Bad Trip

Well, Clear Channel Communication finally cleared our local airwaves of liberal signals this week. KLSD’s three year magical mystery tour of progressive talk went off the air Monday to be replaced by yet another local sports station. (Just how many stations does it take to describe the aggregate sports scene in San Diego? How many was does it take to say: Disappointing? I mean, I moved here from Pittsburgh, when the Steelers and Pirates were both creating world championship dynasties. Once I get here I had to ask myself, sports-wise, what’s the point? Padres? Chargers? Legions of unremembered hockey and basketball franchises? Just go to the beach everybody. Get over it.)

The North County Times gives a good “Murder on the Orient Express” list of who killed KLSD. Just as the San Diego Business Journal examines the questionable proposition that replacing the only progressive talk station in town with the third sports station makes good business sense.

I dunno.

KLSD may well have been done in by corporate conspiracy—or at each corporate malign neglect. The marketing of the product was next to zilch. KOGO’s conservative personalities get massive billboards all over town. KLSD got cocktail napkins. Three. At the airport.

But one must face facts, and the fact is that the programming on KLSD was often less than stellar. I liked the morning Stacey Taylor show and think he is still one of the best local voices on talk radio. As opposed to, say, Rick Roberts, Taylor has the advantage of being SANE And he came without the bloated sense of self importance of, say, a Roger Hedgecock, whose ego blows through the boundaries of his bandwidth. I did, though, have a hard time adjusting to the fact that one week Taylor was doing conservative chatter on KOGO and the following week, without missing a beat, he was doing progressive talk for KOGO’s new Cinderella step-sister, KLSD. And the rest of his morning crew tended to be a tad too dorm room-level (read sophomoric) in their conversation for my tastes. Of course what did you want from a guy with the handle of “Scooter.” (Just look how well Libby did with it….)

And once Al Frankin left radio talk for real political talk, the offerings from Air America and other progressive talk syndicates became more than a little flat and repetitive. The guy that replaced Frankin is such a non-personality that I really can’t even remember his name, despite having listened to him several times a week for a year or so—and don’t even care to take the time to look him up. Ed Schultz is interesting but his Dakota upper plains populism doesn’t really resonate well with someone driving a mile or two from the Pacific. And Randy Rhodes, while the most animated and interesting of the bunch, over time comes across as grindingly repetitive. Yes, George W. Bush will probably go down as one of the least effective President’s in modern history. Okay, so tell me something I don’t know.

Bottom line: the on-air talent of progressive AM talk, with their “broadcasting from a 1966 VW bus” pastiche, just can’t aspire to the corporately slick and packaged level of the conservatives. Nor can they rise (or, better said, sink) to the truthiness level of radio conservatives, for whom facts are always second to ideology, smugness triumphs over intellectual rigor and ridicule and character assassination replace reasoned debate. Conservative AM talk radio is the WWE of political journalism. It’s the political Red Bull of the right, giving a jolt to the ego of angry conservatives everywhere. Or, at least, to the egos of their target demographic which, based on the preponderance of the advertising one hears on their programs seems to be bloated, balding, financially busted and frustrated middle aged men.

I’d said before that I thought AM Progressive talk would have a hard time finding an audience. Indeed, to be more precise, I said, three years ago, that:

“Liberal talk radio will always have a problem because liberals tend to want to see both sides of the picture and argue from there…Arch conservative AM hosts are good at simply presenting one side – theirs – and lambasting anything they don’t agree with, which their demographic likes. Most people listen to talk radio to only have their existing ideas reinforced, not challenged or expanded.”

I wasn’t trying to sound elitist in this.(and, for the record, I consider myself more of a moderate though I have to confess that, with Republicans having shifted their perception of the political center so far right from the Reagan years to the present, what I see as moderate they probably would see as communist. Then again, by the standards of the contemporary Republican Party, Richard Nixon would have to be categorized a pinko and Ike an out and out socialist.) This is just my observation, though it seems to be borne out by the free market. Notice Air America has faired poorly compared to conservative talk radio but NPR, with an audience that clearly leans liberal/progressive (indeed, an audience that leans to the left more so than does NPR) but which does a better job of staying fair and balanced than does Fox “fair and balanced is whatever the GOP says it is” News, continues to thrive. Or at least survive. Liberal radio listeners seem to like their world views reinforced, too, but done so with at least a nod to objectivity.
It was, admittedly, a pleasure to occasionally be able to tune the dial to the far right of the San Diego AM spectrum (that, in itself, a bit of irony) and tune in a progressive alternative to the repetitive right-wing barrage from 600 KOGO, 760 KFMB or 1170 KCBQ. (I find it telling that KOGO’s off-hour broadcasts tend to consist of “A UFO flown by Elvis kidnapped Grandma and left her at a bus station in Kansas City” style programming like Coast to Coast. And that KCBQ’s off-hours are dominated by ultra—conservative Christian broadcasts. The off-hours apples can’t fall that far from the prime time tree now, can they?

But KLSD was a guilty pleasure that I found myself incapable of enjoying for more than a short stretch at any time. Too much banging of the same drum, just like on conservative talk. Too much hyperbole and the occasional trek into hysteria. I’d get a hit, then it was back to the calm, sanity of NPR and occasional quick hits on the somewhat noxious bongs of conservative talk (whose more loyal listeners seem to like sucking down the ganga Limbaugh all day long like so many antithetical Cheeches and Chongs). And then when those bored me, off to revisit my youth on KGB.

Maybe if KLSD had—and Air America would have hit on a better formula—more informed talk, more entertaining and charismatic hosts, real intelligent debate between rival viewpoints (what a radical concept)—I’d have become more of an aficionado. As it is and was, though, AM talk of any stripe has become little more than a bad parody of the old SNL Dan Ackroyd—Jane Curtin mock “Jane, your ignorant slut” debates. Knowledge lite.

For now I’m left with getting my guilty progressive pleasures from watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report, which are always funnier and less self-important than Air America ever has or seems capable of being. That is, once the darned writers’ strike is over. Hey, I believe in worker solidarity but, hey also, having to rely on the regular news channels for info is out and out painful most of the time.

Yet another reason to despise the media conglomerates like Clear Channel that run America, I guess.


8 Responses to “Bad Trip”

  1. Lefty Says:

    “Ed Harris is interesting but his Dakota upper plains populism doesn’t really resonate well with someone driving a mile or two from the Pacific.”

    Ed Harris? Who is that? Do you mean Ed Schultz? He broadcasts from Fargo, North Dakota, so I guess you must mean him. And “Harris” does sound a lot like Schultz. Not.

  2. Dennis Says:

    Ed Schultz has nothing to do with Air America. He’s syndicated by Jones Radio. And Mike Malloy, who was also heard on KLSD, also has nothing to do with Air America, although he was once syndicated by that company. Malloy is now syndicated by NovaM Radio.

  3. Carl Luna Says:


    Give me the indulgences of the seaon — tis’ the holidays. Ed “Harris” as we all know, was the name of the fictional, Ed Sullivan-like television host whose show i Bing Crosby appears on to ask all the former members of the WWII division to come to the Pine Tree Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont as a tribute to their former commander, General Waverly, US Army, ret.(and to help out the former general’s struggling inn. Unlike today, where the high command ffrequently cashes in their brass for gold in the Military Industrial Complex.) And, of course, Bing’s appearance on the Ed Harris Show is instrumental in his winning back the love of singer Rosemary Clooney, who mistakenly thought he was trying to use the General to get cheap publicity. I am, of course, speaking of the Holiday film chestnut, White Christmas. Ho Ho Ho.

    So forgive my Ed-fusion this close to the yule. I’ve fixed it in the blog.

    And Dennis, yeah, Harris et. al are not part of the Air America franchise. I apologize for using AA as a shorthand for progressive talk in general. I’ve tweaked the blog accordingly.

    Thanks for keeping me honest, Lefty and Dennis. And keep readin’ & wriitin’.


  4. mlaiuppa Says:

    Well, when I’m not listening to the classical station I’ve got NPR on.

    Radio, like newspapers offers me nothing from San Diego. I’ll get my news online and my radio from Mexico and National Public Radio.

    I guess that’s why I don’t vote Republican.

  5. Melissa Says:

    Actually, in addition to the cocktail napkins at the airport, I noticed quite a few KLSD signs on top of taxicabs around town.
    The station wasn’t totally unnoticed.
    Science tells us that the simplest answer is usually the correct one, and I say to hell with conspiracies. Outside of Amy Goodman, the programming WAS crap.

  6. Dennis Says:

    Amy Goodman? I’m a member of the far left fringe, but I can’t listen to Goodman, who’s far too serious and depressed. I’d rather listen to anybody on Air America or Ed Schultz or Stacy Taylor. If KLSD had carried Goodman-like shows around the clock it wouldn’t have registered at all in the ratings.

  7. OB Rag » The Death of Progressive Talk Radio In San Diego Should Be Noted Says:

    […] town. Some other media have taken note of this passing. Carl Luna did on his City Beat blog, “Political Lunacy” from November […]

  8. gregrocker Says:

    I’ve heard the the word went out from Clear Channel after the 06 election to get that format off of their stations, and sure enough one-by-one they are dropping like flies. It will be interesting to see if they go through with it on L.A.’s KTLK which has Bank of America and United Airlines amongst its glut of advertisers – those two won’t even advertise on RR talk radio.

    All of this might have been avoided if the witless Dem Congress had kept the promises key committee heads made on progtalk shows like Ed, Al and Randi that they would immediately upon regaining control of Congress start hearings to investigate and publicize the RR takeover of AM talk radio, a massive dirty disinformation operation that (according to the conservative Annenberg School 12-year study) dupes 20-50 Americans with “false certainty” on almost every issue and swung the past 5 of 6 elections.

    Even the remaining Dem appointee on the FCC told Ed that what was needed more than the Fairness Doctrine was holding ownership’s feet to the fire in high-profile hearings which expose how the public’s airwaves have been hijacked by the right. Why hasn’t Kathleen Hall Jameson of Annenberg ever been invited to reveal her findings which document lieing which would make Goebbels blush. Yet the Dems did nothing, Clear Channel started switching stations from progressive to formats which have WORSE ratings (Clear Channel is a career Bush sponsor and their participation could well have been a Rovian dirty trick in the first place), ratings clunker Dennis Miler was rolled out in 150 markets while Ed and Stephanie can’t get on a major stick.

    No, I chalk this up to Dem witlessness. If they didn’t know that they were in a race starting Jan. 2007 to pressure ownership to bring some balance back to the AM dial, then they were always going to be rolled again in the next election by a dirty tricks disinfo juggernaut that cannot be beat.

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