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The race to replace Bernie Ward on KGO 

Wednesday, Apr 16 2008
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The battle to take over disgraced liberal-radio talker Bernie Ward's weeknight slot at KGO-AM, the Bay Area's most popular radio station, still has no clear front-runner after months of jockeying.

All of the candidates vying for the 10 p.m.-1 a.m. slot vacated by Ward after he was indicted for possession of child pornography in December have experience at KGO. Comedian and author Brian Copeland has a Sunday morning show; Christine Craft, a broadcaster with a long résumé, has done fill-in work for years; LA Times writer David Lazarus worked at KGO on weekends when he wrote his consumer-oriented business column for the San Francisco Chronicle; and Charles "Karel" Bouley, the station's only openly gay host, hosts two popular weekend shows he broadcasts from Long Beach. And then, with as much of a chance of getting the slot as Ron Paul has of getting the Republican nomination, there's Ward himself, who is awaiting a federal trial in June on charges that could result in a 15-year prison sentence.

If KGO's decision comes down to representation, the station has no regular women presenters. If it's about politics — Ward was billed as "the lion of the left" — all the candidates lean to the left in varying degrees, with Karel the most vociferous.

"They don't have a woman talk-show host," Karel said in a phone interview. "I'm as close as they get. All the candidates are talented. It will come down to politics. Do they need to diversify?"

KGO's ardent fans, who have made it the top station in the market for almost three decades, have been handicapping and speculating on the decision in calls to the station and in online discussion groups and online chat rooms. Rumors are circulating that operations manager Jack Swanson, who gave the world the colorful blight of Michael Savage, favors Karel's outlandishness. Executive programmer Trish Robbins allegedly favors Craft, while station manager Michael "Mickey" Luckoff supposedly likes Lazarus.

"I won't dignify those rumors with a response," Swanson says. "I've employed all of them and I like them all."

Speculation is fueled by the fact that Swanson has taken so much longer to make this decision than he did when afternoon host Pete Wilson died in July. Newsman Gil Gross was named to the slot five weeks later. "I wasn't expecting two major holes in a year," Swanson says. "Remember, Gil had been filling in for us for years."

And, he adds, maybe there is a benefit to not naming a host and letting all the candidates work the shift, which will bring added diversity and make them work harder to compete. "Eventually, will we put in a permanent person? I guess. Maybe," Swanson says. "Maybe it's better how it is."

Brad Kava is a longtime Bay Area music critic and journalist. Check out his blog at: http://kavasradiosoup.blogspot.com/

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Brad Kava

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