Editor’s note: This story has been extensively updated.
Local news radio station KTIP AM 1450 will soon have new ownership, and Kent Hopper, the station’s operations manager and lead on-air personality, has been fired from his position.
José Arredondo, owner of Tulare-based KGEN, a Spanish-language station, is in the process of purchasing the 70-year-old news and talk radio station. Transfer of the station’s license should be complete within three months, sources said.
In the meantime, the station’s entire staff has resigned in a show of support for Hopper and his son, forcing KTIP off the air. The AM 1450 wavelength is now dead.
Hopper, who has spent the last 17 years of his nearly 50-year career in local broadcasting with KTIP, announced the loss of his longtime position in a social media post just minutes after he learned he would no longer be with the company. Hopper also revealed his son Kyle Hopper, who worked in the KTIP news department, has also been discharged.
“I’ve just been terminated here at KTIP and so has Kyle,” Hopper’s announcement reads. “Thank you all for staying loyal to me and my family. Hopper out.”
Dr. Larry Stoneburner, owner of KTIP’s parent company, Mayberry Communications, said the Hoppers were discharged as part of reduction of the station’s news department.
“There has been a reduction in force,” he said. “We appreciate everything he’s (Kent Hopper) done. We appreciate his ethics.”
In a remarkable show of solidarity, the station’s entire staff resigned following Hopper’s firing, leaving it unmanned and playing dead air.
Thanking Listeners, Friends
The social media post announcing Hopper’s departure from KTIP drew reactions of shock, anger and sadness from his many online followers. They also offered dozens of messages of support to the broadcaster and his family.
Hopper issued this statement to the Valley Voice:
“I would like to thank the community. My son and I and my wife gave him our all. We loved our jobs. Especially after Stoneburner’s wife, Mimi, passed on. We loved Larry and KTIP. It’s very surreal right now. Don’t know where to turn. Thank you all so much for the community’s support. Love you.”
Pamela Whitmire, better known to listeners as Hopper’s broadcasting partner PK the Redhead, who credits Kent Hopper with teaching her the news business, has also left the station in a show of support for the Hoppers.
“Thanks to our loyal listeners. Thanks to all my interviewees who let me annoy them over the years,” she said. “Now, it’s onto something else.”
While Stoneburner refused to comment on the pending sale of KTIP, it was confirmed by a representative of the station’s new owner. Isidro Roman, program director of KGEN, Arredondo’s Tulare radio station, said Arredondo and Stoneburner have entered a 90-day escrow.
“He’s in the process,” Roman said.
Arredondo is currently traveling abroad and could not be reached for comment. Roman said no decisions have been made about KTIP’s future, which could include rehiring recently departed personnel.
“There’s still escrow to go through, so we don’t know anything,” Roman said.
Among his other holdings, Arrendondo owns car dealerships in Delano and Bakersfield, and a real estate development company, as well as his media holding.
‘Very Motivated Seller’
According to an ad offering KTIP for sale, the asking price for the station’s license, office and studio, transmitter, and real estate is $300,000. The ad appears on the website of MCH Enterprises, a media brokerage and consultancy.
The ad describes Stoneburner as “obviously a very motivated seller,” and describes a “price adjustment” to the $300,000 asking price. The real estate included in the package is appraised at more than $200,000, the ad said.
A Federal Communications Commission filing in May lists Stoneburner and Mayberry Broadcasting as KTIP’s owners, but also includes Brett Miller of MCH Enterprises as a contact representative.
A Show of Solidarity
KTIP is now off the air, as the station’s entire remaining staff resigned following Stoneburner’s firing of Hopper.
The first person to leave his job in protest was Jesus Solis, KTIP’s IT technician, who alerted the rest of staff that Kent and Kyle Hopper were about to be discharged by quitting before their firing could take place.
“Solis had just found out Stoneburner was going to fire us,” Hopper said. “He walked up behind him, tossed him his keys and said, ‘I quit.’”
Kent Hopper’s wife, Kathy, who also worked at KTIP, was the next to go. Stoneburner was following her around the station, she said, prompting her to vent her anger.
“I said, ‘You might as well fire me too,’” she said.
PK the Redhead followed suit.
“Then PK says, ‘I’m not saying here without Hopper and the rest of you,’” Kent Hopper said. “It was a couple of hours later, my assistant operations manager, Brian Martinez, said you better fire me too, because I can’t do all these jobs alone.”
Martinez, Hopper said, recently purchased a new home in Porterville.
Last to go was weekend radio host Elissa Carey.
Kent Hopper is now concerned about how his former coworkers will make ends meet.
“I never asked anybody to do that,” he said. “They need to take care of their families.”
Hopper Rides Again
The Hoppers have a plan to keep the bills paid. Starting at 7am on Monday, September 10, Hopper in the Morning will be back on the air, this time as a podcast and occasional live broadcast. Anyone who wants to get the story straight from Hopper should tune in.
“My first guest is going to be PK the Redhead,” he said. “We’re going to kick around everything we’ve done over the many decades and how we feel about what’s going on now at the station.”
The show will stream at hopperinthemorning.com, which will be live in time for the first show.
“We’ll do the same thing Monday through Friday,” Hopper said. “It’ll be recorded sometimes and live sometimes when we want to be.”
Hopper plans to host the same civic leaders who made regular appearances on his KTIP morning show.
“What I hope to do is continue to provide a service to Lindsay, Porterville, Tulare and Visalia, and the other cities,” he said. “We’ll have the mayors of Tulare, Visalia, the (Tulare County) Supervisors, only this time it will be on my terms.”
He also plans to expand the show, adding segments such as live music performed by local artists. The Hoppers are looking for additional financial support to get the project going as it starts out.
“I’ve already gotten over 200 calls, and messages on my Facebook,” Hopper said. “I’m so grateful for the people who are supporting me, whether it’s a pat on the back or monetarily. I had no idea people were so interested in what I’m doing.”