In 1992, as the city remained shaken by historic civil unrest, veteran newsman Warren Olney created a daily show on KCRW-FM (89.9) to help Angelenos understand what had just happened and why. Which Way, L.A.? was less about healing and “getting along” after the riots than about investigating—and, at times, provoking. From the start, Olney proved cool under pressure, incisive in his queries, and comfortable (and fair) in his frequent role as referee. He invited guests from all corners of the city, many who had never been on the radio before. Instead of a Band-Aid, he offered calm analysis. And, as the years went by, that analysis extended far beyond the flashpoint of the riots to, as the show’s on-air signature proclaimed, “the issues Southern Californians care about.”
On Tuesday, KCRW announced that in February, after nearly 24 years, Olney will no longer be asking L.A.’s citizens which way to go next. Which Way, L.A.? will end January 28, the station said in a statement, leaving Olney to focus all his energies on the second of the two daily shows he’s hosted for 15 years: the national news program To The Point.
“At this point in my career, I felt it was time to make a choice to do one show a day – that’s already a full time job. It was time to get a part of my life back,” Olney said, adding, “To The Point is more necessary than ever. There’s so much going on and so much information available, it’s getting harder and harder for listeners to disentangle the facts from the fear.”
While the radio host will still be heard on the issues of the day, his decision signals the end of an era. For a while there, Olney was the city’s best advocate for mutual understanding. We will miss that.