Will Klein Ever Work In Radio Again?

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What happened in San Diego is a great case study in how the world has changed since social media became the part of everyone’s life. Not too long ago, a General Manager and Program Director would be elated when a jock devised a plan to “create buzz” that had everyone in the local community talking about the station. One particular incident comes to mind right away. It took place on July 12, 1979.

Many of you reading this will know exactly what that incident was just from the date. The Disco Demolition promotion at Comiskey Park in Chicago helped make 24-year-old Steve Dahl a local hero. The man caused a near riot between games of a double-header after blowing up thousands of disco records that created a giant hole in center field of the stadium. Spectators then flooded the field and set it on fire. Forty minutes later, police chased the crowd away, but the field was destroyed. As Jeremy Schapp said on an ESPN special about the incident, “Dahl’s army had demolished disco and in the process Comiskey’s field.” The second game of the doubleheader was canceled. There were arrests and injuries.

WLUP’s Sales Manager at the time was Jeff Schwartz who said, “Don’t blame us. We did a promotion that worked.”

Dahl became a radio hero. He still is.

What if that happened today?

Back to the present.

Kevin Klein sends out a tweet many people find offensive. He’s got the San Diego community talking about him, his show, and his station. He’s created buzz. On social media, people are commenting about his post, some of it telling people to lighten up, and many others are not happy with his use of the Coronado Bridge. Klein and the station apologize but he never makes it on the air and the station even changes format after pressure from the community and the San Diego Padres, who did not like the direction of the station as “Talk That Rocks.”

We reached out to the radio community and asked the following question: Should Kevin Klein ever work again in radio?

Larry Fuss who hired David Mueller (of the infamous Taylor Swift groping case) told Radio Ink he hopes Klein does find work again. “Everything is too politically correct now days. People get bent out of shape over the least little things. Can you even imagine a movie like Blazing Saddles being made today? Sure, what he said was in bad taste, but it shouldn’t end his career.”

One of radio’s greatest programmers, John Sebastian, says Klein will find another radio gig. “In today’s world of social media, essentially ruling everything we do, right up to the president of the United States, all companies and individuals need to realize there are new rules of the game. However, yes, I believe Kevin will get another gig. Almost anything is forgiven these days.”

Research Director Marc Greenspan says if Klein is talented there could be a future for him in another market. “It’s hard to see how anyone in Southern California would want the negative publicity associated with this incident but I don’t believe this is national news. Maybe he can land a gig someplace else with a new social media approval clause in his contract. For example, didn’t David Mueller land on air again?”

And former CBS and Emmis manager Jon Quick says Klein has some work to do first. “Suicide is nothing to joke about. A true lapse in judgment. I don’t know if he’ll ever work again. If his apology is sincere, he goes out and serves the community in a way showing sincere support for those who are mentally ill. It’s an epidemic in our country. He earns his way back. If he has talent and if this incident was an aberration and he has learned from it, somebody might give him a shot. I don’t think he’ll be throwing out the first pitch at a Padres game any time soon, however.”

Many of our readers even chimed in on the story. Here’s just a sample.

Alan says this was a non-issue that became an issue. “Should he be allowed on the air? Absolutely. I’d say in my 30-plus years, this was one of the best pre-show launch promotions ever. I can’t even believe we are all still talking about this. The station got all of the attention, but didn’t stick around long enough for the payoff. Like sitting on a savings bond for 15 years and then ripping it up.”

Rob Ray writes “The responses in this thread are a great read, confirming so many who were in the business clearly cannot fathom that the ‘good old days’ of promotion – offending to get attention – are long gone. Radio talent – a subject I know well from nearly 30 years of performance and management – must, today more than ever, realize there are lines not to cross and there’s a dire price to pay if you cross them. Repercussions across social media create a firestorm from a spark, especially a tasteless, classless tweet like Mr. Klein’s. This is the world we live in. Clearly Entercom was more concerned with their cash-cow client – the San Diego Padres – than Mr. Klein or their station’s new format. Both went down the drain to save the business. Two weeks of silence from Entercom is shameful corporate performance but they obviously do not care. They did everything – anything – to save the business. Everything – on-the-air talent and the station’s format – were expendable. Wake up to 2018’s reality and quit lamenting what was. It ain’t no more and, frankly, Mr. Klein’s actions were not up to that back-in-the-day standard of attracting attention and eliciting street talk. There is nothing gained by making fun of suicide. End of story.”

Michael Caine wrote, “When was the last time a radio guy dominated the headlines for the better part of two weeks for something that is clearly being received both good and bad. Polarizing the masses is the key. This guy is the most well-known radio personality in all of SD radio history, and he never cracked a mic. I am impressed. I am also over 50, and find the most offensive thing about this situation is how it was handled by local/national management. Hope for the sake of our industry that Kevin lands on his feet. Radio needs more people like this now more than ever.”

Jim Sumpter writes, “This is the kind of notoriety we used to live for in the radio business. The industry has way too many wussies and not enough Kline’s. Sorry I’m not in the industry any longer, Kevin. I’d hire you in a Manhattan millisecond.”

Trisha Glick said this is a sad reflection of outrage feeding outrage. “Klein’s tweet was all things a station could want; thought provoking, attention getting, defendable, even humorous in a dark way. He has been vilified in this case, and if any lesson should be taken from this it’s is that stations should defend talent and not throw them under the bus the moment things get a little bumpy. Kline will get hired again because he has proven that he can do what so many radio people have forgotten how to do — be talked about.”

We reached out to Klein to interview him for this story. He did not respond.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Kevin Kline sucks. He touts himself as something that isn’t “boring and unoriginal,” but he was the most boring and unoriginal morning show host I have ever had to endure on the radio waves. He simply want interesting, relying on self-deprecatory humor and thick-headed offensives. News flash, Howard Stern beat him to that garbage for decades ago, and so many morning show hosts have opted to emulate that standard since. And Kline was just a watered-down version of that nonsense, the elevator-muzak of morning show talk. It’s trite at this point. Everyone so concerned with the PC Police taking him down don’t even realize the bullet San Diego dodged. Trust me, his show can only benefit from being taken down a rung over this. If (and most likely when) he comes back to radio, I hope he tries something genuinely new, because this Fred Flintstone thick-headedness is just lame.

    And really, making light of suicide in this manner…far better men have gone to greater efforts to use suicide as the subject of a joke to greater success. Put in the effort, or don’t bother.

  2. I would be shocked if Klein wasn’t on the air again before July 4th. He’s pretty damn good for what things I could find online and his audience seems loyal and very passionate. It is a shame that he was not allowed to broadcast at all. I agree that he was probably doing exactly what he was hired to do, so that makes it even more shameful that he was fired for what he was hired for. For all we know he’s already signed elsewhere.

  3. Wait…a guy who’s been hired to do a show on a Hot Talk station that is going to be provocative does something provocative and gets canned before he cracks the mic? A simple apology would have sufficed. This is an extreme overreaction. Had he not tweeted, he would be on the air and would have been encouraged by management to push the boundaries. I just don’t get it.

  4. I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Can’t any joke offend some people and make others laugh? Can we not joke about cars or planes because somebody knows somebody who may have lost someone in a crash. This is borderline communist thinking. What Kevin Klein did was smart, and he got railroaded by his company instead of applauded like he should have been. I also agree that radio stations need to stand up for talent and not cave every time they get a little controversy. Remember, that’s a good thing.

  5. I used to work with Kevin back at MTV/VH1 Radio. He’s too smart and too funny to not be on-air. This whole thing is so blown out of proportion, and I’ve actually lost a brother to suicide. I stand by the fact this was not a suicide joke. It was funny and smart like Kevin. Good luck ol friend. Hope you land on your feet.

  6. Best thing that could have happened to Kevin…Don’t ever work for a company that doesn’t have your back, you will regret it eventually…he at least found out before he put any more of himself into the company and it’s success

  7. If I was Klein, I’d sue for wrongful termination. You can’t be fired because of how some people choose to get offended. He did nothing wrong. I agree it was not a suicide joke any more than any other joke ever told could be boiled down to racist, sexist, etc. making a joke about race does not make you a racist. Making a joke about old people doesn’t make you a person who hates the elderly. People are far too soft and far too easy to offend. Klein should sue or return to the air where his audience will be no doubt much larger now.

  8. I’m just catching up on all of this as I was late to the party with newborn twins.
    1. Klein will work again (if he wants to stick with radio, and after the way he was treated by his station, he may not).
    2. His tweet was NOT “Crude” or “crass” or “dumb” or any of the other things people called it. It was actually pretty damn smart and did exactly what he or any new radio station could have dreamed of.
    3. As I look into this even further it looks like most of not all complains about this issue came from people either working for or affiliated with a rival sports radio station in town, and furthermore the station who used to have the rights for Padres baseball. I’m not a lawyer, but how could 97.3 not see what was happening and either fix it or at least stand behind their talent?
    4. The reactions to this are all over the place, and that alone is reason enough to support what Klein did.
    5. I don’t see any way he could have been fired for this, so does anyone know if he was or still works for Entercom?
    6. Radio needs more people who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers.

  9. I was thinking the exact same thing. I saw “suicide joke” and I thought this guy must be a heartless asshole, but then I actually looked at the image that sparked all of this, and I thought (and my wife echoed) “what’s wrong with this?” Even after leaning about the history of that bridge, klein’s Meme was not offensive, not insensitive, and not worthy of this sort of reaction. If anything, he laid out the type of show he would be doing right up front to easily separate those who would like him and those who are overly PC and outraged easy. My feeling is he will work again, and soon, and at a better station, and for more money. The winner in all of this is his agent.

  10. What people keep saying is 100% wrong and typical BS these days. KLEIN DIDN’T MAKE A SUICIDE JOKE. Repeat…. KLEIN DIDN’T MAKE A SUICIDE JOKE. He did what any smart broadcasters do, he allowed the audience to connect the dots and then react however they deemed appropriate. What did he actually do? He told people in SD to “Jump to a new morning show.” He used an image of a bridge that has maybe a few hundred deaths since the 1960’s but also has had MILLIONS of daily commuters and possible radio listeners driving on it. Who do you think he was really aiming that message at? When I see clever things get twisted and inaccurately reported it enrages me as it should enrage you. Once again, ask yourself, did Klein make a suicide joke? No. 100% No.

  11. This whole thing is laughable and stupid. Klein is a good host who used to sit in on Loveline with Dr. Drew and was the best part of that show since the Adam days. He will most likely go back to SiriusXM where he can have more freedom and that platform needs more personalities.

  12. True… This kind of Buzz only comes from the willingness to push past the edge and just Go For it. But I hardly relate this to previous stunts like Burning Disco Records. That stunt didn’t target a person or people and was a matter of great timing. To my knowledge, never has a crass stunt that exploits, or pokes fun at the expense of, a particular group of People ever really worked. It is easy for us to sit back and say “I would Hire Him”… We aren’t dealing with the fallout. Did Entercom handle the situation in the best way… I don’t think so. If I work for a company and am encouraged to be myself (the reason the hired me BTW), then it is not unreasonable to expect some support from the company. Having looked at Mr Klein’s other tweets, none of which I found to be particularly funny or in some cases tasteful, I probably would have not hired him at all. But that is just me. I hope he recovers and expect he will. At the same time I encourage all of us to Learn how Social Media Work and to Learn your Market BEFORE you start the gig. Clearly some of our corporate leaders are not going to have Our Backs. We have to be smarter and protect ourselves. Rant Done!

  13. He will find work again. His case, while awful and stupid, was primarily regional. People on the east coast don’t know of the tweeted bridge or its relevance. Once things cool off, and a move east, his talent or lack there of will or will not get him a job.

  14. Of course he will. He’s good at his tired old schtick, and it’s not like radio is known for innovation or venturing very far from the rest of the herd.

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