UPDATED: News station KTIP sold, Hopper moving online

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 Fired

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.”

Sale Confirmed

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.”

20 thoughts on “UPDATED: News station KTIP sold, Hopper moving online

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  1. I agree. Wow. Mimi was an integral part of the station, though. So I’m not really surprised that Larry would want out.

    Of course, I go back to the days when Monte Moore was the owner.

    It’s really hard, these days, to make a small independent AM radio station work financially. AM is no longer the preferred frequency space.

  2. I will miss Hopper and PK. I always started my day off looking forward to listening to them. I think the new owners made a huge mistake firing them.☹️

    • The new owners didnt fire them. The current owner did due to wanting to downsize the news department pending the transfer of the station.

  3. This stinks! Hopper and PK were the voice of Porterville. Hopefully when Arredondo returns he will hire back Hopper, PK and Kyle seeing how many people are behind these great people. I listen to their interviews since it was live and better than the somewhat slanted Recorder reporting. Will not listen to KTIP until I hear that these changes have been made. If they haven’t goodbye KTIP.

  4. No more Mayor city reports. This is/was the only station that covers that type of journalism.
    I sure hope Arredondo honors the listeners greater than other causes.
    Very few down home stations left anymore. Please consider Mr. Arredondo for alot of us ktip is our drive to work and home. For me that’s my news hour.
    Is this a remake of WKRP Cincinnati.

  5. Won’t be listening to anything remotely close to spanish radio if that’s possibly going to be the new genre….not ever. Sick to death of hearing spanish music and language on the majority of stations in this valley.

  6. This is so disappointing. Mimi was great and I suspected when she passed that the station would end up being sold in due course. But to decimate the staff is simply irrational. KTIP provides (provided) a great service to this community. Hopefully the new owners will see that and reverse what has been done.

  7. Not only is it disappointing, but unless he had a replacement lined up it’s financial suicide. Larry’s not a radio guy or he’d have known that, I think. Hopper and PK were the mainstays of that station right there along with Mimi. Morning drive is the time radio stations have the highest listenership and thus, the highest advertising revenue.

    And before them it was John Quinlin. That six to nine or ten AM time slot will make or break you.

    BTW, hi JQ, I know you’re following this.

  8. Used to be in the news biz, I know everything has changed though! Small towns deserve good journalism too! Come to Tulare! We’ll find investors and set you up here!! When the public is not informed by unbiased news stories the underhanded and corrupt go wild with no accountability! Tulare was on that road but the curtain has been drawn! Good luck to all of you kind souls!!!!!

  9. What a SHOCK, when my radio came on automatically so Hopper and PK could wake me up, it was dead silence. KTIP was the very best local news radio station in the county…. I could write a book, but looks like 300K was a minor fee for the station, doesn’t make any sense. I do hope the posted who said they would set something up in TULARE is serious, I will be one of the first to turn them on, permanently, if they get Hopper and crew are on as they were here at the KTIP I used to have a couple radio programs on, that was back when Mr. Miller owned it…… YEP been an admirer for a lot of years.

  10. I just read the updated story. Wow is all I can say. Of course, they have essentially done the new owner a favor, as he won’t have to cover their unemployment expenses. So they might have unknowingly helped the new guy out.

    Like Mr. Hopper, I hope they all land on their feet.

  11. As of today, September 6, they are on the air with all syndicated programming. So somebody’s doing engineering duties.

  12. WaaaHOOOOOOOO !!!!
    I will be listening…..
    Be so much fun to see the Bright Future, this will lead to many more great things happening for all of you.
    VERY PROUD of YOU, Kent et All. !!!

    EQ

  13. When the station fired Brent Gill I called and was told “ Don’t you feel they have the right to hire and fire who they want to?” Now everyone quits when they fire someone? What’s up with that. I liked to listen to Brent Gill.

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