Political Power of KMOX Only an Echo of Years Ago

By Jones, Terry | St. Louis Journalism Review, July 2000 | Go to article overview

Political Power of KMOX Only an Echo of Years Ago


Jones, Terry, St. Louis Journalism Review


KMOX losing the broadcast rights of the St. Louis Blues to KTRS is yet another reminder that times have changed mightily since Robert Hyland occupied his throne at One Memorial Drive.

KMOX has become just another radio station. Its ratings are higher than most, often greater than everyone's, but it is no longer one of a kind.

Once it was an institution, a powerful political force within the St. Louis region. Now it is just a business, no doubt a successful one, with ratings and the bottom line driving the decisions. Carrying the Blues is an economic proposition, worth just so much and not a penny more.

The difference, of course, is Hyland himself. Even though he has been dead more than eight years, it is difficult to type "Hyland" without preceding it with "Mr." It was St Louis's way of assigning him royal status, a position he privately welcomed even if he publicly eschewed it.

It was more than 20. years ago but I still vividly remember my first encounter with him. I had just finished a studio interview on Bob Hardy's late morning show when I was told that Mr. Hyland would like to see me. I was ushered into his stark Steuben-decorated office.

"Dr. Jones," he said, "I'd like you to come to work at KMOX." I knew there was only one correct reply. Molly Bloom had scripted it for me: "Yes, I will, yes, I will, yes."

"Fine," he replied, standing up to shake my hand and signaling that the session was over. That was it. Deal done. Less than 60 seconds elapsed time.

I had no idea what the terms were. Bob Hardy told me it meant I could not do commentary and analysis on any other station. As for compensation, I would have to wait for my first check to find out what it was ($50 an appearance, later raised to $100). I had become one of the dozens of St. Louisans recruited as part-time hands in the KMOX stable, available whenever the station needed us but off limits to the rest of the competition, both radio and--a word never uttered in Hyland's presence--television. No written contracts, only a Hyland handshake.

For the next 12 years, until his death in 1992, Mr. (it's a hard habit to break) Hyland would call about once a year, each time within 24 hours of my being on the air. …

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