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All That Jazz

Critics say KTSU has lost its listeners, not to mention its soul, by ditching its cutting-edge music and many of its veteran DJs.

All That Jazz

Former KTSU Latin jazz DJ Juan Flores was waiting for his flight to board at George Bush Intercontinental Airport when a stranger approached him.

"Hey, whatever happened to Juan Flores?" the man asked, noting the Texas Southern University radio station insignia on Flores's jacket. "His show was great. I don't get why he's not on the air anymore."

Flores wonders the same thing himself.

In February 2010, longtime Jazz Latino host Juan Flores was terminated, but was brought back a week later following public outcry. Flores, who's trying to revive his show at KPFT, says that he later left for good when KTSU management changed his shift time while he was on a vacation.
Troy Fields
In February 2010, longtime Jazz Latino host Juan Flores was terminated, but was brought back a week later following public outcry. Flores, who's trying to revive his show at KPFT, says that he later left for good when KTSU management changed his shift time while he was on a vacation.
The Concerned Legends allege that Franklin's October 2008 hiring came directly from the office of TSU President John Rudley. KTSU's recently fired engineer says Rudley, who replaced Priscilla Slade following a spending scandal, likes to bully campus employees.
The Concerned Legends allege that Franklin's October 2008 hiring came directly from the office of TSU President John Rudley. KTSU's recently fired engineer says Rudley, who replaced Priscilla Slade following a spending scandal, likes to bully campus employees.

Aside from the Sunday gospel programming, Flores's Jazz Latino show was arguably the most loved on "The Choice" FM 90.9. But in February 2010, KTSU Assistant General Manager Donna Franklin told Flores that his services weren't needed anymore "because [TSU President John Rudley] did not like Latin jazz," says Flores.

What followed, Flores explains, was a huge public uproar that included sponsors pulling money out of KTSU. Later, he was asked back by school officials because presumably Rudley's wishes had been lost in translation. Flores returned to the station, but later left for good.

He's not alone in his disgruntlement. Another former KTSU DJ, Chris Tucker, compared the current operations of the historic jazz station to a "concentration camp."

Several current and former employees allege that general manager Franklin and TSU president Rudley have ruined KTSU by usurping cutting-edge jazz, soul and blues for smooth jazz, a music that's normally associated with a dentist's office (and a genre that gave Kenny G his footing) and not a left-side-of-the-dial operation that will turn 40 years old in June.

In fact, the Franklin and Rudley reign has inspired an anonymously led uprising called the Concerned Legends of KTSU. The group has published and distributed six manifesto-style e-mails alleging a long list of injustices at "The Black Jewel" of American radio. Throughout KTSU's 39-year history, the station has been a measure of success for one of the nation's largest historically black institutions, which, amid other ups and downs, nearly lost its accreditation in 2007 following a spending scandal by its then-president.

The group's complaints are both large and petty, accusing the station of all sorts of mismanagement as well as misrepresentations to its listening audience — which at one time included jazz lovers throughout the Houston area.

Critics say the station's high-powered equipment has been jeopardized by a lack of maintenance. KTSU is putting new student DJs on the air without adequate training and often bumping veteran jocks from prime-time shifts to accomplish this, they charge.

And in what they say is a nasty bit of subterfuge, Juan Flores's replacement has been misrepresented as a Hispanic DJ when he's actually an African-American.

Problems at TSU and its radio station are nothing new, according to KTSU's former music director Aaron Cohen. But Cohen, who says that he was forced out in 2006 after a shoving match with a volunteer, believes that Franklin and Rudley have accelerated the dysfunction that he says was first put in place by longtime Operations Manager Charles Hudson and General Manager George Thomas.

As a longtime KTSU jock, Kyle Scott Jackson played 1920s- to 1980s-era jazz, or, in his words, "Music that formed the station to begin with." Shortly after Franklin was hired in October 2008, Jackson ditched the gig that he had held for 13 years.

"I left because I saw the wave of change coming to the station, such as the programming and the attitudes. I see what has developed since I left and there's only a smattering of traditional and straight-ahead jazz," says Jackson, who went on to establish the nonprofit Jazz Walk of Fame.

Station employees weren't the only ones who left.

A current KTSU employee, who spoke to Houston Press on condition of anonymity (we'll call him Albert), says listeners have left en masse since Franklin started at KTSU three years ago. In 2004, Arbitron figures show that the station had 244,700 listeners. By 2011, the Arbitron number had dropped to an all-time low 85,000 audience members. Says Albert: "We've been down before — once we had to buy a new transmitter and we lost some listeners that way — but we've never been that low."

Count Rick Mitchell, a Houston Chronicle music critic from 1989 to 1999, among the lost. When the West Coast transplant arrived in Houston in the late 1980s, he discovered KTSU kings Vince Kannady and Steve Crain. After Kannady and Crain left the planet at a young age, Mitchell kept the dial glued to 90.9 FM as then music directors Cohen and Jeff Kelley kept the torch — and the musical selections — burning. Nowadays, Mitchell rarely tunes in to KTSU's current incarnation. "I haven't listened in probably six months," he admits.

At the center of this latest storm is assistant general manager Franklin, a full-figured, lithe-voiced DJ who herself runs a smooth-jazz program called Jazz by Design that airs every Monday through Thursday afternoon.

During the initial stages of reporting for this story, Franklin explained to the Press that she was unaware of any internal strife at the station and that she was simply doing her job. She has since refused to answer our questions. KTSU general manager Thomas and operations manager Hudson did not respond to our inquiries and a request to speak with Rudley through TSU's media relations department was not granted.

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25 comments
Worldfamousdj
Worldfamousdj

I too was a paid DJ, sales underwriter employee and avid supporter of "The Choice 90.9FM". I have since returned to commercial radio but the issue I noticed was lack of proggress. Things change, people change, the community changes, the world has change, mondern radio has changed and I do not see KTSU keeping up with change. The newly built facility I must admitt is an incredible state-of-the-art radio station ; their biggest accomplishment of-all-time.

Shelly
Shelly

If anyone out there knows how to put this in the air and in the ear of someone who could get KTSU investigated, please do so. There's got to be someone out there who can get this on the radar of someone from the State of Texas, the FCC, one of our local TV stations (talking to you Wayne Dolcefino), Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, State Reps Garnet Coleman, Sylvester Turner or Rodney Ellis - someone who can get this train back on the tracks. There's corruption and mismanagement here on a grand scale. Maybe we should all keep our money in our pockets the next time KTSU starts to beg for money again (believe me, it won't be long).

diary of a mad KTSU listner
diary of a mad KTSU listner

First off let me say that this is a DAMN shame!!!!!! This right here is the reason black people get a bad name. It seems that when ever a black person is in control and they don't have tight supervision, they seem to lack the ability to do the right thing. I think that they need to fire the want to be "HBIC". It's obvious that Donna Franklin does not know how to lead or what to do at KTSU. The staff will only do what their leader does and if that is nothing then that is what you get, nothing! I have witnessed with my own eyes, Donna in the DJ both running a jazz program with fried chicken in one hand and her man on the other side in the booth while she is on the air. Who in the hell brings their man with them to work and what kind of man is he to sit there all day? See, that is the type of stuff that has to be addressed ASAP or the station will continue to go down. She is never at work and when she is she is always on facebook. She probaly is too busy updating her status with Mr. "Rudley" or doing some online chating. This is why the staff there don't respect her. She needs to be under direct supervison so that some one can watch her and make sure she is at work number 1. Number 2, make sure she is even working and number 3, not just sitting keeping a chair warm collectiong a check. Can some one please tap her on her shoulder and show her the right way to run a radio station!!!!. They need to put some one other than her in that position and get the station back where it needs to be. Come on my black people, do better cause you know better!!!!!!

Roman
Roman

Lets see if this article causes some changes to be made at The Black Jewel. Usually when something happens on the yard, change is slow at best. Most of the time issues arise and once the next big story comes along, the attention on the issue dies and the problem is never fixed. It is very obvious that KTSU needs radical change. The few DJs that are left from the old regime are under constant seige. The few listeners left from the old faithful are bombarded with pleas for mo' money, mo' money, mo' money and they are not getting anything for it - no bang for the buck. There are few underwriters left and they are certainly not the biggest names in Houston business. Where is The Breakfast Club, This Is It, Boris Miles Agency, other Black-owned business that are Houston regulars - definitely not advertising on the Choice. Much of KTSU's recent failings have everything to do with management and the deaf ear that has been turned towards the listeners. The music that we the listeners love and want to hear is not featured. The music that is the foundation of KTSU has been trashed for the watered down mess that we are forced to listen to day-to-day, that is, if we want to support The Choice. I cannot put all of the blame on Donna Franklin. If John Rudley is driving this bus into the ditch, the Board of Regents should take the wheel away from him. If George Thomas is not leading the station properly then that's where the axe should fall. Mr. Thomas is the leader at KTSU and should not allow Donna Franklin or any of his subordinates to have such power as to cause harm to the station or it's relationship with the listeners and underwriters. Donna Franklin needs to go and George Thomas needs to grow, into the leader that he's being paid to be.

Melissaenoble
Melissaenoble

I had to stop after the 2nd page.. Point being KTSU stopped being my radio station a few yrs ago due to this smooth drs office jazz. It was FANTASTC in the mid 70's when my English teacher in high school turned me onto it. Over the last few years it has become so watered down except when there were two daytime shows...It was hit and miss. Also liked the jazz profile documentaries on wed night and at lunch..Kudos to KPFT for providing a base.With regards to the history of the TSU administrators . I remember when the mural was painted over WITHOUT anyone's approval just because "she" disliked it according to her tastes.. It was a local artist, a student of John Biggers. After art historians pleaded not to destroy, it was managed underhandedly and sent the art community in an uproar.What is it about these unethical folks in Houston who have no sense of history or esthetics but yet have the authority to destroy very important efforts being made to preserve and recognize something important?

pamela
pamela

Let's be fair - there are two sides to every story. I happen to love Juan Flores' show and I absolutely hate what happened there at KTSU. Why in the world is management to shaky? Where are the real issues and is there any way to get something done about them. I like the fact that people are starting to speak up about concerns as many of the comments seem right on point and are obviously coming from those inside the loop who are concerned and who are using this opportunity and this forum to speak out. I would hope that someone somewhere with power and resources would care enough to cause some needed changes to be made. Problems start at the top - the top of the country, state, city, church, home, etc. Start there and everything and everyone beneath the top will have no choice but to follow what will hopefully be a new and positive lead. What is the functional chain-of-command at KTSU? Does station management really know what's going on at/in the station? Is there a grievance process for employees and volunteers when there are disputes or problems that cannot be resolved otherwise? What is KTSU's footprint in the community that it is supposed to serve? Is KTSU doing anything for society at large? Do they give or do or serve in third ward? Many many good question, and very few real answers so far.

Julie
Julie

What the hell is Donna Franklin thinking, oh yeah she's not. Truth be told, Donna Franklin is doing nothing more than she's being allowed to do. Apparently, John Rudley has castrated George Thomas and given the "Black Jewels" to Donna to use as she sees fit. I believe absolutely every one of these accusations. After seeing this debacle from the inside, I'm sure there's much more to the story. Donna Franklin doesn't respect DJs, doesn't know music and doesn't really care. Donna has been given the key to KTSU and poor old George is simply letting it happen, collecting his checks and enjoying all the perks and free publicity/advertisement that his position affords him. Pisceanblack I agree with you totally - Wayne Dolcefino or someone should investigate the station and find out exactly where the campaign money goes.

KTSU has been a staple in our community for many years and it should be returned to a position of greatness. It is apparent that John Rudley, George Thomas and Donna Franklin are not good for KTSU, but let's not leave out Charles Hudson and Sheldon Nunn. These people couldn't get a job in radio anywhere else and we should not be stuck with either of them. Several weeks ago there was a situation where several thousands of dollars in cash was reportedly missing - as usual, this was swept under the rug - whether or not it was true remains a mystery but I would not be surprised if this was another ploy to cover up mismanaged funds.

KTSU needs an overhaul and it needs one NOW. It is my sincere hope that this does not blow over and allow business-as-usual to prevail.

Talbright
Talbright

The missing cash is nothing new. Several years ago the first KTSU's Advisory Board members were all fired when they demanded to see a financial accounting. The way donations were handled was atrocious.

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Sophie

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Mwheeler
Mwheeler

Don't advertise your business here, fool!

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Sophie

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Pisceanblack
Pisceanblack

John "rudely" Rudley, George Thomas, Charles Hudson, Sheldon Nunn, and Donna Franklin should all be FIRED - they have collectively screwed up The Choice, each in their own sorry way. John Rudley seems to want to destroy TSU from the inside - his pomposity is outrageous - if you think I'm wrong, ask John Biggers whose classic work was painted over at Rudley's ignorant request. Maybe he wants to kill TSU so U of H can swoop in and take it over, the same way they did Jeppesen Stadium. KTSU has trouble - now "begging" for donations twice a year for two weeks at a time. The question is where does the money go? Nobody who comes into the choice sees where or how the money is spent. There is NO accountability. The student body doesn't know that KTSU exists because the stations mindset is that they don't need to do anything for the student body. They don't play the genre of music that students listen to - how funny, KTSU on the campus of TSU and nothing is done that relates to the student body, so why be there. Very few students actually get to work at the station as part of their educational process and those who do are political picks and favors. It's all one big sandbox for John Rudley, James Ward, George Thomas and their staffs. If you look around the station, microphones and other operational equipment doesn't work, light bulbs are out for weeks at a time, the equipment is in disrepair and is barely functional, no hand towels, soap or coffee cups in the kitchen - from the big to the small, nothing gets done. Where is Wayne Dolcefino when we need him? Priscilla Slade was not the only one to squander funds, the management of KTSU does it daily. How embarrassing is it to have national artists come into the station for interviews and there are no working microphones to do so. In the recent past, something as simple as a $10 mouse would malfunction and cause the DJs to struggle on the air. Larry Johnson and Deborah Chambers don't have the business savvy to market to mainstream vendors and businesses. Debbie Adams has no clue about raising funds and is a loud buffoon posing as a membership coordinator - the station needs a better more efficient way if donations are such an integral part of the stations mortality. There is no office manager, only a secretary specializes in gossip, brown-nosing and lunchtime. There is an absolute mess at KTSU and it's getting worse. Donna Franklin has done nothing more since arriving at KTSU but alienate those who are/were positive contributors and throw her weight around, literally. Donna doesn't know music and relies on others to do her "on-air" job while she does much of nothing - she's an MC, nothing more. If Donna Franklin was so good, at least some of her listeners from KHJZ would have followed her over to KTSU - she did not have that kind of pull. KHJZ didn't go away completely, they changed to an online jazz station - Donna was not asked to tag along and now we know why. KTSU is Houston’s burial ground for the has-beens of radio. Many people have been replaced but the replacements are clearly not close to the quality of those whose shoes they were meant to fill. While recently attending the Twelve Tastes at a modest cost of $75, I was shocked by lack of quality cuisine offered to patrons. This event was a joke but rest assured that George Thomas and friends profited even if KTSU didn't. KTSU needs help on many different levels, so does TSU - some house cleaning (firing) would help. Let's start in Rudley's office and work our way down. I love TSU and KTSU and I hate to see what's going on there. I will continue to pray that GOD will fix this unholy mess.

Pisceanblack
Pisceanblack

John "rudely" Rudley, George Thomas, Charles Hudson, Sheldon Nunn, and Donna Franklin should all be FIRED - they have collectively screwed up The Choice, each in their own sorry way. John Rudley seems to want to destroy TSU fro the inside - his pomposity is outrageous - if you think I'm wrong, ask John Biggers whos classic work was painted over at Rudley's ignorant request. Maybe he wants to kill TSU so U of H can swoop in and take it over, the same way they did Jeppesen Stadium. KTSU has trouble - now "begging" for donations twice a year for two weeks at a time. The question is, where does the money go. Nobody who comes into the choice sees where or how the money is spent. There is NO accountability. The student body doesn't know that KTSU exists because the stations mindset is that they don't need to do anything for the student body. They don't play the genre of music that students listen to - how funny, KTSU on the campus of TSU and nothing is done that relates to the student body, so why be there. Very few students actually get to work at the station as part of their educational process and those who do are political picks and favors. It's all one big sandbox for John Rudley, James Ward, George Thomas and their staffs. If you look around the station, microhones and other operational equipment doesn't work, light bulbs are out for weeks at a time, the equipment is in disrepair and is barely functional, no hand towels, soap or coffee cups in the kitchen - from the big to the small, nothing gets done. Where is Wayne Dolcefino when we need him. Priscilla Slade was not the only one to squander funds, the management of KTSU does it daily. How embarassing is it to have national artists come into the station for interviews and there are no working microphones to do so. In the recent past, something as simple as a $10 mouse would malfunction and cause the DJs to struggle on the air. Larry Johnson and Deborah Chambers don't have the business savvy to market to mainstream vendors and businesses. Debbie Adams has no clue about raising funds and is a loud baffoon posing as a membership coordinator - the station needs a better more efficient way if donations are such an integral part of the stations mortality. There is no office manager, only a ssecretary specializes in gossip, brown-nosing and lunchtime. There is an absolute mess at KTSU and it's getting worse. Donna Franklin has done nothing more since arriving at KTSU but alienate those who are/were positive contributors and throw her weight around, literally. Donna doesn't know music and relies on others to do her "on-air" job while she does much of nothing - she's an MC, nothing more. If Donna Franklin was so good at least some of her listeners from KHJZ would have followered her over to KTSU - she did not have that kind of pull. KHJZ didn't go away completely, they changed to an online jazz station - Donna was not asked to tag along and now we know why. KTSU is Houston't burrial ground for the has-beens of radio. Many people have been replaced but the replacements are clearly not clsoe to the quality of those whose shoes they were meant to fill. While recently attending the Twelve Tastes at a modest cost of $75, I was shocked by lack of quality cuisine offered to patrons. This event was a joke but rest assured that George Thomas and friends profitted even if KTSU didn't. KTSU needs help on a lot of different levels, so does TSU - some house cleaning (firing) would help. Let's start in Rudley's office and work our way down. I love TSU and KTSU and I hate to see what's going on there. I will continue to pray that GOD will fix this unholy mess.

Lisa Ann Mason
Lisa Ann Mason

Great article! The leadership of KTSU are not listening to the community. The numbers are in, from 244K listeners in 2004 to only 85K in 2011. Someone needs to be FIRED, I can think of THREE right off the top of my head. In any other business they would, so let's not get all emotional. The station runs on DONATIONS and if there are no DONORS there is NO STATION. Jazz has lost ALL of its COLORS at KTSU. It's OBVIOUS and the community has spoken. When is the last time you listened to the Choice?

Skaishadow
Skaishadow

I sure miss Juan. He really brought a dynamite show to the station. He had all the best qualities of a DJ: passion, knowledge of the music, and it's history, a good sense of humor, dedication to master his craft and lastly a real professional. Sad to see him go. As a percussionist, I lived for that show, the energy, the feeling, the cultural diversity, the education... I will follow his show wherever it resurfaces. Peace-Juan!

I pray for the station and all those involved to find a balance between paying bills and paying homage to the music that built it's reputation. Sankofa, people (go back and fetch it).

Ajones_22
Ajones_22

That's too bad that smooth jazz is nothing but instrumental R&B

Donna Scott
Donna Scott

This is taking yellow journalism and muckraking to an entirely new level. The author should apply to Hannity's America or better yet Rush Limbaughs side show. It is one sided, filled with inuendo and gossip and lacking in balance. Donna Franklin has done nothing but support students at KTSU, and pushed all types of jazz. She has encouraged the women in jazz in Houston. So has George. Ask Joe Sample, or Hubert Laws or Delfayo Maralis whom they connected students of TSU with. You say nothing about the next generation jazz series that showcases up and coming talent in the community. BTW, the station is supposed to help students learn the trade. Duh!!!! This was slanderous, libelous and plain ridiculous.

As an alumnus of on the finest journalism schools in the country, William Allen White School of Journalism University of Kansas, I can say from experience, and from reading my Pulitzer Prize winning classmates work, this article is not even fit to be toliet paper, though it reeks of half truthes and sour grapes.

This is more of the TSU is mismanaged by nimwitted blacks diatribe. Your true belevers will no doubt think you did a service, but taking pot shots at folks making a difference and even sinking to the level of commenting on someones size is really slimy and grimy.

Donna Scott
Donna Scott

This is taking yellow journalism and muckraking to an entirely new level. The author should apply to Hannity's America or better yet Rush Limbaughs shide show. It is one sided, filled with inuendo and gossip and lacking in balance. Donna Franklin has done nothing but support students at KTSU, and pushed all types of jazz. She has encouraged the women in jazz in Houston. So has George. Ask Joe Sample, or Hubert Laws or Delfayo Maralis whom they connected students of TSU with. The station is supposed to help studetns learn the trade. Duh!!!! This was slanderous, libelous and plain ridiculous.

As an alumnus of on the finest journalism schools in the country, William Allen White School of Journalism University of Kansas, I can say from expereince, and from reading my Pulitzer Prize winning classmates work, this article is not even fit to be toliet paper, though it reeks of half truthes and sour grapes.

Golden2471
Golden2471

I have noticed for sometime that the radio station has changed....I hardly listen to it anymore....so do others I know...they need to come to a common agreement for the good of tsu....everyone will loose...

Jim C
Jim C

I wonder if it's occured to anyone to just buy Rudley an iPod, program it for him, and tell him to leave the damn station alone.

boogaloo stu
boogaloo stu

FYI, the Funk and Soul show on ktru.org features Latin Jazz and Funk among other genres of groovy music. For those of you missing the Latin show on KTSU. Check it out 7-8 pm every Thursday night. You can listen via your computer, smartphone, iPad or other device and is available on a variety of apps. If you are too busy to tune in at that time, the TuneIn Radio app allows you to record the show and listen to it later, like a DVR. Also available on 90.1 HD2.

KTRU and Latin Jazz is still very much alive in Houston.

http://ktru.org/on-the-air/lis...

MadMac
MadMac

I came here ready to mount a furious defense of the station that I perceived to be under attack from malcontents. Had my argument mapped out for what happens if the university decides to sell the station, a la Rice radio. Then I reread the article and remember a lot of what I loved about the station when I started listening, (in 1991, KTSU was the only signal that came through the lead-lined walls in the Saint Joseph Hospital lab) and how much has changed since I started writing checks for membership drives. Now I'm wondering if we have to destroy the village to save it. Neither the current programming nor losing what's left really appeals to me.

One thing about the report does bother me though. What does Donna Franklin's shape have to do with anything else in this story?

Bayou619
Bayou619

they called Ms Franklin fat on the sly. Most people I talked with totally missed that part of the article.

I find it funny that a few current KTSU employees had not heard anything about the article until I mentioned it to them during tonights Laker game. they definitely live in a bubble.

'stina
'stina

My dad was one of the people who wrote a letter of complaint when Juan Flores left the first time. He pulled his donation the second time. I don't think KTSU is on his preset in the car anymore. He listened to Latin Jazz every single Saturday night (that TSU wasn't playing basketball) for years. Very sad to see that happen to the station.

 
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