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Ray Briem Dies At 82, Dominated Overnight Los Angeles Talkradio With Substantive Subjects, Newsmaking Guests


(December 13, 2012) -- We are saddened to report the passing of Ray Briem, who dominated overnight talkradio in Los Angeles for decades on KABC/790 AM and was heard in multiple markets across the country for roughly eight years on the ABC Talkradio network.

Mr. Briem's death at age 82 was announced yesterday. He was a DJ at KLAC/570 Los Angeles in the 1960s when the station flipped to an all-talk format and was invited to stay on (joining a high profile air staff that included Joe Pyne among others).

Mr. Briem shifted to KABC/790 in a time when KABC used to sign-off at midnight. He was given the time slot almost as a throw-away, even allowed a share of the ad revenue (with management doubting there'd be much). Out of what had been dead air, he built a dominating share that for many years eclipsed all other stations in the market.

Mr. Briem did this by rejecting the notion that all night talkradio should be devoted to puffy or nutty subject matter. He did exactly the opposite, treating the station's newstalk audience with the same caliber of guests and audible respect that they came to expect in other time periods. In his midnight hour, he regularly had some of the biggest newsmakers on air from L.A. and the west coast (by phone or in person) and then snagged members of Congress and major east coast newsmakers by phone in his predawn L.A. hours.

In the days before 24-hour cable news cycles, Mr. Briem insisted that KABC management provide him with a wire-service teletype in his home so he wouldn't have to wait for the next day's newspapers. He reported news ahead of the morning papers...and often had guests who made news in those stories.

Mr. Briem was a stickler for accuracy and quotes. He had text (and recorded audio clips) at his fingertips. Polite but unafraid to ask pointed questions, he regularly invited guests with whom he disagreed...and gave them the opportunity to explain themselves, to really communicate with his audience...which he himself did masterfully.

Among guests with whom he very much agreed was a plain spoken fellow named Howard Jarvis. Messrs. Jarvis and Briem spent many overnight hours discussing wasteful government spending and lambasting tax policies. Mr. Jarvis frequently spoke about his idea for a ballot measure to cap property taxes, a petition-initiated measure that he felt sure would pass. That idea ultimately became Proposition 13, and while officialdom treated it with contempt, Mr. Briem treated its supporters with respect. After its passage, Mr. Jarvis regularly credited Mr. Briem for his role in its becoming law.

In the mid-1990s, some radio management geniuses foolishly let Mr. Briem go. With few exceptions (Doug McIntyre when he did overnights was one of the bright spots), much of overnight radio in this writer's opinion has returned to the condition in which Mr. Briem found it: a wasteland of puffy and nutty subject matter.

Talkradio, and the information it conveyed and opinions it let the public hear and share before the internet era, was richer for what Ray Briem did and how he did it. Thank you, Mr. Briem.

Disclosure: For part of the 1980s and early 1990s, publisher Bill Pearl hosted newstalk and opinion programs on KABC radio (and when its hosts vacationed, guest hosted for them on the ABC Talkradio network). He was genuinely honored for every minute he spent guest-hosting for Ray Briem.

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