed the Kirby Wilbur Show to Kirby & Co. and added news anchor Carleen Johnson, and producer Matt Haver as on-air talent.
This was to add new dynamic to the show -- Carleen, the sharp-tongued, working mom, and Matt, the loose-cannoned libertarian would, they hoped, develop some chemistry and make the show more attractive to women and younger people.
But typical of the recent institutional attitude towards Wilbur, there was little further attention or development given the show after the initial push, and renaming. It was allowed to founder with two inexperienced -- though promising -- talents and no guidance or supervision.
They pulled the plug on it six months later: except they didn't tell anyone; the show is still called Kirby & Co., it really should be called just Kirby -- Haver has been run off, and Carleen is on maternity leave.
"They let Matt go, but they didn't have the balls to tell Carleen," says a source, "They're afraid of her."
Most say that once Kirby's out of the way, the syndicated Laura Ingraham, now heard pre-recorded at 3p, will be slipped live into the morning slot.
"There's no vision, no hope of developing anything," says a source who asked to be nameless, "There is zero interest in expanding this station's listenership."
The neglect is no accident, the station has been given a death sentence by management. If not death, the comatose state of scraping along run by robots with syndicated shows called down from the birds -- an ignoble plight for a once noble heritage station.
As progressives, we should be happy... we're not, it's sad.