What if Kevin Klein Worked For You?


(By Deborah Parenti) Although never one to shy from giving an opinion, I believe it’s important to first know the facts.

For all the ink devoted to San Diego radio personality Kevin Klein, and the highly controversial promotional stunt he used to market his new morning show, we may not know the whole story. Certainly, no one is talking and Klein himself appears to be MIA and in a state of limbo. He’s not on the air – but there has been no announcement of his termination either, at least as of now. That may be because the jury in the court of public and client (both advertising and sports affiliated) opinion is still out.

Whether or not the stunt is considered a savvy stroke of showmanship or utter stupidity depends on the perspective of the commentator. Was it over the line and offensive to potential listeners? Did it irrevocably damage relationships with advertisers and a major baseball team? Should management be more proactive in getting out front with public statements? Or are their interests, and for that matter the greater good, served better by remaining silent and working behind the scenes, something, no doubt, that is going on now. And of course, should Klein be fired?

A lot of our readers have found this a compelling story because they can relate to one side or the other – personality/programming or management. It hit home to me for a couple of reasons.

First, and in the interest of full disclosure, I feel kicked in the stomach at the mention of suicide, especially when incorporated as irreverently as was this – a punch line. I lost a beautiful young brother to suicide. Almost 24 years later, it is still hard to even say the word, much less find humor in it. I have learned over the years, however, that we can’t escape pain – that the world does not revolve around our personal challenges or losses. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is use it as a teaching moment. In today’s world, where everything is instant and viral and nothing is ever erased once it’s out there, that has become more difficult because, unfortunately, our new world of communications tools has also made us seemingly less forgiving. It’s just too tempting to pile it on and let the mob rule.

This is not to condone Klein’s actions. Because the story hit home for me in another way – that of station manager. Some years ago, a local woman in our market was beaten to death by her husband using, of all things, a banjo, to commit the heinous crime. Our morning show decided it would be funny to do a bit the next morning that opened with “Dueling Banjos,” before going into a routine that more or less mimicked the terrible incident. One of the most difficult calls I ever took as a manager was from the son of the deceased. Needless to say, he was highly (and justly) offended by the macabre humor displayed by the morning show. All I could do was apologize profusely and, of course, call the team in on the carpet. A public and sincere mea culpa was issued. A week later, all was, if not forgotten, at least no longer garnering attention or lighting up our phone lines.

Of course, the big difference between then and now was that there was no social media – no viral means of keeping the story alive for days on end. It was much easier to do “damage control” because there were no instant replays, Facebook or Instagram posts, and no tweet storms. Like we tell our children, everything you do today becomes a permanent record that will follow you for life.

I don’t pretend to have the answers on handling these situations. Frankly, I doubt anyone does. But I do know they must be managed and most importantly, with an eye to all constituencies – listeners, clients, and yes, staff. In doing so, there also has to be concern of precedents set today as well as a measure of flexibility that takes into account a future we have yet to dream of or encounter.

And while we’re at it, maybe we could all find a way to encourage a little more tolerance and forgiveness because the next mistake might be ours.

Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]


  1. “….San Diego radio personality Kevin Klein……Mr. Klein was NEVER a San Diego radio personality. #CloseButNocigar

  2. Are you people kidding? Are we really this intolerant of humor now?

    As with the author, I have also lost several friends to suicide. The most important thing to understand about suicide is that it is a personal choice that effects a lot of people…unbeknownst to the victim are the numerous other victims after the fact. For this, coping skills are necessary to overcome the loss. Feeding into someone’s need to be victimized is not helping them cope.

    While I did not personally like the joke, calling for the guy’s head before he even has a chance is a little much. We’ve all heard talent “go astray” and say things they regretted later. It’s impossible to know how a bit will be taken until you put it out there. That’s the fire we play with in free-speech. All speech is protected, even if you don’t like it.

    That being said, I think we can all agree that some issues should be off the table (child molestation comes to mind). Should suicide be added to the list? Maybe. But if we keep growing this list, soon nothing will be permissible on radio for fear for offending the wrong person and radio itself will extinguish the it’s own flame.

  3. Entercom should have fired him immediately and considered themselves lucky they got out before he did worse. This is a new age and people aren’t playing around anymore when it comes to jackassery like this. Move with the times or pay the price.

    And Deborah, super scummy of you to not fire that morning show on the spot for that callous act. You have zero moral center apparently.

    • I suppose you’re one of those tolerant people that think everyone’s feelings should be protected in a safe space?

      • I believe in protecting my company and my money. I don’t tolerate those who jeopardize that by making poor decisions. Kevin Klein is entertaining but this was a bad miscalculation that is unrecoverable from and business dictates that he had to go. I was not offended by the tweet. I relate to that type of humor. You can shove your pre judgment of me all the way up with a red hot poker.

  4. I’d give him a raise. He got a lot of attention for the station and his show. The joke was either considered funny or mildly offensive, probably like his radio show (and like many of the shows on radio and TV that people enjoy). This is another example of outrage and overreaction for the sake of outrage. Just my 2 cents, but many people I’ve spoken to about this agree.

  5. This wasn’t a mistake though. It was a calculated, intentional action taken to incite the masses. When called on the carpet, rather than own that it had gone awry, they doubled down and lashed out at people who said how inappropriate it was. It took well over 12 hours to issue a forced apology that read as exactly that, a forced apology. Meanwhile, the major league team that the station is supposed to represent had a public apology within a few hours. A sincere, genuine apology in which they absolutely made clear they were disgusted by the “mistake”. This is a person who is unknown in our market. He’s a stranger who came into our house and made a huge joke about something that is deeply personal to so many on the very same day suicide from the bridge was being addressed with the addition of safety equipment. The timing could not have been worse, and then to not just gracefully say “oops…sorry about that” shows how tone deaf and out of touch this entire situation is. San Diego forgives an awful lot, and had it been a genuine mea culpa from the station and the person who did it, they likely would have been forgiven. They never gave us a chance, and their silence 8 days later is a big old middle finger to us all.

  6. I think it is a joke, and a clever one, and what most people don’t mention is that it was part 1 of a 3 part campaign to first get attention and then calm everyone down. In no way did I see it as condoning suicide. It was taking into the world of fake internet outrage, and this day outrage gets outrage.

  7. ‘Well written, heart-felt analysis.

    People make mistakes. Agreed. And there are consequences for those mistakes.

    There is no excuse or plausible explanation, nothing ‘saavy’ or any element of ‘showmanship’ here.

    There are two issues: #1 is the thoughtless, careless and callous use of suicide for self-promotion and #2 the silence from Entercom regarding this disaster which, in my view, speaks volumes about their focus and their corporate character.

    Clearly Entercom is consumed with saving the cash cow – their broadcast relationship with The Padres – and don’t realize or don’t care about the impact this has had on not only their station but also their corporate brand.

    As an advertising agency owner over 36-years, I would have pulled all my clients’ advertising from the station – after sharing the issue with them and obtained their approval – then bought around them.

    You can buy around any station in any market, as we all know.

    In 2018, money talks. Anything less falls on deaf ears and elicits little response.

    And apparently, money is the only way to get Entercom’s attention which is another inexcusable element in this situation …


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here