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Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Was Behind Steve Scher's Sudden Departure, After 28 Years, from KUOW?

Posted by on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 6:00 AM

David Brewster offers an explanation:

When the longtime and popular KUOW radio host Steve Scher up and quit suddenly last week, the rapidity and surprise of the event naturally raised eyebrows. Was he pushed? Got fed up over something? Is the radio station having an identity crisis?

The story of Scher’s sudden exit is less dramatic than it might appear. “Steve certainly could have stayed, and the decision to leave was his decision,” says the station’s new general manager, Caryn Mathes. That seems accurate, if incomplete. Scher was increasingly convinced that he wasn’t going to be a good fit in the station’s revised format. At the last minute, last Friday, he reached a decision point and suddenly departed.

The loss of Scher is a big one in local journalism. His departure is part of the steady loss of experienced journalists with lots of institutional memory.

As for the abruptness, Scher told Brewster: "I like to pull the Band-aid off fast."


Comments (22) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I, um, wonder if the, um, person who, um, replaces Scher will, um, you know, be able to, I'm, speak in, uh, whole, um, sentences.
Posted by also on June 12, 2014 at 6:12 AM · Report this
It was really, really odd seeing that Facebook post at 11:30pm on a Friday night though. Maybe he was just pulling the ultimate Friday news dump.
Posted by Solk512 on June 12, 2014 at 6:34 AM · Report this
seatackled 3
So Steve Scher got Goldied.
Posted by seatackled on June 12, 2014 at 6:43 AM · Report this
Call me Scott 4
He wasn't polished in his questioning. He was smart and conversant across a broad range of issues and topics. I miss him . . . and the old format.
Posted by Call me Scott on June 12, 2014 at 6:44 AM · Report this
Kinison 7
Maybe he has a terminal disease and doesn't want people to know as its a private matter?
Posted by Kinison on June 12, 2014 at 7:39 AM · Report this
Kudos to Eli for reporting a story somewhat close to home. Also, he was the *only* one on that Week in Review show worth listening to.
Posted by lotus eater on June 12, 2014 at 7:50 AM · Report this
Scher wasn't actually that great. He wasn't very insightful, his questions lacked depth and were usually just parroting conventional wisdom. His shows were boring and, Eli aside, Week in Review was a sad joke of a show that showcased how out of touch the other panelists were with Seattle.

I'm not wild about the new KUOW format but Scher's departure is for the best.
Posted by junipero on June 12, 2014 at 8:09 AM · Report this
There have been disgruntled rumblings erupting from inside KUOW for a couple of years now - maybe Scher just got fed up with management and decided it was a good time to walk.
Posted by COMTE on June 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM · Report this
Along the lines of what @10 said, he was just about putting out the usual establishment perspective on the issues--Sominex style like many of the journalists on that station, e.g., Marcie Sillman. I take it he will be replaced by a more upbeat and literate drone that parrots the status quo perspective.
Posted by neo-realist on June 12, 2014 at 9:08 AM · Report this
Posted by rob! on June 12, 2014 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Fried Worms 14
I think Steve Scher is actually a horrible interviewer. I don't think he's a good journalist. I say this bodes well for KUOW and people who want to hear quality, intelligent programing.
Posted by Fried Worms on June 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 15
@7 "Maybe he has a terminal disease and doesn't want people to know as its a private matter?"

Well that escalated quickly.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on June 12, 2014 at 9:56 AM · Report this
word3 16
The weird thing about the Crosscut article is that it painted Steve Scher in exactly the opposite light as he revealed himself in the Cliff Mass debacle. In other words, a guest brings up a very important local education issue on which he is something of an authority and Steve Scher freaks out because it doesn't conform to the program? Meanwhile, Crosscut couches one of the factors contributing to his departure this way:
"Scher was instructed to cut back his 20-30-minute, in-depth interviews, to be more newsy, to have more “pace.” "
So was that firing KUOW inspired, Scher inspired or both?

Posted by word3 on June 12, 2014 at 10:41 AM · Report this
KUOW has been disappointing recently. They barely produce any local programming despite reaching their fundraising goals every pledge drive. It chose to combine all three local radio programs and combine them into one garbalyguck thing called "The Record." I think it was obvious that none of the three radio hosts were in love with that idea. Steve Scher, who had his own daily 2 hour show, went to sharing a single 2 hour show with two other hosts.

I don't have strong feelings for Scher, positive or negative, but I think the format change was frustrating for the producers and hosts.

I hope that KUOW starts producing more original content again. I find "The Takeaway" host to be extremely obnoxious and I am annoyed that KUOW is paying for that instead of creating its own morning talk program (like it had for ages).
Posted by ourkind on June 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM · Report this
care bear 18
Who are these people who are sad he's gone? Seriously? He may be taking with him a lot of institutional memory but he was an awful interviewer. He never asked tough questions. Maybe Dave Brewster and @4 were listening to a different Steve Scher than I was.
Posted by care bear on June 12, 2014 at 12:06 PM · Report this
FWIW Scher is on TBTL #1621 with KUOW alum Luke Burbank. Perhaps he will have more to say. I just miss the old KUOW that has 4-6 hours of locally generated programming on weekdays.
Posted by restlessnative on June 12, 2014 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Cliff Mass is an atmospheric scientist, not an educator. He was asked to comment on the weather on KUOW, not math. Although half of Seattle seems to be carrying the torch for the damage caused him at being shoved off KUOW, he's perfectly happy with his teaching, his writing, and his blog, in which he can say whatever he chooses, and does. I enjoy reading his climate blog, I enjoyed listening to Scher, and I'm sorry only one of them is still available to enjoy. And if anyone who has derided Scher's abilities has actually tried being on the radio, making sense, and talking intelligently to intelligent interviewees 5 days a week, I'd like to hear from you about how easy it is, how well you did it, and what you're doing now, besides being hypercritical in a blog.
Posted by sarah70 on June 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM · Report this
@10 pretty well summed it up, and I agree with @14 until the end of the comment: With the Takeaway, with mental and physical cripple John Hockenberry, NPR continues their personal race to the bottom.

Real content would be nice for a change, not the typical Foxtard/CNN/CBS/NPR status quoy spun stuff.

CNN reported the other day in a promo, "Skeptics believe that Oswald didn't act alone....."

Actually, had any douchetard non-newsy whorescum there ever bothered to read any reports, say the Warren Commission Report and the House Select Committee on Assassinations Report on the Kennedy Assassination, they would know there was zero evidence introduced which indicated Oswald had ANYTHING to do with the JFK assassination.

But why quibble over trifles, huh?
Posted by sgt_doom on June 12, 2014 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Math was not the issue regarding why I was kicked off KUOW. I had agreed to Steve's demand that I refrain from talking about math. That can be proved by listening to the archive shows. I was kicked off for defending the UW's admission policy on the Week in Review Show.
Pretty amazing...kicked off the UW's public radio station for defending the UW against falsehoods in the Seattle Times. My big concern is not myself...I am perfectly happy with KPLU. I am concerned about the major damage done to KUOW by its current program manager. It is pretty clear why Steve had enough...and it wasn't about being a writer. The new KUOW has given up on long-form interviews and in-depth coverage. It has given up being the community square for the city. Steve cared about such things.
Posted by Clifford Mass on June 12, 2014 at 9:48 PM · Report this
I'm really shocked by some people's disrespectful words. Typical internet ignorance. Steve was an extraordinary interviewer. Though some may prefer a more corporate, business-like approach, most of us who value Sher simply prefer his more human, conversational style. He was an incredibly tuff questioner if you were a politician trying to tread lightly on important issues. Current management (and the new manager is not a local) are destroying what was once regarded NATIONWIDE as one of the best public radio stations in the country (because of its quality programing, NOT its ratings, though they were high). Why mess with what was considered by most [public radio listeners] to be the best in the country?
Posted by Samos on June 16, 2014 at 11:18 PM · Report this
P.S., although I am sad Steve has left, I'm also a little bit happy and somehow proud that he has taken a brave position against all of the wrong directions KUOW has been going in.
It shows that there ARE local standards that should not be simply tossed aside by new "managers" who are trying to fix things that don't need fixing.
Posted by Samos on June 16, 2014 at 11:29 PM · Report this
I dislike the new kuow. I've been a listener for years. I can no longer recommend kuow to new folks who move here. The new format is just not compelling or local enough to warrant a recommendation. What a huge loss to the city!! Thankfully, the stranger has seriously stepped up its local journalism in the last 5 years. Now we just need a new radio station.
Posted by mooglitz on July 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM · Report this

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