Cover Story: The Killing of KTSU

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Critics say that KTSU has a soul that's empty, its "Jazz In All Its Colors" now a potent hue of smooth-jazz wallpaper.

In this week's cover story (and accompanying sidebar by John Nova Lomax), current and former DJs of KTSU, as well as the station's lost listeners, talk about the so-called death of "The Choice" 90.9 FM, which will turn 40 years old in June.

Not only has KTSU lost its way by ditching straight-ahead jazz for commercially-geared smooth jazz, critics explain, but the people in charge have created a work environment that a former KTSU jock compares to a "concentration camp."

The misgivings have inspired an anonymously-led uprising called the Concerned Legends of KTSU. The group, along with former station employees, has targeted KTSU General Manager Donna Franklin -- who hosts a smooth-jazz program four days a week -- and TSU President John Rudley for ruining the "The Black Jewel" of American radio.

Juan Flores, the ex-host of the popular Jazz Latino program, says that KTSU staff played games with him after public outcry forced the station to bring back the ousted host.

Flores eventually left for good. His replacement, according to the Concerned Legends? A DJ that's been misrepresented as a Hispanic when he's actually an African-American.

In addition, KTSU's recently fired engineer says that the financially challenged university, which has spent a lot of money on upgrading KTSU from analog to digital, hasn't applied the same amount of funds to maintaining the expensive equipment.

As a result, the station, which went offline several times last summer, is operating at 15 to 20 percent of its capacity. Couple that with recent Arbitron rankings that shows KTSU's listenership at an all-time low, and Houston jazz lovers have been dialing in other frequencies that aren't 90.9 FM.

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