Hanging up the mic: John C. Scott Show leaving airwaves after 24 years
Legendary radio man John C. Scott will soon no longer be the senior statesman of local broadcasters. Radio station KVOI is pulling the plug on his news program after Friday's show, and Scott said he won't seek to move to another call sign after a run of 24 years on a number of Tucson stations. "I've been doing the broadcast thing for more than 50 years," he said. "I started when I was 16 and now I'm 71."
Scott was told Wednesday by station management that his news/interview program is "not compatible with our programming."
"And it's not," said Scott, agreeing with the assessment. KVOI features a lineup of mostly conservative talk radio, including syndicated hosts Bill Bennett, Michael Savage and Herman Cain, as well as local right-wing talkers Chris DeSimone and Joe Higgins. Newsman Bill Buckmaster also hosts a midday interview program, and the station features a mix of local and syndicated shows on the weekends, including Emil Franzi's "Inside Track."
KVOI's general manager, Doug Martin, said, "I don't feel like the program was gaining ground ... I was getting negative feedback from people close to me. People said his show sounded like an infomercial."
In addition to running commercials, Scott frequently included live conversations with sponsors of the show, and would broadcast live from their businesses.
"It's a sad thing. I like John a lot," Martin said. While there might be more local programming in the works, KVOI will temporarily fill the two-hour afternoon slot by extending the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved shows, he said. Wake Up Tucson will add a third hour in the morning, Martin said.
The John C. Scott Show, on the air almost continuously since 1989, was in its second run at the AM station, one lasting 2 1/2 years. A year ago, KVOI expanded the show from one hour to two, airing from 3-5 p.m. weekdays.
Scott's program, which featured in-depth interviews with politicians and community leaders (and regular appearances by a cast of local journalists, including yours truly), made the rounds of local airwaves.
"We moved the show to five different stations through the years," Scott said Thursday. "We were at KTUC, then KTKT, KVOI, the Jolt, then back at KVOI." His career also included radio stints at KHYT and KCUB, and in TV news for several stations.
Scott, an interviewer who was never shy about sharing his own opinions, left many listeners unclear about where he stood on the political spectrum, as he challenged both Republican and Democratic politicians alike.
"I'm a registered Democrat," he said. "I served in the state Senate as a Democrat. I also ran for office as a Republican." (Scott, then known as John Scott Ulm, was elected in 1972 and served one term. He unsuccessfully ran in a 1998 GOP legislative primary.)
"I've always said 'I'm in the hemp business,'" he said. "I'd give people just enough rope to either hang themselves as they talked, or they could pull people along with them."
Scott said he couldn't point to a favorite interview.
"We did thousands of shows, tens of thousands of interviews," he said. "I interviewed Bill Clinton. We broadcast from Vietnam and China, Washington and Israel. We made a yearly trip up to the Legislature."
Scott recalled a 1989 interview with U.S. Sen. John McCain that touched on the Keating Five scandal.
"'That's the dumbest question I've ever heard,' McCain said. So I replied, 'Senator, if you forgive me my dumb questions, I'll forgive you your dumb answers. And we had a friendly relationship after that; he was on the show many, many times," Scott said.
In 2011, a two-hour broadcast of Scott's program was featured on C-SPAN in the wake of the Jan. 8 shootings.
Last year, the Tucson Advertising Federation gave Scott the Golden Mic Award in recognition of his career.
"I'm thankful to KVOI for the past 2 1/2 years," he said. "I just think there ought to be a place on Tucson's airwaves for the other side. All of the broadcasters are dominated by conservative talk."
Although his consistent criticism of the City Council might cause some to believe he's no liberal himself, Scott's not a fan of the genre.
"It's all about creating fear and animosity," he said. "If you scare people, anger people, you can develop an audience for that."
Scott said it's unlikely that his show would be picked up by any other station in the Tucson market.
"The only stations that run talk are all running hard conservatives," he said.
"But Tucson's a Democratic town. The county's Democratic. Most of the state's congressional delegation are Democrats ... I've been disappointed in the direction of the city, sure. But why wouldn't you build a business on that majority?"
"It was a pretty long run," Scott said. "A lot of people don't get that kind of run. It had to end sometime."
"Every day, we gave people something they did not know — an interview, some insight into a news story," he said. "Our idea was to always ask, 'what can we learn from this?'"
"If you listened to the John C. Scott Show and you learned something, our thought was that was a good show."