Tucson isn't exactly an out-of-the-box market when it comes to radio. Cluster-dominated stations generally have limited resources, which means if they're going to bother with local talent, they'll pay for morning, afternoon drive and occasional daypart positions.
Once the clock strikes 6, especially in the local talk radio realm, the concept of a Tucson-based radio personality with a live show isn't even considered a viable concept. Even most of the music formats have opted for syndicated programming. As a result, the Old Pueblo is a computer-driven night-time radio graveyard.
Except on a small AM signal that has terrible post-sunset signal strength. Welcome to the world of KEVT AM 1210, where different seems to be the norm.
Just how different? Not only is there live radio weeknights from 10-midnight, but the host, Matt Condie, was a well-known morning show personality in Tucson and Houston before bowing out of the business to pursue other entertainment ventures in LA. Moreover, Condie doesn't even have much of a talk background. During his radio career, he co-hosted morning gigs on hip-hop stations.
But he was always on the radar of station manager Jim Parisi—the result of a bond formed during their time working for separate stations in the local Clear Channel cluster—and jumped at the opportunity once 1210 was able to get up and running.
"He told me about this station about a year or so before it went on," Condie said. "He was serious about buying that station and we talked a lot about his thoughts on how he was going to do it and how he wanted to approach it. I love the concept because he's a news guy who doesn't take the hardline position, and I'm a military dude, a right-wing guy, but I don't push my views on anyone. I grew up in the Bay Area, it's the most liberal place in the country, 99 percent of my friends are and were very liberal because of the location and businesses I've been in. I believe what I believe because of personal experience, and they believe what they believe. It's discussing things, but not attacking. That's what I hate about Sean Hannity and Rush (Limbaugh), all those guys. If you don't think how they think they talk down to you. They're smart guys, I get that, but you don't have to attack people. Jim and I were talking about that, and he said he's not going to do the regular talk stuff, and I love that."
KEVT's tagline is "The power to think for yourself," and the hodge-podge of talk components certainly presents a variety of different perspectives. Parisi, who has since taken to the airwaves five hours weekdays from 7-noon, calls himself independent. Forrest Carr, the former two-time KGUN TV 9 news director, presents a similar perspective. Meanwhile, John C. Scott has graduated to the left.
When the locals aren't on, KEVT airs a mixture of Fox Sports Radio and the liberal Thom Hartmann Show.
Then there's Condie, a self-proclaimed right-leaning political junkie who might be benefitting from the odd time slot because he, well, tends to lack a filter.
"He shifted me to the night and I said some things that made him nervous," Condie said of one of the reasons Parisi pushed for the night time move. Condie's show initially aired weekdays from 5-7. Parisi also mentioned in an earlier Media Watch column that he liked Carr's political experience and thought that fit well during election season, although the lineup will remain intact once the midterms conclude. "(Parisi) was in a phone conversation and was listening to me in the background and heard me say, 'Eric Holder is (President) Obama's bitch,' and then told the guy on the phone to hold on because he needed to know where this was going and couldn't believe I had just said that. I open my mouth and dumb things fall out. I'm running with it. I love it."
But it's not an easy gig, and Condie has to toil to make it work. Stations in Tucson don't see a value in localized content in the evening hours because they believe the limited radio audience in a market this size doesn't justify the effort. Furthermore, KEVT's signal is dismal at night once it powers down, so Condie's audience would have a better chance hearing him on the stream than while driving. Yet he says it's working, and he's getting good feedback via social media outlets and from listeners on the job.
"You talk about a loyal audience, third shifters are great," Condie said. "A lot of people that listen now, it's almost secondary to them. I like it being in the background. I want someone to form a habit hearing my voice in the background. That's what radio is. It's security. It's habit. It's hard to build a base, then shift to something completely different and start building again, but now it's where I'm getting some feedback, and it's positive. I'm active on social media and not really big on callers. I love getting feedback, but now everything is so polarizing that if you have a flow going you don't want to mess that up. I can get an email or tweet and that's where everything is going. You don't need callers because social media is instant. Radio is always a progression, but I love it. It's like therapy. I do this instead of a therapist.
"Quality of life wise I like it here. I started my career here, I'd love to finish it here. And now I can see my kids every day. I even work with my oldest son now. Having him run the board (as the technical producer for Condie's show) totally sold me on working nights."