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Monday, August 4, 2014

Talk Radio Landscape changed for the worse

Fred Weinberg's article from the 7/31/14 issue of the Penny Press notes the sinking of Conservative Talk radio by what can only be called a legion of uneducated hosts and listeners.

I was part of it in a better time.

Fred and I first crossed paths in 1995 when I was a part of the People's Radio Network.  At the time it was one of the biggest talk radio networks with over 200 radio stations carrying our mostly non-controversial talk lineup.  It was a lineup that today would be scoffed at, but would be better than most of what is out there today.

We started our day with a four hour news and information block, designed for stations to come and go as they please.  We followed that with a one hour holistic health show, then three hours of homespun talk from one of the friendliest talk show hosts ever, Paul Gonzales, who did his show with two Lhasa Apsos by his side from his home in Tampa Bay.

The network “star” and backer was an old radio hand from Chicago named Chuck Harder.  Harder moved from being one of the best consumer advocates on the radio to the most conspiratorial host on the radio – in some ways moreso than Alex Jones.  One had to wonder if he might have been too close to the truth at the times because he and his organization became IRS targets before it became fashionable to sic the IRS on your opponents.  Ironically, Harder was more centrist than conservative, giving platforms to Ralph Nader and Pat Choate alike.

Free wheeling former DJ Joel Vincent chatted up folks in the early evening followed by a true “voice of God,” the late Jerry Hughes and his hard right conservative views.   Weekends car shows, health shows, fix it shows, news shows, pet shows, all filled the network.

The potpourri worked, and many of the stations found themselves comfortably happy with the “over the back fence” attitude of the network.  It was conversation, not strident partisanship.  But today, talk radio is all about who's right and wrong, not about how we can fix ourselves.  Hosts such as Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, and other good helpful hosts are relegated to late night hours of, in the case of our friend Bruce Williams, to the Internet.

Until Talk Radio becomes less about partisanship and more about people, it will be relegated to the bottom of the food chain.  And the stations that Fred Weinberg build will sink because honestly, even the choir will stop listening....

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