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KOHI wrestles with call-in show

Having settled into management of the St. Helens-based radio station KOHI for a year now, owner Marty Rowe is venturing a few changes to the Friday morning call-in show, 'Columbia County Today.'

After acquiring KOHI, Rowe adopted a new format for the station - from primarily country-western music to talk radio - but the live call-in show operated pretty much the same as always.

Between 9-10 a.m. every Friday at 1600 on the AM dial, callers could introduce any topic they wanted to discuss, typically very local in nature.

Few people identified themselves, although longtime listeners recognized voices that belonged to a handful of regulars who called nearly every show. Occasionally, guests would be invited into the station, and callers could ask them questions on air.

When a hot topic came up, it was back-to-back calls.

At the beginning of the Jan. 11 call-in, Rowe announced that there would be frequent guests on the show, and he wanted positive suggestions to problems instead of attacks. That did not sit well with some listeners, who said that Rowe was censoring the call-in.

'Several of these folks have taken it personally,' Rowe said. 'They can complain about whatever they want when they call, but I'm not going to tolerate personal attacks on people. The only thing I'm going to do is ask more guests to be on the show.' He also wants to make it more interesting. At times, calls can be slow coming in.

For the following call-in show, Jan. 18, Columbia County Fair Manager Rhonda Courtney was the guest for the first half hour, with Rowe asking the questions. The fair board has been the subject of recent criticism by callers.

'I think it is always easy to complain, and tough to come up with positive solutions,' said Rowe. 'People are frustrated by a lack of action. My frustration has been we've heard complaining for three months now.'

Rowe took over the job of hosting the show just in the past few months. Courtney and Rowe talked about how to increase revenue at the Event Complex, and the many activities that occur there in addition to the fair.

The second half of the show was opened to phone calls after Courtney left, and there were plenty of them.

The first three callers were not flattering to Courtney or fair board policies, and Rowe finally cut off one caller who refused to tone down derogatory comments about the fair manager.

Another caller said the program 'can't be all warm and fuzzy, or we won't have a call-in show.'

Rowe suggested other outlets for the callers' angst, such attending public meetings, though that idea was met with the criticism that many board officials are deaf to the public's concerns.

'What I'm tired of is personal attacks,' said a frustrated Rowe. 'We can't accomplish anything if we stay in that mode.'