Question 

Questions on reading the City Pages’ “reporting” on s the departure of Jack Tomczak from KTCN

  1. If a conservative caucasian male orders a pizza in the woods, and no “progressive” media hack is there to hear it, is the conservative still “angry?”
  2. Quick – name any person of color that’s ever worked for the City Pages.  Interns, and freelancers who wrote single articles (generally on race-related issues) don’t count.
  3. On the off-chance that you do find a person of color at the City Pages; be honest.  they went to Macalester, Saint Olaf, Carlton or the U of M journo proglram.  Right?
  4. When you refer to “angry white men on radio”, I’m kind of curious how one includes the dryly funny, constantly-wisecracking Tomczak (and the incisive, cynical Mitch Berg) but not the eternally red-faced Ed Schultz, the toxic Mike Malloy, the just-plain-wierd Nick Coleman, Matt “Who’s He?” McNeil, the incoherent Mike McFeely, or pretty much every other liberal talk show host?

Why, it’s always almost like a chanting point I’m on our unimaginative lefty friends; they referred should talk radio as “angry white male radio” with almost the exact same geometric precision as which they referred to Donald trumps speech as “dark”.

Of course, Tomczak’s departure highlights the elephant in the room for conservative talk radio.  While conservative talk is one of three formats in all of terrestrial radio that still can make money (sports and Spanish radio also make a buck or two), the industry ate its proverbial seed corn over the past 20 years; the local stations in smaller markets where young talk radio talent used to come from mostly went all-network decades ago – a process that accelerated as the bottom fell out of the revenue pool around 2008.   The likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Levin and the rest wiped out a generation of conservative talk radio’s “farm team”.   And as the likes of Rush, Hewitt, Prager and Beck start to age out, who’s going to replace them – whether on the radio or online?

IHeart Radio – formerly Clear Channel, which owns “Twin Cities NewsTalk” – has been a key player in this; they’ve relentlessly pushed their properties to cut costs; with talk stations, that means “go network”.

“Does the business model for any terrestrial radio work?” is a legitimate question – but it’s a moot point if there is nothing to broadcast after Rush retires.

 

The Stench Of Death

You walked in off of First Avenue in Jamestown, the sky still dark at 5AM, turned your key and tugged on an aluminum door frame that fit a little tight in its jamb, and stepped into a building that dated back to before 1900; on the main floor was White Drug – the first Whites in what is still today a major regional chain.

You walked up eighteen stone stairs to a small landing, turned left, and walked up six more, to a terrazzo-floored hallway.  To your left was an insurance office, dark and quiet  As you turned right, to your right was a law office of some kind.  But you walked straight ahead, toward the rear of the building.

On the right, after the men’s room, was a soundproof aluminum door that led into a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet.  We’ll come back to that.

Next to it?  Through a couple of large glass windows, a room, jammed with antique electrical and electronic equipment; closest to the window, a large, battleship-gray control console, looking a little like the front of a 1940 Buick; a control panel built literally before World War II, all Bakelite knobs and control keys, a couple of exquisitely-balanced VU meters bouncing their stately way back and forth – very unlike the meters that accompanied the age of cheap stereo gear, all herky-jerky and frenetic.  The meters seemed, themselves, to the throwbacks to a slower, more deliberate time.

To the right of the chair were two ancient turntables; to the left, a couple of bins of records.  Behind it?  Stacks of transmitter controls and reel-to-reel and cassette tape decks, and a couple of  “plectrons” – basically 1960’s versions of what we’d call “pagers” in the 1980’s, before even the pager became passe; about the size of a late ’90’s IBM PC, they carried fire calls, for the city and rural fire departments.  Each of the town’s volunteer firemen had one at home; the radio stations had ’em too.

Behind the stacks of gear?  Stacks of albums.  Thousands of them, tucked into wall shelves; stuff that’d be treasures today, sought after by rock and roll vinyl collectors (first-edition Beatles and Stones albums from the sixties), or retro collectors (obscure albums by Dean Martin, Perry Como, and even Lorne Greene); genres that haven’t shared shelf space in decades; modern jazz, forties pop, even copies of Devo and Ramones albums that snuck in there some how.  There was no rhyme or reason.  It was a huge jumble.

A door at the back led into the “closet” a few paragraphs back – the “newsroom”.  A single steel desk and a couple of file cabinets and, to your left, chattering away 24/7, an AP teletype, sitting in a closet, churning through boxes of yellow-y fanfold paper a week; an endless rotation of international headlines, national news, North Dakota and Tri-State news, National and North Dakota/Tri-state scores, and of course weather.  Forecasts updated hourly; extended forecasts and 24-hour temperature summaries; occasionally when things were slow, “lites” – funny stories – and, once a day around midnights, “pronouncers”, lists of phonetic pronunciations of names in the news (which were pretty vital, in 1980, as American newsmen learned how to convey news about Sadegh Ghotzbzadeh to the public).

Going to work on a Saturday morning at 5AM, the first job was to turn on the power to the transmitter and its remote controls; the transmitter was a mile and a half away, next to where the James River passed under I94, by the road to the State Hospital.  You turned on the big box full of vaccuum tubes – the station was years away from going solid-state – and watched the needles climb into their nominal operating range, noting the readings on the transmitter log.

Then, you went into the newsroom, and gathered up the 100 feet of fanfold copy that had streamed out overnight.  You rolled it up, hauled it through the studio, and into a room on the other side, with a table that seated eight people, and a small remote control board with a “1931” date stamp on the back, all brownish-red burled metal and impeccably-balanced bakelite knobs, nursed along year to year by a patient engineering staff and a famously penurious boss.   Although you didn’t know what “talk radio” was yet, and neither did anyone else, it was where the station’s owner and the news director hosted a one-hour daily talk show, five days a week, with guests from around town.

You sat down at the table, and started ripping and sorting the wire copy.  National news, regional, local, sports and weather – you’d wind up reading a little of each several times over the next ten hours.  With a little practice, you could flense 100 feet of wire copy down into neat stacks in a half hour, stack them into newscasts – you’d have full-hour news, weather and sportscasts at 6AM, 7AM and noon – buy a coke from the vending machine next to the boss’ office (across and down the hall), and wait for 5:50AM.

Then, it was time to flip the “Plates” control to “on”; this sent power to the transmitter’s final output stage.  It was accompanied by a buzzing, and smell of ozone, as vacuum tubes engaged and power and signal started moving through the wires.  You took readings voltage and wattage readings from the output stage and antenna, wrote them on the transmitter log, “signed on” the station with your signature on the log…

…and pulled out tape the tape cartridge that would accompany your signon.

The clock ticked to straight-up 5:55AM.  You flipped the key on the main board mike to “on”, and read – or, after a few Saturdays, recited – the sign-on script that had ushered the station on the air seven days a week since 1949.

At this time, radio station KEYJ in Jamestown, North Dakota, begins the broadcast day.  KEYJ operates at a frequency of fourteen-hundred kilocycles at one thousand watts daytime and 250 watts at night, by authority of the Federal Communications Commission, and is owned and operated by KEYJ Incorporated of Jamestown, North Dakota.

We invite you to stay tuned to KEYJ for the latest in news, weather, sports, and information.  Good morning!

You then punched the “start” button to your tape cartridge machine – a “Cart”, which looked and functioned just like an eight-track tape – which launched the National Anthem.  At the end of which, you read the day’s forecast and long-range forecast, which took you to the 6AM newscast from Associated Press Radio.

And your day began.

That was how I spent my Saturday mornings in high school – at a little 1000 watt AM radio station; on the air from 5:55AM to 3PM; hours of news and info at 7, 8 and noon; “Trading Post” (a half-hour swap and shop show) at 10, and usually a taped Class B high school game of some sort or another after 1PM.

KEYJ launched a lot of careers; many of the biggest names in North Dakota radio started at KEYJ.  Not just North Dakota, either – Terry Ingstad, known to a couple generations of LA listeners as “Shadoe Stevens”, started there in the sixties; his youngest brother, Dick, a year a head of me in high school and a good friend, showed me the ropes when the boss and longtime owner, Bob Richardson, finally hired me in August of ’79.

KEYJ was sold to a group of slickee boys who tried to run it like a major-market station – including firing all the locals, including me, and changing the call letters to the charmless “KQDJ” – and failed in about a year.  More management teams came and went; the station changed hands many times, became a satellite oldies station, moved out of the old office above White Drug to a soulless little shack on the south hill, and finally became an “ESPN Sports” affiliate – like many small stations today, it has no local staff; it’s basically a computer in a closet, like Hillary’s email server, pumping digitally-sequence product and commercials to the transmitter (which is still in the same place, at least).

Like so much of the radio industry, it’s dead to me today.

Claudia Lamb writes about the implosion at once-great KGO in San Francisco – once the WCCO of the West Coast.   It illustrates a lot of what has ailed, and ultimately destroyed, most of the radio industry in the past 20 years, taking it from a thriving industry to a drain-circling corpse (outside of certain niche markets, like Spanish, Sports and conservative talk).

Worth a read.

Radio Daze

It occurs to me – even though we’ve got all the internet we want these days, I’ve never gone out and looked up a lot of the people I used to know in the radio business.

Of course, from my first, probably most “famous” gig in Twin Cities radio – KSTP, thirty years ago – some of them are all too easy.  Don Vogel died over twenty years ago; John MacDougal, not long after that.  Cathy Wurzer has been part of the furniture at MPR for almost as long.  Mark Boyle has been the voice of the Indiana Pacers for a quarter century now; his sports sidedkick Bruce Gordon is a communications guy with the State of Minnesota.

But of the people who were on the air, the one I get asked about the most is Geoff Charles.  The self-styled former-marine / former hippie and the only person in American media who’s farther out than Art Bell, who was just as mercurial and enigmatic in person as he was on the air (and one of the genuinely nicest people I’ve ever met in the racket, once I started working for him) is…

…utterly, counterintuitively, a long-time fixture in radio in Providence, Rhode Island.

And the idea of G Charles staying anywhere that long is a psychic acid trip in its own right.

Death Spiral

Pacifica Radio – the nation’s “oldest leftwing radio network” – has entered a death spiral:

Founded in 1946 by conscientious objectors from the second world war, the network was an influential outlet for Beat poets, Bob Dylan and Vietnam war protesters but has in recent times suffered from dwindling ratings, in-fighting and financial hemorrhage.

The network’s biggest star – Amy Goodman, host of the independently produced Democracy Now! – is also its biggest creditor. She is owed an estimated $2.1m in unpaid broadcast fees.

Observers trace the travails to 2001 when a group of rebellious listeners and broadcasters took control and instituted an elaborate governance structure of multiple boards, sub-committees and painstaking elections.

The result, according to Matthew Lasar, author of the 2005 book Uneasy Listening: Pacifica Radio’s Civil War, was continuous feuding between rival factions. In a Nation article earlier this year, he compared the network to the “late Ottoman Empire of public broadcasting” and urged progressive outsiders to step in and save it before it was too late.

Of course, it’s not just Pacifica; all of the institutional broadcasting industry as we’ve known it since the 1930’s is undergoing a radical realignment in how it does business.  The broadcast industry one step behind newspapers; its audience gutted by the internet’s explosion of free material and advertisters’ splitting their money in many different directions (what’s left of it, anyway, in the Obama economy), even the better commercial broadcast operations are having to become very lean, and very creative when it comes to sales.

And Pacifica?  Not only is it entirely dependent on handouts from non-profits and governments, but it is “creative” in all the wrong ways:

Ian Masters and Sonali Kolhatkar, hosts of the Los Angeles-based KPFK, said its parent network Pacifica Radio, the country’s oldest public radio network, was putting pressure on staff to reduce their hours and pay, leave or work for free, alienating listeners and approaching a point of no return.

“This is the end. They’re running out of road,” Masters told the Guardian. He accused managers and board members of promoting conspiracy theories – including those related to the “truth” about 9/11 and claims about cancer and HIV. “They’ve run this place into the ground.”

Today it’s Pacifica.

Of course, it’s been happening in commercial radio for a long time; commercial radio stations have been slashing costs for a solid decade now (most music radio is “voice-tracked”; the “disc jockey” actually bangs out all the spoken elements for a show in one sitting, and the computers that run the shows slip the spoken bits in to the right spots, usually), finding creative ways to make money (or not so creative ways; 40% of the revenue at many talk stations comes from weekend infomercials) or avoid it (the NARN was a decade ahead of the trend of people doing talk radio as a hobby, barring the occasional talent fee).

So how long can public radio – especially Minnesota Public Radio, with its union-level pay scales and lavish facilities and gargantuan, padded staffs – survive?

To Be Fair, Most Of Us Had Forgotten Brian Lambert Was Still Being Published, Too

Someone pointed it out in the comment section; Brian Lambert interviewed Jason Lewis in the MinnPost earlier today:

DFLMinistryofTruthLARGE

MP:​ But even The Patriot [AM 1280] is now all syndication. They used to have local bloggers with shows ripping the feckless liberals and all the usual stuff. Now, it’s all mailed in.

JL:​ ​It’s the only thing they can afford. They don’t have the budget for anything else. The economics of the industry requires a massive paradigm shift. And, as I say, it’s due to mismanagement, technology and debt, the over­buying of radio stations.

 

Lambert exhibits the attention to detail he always showed when he was the Pioneer Press’ “broadcasting reporter”.

AM1280 was always syndicated.  The Northern Alliance started three years after the station went on the air – almost two years before AM1130 went all talk, before Jason Lewis left the Twin Cities for Charlotte much less before he came back and bumped Lambert’s show from the 1130’s lineup.

And unlike both of them, we’re still here.  Different group of us, to be sure – but we’re still alive and kicking.

And I’d love to invite Lambert on the show to prove it.  But I have no idea where to find him, or for that matter, whether he still really exists or not.

If you know where he’s at, please forward my invite.

A Simple Request…

…for everyone in the mainstream media, alternative media, and talk radio – even conservative talk radio:

Unless you work at a Red Wing outlet store and are changing your shelving, could you never, Ever, EVER use the term “Boots on the Ground” again?  It’s gone so far beyond cliché, light leaving “cliché” right now won’t reach us until our great-grandchildren are getting AARP cards.

“Troops in the field” actually works.

Thank you all in advance for seeing to this.

That is all.

What Conservatism Needs In Minnesota

In the middle of a year that promises to be a good, if not great, year for Republicans nationwide, Minnesota Republicans are hoping to flip the House, so as to at least contest control for the state, and praying for an upset in the Senate and a come-from-behind miracle for Governor.

It was ten years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Minnesota was purple, flirting with red.

Today, it’s a bluish-purple state – some bright-red points, some dingy blue swamps. 

In 2002, after the death of Paul Wellstone, the DFL was in disarray;  they lost the state House, the Governor’s office and Wellstone’s Senate seat.   The grownups controlled all of the state offices except the Attorney General; the DFL held the State Senate by a hair, and was well behind in the House. 

Inside six years, they turned that into nearly-complete domination of Minnesota.  They held Mark Dayton’s old and barely-used Senate seat, they took Coleman’s they took both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, lost them in 2010, and took them back in 2012, and have controlled all of the state Constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor – for eight years now. 

How did they do this?

The 24 Month Campaign:  Ben Kruse got it mostly right Monday morning on the morning show on the lesser talk station; Republicans need to learn something from the Democrats.  For them, their 2016 campaign will start in earnest on November 5.  The Republicans, in the meantime, will meander about until State Fair time, 2016. 

I know – to be fair, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson started their governor’s races back in 2012 in all but name; Mike McFadden was aggressively moving his Senate candidacy at the State Fair in 2013. 

In contrast, the DFL’s attack PR firm “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota” never stopped campaigning.  The group – financed by unions and liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, including Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger – does something that goes beyond campaigning. 

It bombards Minnesotans with Democrat propaganda, 24 months every campaign cycle.

The Communications Gap:  The Minnesota GOP has plenty of strikes against it; while it’s made up a lot of financial ground since its nadir two years ago, it’s still in debt, and still scrambling to get back to even.

But even when it’s in the black, it only does so much communicating – and then, it only does it in the run-ups to elections and, maybe occasionally, during legislative sessions (and that’s mostly the jobs of the GOP legislative caucuses). 

In the meantime, the Democrats (with the connivance of regional media whose reporters may not overtly carry the water for the DFL, but whose management largely most definitely does) shower the Minnesota voter with a constant drizzle of the Democrat version of “the truth”. 

Which means the low-information voter – the one that might start thinking about next month’s election any day now – is kept on a constant drip, drip, drip of the DFL’s point of view.  It means the baseline of thought for those who don’t have any strong political affiliation of their own leans left of center; they assume that raising taxes helps schools, that Republicans are rich tax evaders who hide their wealth out of state, that there is a “war on women”, and on and on.

There’s No-one To Fly The Flag – Nobody Seems to Know It Ever Went Down: So how was the situation different when the GOP was contending to take MInnesota away from the left? 

Other than the DFL having an endless parade of checks from plutocrats to cash? 

For starters, back then Minnesota had a number of overt conservative voices on the media, statewide, day in, day out.  It was when Jason Lewis was at his rabble-rousing peak; I call him the Father of Modern Minnesota Conservatism, and I’ll stand by it.  With Lewis on the air, a lot of people who didn’t know they were conservatives, figured it out – and a lot of conservatives who figured they were alone in the big blue swamp realized there were others out there. 

And Joe Soucheray was on the air three hours a day talking, not so much directly about politics, but about the absurdities that the left was inflicting on the culture.  It may have been a decade before Andrew Breitbart noted that Politics springs from Culture, but Soucheray knew it, and made it a constant topic for a long, long time. 

Lewis and Soucheray had record audiences – not just in the Metro, but outstate, where both had syndication in Greater Minnesota. 

And between the two, the media’s left-leaning chinese water torture had competition.

And for a few years, MInnesota had a couple of voices that did for conservatism in the state what Rush Limbaugh helped do nationwide; dragged it out of the basement, aired it out, made it relevant to the challenges Minnesotans faced then and today, and made being conservative, unapologetic and smart a thing to be proud of. 

And this happened at a time when Minnesota conservatism…came out of the basement, aired out, and started grabbing Minnesota mindshare. 

Coincidence?

Feed The Cat:  Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own.  While conservative talk radio is still, along with sports, the only radio format that’s paying its bills, the format has atrophied – largely because it’s become, for money reasons, a national rather than regional format.  Syndicated network programming – Limbaugh, Hannity, Prager, Hewitt, Michael Savage, what-have-you – delivers ratings on the relative cheap.  And they deliver political engagement, nationwide.  

But they don’t have a local political effect like a solid, firebrand local lineup does. 

But radio stations pay for very little in the way of “local lineup” anymore; KSTP has turned Soucheray into just another sports talking head; AM1280 has the NARN; AM1130 has Jack and Ben and, temporarily, Dave Thompson. 

Minnesota business – at least, the part of it that realizes that a conservative outcome benefits everyone, themselves included – needs to pony up and sponsor the next generation of rabble-rousing Conservative media with a cause; the fact that it’s actually a good ad investment is a collateral benefit, compared to flushing money down ABM’s drain. 

And yes, I’m focusing on radio – but this rabble-rousing presence would need to cover all of the social and alternative media, not just the traditional AM band.  Still – there is no (affordable) medium that reaches, or can reach, more Minnesotans.

And through that, maybe, we start turning the intellectual tide in this state. 

It’s happened once.  It can happen again.

Needs to happen again, really.

Just Stupid

The lefty media has been giggling like schoolgirls over this story – a Texas waitress, who got not one but two $2000 tips from Rush Limbaugh – and gave the money to a pro-infanticide group:

“That was like blood money to me,’ Tierce told The Dallas Morning News.

Tierce was the former executive director at the Texas Equal Access Fund, which provides money to women who can’t afford to get abortions.

She was the “executive director” of a nonprofit that provided infanticide to poor women, AND a waitress?

Anyway…;

Tierce said it felt right to her to give the money to the TEA Fund.

‘It felt like laundering the money in a good way,’ she told the newspaper.

‘He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person.

Yeah, Ms. Tierce seems pretty sane to me.

The part that I get the chuckle over? Ms. Tierce, and the media bobbleheads who’ve been reporting the story, keep saying that Ms. Tierce “gave Limbaugh’s money” to the infanticide charity.

No!

When Limbaugh left the tip – of his own free will, mind you, not as part of some “living wage” wealth transfer – it became her money.

She gave her own money to her own group.

This story isn’t “Man bites dog”. It isn’t even “dog sniffs dog”. It’s “Deeply morally ugly woman gives her own money to a group she used to run, while taking a snotty, stupid swipe at someone who has the temerity to “share the wealth” of his own free will, rather than at government gunpoint”.

Swirling About The Drain

I hate to indulge in schadenfreud. 

But I’m only human.

Arbitron numbers are in for the Fargo-Moorhead area – and the two big lib-talk hosts at KFGO (which is sort of the WCCO of the Fargo metro area) are sucking fumes.

Joel Heitkamp is off sharply, according to Rob Port

But even more sweet?  Mike McFeely – the sportscaster turned incompetent liberal talking head – is sucking pond water. 

Conservative talk thrives in liberal bastions like the Twin Cities, Chicago and LA – as a contrarian Jeremiah, and a rallying point for the areas beleaguered conservatives.  You’d think, orthagonally, that liberal talk would work for the same reasons in relatively conservative places like Fargo (although Fargo is the most liberal major city in North Dakota). 

I guess not.

The Host I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

Back in the eighties, the first time I worked in Twin Cities radio, you could always tell when a station needed a publicity boost.   There’d be an “incident” – a disk jockey would “say” something “objectionable”, or “insult” a “guest”, or some other shenanigan on the air, which would “lead” to a “suspension”, which would get all sorts of coverage from “news” people. 

For example, back in the late eighties, “Cadillac Jack” at KDWB “insulted” British pop tart Kim Wilde on the air, and was “suspended” for a week. The Strib, the City Pages and the Twin Cities Reader all slurped up the “story” like puppies racing toward spilled hot dogs. 

Of course, the “incident” was about as real as a pro wrestling match; it was a PR stunt coinciding with a jock’s planned vacation.  In radio, then as much or more than now, if you actually screwed up for real you got unceremoniously fired, very very off the air. The number of  such “incidents” that actually happen, spontaneously, in major-market radio is microscopic.  How microsopic?  The “real” incidents are practically legends in the radio business. 

“Blaze” of “Glory”:  Jason Lewis “quit” his afternoon-drive show on Genesis Communications (heard locally on AM1130 KTCN) yesterday.  A monologue ended with a vow to “go Galt” and stop “feeding the Beast” – after which he stomped out of the studio.  His producer vamped for a bit, and then, luckily, longtime Twin Cities talkradio journeyman Dan Conry just happened to be available to finish out the last half of Lewis’ show. 

So I can be forgiven for having an eighties flashback, can’t I?

I don’t know much – I’ll be talking with people I know in the business over the weekend – but if I were a betting man (and I’m not) I’d bank on the following:

  • Lewis’ departure from his Genesis deal had been coming for a while
  • The “I’m going Galt!” departure was a PR stunt.  For what?  For his “Galt.io” website (if Lewis had jammed any more Galt references into his “departure”, laws of physics would have been violated)?  For his next venture, whatever it is? 

It’s savvy marketing, and it’s classic radio – the kind of thing the pasty-faced computer-programmers who dominate the industry today have forgotten how to do. 

Lewis, in his day – his first hitch in Twin Cities radio, at KSTP back in the nineties through the early 2000s – was one of the fathers of modern Minnesota conservatism.  There’s no overstating how vital he was in putting grassroots libertarian-conservatism on the Minnesota agenda during those years; had there been no Jason Lewis, conservatism would likely have remained a backroom aberration in the MNGOP for much longer than it did; the “moderate vs. conservative” battle would have stayed mired in the eighties for another decade or more.  The Tea Party in Minnesota built on a basis of activism that Jason, more than any single person, established. 

His first hitch?  That was some heady stuff. 

Changes:  Lewis’ second stint – his return to KTCN and then Genesis, since the mid-late 2000s – was a little more subdued. 

Lewis was different in his second go-around; the ebullient crusader for truth and justice was replaced by a hectoring professor who was always the smartest guy in the room and who made damn sure you knew it.  He became less a party guy (although talk of him running for Senate kept circulating every election cycle) and more of an ideological libertarian-conservative.

And that’s not a criticism; it’s a perfectly valid character for a talk radio personality (see also Mark Levin), and not necessarily a bad idea in a talk market that had filled up with crusading everymen – including yours truly – since his first debut in the nineties.   Although part of me thinks his second go-around would have been better with Joe Hanson producing him; Joe could cut anyone’s unnecessary pretensions off at the knees

The industry has changed a lot over the past 20 years, of course; the days of drive-time talk show hosts, even on small networks like Lewis’ 40-odd stations on Genesis, drawing low-to-mid six figure salaries were coming to a close (damn the luck). 

I hope the next chapter in Jason’s media life is a good, rewarding one.  I can’t imagine him “retiring” (or anyone else, these days, for that matter). 

I remember during Jason’s time at KSTP, during my own long break from talk radio (1987 to 2004), listening to Lewis doing his thing as I drove home from work or tootled around town in a car full of kids doing my errands, pondering what life’d have been like had I stayed in radio, and thinking “that’s the host I always wanted to be when I grew up”. 

And in my little one-day-a-week talk radio hobby, I guess that’s what I’ve been shooting for for the last ten years.   To be a little like Jason.

Not exactly like Jason, of course.  I make a lousy professor.  But to be seen as someone who knows what he’s talking about, and who wants to convince the unconvinced, and wants to take my – our – political beliefs to the street and change things?  That’s what I wanted.  It’s what I shoot for. 

And so I wish Jason all the best, and hope I haven’t heard the last of him.

Zzzzzzzzzz

Word has it that Fast Eddie Schultz – the single liberal talk show host in the business who understood anything about doing radio – is calling in the dogs and whizzing on the fire.

(Yes, I know – Stephanie Miller. But her only good idea is copying Laura Ingraham’s show in every single particular; otherwise, she’s just another shrill Taylor Marsh clone).

On the one hand, Schultz was literally the only liberal in talk radio who understood anything about doing radio, as opposed to standup comedy, essay writing or speaking to a roomful of people. They’re very, very different things.

On the other hand? Schultz may be the only host in talk radio who is actually as dumb as the left thinks conservative talk hosts are.

So adios, Fast Eddie. It’s one step further on the journey to forgetting you ever existed.

Death Rattle

Liberal-talk radio outlets in major – liberal! – markets are flipping formats:

2014 will mark the beginning of a massive change for liberal talk radio across the country. In New York, WWRL 1600 AM will flip to Spanish-language music and talk, throwing Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Alan Colmes off the air. In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 will be dumping Stephanie Miller, Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz off the air in favor of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In San Francisco, KNEW 960 will leave Miller, Hartmann, and Mike Malloy without a radio home in the market.

Liberals – among them the Daily Kos – are trying to portray the flip as a “demotion” for Limbaugh; he (and Beck and Hannity and the whole Premiere Radio rogues gallery) are moving from a 50,000 watt station to…another 50,000 watt station (albeit one with a little less range, but one which still amply covers all of Los Angeles with plenty of oomph to spare).

The real demotion?  In LA, liberal talk is moving from one station to…zero.

And New York.

And San Francisco.

Not Minneapolis, so far.  But how long can Janet Robert afford to keep her long-marginal station on the air with nothing but ads from community coffee-house collectives, unions and non-profits?

The NARN Broadcast

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network – America’s first grass-roots talk radio show – brings you the best in Minnesota conservatism, as the Twin Cities media’s sole source of honesty!

  • I’m in the studio today from 1-3.  Our guest today is Twin Cities radio legend Tom Mischke.  We’ll be talking about ancient Talk Radio history, Don Vogel, the Phantom Caller, two or three generations of Twin Cities media history, and probably beer.  I’ll also be talking with Cam Winton, moderate-GOP candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis, doing what we can do to help him shock the world on…Tuesday?  Yep – Tuesday!
  • Don’t forget the King Banaian Radio Show, on AM1570 “The Businessman” from 9-11AM this morning!
  • And – whoah!  Brad Carlson is  out tomorrow!  I’ll be filling in for Brad on “The Closer” from 1-3 tomorrow. I’ll have gubernatorial straw poll winner Jeff Johnson on the show.  Tune in!

(All times Central)

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of honest news. You have so many options:

Join us!

UPDATE:  I forgot – I’m in for Brad tomorrow.  I fixed the note above…

Chalk Up A Win For Brad Carlson!

Now, any radio station can compete on weekdays, when network shows lock horns with other network shows for mere money.

But the real acid test for a radio station is how do they do on the vital weekend shift – when stations cut the network crap and have to get real.

And so as the Northern Alliance Radio Network rapidly approaches ten years on the air, it’s with a tingle of homer pride that I relate the big news; this past month, AM950’s sole entry into the local weekend talk market, “LeftMN Radio”, realizing that Brad Carlson’s “The Closer” edition of the NARN dominated them in every possible way, gave up the ghost and cut their losses.

The show – which used to broadcast for an hour on Sunday afternoons, during the last half of Brad’s show – was hosted by Steve Timmer, and also by Tony Petrangelo and Aaron Klemz, two of the precious few Minnesota leftybloggers who don’t deserve to be under police surveillance.

Citing Klemz’ departure for a job at “Minnesotans Against Mining”   “Friends of the Boundary Waters” as an excuse for leaving the air, the show apparently had its last broadcast either last week or the week before (the show’s blog, near as I can tell, lists shows according to their preceding Monday). 

I’ll count it as a win.  A minor one – certainly not like driving Ron Rosenbaum from AM1130’s weekend lineup, much less making them surrender the entire talk format on weekends a few years back – but yet another win for the little station that could.  Between that and Dennis Miller making “The Late Debate” flee to mornings, and it’s been a great summer for AM1280. 

Congrats Brad!

NARN Tomorrow

First things first:  congratulations to AM1280’s Dennis Miller for chasing AM1130 out of weekday evening radio.  I count that as a big win for AM1280, the little station that could.

Tomorrow on the NARN, it’s going to be a fun show. 

For starters, I’ll be talking with GOP gubernatorial candidate Senator Dave Thompson.  The race is 15 months away – even the convention is still nine months out – and the race is already heating up.  Got questions for Senator Thompson?  Call in!

Then we’ll be talking about the Daycare union jamdown with Representative Mary Franson.  This battle took a small, disappointing turn last weekend – but it’s nowhere near over yet. 

Tune in tomorrow from 1-3PM on AM1280 The Patriot – the station that isn’t moving its programs all over hell and half an acre!

Y’Know How You Know Western Civilization Is Collapsing?

Friday night, I was out with some friends out at a bar on Lake Street in Minneapolis.  I’d heard there was a thunderstorm warning – but I didn’t expect the deluge we got.  I think the wind got up to 60-70 miles an hour on Lake.  The power went out, and stayed out.  As I walked back to my car (unscathed, thank goodness, unlike a few cars up and down the street), I thought “this is gonna be a doozy”.

I started trying to find my way back to Saint Paul; I drove around South Minneapolis, checking out the extent of the damage and the power outage; the damage lessened the further east you went, but many roads were blocked; there were pockets of power up into the thirties, but for the most part Minneapolis was blacked out down to 46th, sometimes 50th and further.

Along about 10 o’clock, I wondered “what’s Saint Paul like?”  And for that matter the rest of the metro?

So I flipped to WCCO, expecting to hear their usual severe-storm-and-aftermath patter; Mike Lynch and a crew of newspeople talking about the storm, and taking calls from people around the metro with their observations.

LYNCH: “Tom in Prior Lake, go ahead”.

TOM IN PRIOR LAKE: “Ya, da wind come up and a maple tree about yea big fell down on da shed”

LYNCH: “How big?”

TOM IN PRIOR LAKE: “Yea big”

This is how WCCO has been doing weather since the earth’s crust cooled.

So I flipped the radio to 830 – no, it’s not a preset on my car.

And what did we get?

“Best of Mischke”.

Weather on the 20s.  I think.

And now the world has changed for the worse.

Loony Bait

Watch for the the chuckle-and-snark set from the leftymedia to their yapping to “puree” over this:

The Rush Limbaugh Program is considering ending its affiliation agreement with Cumulus Media at the end of this year, a move that would bring about one of the biggest shakeups in talk radio history, a source close to the show tells POLITICO.

Should the move take place, 40 Cumulus-owned radio stations would lose the rights to the most popular talk radio program in the country. In addition, the show might be picked up by competing regional radio stations in Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas and other major markets.

Now, the left’s been trying to paint this as a rejection of conservative talk radio, and specifically a result of the “boycott” of Limbaugh after the Sandra Fluke kerfuffle:

According to the source, Limbaugh is considering the move because Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed the company’s advertising losses on Limbaugh’s controversial remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student. In Feb. 2012, Limbaugh referred to Fluke as “a slut” because she had called on congress to mandate insurance coverage of birth control. The subsequent controversy over those remarks resulted in a significant advertising boycott.

“Significant” in terms of headlines.  It was a fairly minor event, commercially – some companies regretted taking part pretty quickly.

But its greatest significance might be giving Lew Dickey an out for his incompetent management.  Cumulus  – whose management has always skewed left of center, politically – is one of the most rapidly-collapsing of the old big-media holding companies.

Here’s their stock value over the past ten years:

Lew Dickey and the left-leaning wastrels in management are looking for an excuse for their own dismal performance.  Limbaugh and the Fluke flap provides them a handy out.

And that’s all it is.

But look for the chuckle-and-snark set – who only know what they’re told about the radio industry – to try to present this as a verdict on Limbaugh, or on conservative talk radio.

It’s not.

Here Today, NARN Tomorrow

As Ed announced on Hot Air earlier this week, last Saturday was his last regular Northern Alliance broadcast.

So some might ask – what’s the NARN’s future?

The answer:  Lots.

The show will carry on on Saturday at the usual time (and Brad’s show on Sunday, of course, is unchanged).  I’ll probably focus more on Minnesota politics – I mean, with Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Miller and Mark Levin, AM1280’s got the national stuff pretty well covered, right?   I’ll likely also have a group of regular guests in the studio to talk important Minnesota stuff.

So tune in for the new NARN – same as the old NARN – Saturday from 1-3PM (and Brad’s show on Sunday from 1-3) on AM1280 The Patriot, or on the Patriot’s live stream, or (fingers crossed) the show’s new video and chat stream.

It Actually Works

So I told someone I spent some time talking with Tom Emmer on Saturday.

“Oh”, said the person I was talking to, “he’s the guy on those billboards with the guy who looks like David Byrne or Ric Ocasek…”

The Do-It-Yourselfer

It’s a bit of a whack upside the head to see that George Chapple – better known as “Dark Star” – has passed away:

Chapple grew up in Ohio and Long Island, NY. He was a Vietnam veteran, and originally came to the Twin Cities with his parents in the 1970s.

After dabbling in the auto business, Chapple became known to radio listeners in the 1980s via Steve Cannon’s WCCO Radio show where he handicapped horse races at the newly-opened Canterbury Downs (later renamed Canterbury Park).

Before that, though, he was a regular caller on sportstalk shows all over the Twin Cities, including KSTP when I was there in the mid-eighties.

The brief Strib obit skips past what was a convoluted and almost comical path to sports-radio celebrity.  When I first met Dark, he was hosting a cable-access handicapping show at Canterbury Downs, in the next press booth over from the KSTP Sportstalk show I was producing.  I ran into him again in…er, 1988?  He and, of all people, Mike Gelfand were hosting an evening sportstalk show on the old AM1470 in Anoka, doing a remote broadcast from an old Chi-Chi’s in Brooklyn Center.  In both cases, he bellowed out “Mitch!” – to me, one of the lowliest peons on Twin Cities radio – like I was Steve Cannon himself.

It wasn’t long after that that he got his job at ‘CCO.

And I spent years thinking of that example – going from regular caller to night-time host, one of America’s dream jobs.  And the lesson of that example – make your own opportunities, and be both creative and persistent about it – was in the front of my mind in 2003 and early 2004 when I first broached the idea of an all-blogger talk show to AM1280.

So anyway – RIP Dark Star.