John Hines Out at KTLK

John Hines’ 17 year-run with Clear Channel and what Clear Channel was before it was Clear Channel ended this morning — a Monday, go figure — when he was told he was being removed from his morning job at KTLK (100.3-FM). Hines was a standard at Clear Channel’s country music K102 until this past March when he shifted over — by his choice — to add a little mainstream professional sheen to ratings-deprived KTLK, an all right-wing talk station.

Hines shrugged off the move when reached by phone around noon today. "It’s a part of the business. I accept that. They said we’re going in a different direction, and I get that."

He said his six-month non-compete and six-month severance will tie him over, and until then he will happily entertain offers from other stations in the market. The most obvious of those being KSTP AM 1500, where rumors are swirling about their interest in KFAN’s Dan Barreiro — most likely for afternoon drive, were Barreiro to leave Clear Channel, and were Joe Soucheray agree to earlier tee-times — and where the usual, often clueless "experts" believe KSTP could use help in mornings.

AM-1500’s program director, Steve Konrad, hadn’t heard about the Hines move when I called. "Hines? Really?" Konrad avoided any direct mention of Barreiro other than to state the obvious. "He’s a talent". On any possible interest in Hines, he said, "A well known, popular host? You always have to be open to someone like that."

We are awaiting a response to our call to Hines’ boss, Steve Versnick.

The first question to him being, "What new direction?" KTLK was originally pitched as a 21st century version of WCCO. Almost immediately it took an entirely familiar, hard right-wing turn and has stayed there despite consistently disappointing ratings.

The hiring of Hines suggested to some that the station, then supervised by regional boss, Mick Anselmo, was beginning an evolution into something more mainstream. Another rumor floating in the wind last week was that Anselmo’s replacement, Mike Crusham, had decided the time had finally come to "blow up" the struggling FM talk experiment, supposedly to go in that more WCCO-like direction, with bona fide news.

The problem there being that bona fide news would require bona fide reporters out on bona fide streets, something Clear Channel has been unwilling to do until now and, with the entire 1200-station company about to return to private ownership, it seems even less likely to bother with in the future. (Reporters cost money, and separating themselves from Hines’ hefty salary — likely in the $250K range — is an early example of 5% to 8% expense cutting expected across the Clear Channel empire.)

More likely — another bit of gabble on the grapevine — is moving comparatively cheap Dan Conry into morning drive and dropping yet another (cheap) syndicated act, Glenn Beck, etc, into the 8 to 11 slot.