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John Kobylt is Adjusting to Life on KFI Without Ken Chiampou

“The station asked me if I wanted a partner. I said no. I couldn’t imagine having a stranger in the studio with me.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of John Kobylt and the KFI logo
(Photo: John Kobylt)

John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou spent nearly 40 years together, climbing the news/talk ladder to become one of the format’s most formidable duos. But when Chiampou announced he would retire from the KFI AM-640 afternoon show in December, questions persisted about what Kobylt’s future entailed. However, those questions never came from Kobylt, who knew exactly how he wanted to handle his longtime partner’s exit.

“There was no hesitation in what I wanted to do. I want to keep working for a long time,” Kobylt said after noting Chiampou had considered retirement since 2008. “I’m not designed for retirement, and I’m five years younger than he is. I’m just at a completely different place.”

After doing talk radio with a partner for the better part of four decades, it would be logical to think a new show, with a new partner, would be on the horizon. But The John Kobylt Show was launched of Chaimpou’s retirement for a specific reason.

“The station asked me if I wanted a partner. I said no. I couldn’t imagine having a stranger sitting in the room with me after having 36 years with Ken. I would be uncomfortable. The show would be more about me handling the new chemistry rather than about me talking to the listeners.”

Kobylt felt strongly that doing a solo show at this stage of his career would be exponentially easier than learning the intricacies of a new partner.

“I know what I want to do. I know what topics I want to cover, I know my own world view…it would be a stranger. We don’t have anybody at the station that is an obvious choice (to replace Chiampou), otherwise they would have their own show by now,” Kobylt said with a chuckle. “When you’re starting out in your 20s, you often get paired up with people, and oftentimes it doesn’t work. So chemistry has to be organic. It has to come from the people that want to work together. Force chemistry, I have found, doesn’t work”.

Many in the space believe talk radio hosts are born, not made, and Kobylt shares that belief, noting that his gut feeling has taken him this far, including his decision to link up with Chiampou in the first place.

“I always go by instinct. I have no patience for research, no patience for focus groups or testing. The public doesn’t know what they like until they hear it in action over a long period of time. There’s no way to test for this sort of thing,” he said. “I have an instinct, and I had one for him, and it worked perfectly.”

Those instincts included topic selection, which now — for the most part — falls on his shoulders after splitting the load with Chiampou for all those years. John Kobylt admitted it’s a slightly different process now that his longtime partner isn’t there to bounce ideas off of.

“After 36 years, I should have an instinctive reaction to whether I want to do a story or not, right? So as soon I read something, it’s like, ‘I want to do that.’ Or as soon as I read another story, it’s like, ‘That’s kind of dull.’ There’s certain things you can’t explain on the radio. There’s certain things that your particular audience just doesn’t care about,” Kobylt said.

“It’s not even a matter of what opinion they would have or what my opinion is, it’s just an issue they don’t care about. There’s a lot of stuff in the media that normal people have zero interest in. And one of my jobs every day is — I will see a lot of the same story covered by a lot of outlets, and there’s always this nagging feeling inside of me like, ‘You know what? I’ve never heard a normal person ever discuss this issue. I’ve never heard anybody bothered by this or invested in it’ — and that’s kind of it really,” admitted Kobylt.

“It really is all instinct. I read it, and it hits me right away…And a lot of it is following up on specific stories and issues. That we’ve covered sometimes for months or years. So it really falls into place pretty quickly, because I know what the audience wants to talk about and likes to hear.”

Since Chimapou’s exit, John Kobylt has taken the opportunity to become retrospective about the duo’s success, and looking back at their career together has been an interesting exercise for the Los Angeles-based host.

“When you’re doing 230-odd shows per year, You don’t get time to rest very much and think back, reflect on anything because you’re gonna have a show tomorrow,” Koblyt posited. “There’s four more hours tomorrow. That’s 16 more segments, and that might be a dozen different stories…it’s really like factory work. The next day, you gotta go in and shovel more coal into the furnace.

“We’ve been involved in some tremendous stories over the years. But you know, after a couple of weeks, it’s as if it never happened. We got some highlight tapes and put those together. I was listening to them, and I’d forgotten some of those things. I figured out I must have said ‘This is The John and Ken Show one million times in 36 years. Literally a million times, if you keep doing the multiplication. So there’s no way to remember it all.

“When I was I was looking for some audio, I went online because some fans over the years have posted audio or video of us. I just randomly hit stuff. And there was a reason they posted it, and I thought ‘I have no memory of this’. Apparently. this person thought it was so good. They posted it on YouTube, but I haven’t the slightest idea. It’s just a pipeline where stuff just keeps getting stuffed in the pipeline day after day.”

John Kobylt concluded that he’s committed to continuing to host on KFI AM-640 for several more years. But in this era of his career, it will include more monologue radio, with a rotating cast of characters joining him both in studio and out in the field.

But, like many of their longtime listeners, Kobylt will always hold a special place in his heart for what he accomplished — both personally and professionally — with Ken Chiampou.

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Proof That Both CNN and Fox News Manipulate Their Audiences

Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias.

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When news organizations collide, journalism loses. Last week, CNN posted on X saying “US inflation cooled down in January, offering some relief for Americans who have suffered through the steepest price hikes in four decades.” The same day Fox News posted “BREAKING: Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.”

While these are seemingly opposite statements, both can be true at the same time. More importantly, both of these outlets are manipulating their audience.

People like their own opinions and want those opinions verified by others. This is what social media has done to news: You read the post, see your opinion is valid, and then move on to the next clickbait (confirmation bias). More importantly, both of these tweets are true because one is based on an estimate, and one is based on actual numbers.

Looking at CNN, while their post on X seems positive, their business headline is a little less positive, “Inflation cooled last month, but some price hikes continue to cause pain.” The change from tweet to headline is striking. One says Americans are getting inflation relief, the other says inflation continuing to cause pain. In today’s world of “Read the headline and move on,” this is why people feel CNN lies. Its post is in conflict with the headline— even though both are true statements.

It’s not until you read the article that people can see how this is possible. The outlet notes overall inflation did cool when comparing January 2023 (6.4%) to January 2024 (3.1%). Four sentences into the article it says, “CPI rose by 0.3% in January.” It goes on to break down why inflation is still high and causing pain in the pockets of Americans. Although the X post is factually correct, people on the right side of the political spectrum feel CNN is untrue because they see the inflation problem in their bank account.

Meanwhile, the Fox News X post and Fox Business headline are identical, “Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.” However, the keyword here is “expected.” Inflation did cool year-over-year. However, because Fox is comparing the January 2024 number to what experts expected the number to be, what they have posted is factually correct. This nuance is sometimes lost on readers.

The article does not mention inflation is down year-over-year. However, nine sentences into the article, the business outlet says, “Inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 9.1%.” The nuance of “expected” combined with the lack of mentioning year-over-year inflation is down is why the left side of the political spectrum believes Fox lies.

Let’s be clear, neither CNN nor Fox News have lied (on this one specific topic). They both chose to present the same data differently. It also needs to be noted, CNN and Fox News are not the only outlets that do this. They all do. Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias. The problem is twofold.

  • Facts are no longer direct but skewed to fit a narrative.
  • Some viewers accept headlines and posts without diving deeper into the article.

We have been trained to share a headline without reading the article. We’ve known this since 2016 when Columbia University and the French National Institute found 59% of shared social media links were never read. We’ve gone from headlines selling newspapers, forcing people to read the articles, to headlines being shared on social media, but people won’t read the articles.

This is only a small part of why The Messenger failed: neutrality. The sentiment of unbiased news was well-intentioned. However, America has lacked unbiased news since 1987 when the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. Many on the left believe this has helped right-leaning outlets. This is false. Not only has it benefited both sides of the aisle, it can be argued the progressives have benefited more than the conservatives (but that is a different article for a different day).

When news outlets collide, the American public loses. Not because we lack news, but because we lack the ability to read the full scope of the issues in one place. Outlets are not forced to present all sides of the political argument or present the entirety of data sets. Additionally, news is not being fully read. Headlines are now king. Shares, clicks, and likes keep the lights on in newsrooms. Most importantly, facts are now nuanced. This forces debate instead of continuity and cohesion.

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BNM Writers

Does Dealing With Criticism Ever Get Easier?

Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.

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A photo of the word Truth written on a typewriter

Thick skin. If you work in media, you gotta have it. If you don’t, you either won’t last or you won’t sleep – or both.

Even if you are neutral politically, super nice, and in it for all the right reasons, there always will be people who criticize you, and some will even make it personal.

Having “thick skin” is a cliché I’ve been thinking about and dealing with for years. I find it fascinating that, somehow, I am way more sensitive at home than I am at work – and by at work, I mean on the air for hours every day.

Even the angriest of listeners are engaging, and engagement is what I want. Sometimes, it can throw a show off-balance, but if handled properly, it should never fully derail you.

Over the years, I have modified my professional behavior, perspective, and attitude, yet my foundational approach has not changed. It began with my first full-time television job when a journalist/mentor of mine told me not to ever act interested in ratings. Rather, he said, focus on my performance and content — the rest would take care of itself.

In my first two anchor/host jobs, it worked wonderfully. I immersed myself in the job, and the ratings were strong. I thought it was a mandate to always take this approach, although in retrospect, I was probably more lucky than good. Regardless, following that mantra actually allowed me to learn my craft and not be overly aware that ratings mattered.

Ignorance was journalistic bliss.

Flash forward to 2024 and it all seems rather naïve, but I think the approach really works well with criticism, too, whether it be on social media, through phone calls or even with fellow hosts.

Just a quick note on nuance: Look at the sentence four paragraphs above – don’t act interested. Looking back at the guidance given by my mentor, his point also seemed to be that even if you are laser-focused on how a show is rating, don’t make it a major topic of conversation, and don’t let people think it defines you as a broadcaster and journalist.

All of it may seem like advice from Fantasyland, but in an indirect way, this approach also makes me less vulnerable to criticism. I simply don’t focus on it too much, and over time, it stopped bothering me even if I did focus on it. Make sense?

Of course, it’s not as if I like it when a listener rips me or the show, either directly or on social media; but I never engage emotionally, and if I do respond in any way, it’s usually content-focused.

That’s the key.

Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.

You have the conch. Never forget that.

Ultimately, you’ll feel better, especially knowing you did not take the bait and handled it professionally – no need to create any more tension than is already out in the media eether.

That brings me to the moment a host of a show on my station was sharply critical of an interview I had done, saying it was soft, and not holding the guest (a sitting U.S. Senator) accountable enough.

Specific questions were put forth that absolutely should have been asked, according to the host, and honestly, it was used as a chest puffer for that person to show why certain guests were scared to come on that later show.

And … I thought it was great.

Great?

Well, maybe not great, but I actually had no problem with it. First and foremost, they were talking about it, which is good. When I can provide that kind of grist, it’s good radio. It wasn’t always easy to listen to — I was still in the office doing some booking — but for some reason, it did not bother me. This from a guy who gets a one-second side eye from my wife of 20 years, and I think our marriage is in trouble.

In the end, a few of the criticisms were helpful, believe it or not: One or two of the suggested questions put forth on the later show should have been asked.

It’s all part of the balance I seek to create a place where members of both political parties feel comfortable coming on our network. I always reserve the right to ask difficult questions, and I do ask them (apparently not enough for some), but I also try and be balanced and manage relationships.

It’s delicate, and sometimes, elicits criticism – sometimes deserved. Meanwhile, I just focus on the content, naïve as that may be.

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CBS Mornings Scores Big Post-Super Bowl Ratings Win

CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the CBS Mornings logo

The historic ratings milestones continue for CBS as a result of Super Bowl LVIII.

Less than nine hours following what turned out to be the most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history to date (120.25 million of the near-124 million watching Super Bowl LVIII did so on CBS), CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.

For the Monday, Feb. 12 edition of CBS Mornings, which featured co-host Nate Burleson from Las Vegas, the site of Super Bowl LVIII, and a visit from Jon Stewart in New York to promote his Daily Show return (which generated great ratings milestones of its own later that night), it delivered 2.9 million total viewers including 654,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked its best total audience and demo figures since Feb. 4, 2022.

CBS Mornings topped ABC’s Good Morning America, the usual morning news viewer leader, by a mere 7,000 viewers; it also outdrew NBC’s Today (2.86 million) by 49,000 viewers.

CBS also bested ABC in A25-54 by +103,000; the sixth time CBS Mornings has led over Good Morning America this season based on the key demo.

This was not the first time a morning show benefited from a halo effect of what the network had aired the night prior. Mar. 8, 2021, was the first time CBS won in the morning. It was the day after Oprah Winfrey’s primetime interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had aired which drew 17.1 million viewers for CBS. The Mar. 8, 2021 edition of CBS This Morning featured an exclusive interview with Winfrey and the premiere of never-before-seen clips from the Meghan and Prince Harry discussion, had delivered 4.793 million viewers with 1.026 million of them in the 25-54 demographic.

The program changed its title to CBS Mornings in September 2021.

For this 2023-24 season, CBS Mornings has the smallest deficit margin in viewers with ABC’s Good Morning America since the 2017-18 season and the tightest margin in A25-54 ever.

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