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.