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Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald, Published March 20 2012

Conservative talk-show host Scott Hennen off the air in Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS - Scott Hennen’s conservative talk show has been dropped from KNOX Radio in Grand Forks, his “adopted hometown,” as the station moves to more news-oriented afternoon programming, program director Jarrod “J.T.” Thomas said Tuesday.

“They said they were contacted by KNOX about wanting to make a change,” he said. “What kind of change, I don’t know.”

His “Scott Hennen Show” did not air Monday or Tuesday in its usual 2-5 p.m. time slot.

Needs and trends

Thomas said the decision to drop Hennen was made recently, as station managers re-evaluated their programming.

“Before every ratings period, we sit down and talk about needs and where we’re at,” he said. “The national trend is to take news and make it a bigger part of the day.

“People want ‘talk’ part of the day, but we know from experience that something called ‘talk radio fatigue’ has set in by the time we get to the end of the day. We decided it was best for us to go to American Radio News Network,” providing 15-minute blocks of national and local news, weather and sports throughout the afternoon.

“Unfortunately, with that programming change, the Scott Hennen Show is no longer part of News Talk 1310 KNOX or KNOX FM 107.9,” Thomas said.

“Scott is a flame-throwing righty. He makes no bones about it, nor should he. He’s very good at it. But we wanted to take our stations in this other direction. We don’t have time for Scott Hennen in other parts of the day, so he becomes a casualty.”

Learning more about the situation late Tuesday, Hennen said he has “great respect for those guys” at KNOX. “They have to do what they believe is best. That’s the business.”

‘A perfect fit’

Hennen, 47, has been an earnestly conservative presence on regional airwaves for almost three decades, but he has been wearing headphones and wielding microphones since he was 12 years old, working with his father at KDMA Radio in Montevideo, Minn.

With his signature Hot Talk program on KCNN in Grand Forks, he built a reputation for delivering unabashedly conservative viewpoints and securing big-name guests, interviewing presidents, senators and corporate big shots. He is routinely included in lists of the top talk radio hosts in the country and has been called “the Rush Limbaugh of the prairie.”

Author of “Grass Roots: A Commonsense Action Agenda for America,” published last year, he also has been credited with playing a major role in keeping people in the region updated during, and following, the Flood of 1997.

Hennen left KCNN in 2001 after 17 years to become general manager at WDAY radio in Fargo, where he continued the Hot Talk format. In the spring of 2008, he left WDAY to become a radio station owner, but his involvement there ended last May.

The syndication of his current show on KNOX last year was hailed at the time by Jeff Hoberg, general manager of Leighton Broadcasting, the station owner.

“He’s certainly considered a household name here in Grand Forks and up and down the valley,” Hoberg said at the time. “It was certainly a perfect fit.”

Hennen said at the time that he was “ecstatic” about returning to the air in Grand Forks.

A fluid business

Hennen said he was disappointed to lose the Grand Forks area market, but he said his syndicated show still can be heard from stations in western North Dakota to western Minnesota.

“Unfortunately, the radio business is a little fluid,” he said. “Change happens, and I’ve been through my fair share of change these last 18 months or so.”

But he said his online and social media audience has grown significantly, and he is “about to go on the air in St. Cloud, Minn., and we’re working on other markets.”

His show also can be downloaded through his website, www.scotthennen.com.

Grand Forks “is my adopted hometown,” he said. “Monetarily or professionally, being on the air there is not a do-or-die thing, but I really love that I hear from listeners up and down the Red River Valley every day because of the presence on KNOX.”

His arrangement with KNOX provided him with air time he could sell to advertisers. He did not receive a paycheck.

“It cost nothing to KNOX to air our show,” he said.

Hennen said he had heard some speculation this week that KNOX may have received pressure from advertisers who didn’t like “my vocal support for the Fighting Sioux nickname” at UND.

“I hope that’s not the case,” he said.

Thompson said it was not.

“Nothing has crossed my desk that says there has been any advertiser pushback due to his opinions and views related to the Fighting Sioux nickname,” he said.

He said it was normal procedure for the station to convey its programming decision to Hennen’s syndicator, and that was no reflection on Hennen personally.

“He’s a standup guy we thoroughly enjoyed having on the air,” Thomas said.