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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Ethicist Michael Josephson is dropped by KNX radio in Los Angeles

September 9, 2011 |  6:24 pm

Michael Josephson

KNX is giving the boot to a longtime commentator and one of the most recognizable voices in local radio, ethicist Michael Josephson.

The radio station told Josephson Thursday it had made a "business decision" to terminate his contract, ending the personality's 14 1/2-year association with KNX-AM (1070). Josephson's 90-second missives on character and ethics air several times a day.

At least a couple hundred emails of protest flowed into Josephson's website protesting the decision. But true to form and a career giving advice about taking the high road, Josephson said he chose to remember all the good that came with his long media run.

"Of course I was sad at first," Josephson said from his office near LAX. "But what I have tried to say, philosophically, is that you don't look at something like this as the glass being half empty. I have had 14 years to reach people and speak to them in an incredibly liberating format. ...I am genuinely grateful. When I look back I feel like, wow, whoever had that luxury?"

Josephson, 68, got the bad news from Andy Ludlum, KNX's director of news programming.

"Everything has to stay fresh in radio," Ludlum said. "We came to the conclusion we had gone away as a station from opinion and commentary and this was the last of that kind of thing. So we decided to move away from that."

KNX and its sister station, KFWB-AM (980), have downsized staffs in recent years. KNX has focused on an all-news format while KFWB has diversified, the latter recently adding an occasional feature of reporting from various Los Angeles neighborhoods.

The commentator asked if he could do a final 90-second commentary to say goodbye to his fans when his run ends in mid-October. But he said Ludlum told him he could not. "He literally said, 'What is the upside?' and I understand that," Josephson said.

He described himself as surprised but ready to move on. Josephson is a onetime law professor who changed careers in 1985 after making $10 million selling a legal publishing and bar exam review company that he had founded.

He took part of his windfall and started the Josephson Institute of ethics and later Character Counts, a program to teach ethics to school children. The programs are now thriving, with about 40 full-time employees, contracts with corporations like Ralph's and Johnson & Johnson, and assignments to, for instance, write a book on ethical policing for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Josephson said he only receives medical benefits from the nonprofit foundation, living off savings and his wife's earnings from a gymnastics academy. He also sends a newsletter with his radio commentaries to about 75,000 followers.

In a note on his website Thursday, Josephson told of the KNX cancellation. Headlined "A Grateful Goodbye to KNX Radio," the short essay began: "Dr. Seuss said, 'Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.' "

Although some of his fans responded with angry emails and pledges to hammer KNX management, Josephson said that wouldn't be the right course.

"I wasn’t trying to encourage people to storm the Bastille," he said. "It just ends it in a bad way. That is not what we stand for."

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-- James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of ethics, is seen in a 1997 photo. His commentaries on KNX-AM (1070) will end in October, the station has decided. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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