Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More On Milwaukee Talk Radio - - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Paul Soglin stirred up the hornets when he found Milwaukee's relentless AM rightwing talk radio a net negative for the region.

As I pointed out in a blog response, there are alternatives, even on the AM dial, such as WMCS 1290.

Wednesday morning, when I was the way home from the airport, I went up and down the AM dial and found my analysis comparing the rightists on 620 (Charlie Sykes) and 1130 (Jay Weber) to the reasonable entertainers on 1290 (Joel McNally and Cassandra Cassandra in the mornings) to have been prescient, maybe even brilliant.

(There's a little joke in there, for you talk radio devotees, but for those of you who are not regular listeners, the righty hosts often describe themselves with Limbaughlic/hyperbolic praise.)

Charlie was discussing an incident at a suburban high school football game, where a coach shoved a player, maybe justifiably, maybe not. The only reason it was being discussed as 'news' at all is because it was caught on video.

No video, no story. While the incident has some local currency, Charlie and some of his callers fell into that right-wing radio trap where everything suddenly has huge social import, and everything has a political context - - in this case, was it right for the parents of the shoved child to bring in the government by asking the authorities to press charges.


(Wednesday night update: It appears as if there will be no charges, and without a legal case to keep this synthetic story alive, maybe it will go away and local media will stop treating it as if Lindsay Lohan had been involved.)

While Charlie was blowing up this trivial episode into a major cultural brouhaha, Jay Weber was droning on about whether Fred Thompson was being unfairly criticized by Dick Morris, the oddball gadfly pundit.

There's another rightwing talk radio flaw, right there: discussing in great detail every stray thought or intellectual burp by or about a Republican. Talk radio inhabits a one-party world, except when one of the Clintons can be dragged in as a straw man/woman.

More yawning.

Then I went up the dial farther to WMCS, and there was Joel interviewing Prince Fielder. Live by phone from Houston. And at some length.

This is when talk radio is at its best: Finding something that the community is indeed talking about - - in this case, the Milwaukee Brewers' pennant run and best baseball in these parts for a quarter-century - - and letting the guest actually talk.

So much talk radio is all about the host. They will cut people off, and forcibly direct the 'discussion' with the admonition to a caller: "It's my show."

Which it is, of course, but to what end?

Joel knows his baseball: I've sat with him at many a game and I know he could talk at length about it.

But he wisely let Prince Fielder speak uninterrupted about playoff baseball, which allowed Prince to talk about the players in post-season games he watched when he was kid, and about the minor league championships he and his teammates and coaches went through just a few years ago.

So you got hear it directly from the expert, who happens to be a national fan favorite. You got a real sense of who Prince Fielder is, how he thinks at the plate, and in the clubhouse.

The interview was professional. The program sounded like fun. It wasn't forced, or about some irrelevant political subject.

So call Joel and Cassandra and their morning show radio relief pitching, 6-10 AM mornings, on WMCS 1290 AM.

And Eric Von's 2-6 PM afternoon show, too, where I have failed lately to show up as a Thursday "Backstory" media roundtable guest.


Anonymous said...

If the shows are yawners, they don't last long. The fact that Charlie, Mark and Jay have been on Milwaukee radio for years and years refutes your premise.

Or are their listeners just dummies?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the fact that Charlie, Mark and Jay have been on the radio for years refutes these arguments.

The fact is that 98% of the Milwaukee region indicate they find these shows to be yawners by not listening. The media market is becoming increasingly segmented and these guys stay on the air because they are very popular with one narrow segment: bald, fat, middle-aged white men from the suburbs who are fundamentally insecure and build their self-esteem by listening to similarly pathetic white men belittle individuals and ideas that they don't understand or find threatening.

Anonymous said...

I'm a young, fit man from the city, and I have all my hair. Somehow, I find 620 interesting and helpful. I'm sorry that local happenings and people's actual opinions bore you. It's too bad people like you need Lindsey Lohan or whatever Hollywood joke just to be entertained.

James Rowen said...

I am not entertained by Lohan. Nor by local conservative talk radio.