I spoke too soon.

I was encouraged when Spencer Hughes welcomed callers and told heartfelt stories about generations of listeners connecting to talk radio.  Spencer said most of the passion listeners have for talk radio comes from hearing diverse opinions of listeners who call into the show, and that one host talking for hours, with one viewpoint, makes for boring radio.

Talk got to Spencer.  I now hear that he’s happy to just talk and talk and talk without calls, unless a caller is brilliant.  Yep.  You have to be brilliant, now, to get on his show.  So, what do we get?  Another person who talks and talks and talks.  Just like the rest of the line-up on noTalk910.  It’s not the best line-up either.  Let’s see, what do we have during the day?  Two guys who have nothing to say stumble through a show from 1:00pm-3:00pm.  Two big selfie sticks blabbering away.

Then, of course, there’s Gil, who allows only Politico correspondents on his show or a call or two from his dreaded wife with the shrieking voice.  For some unknown reason, he thinks it’s a good idea to bring her on the air with him every Friday.  Again, who tunes into that disaster of a show on a Friday?  People tell me she’s still there, with her oh yeahs and screeching in a dog whistle trying to get a point across, and many don’t bother listening to it again.  I haven’t listened to that Friday show for a long time now.  BBC Radio 2 is just fine at that time.

I admit, I stopped listening to that station when I had to keep turning off that yelling lady commercial that aired every ten minutes.  That was it for me.

I was going to go into Spencer’s original point about how calls from listeners are what makes talk radio work.  I was going to defend the listener call-in and ask why would talk radio eliminate the one factor that works?  I thought I’d look up what others say about talk radio without real talk.  That’s when I was reminded it’s probably not real talk we think we hear anyway.

Fake calls have been a staple of radio for some time now, according to these articles I found online.

There’s even a service that provides radio stations paid actors who will pose as callers, as noted in this article:

http://gawker.com/5778740/talk-radio-is-fake-now

 

Do you enjoy those crazy morning zoo shows?

They should have their own radio show awards for phone actors:

http://gawker.com/5779701/your-favorite-wacky-morning-radio-show-is-a-festival-of-lies

 

This guy thinks talk radio is the same as pro-wrestling:

http://www.adweek.com/news/press/michael-smerconish-says-talk-radio-pro-wrestling-fake-149136

 

Do you ever read sfgate for the comments?  I found an interesting column about online publications and the lessons that can be learned from talk radio:

http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/241945/how-talk-radio-listens-to-its-audience-provides-lessons-for-online-publishers/

 

This is an extensive article that discusses CTR (Conservative Talk Radio) and women callers:

http://ejas.revues.org/10513

 

Hate CTR?  This article is for you:

http://www.republicanradio.org/

 

Finally, this is an article about two real callers who taunted a radio station for years, then revealed themselves:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/cuba-boys-radio-callers-who-taunted-wbai-come-forward/?_r=0

 

I understand why hosts prefer email or tweets, it’s easy to sort through written correspondence and there is more control over the content of the message.  It’s also easy to create fake messages.  So, who knows what’s real any more?

 

I’m still listening to New York station WOR710-AM and, although it’s conservative, there’s one host who makes listening to radio entertaining again.  I’ve mentioned him many times now.  It’s the Mark Simone show.  What I enjoy about his show, when he’s not bashing liberals, is his on-air ease.  His opinions can raise an eyebrow, but he has a huge personality and loves to have fun with people.  His conservative slant is tempered by the news guy, who disagrees with many of the things Simone says.  Callers are welcome on his show.  I have to say, they sound like real callers, not the fake ones.  They sound timid or tongue-tied or just want to voice an opinion.  It’s a nice mix of calls and Simone interacts in a friendly, humorous way.  I’ve mentioned before how he sometimes pretends he can’t hear callers, or tells them to get to the point before his listeners go to sleep.  Always with a laugh.  He never sounds annoyed at having to take calls.  He sounds thrilled when the phone lines light up.  His show has the right mix of calls and guests.  He knows many of the celebrity guests who have interesting conversations with him and then, at the end, sell whatever they have to sell.  It’s unobtrusive.  His show page is full of video clips described by Simone in such a way you want to watch them.  That’s talent.

Then there’s Rush.  ugh.  For a few months I had been listening to an hour of him on WOR while waiting for Spencer’s show to air on noTalk910.  I don’t understand his supposed popularity.  Limbaugh coughs up phlegm and wheezes and scrapes his hands together and taps his pen on his desk or slaps his hands as he talks about how everyone is talking about him.  He even plays clips of himself!  He refers to women as info babes and then tells his audience to just sit back and let him think for them.  huh? The article I listed above about CTR and women includes excerpts about Rush’s show:

 

CTR is indeed a male-dominated field characterized by a tradition of macho chauvinism. When Limbaugh “reinvented” talk radio in late 1988, it was obvious that women were going to be systematic targets of his misogynistic, scathing remarks. As early as his pre-syndication days in Sacramento, he coined the portmanteau word “feminazi” to refer to women adhering to the core values of Second Wave Feminism.

Consistent with this view, The Thirty-Five Undeniable Truths of Life which he enumerated on the air in February 1994 include pronouncements such as “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”

 

In the same way, Limbaugh does not refrain from flattering the caller when it serves his purpose, as was the case when Tiffany begged to disagree:

Tiffany: Just because I don’t agree with you on a couple things, my God.

Limbaugh: No, Tiffany, no, you misunderstand, Tiffany –

Tiffany: – partisan politics is that we get labeled for no reason –

Limbaugh: Tiff – Tiffa – Tiffany. Take a breath. Don’t torture me here.

Tiffany: I’m trying not to, you’re so great. (laughter)

Limbaugh: Tiffany, you know, I – I love you. You have to understand this, I love you and I want you to be right. I don’t want you to sound like a kook. I don’t want you to sound like a typical Democrat kook that is coming to define the Democrat mainstream.

Instead of debating the callers’ arguments by explaining his own, Limbaugh chooses to be overly condescending (“I love you and I want you to be right”) and tries to persuade her to change her opinion for her own good (“I don’t want you to sound like a kook”). In other words, he is shifting the discussion away from the rational and the argumentative to the personal and the emotional. Such a rhetorical strategy betrays the host’s representation of women as individuals that can be mollified by a few deceptively flattering words and that are devoid of debating skills.

 

In the short time I’ve been sampling Rush’s show (thanks to noTalk910 and their poor programming choices) I’ve heard Rush refer to feminazis and info babes on his show, and I’ve always been surprised and puzzled when women call his show to praise him.  It didn’t make sense until now, when I’m reminded calls are most likely phone actors.  Limbaugh denies it, but just because he says it doesn’t mean it’s true.  Think about it.

Another thing I’ve noticed is Limbaugh will talk about something early in the day, and Hannity brings up the exact same talking points later on his show.  Even Mark Simone has the same script.  It’s like they’ve all had coffee together and designed a daily plan against liberals that they repeat and repeat and repeat until the listeners know what they’re supposed to think.  That’s explained in the two gawker articles posted above as well, how it’s all scripted beforehand by a service and distributed to conservative hosts.  Yep.  Even Limbaugh, who claims to think for everyone, is probably letting some service think for him, reading words someone else wrote.

So, I give up on my expectations that talk radio will thrive in this new media environment.  Fake callers, fired locals, yelling commercials, amateur hosts, one person’s viewpoint for hours at a time, and a host’s wife with a horrible voice who is allowed air time all make cringe-worthy, yawn-inducing radio.

What keeps me tuning in every day to New York’s 710 WOR to hear the Mark Simone show?  It’s the callers, and their interaction with a host who obviously enjoys hearing what they have to say. Don’t take my word for it.  Listen to it and make up your own mind.

http://www.wor710.com/media/podcast-mark-simone-marksimone/

 

And, here are a few clips from his show page:

In this one Ralph Kramden dances Gangnam style:

http://www.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/the-greatest-dance-video-ever-ralph-13799341/

Is that an iPad in the 1968 film ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’?

http://www.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/a-scene-in-the-1968-film-13796437/

13 days of Jimmy Nicol:

http://www.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/at-the-height-of-beatlemania-ringo-13795551/

Amazing card trick.  I can’t figure it out:

http://www.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/an-amazing-card-trick-this-video-12836716/

Rodney Dangerfield on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:

http://www.wor710.com/onair/mark-simone-52176/tbt-rodney-dangerfield-and-some-of-13774355/

 

Don’t let anyone silence your voice.  Have a blog or website or radio show that allows you to say what you think?  Let people know and let these noTalk stations know we’re not buying what they’re selling.

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