Radio News Purge Continues as KLIV Shifts Format to Country

News is an expensive business, but anyone in need of comfort will have the robots to rock them to sleep.

On Monday, just a couple weeks after sweeping layoffs at Bay Area radio institutions KGO and KFOG, South Bay mainstay KLIV 1590 announced that it will drop the all-news format it has carried the last 35 years. Rather than live DJs, the format will shift to machines picking over the bones of the best ’80s and ’90s country.

Bob Kieve, the station’s 94-year-old owner and a passionate advocate for local news, blamed the switch on heavy revenue losses the station has taken. Sister country station KRTY 95.3 often covered costs for KLIV to focus on local politics, stocks and frequent traffic updates.

George Sampson

George Sampson

George Sampson, the station’s news and program director the last 16 years, said a total of 12 newsroom positions will be out of a job. Employees were informed of the plans last week.

“I think there are a lot of people who may just go out of radio and into something else, myself included,” Sampson said. “It’s a troubling trend, just what’s happening to the demise of local news. You can get your Associated Press stuff off the wire, but to cover a town you need people, and if you need people you need to pay them. The cost of running a news station is very personnel intensive, and our sales just didn’t keep up with the cost.”

Three local radio stations have now cut their newsroom budgets in the last month, replacing on-air personalities with digital DJs and leaving dozens of journalists looking for work in a bleak journalism job market.

The loss will be felt especially in times of breaking news, Sampson said. He pointed to events like the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 2002 fire at then-under-construction Santana Row.

“Putting out real-time alerts, that’s something electronic media really does best, and especially radio,” Sampson said.

In the days following the 1989 earthquake, KLIV let listeners call in to share their stories and reach out to family members. It created “a community bulletin board in a time of crisis,” said Sampson, who may be the longest on-air news host in the history of South Bay radio when counting up all his stops, including a prior nine-year run with KLIV starting in 1975.

The station expects to continue news coverage through the June primary election.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

25 Comments

    • One wonders where their catalogue of 50s and 60s recordings might be, as KLIV was the local Top 40 station in the 60s and early 70s. Well known radio hosts and other familiar voices worked there in those days…Bob Ray, Ross McGowan, Dave “The Duke” Sholin, John McLeod and others. KLIV also had a brief stint, just before the news radio format, playing “easy listening” music from the 30s, 40s and early 50s.

  1. So why would anyone tune in to KLIV for robot country music given the other choices, especially on FM? Just shut the station down and leave the freq open for pirates.

  2. More COUNTRY music?? Unbelievable…… Where can we get LOCAL southbay news stories???

  3. Think maybe a well funded group of complainers might be able to talk enough trash about the “lame stream media” to kill it? Personally, I doubt that it is just a coincidence that print and broadcast media are failing merely because both are becoming financially unsound. It’s true that the audiences have dwindled, but who is responsible for that? And yet, those people still try to convince us that NPR will brainwash it’s listeners.

  4. I’m devastated! I hope we hear from George Sampson and the radio personalities again!

  5. A note to Scarecrowbike – Pirates are not interested in AM broadcasting. It’s too expensive to set up and run and you need more power to cover the same area that you can get with 100 watts on an FM frequency – probably at least 1,000 watts on AM and that makes it too expensive.
    To Warren: The old record library? You mean the one with all of the groove worn 45’s from KLIV’s glory days? Gone and thank goodness. The same music KLIV played on 45’s is available in toto on a computer hard drive, in stereo and will sound much better than a bunch of old 45’s. Let’s get real, alright?
    I’m not in favor of the new format, but I understand why KLIV is changing. Hey, if more listeners supported KLIV like they do KCBS, the station would continue the format. Pretty simple to figure that one out.

    • To Mark….one would hope that some comments might hit you on the head, rather than just fly over the top of it. Of course, one would not (likely could not) “literally” (these days, every word spoken or written is literal to some) use the old 45s from those days. Gosh, who knew those songs were available on a hard drive?

    • I doubt I have listened to the radio for more than five total minutes in the past decade, maybe longer. Talk radio is horrid, popular music lost it’s way a long time ago…..there is nothing “there” any longer.

  6. The number one radio station I listen to is KLIV. The daily news about San Jose and Silicon Valley informs me of many topics and issues going on in the city where I live and pay taxes. The programs broadcast from the Common Wealth Club and Leadership Silicon Valley are interesting and informative. Those shows rival what is broadcast on the local NPR affiliate and more importantly, are generated from indigenous visionaries who are shaping the future here locally as well as globally. It’s understandable that KLIV can’t sustain the cost of providing the programming that it does now based on ad revenue and from what is going on across the country there doesn’t seem to be a solution. A suggestion would be private funding from the local corporations that have a vested interest in having a local station providing local news, weather, traffic and public interest stories as well as the broadcasting of those programs mentioned above. The result of this action by Kieve had to be hard for him to stomach and it will leave a huge information gap in what is available for south bay listeners. The trend is scary really, and will further isolate people from what is happening in their local areas and having access to information that provides fundamental awareness and a reality check during times of crisis.

    • KLIV sure was number one radio station. For the past 10/12 years, my car radio was always set to 1590 AM. I never needed any newspaper or website to get to local/national news, traffic, weather, SJC/SFO airport status, community calendar and so forth. Broadcast from speakers at Rotary club, CEO show, Interviews with San Jose City Mayor and police chief, were the best I ever heard in radio stations.

  7. I love KLIV and i listen to it everyday! So sad to c it’s going away. It doesn’t make sense to listen to music from a AM radio station, i guess ‘Country Gold’ will soon become “Country go(away)”

  8. I was hoping Bob Kieve would’ve been able to save KLIV by partnering with KOFY, the “local just like you” tv station.

  9. So so disappointed. KLIV is the best news station.
    I learned so much from your station. I will miss all of you. Thank you for your wonderful work. Hope everyone get a good job. Thank you!!! 1590KLIV.

  10. I will miss KLlV, I counted on those traffic reports daily. As well as the local news. Maybe we can get it back with private funding. Intel, Google, Apple, Samsung, Cisco have money to waste on useless things. Lets get them together ans fund this station or a new one. Lets help put those who lost their jobs back to work. They provided a service to us that can’t be replaced by some far away news station.

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