Cult Of Personality

I’ve ripped on talk radio’s “Cult of Personality” – the belief, against all rational evidence, that “celebrities” make good talk radio hosts – for years. 

It’s been a cancer on the business for a decade and a half, both locally (for years, KSTP-AM has figured that newspaper columnists and TV reporters are perfectly  suited to host talk shows, despite a decade and a half of foisting flops like Pat Milan, Jesse Ventura, Katherine Lanpher, Nick Coleman, Jim Souhan and others on their poor audience; KTLK-FM briefly partook in the same madness with Brian Lambert and Pat Kessler) and nationally.  For everyone who’s forged meat ‘n potatoes success at talk radio after coming to the business as a celeb – Dennis Miller, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved – there are piles of Al Frankens, Mario Cuomos, Joe Scarboroughs, Marc Marons, Chuck Ds, Janeane Garofalos, Mika Brzezinskis, Monica Crowleys and Jim Hightowers buried head-down in the cement on radio’s Cadillac Ranch. 

Radio management seems to miss the key lesson of this past twenty years; the real successes in talk radio are radio people (Limbaugh, Laura Schlesinger, Hannity, Beck), or people who learn (or hire the learning) to do radio (Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage) as entertainment, rather than either preaching or extensions of their own celebrity.

All that being said, I’m genuinely of two minds about this dispatch from the radio rumor mill:

While not exactly shopping the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential candidate, sources say Palin representatives have been quietly testing the waters to see how much interest radio syndicators have for her.

Sources say Palin hasn’t committed to radio either, but rather it could be a possible next step for her. 

On the one hand, I think she could be dynamite, especially with the right sidekick (airchecks available to syndication execs on request).

On the other?  It’s not many people who can do radio really, really well as a sideline to other ambitions.

I don’t know that I see it happening, but it’ll be an interesting couple of months.

12 thoughts on “Cult Of Personality

  1. “buried head-down in the cement on radio’s Cadillac Ranch”
    There she sits buddy, just a-gleamin’ in the sun…

    A sideline to other ambitions? Then I’d anticipate a “fail”. If the Gov is attempting to follow the Reagan effort at radio, he didn’t do entire shows, just spot commentary, as well as newspaper columns. What everyone forgets is that Reagan had decades of public speaking (both prepared speeches and extemporaneous) on subjects he learned and lived. Not to say he was an expert on most things, but for the most part he knew what he believed.

    I just don’t see Radio as a stepping stone for the Governor. She’s either serious about doing it, or she’s manipulating it to use it for something more. I agree with the majority of her opinions, but this smacks of opportunistic flim-flam.

  2. Considering that the really good radio hosts (and I can’t resist the urge to mention folks that are off the radio for one reason or another, like Cannon and Mischke) are very rare.

    Handling the medium is tricky. As you well know, Mitch, it isn’t a matter of simply handling callers well.

    For my money, the best people in the business right now are Limbaugh and Prager. For a non-radio guy, I’m impressed on how Souch moves his show along… we’ll differ on Joe, though.

    To even do a fair job is amazingly rare… and I suspect Palin could do it just fine, but considering that she’s going to have both left-wing scrutiny as well as nay-sayers from within the party from the first minute she’s on the air, she would need to be stellar from the get-go to be perceived a success.

  3. Given the right production team I think Sarah would be jim dandy. You betcha!

  4. As with almost everything related to Sarah Palin, I’m far more interested in the reaction to this rumor than I am about any actual radio show that might result. What new Palin conspiracies will be spun from this, I wonder? We won’t have to wait long to find out, I’m sure.

  5. Short term at least, until after Nov 2010, Palin should realize she can be over-exposed. Do fund raisers, lecture circuit, don’t try to do 10-15 hours of radio on deadline.

    You’re right about talk radio in general. Few think they could just step into a TV talk show, even on PBS. Even Rush Limbaugh’s TV show didn’t work. But radio, hell, anybody could do that, right? If producers and staff is the answer, why did the over-staffed Air America fail so hard, so fast? Why is NPR/MPR generally such a bore?

    What works? Talent, baby, talent, just like any other profession.

  6. But radio, hell, anybody could do that, right?
    “Hello Twin Cities and world!”

  7. R5, I liked Rush’s TV show. It was a bit odd, with the small studio office and a lack of guests. Rush is good with his callers, but Interviewing isn’t something he does too much.

    Palin’s already overexposed. As far as radio, I’d much rather look at her than listen to her.

    “why did the over-staffed Air America fail so hard, so fast?
    Al Franken*

    Why is NPR/MPR generally such a bore?”
    Garrison Keillor and Garrison Keillor wannabes.

  8. Kermit,
    The problem with getting a great production team is that critics will attribute any success of such a show to the great production team, and any problem (real or imagined) would be placed directly at Palin’s door.

  9. [Speed Gibson] put it a plain as it can get:
    What works? Talent, baby, talent, just like any other profession.
    A good crew facilitates that talent, it can’t replace it.

  10. Guts? Not sure what you’re after, here, but I’ve always credited Lewis; In 2003, I called him “the talk show host I wanted to be when I grew up”; he did more to launch conservatism in Minnesota than any other single person, in or out of politics.

  11. Who has the guts to stand up and give some credit to Jason Lewis?


    I’m here til Thursday. Try the veal.

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