Friday, March 25, 2005
Political Talk Show Radio Hosts
A long time ago talk radio, especially political talk radio, was limited to stations with small listener numbers (compared to music stations). The stations, the hosts, and the listeners were dismissed as the fringe element. The shows were local.
Several things played into the rise of talk radio. Toll-free phone numbers, syndication, the failure of the FCC and Congress to require accuracy and balance by broadcasters. One of the primary forces behind that change is Rush Limbaugh. He used all those tools but he has a tool lacking by many other hosts: he's a great public speaker. He researches topics thoroughly, has a great memory, and has the uncanny ability to make hyperbole and lies sound factual. His delivery is smooth, coupled with his ability talk at great length while staying mostly on topic and a huge ego. He knows how to work mute/cut-off button on the phones at just the right time. His use of "The Rush Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies" and the "EIB Golden Microphone" are great little tools that enhance his presence and credibility through a touch of humor. He can demonize any one person or all liberals at the drop of a hat, despite the fact that he's a dope fiend and he's gaining weight again. But he can make a great many people believe him and his lies.
Limbaugh, in turn, has generated many wanna-be ranters. Whether syndicated or local, they're on the radio dial and can be heard probably in every small corner of the country.
I'm often amazed, on the other hand, that local KVI host Kirby Wilbur (who talks like he has a mouth full of marbles) and John Carlson (who has difficulty speaking a full sentence with stumbling) have such a loyal following. Maybe this says something about a certain segment of the population wanting to believe certain things, truth be damned.
Liberal or moderate stations and syndications have skillful and trained hosts. From what I've heard, their use lies or hyperbole is restrained. But they don't have the listenership of Limbaugh.
Al Franken of Air America specifically does a poor job for several reasons.:
- His delivery is halting and inconsistent. This is especially obvious when he uses Limbaugh clips, providing a side-by-side comparison.
- The format uses too many guests. Yes, they provide additional insight. But Franken could use their published and public insights - and discuss them - without bringing them into the studio. And he would allow him to concentrate on a particular topic for a greater length of time.
- His expanded use of humor just doesn't fit here. When discussing politics and the conservative lies, one would make better headway with a serious tone that incorporates a little humor.
But I like his segments with Mark Luther, the guy that adores Limbaugh. There's great give-and-take, despite the short time allotted.
Liberal syndicated hosts I enjoy include Ed Schultz and Randy Rhodes. Locally I enjoy Dave Ross and Mike Webb on KIRO. They've got good delivery and dialog, they stay on topic, and they work the phones effectively.