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.
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.