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Political News/Talk Radio Needs Fewer Lapdogs and More Watchdogs

| November 21, 2014

By Michael Harrison

harrisonmichael new headshot14SPRINGFIELD, MA – When the Fairness Doctrine was repealed back in the eighties and talk radio hopped into the seedy bed of political opinion – thus evolving into the present incarnation of what is commonly referred to as “news/talk” radio – it took on legions of enemies from all sides of the political spectrum.

Today, it finds itself in the cross-fire of the mudslinging, poisonous warfare commonly waged by those whose obsessive quest for power over their fellow citizens compel them to seek victory even at the cost of truth.

Every time modern day news/talk radio has a hiccup in the ratings or burps a gaffe offensive to the hypocrites of political correctness, the legions of critics (from all sides), quick to shoot any messenger with whom they disagree, start mouthing off predictions of the format’s imminent fall ignoring all contributing and relevant facts and factors of the radio world and larger social/economic backdrop.

Before clear-minded broadcasters and corporate radio groups succumb to the forces of phony self-righteous indignation and begin doubting the extraordinary value political talk radio provides to the vitality and longevity of this industry, not to mention the health of our nation and its fundamental need to exercise and preserve the First Amendment, they should consider the following:

There is nothing wrong with the current crop of long-standing, iconic figures of opinionated left vs right political discussion who have made talk radio and its stars household names.  They should be protected and supported for what they do… because they are valuable and, more importantly, cannot easily be replaced.  In fact, they shouldn’t be replaced.  The last thing we need are more “B” and “C” level imitators and talking point ideologues in this format.  We do not need lapdogs and mindless partisans clogging up the airwaves and bringing this format down!

What we do need are more WATCHDOGS to round out what this format truly has to offer.  I guess you can call them populists or independents – but it goes much deeper than just superficial labels.  This industry needs talk show hosts – especially local ones – who don’t give a damn about political science ideology or carrying partisan water for their favorite “team,” but rather keep a watchful eye and wag a fearless tongue on the biggest problem facing the American political system today.

It is NOT the creeping socialism of the left or the ugly fascism of the right (although both are quite odious) that is the real thing bugging the average person out there with a predisposition to tune in a talk show.  It is a rampant disease that makes Ebola pale in the wake of its destruction.  I am talking about widespread, insidious CORRUPTION!

The biggest problem facing today’s news/talk radio is the increasing scarcity of the political watchdog.  Hosts like the late Jerry Williams in Boston — who made politicians and office holders of all political stripes nervous and kept them on their toes – are the vital building blocks of relevant and vibrant talk radio.

I am not saying they don’t exist in today’s industry.  Hosts such as Howie Carr in Boston, Dan Yorke in Providence, Curtis Sliwa in New York, Tom Bauerle in Buffalo, John & Ken in Los Angeles and several others around the country are still doing this, sorta – but they are a dying breed.  We need muckrakers and journalistic investigators looking out for the rights and well-being of the average citizen to give news/talk a needed turbo boost.  Of course, this kind of radio takes work, research, digging, creating contacts and nurturing sources… and real courage – and doing a lot more than blogging and begging people to like you on Facebook.  (I, personally, would rather play Lobo records in my room alone than ask anyone to like me on Facebook.)

There is so much more to what political talk radio has been and can yet be than just creating puppet-mouth political imitators of the great hosts – left and right – of the past couple of decades who’ve proven their worth but need to be supplemented by other aspects of what news-savvy, connected listeners want and need.


Michael Harrison is publisher of TALKERS and can be emailed at michael@talkers.com.                    

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Category: Opinions