Some wonder how the modern talk radio hosts have managed to capture and maintain such a large audience. Some even argue that some balance in programing ought to be imposed on station owners. But the fact is that the audience the popular radio hosts play to was out there all along.
For a long time, I was addicted to various forms of “talk radio” while driving in my car. Because my work involved a fair amount of travel at one point, I did a lot of radio listening. But lately, I’ve become thoroughly worn out by the endless predictability, monotony, and emptiness of the medium. So now, when I’m in my car, I listen to music or books on CD or digital file.
I first started to become hooked on talk radio because the publicly supported radio station not only provided more comprehensive and accurate news than its commercial station counterparts, but also because I could actually listen to commentators and program hosts whose attention to diction and grammar was immensely refreshing and provided a degree of sophistication lacking from the other media outlets. And there were also highly engaging programs, some of which were styled in the genre of old-time radio and which stirred my imagination to the point that I could imagine I was actually there in the studio or auditorium with the hosts and performers. So, it wasn’t long before I became a public radio junkie.
I also went through a phase in which I got tired of hearing the same old songs played incessantly on music-oriented stations, and began to appreciate the fact that even though AM stations couldn’t match the fidelity of the FM music stations, some of the programs on them could at least provide some mental stimulation. Besides, some of them were more than just informational — they were actually entertaining. So, gradually, I stopped listening to music in the car and supplemented my public radio listening with eavesdropping on several other talk radio programs.
Over time, however, most of talk radio became dominated by one side of the political spectrum, and it’s principal characters became increasingly demagogic. Their incessant lopsided drumbeats eventually became unbearably boring. They also ceased to be entertaining.
Some wonder how the modern talk radio hosts have managed to capture and maintain such a large audience. And some even argue that because the airwaves are so dominated by one political side, there needs to be some balance in programing imposed on station owners. But the fact is that the audience the popular radio hosts play to was out there all along, just waiting for someone to capitalize on their hunger for a slant on things that they weren’t getting from other outlets whose owners were in deep denial about the bias almost everyone else could see. So it’s no surprise that astute entrepreneurs with a gift for gab were ready to exploit those disenfranchised masses. For a brief while, I made it a point to check in on both sides of the story from differently biased media outlets. It seemed about the only way to get a fair and balanced perspective on matters of any real importance. But in the end, all the sources gradually became less genuinely informational, increasingly sensational, supremely demagogic, and incredibly boring.
For a variety of reasons, I don’t do much driving anymore. But when I am in the car, I don’t press any of the same buttons on the radio to tune into the sources of information I once found irresistible. Instead, I might listen to a Jungian analyst talk about the magic and power of dreams, or someone with a mellow voice and a personal touch reading me one of the old classics or a current bestseller I just hadn’t made the time to finish.
I still miss the radio. Radio and I have a long history. My love for the medium led me, even as a youngster and young adult, to become involved in the business both on the technical and broadcast end. Somewhere in the attic is a dusty old FCC license and a few reel tapes with “air checks.” So, a part of me actually grieves the fact that I had to switch the radio off. But given the state of the airwaves today, it seems I really didn’t have much choice.
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