Recommended Reading

Scott Fybush
Sun Mar 20 14:09:29 EST 2005

>>I just wonder whether it doesn't end up being a mistake, over the long 
>>run, to transform the image of a legendary full-service station like WHAM 
>>from "all things to all people" into "WGOP." It's not hard to understand 
>>how it happened - it's not as though there were many other successful 
>>models for talk until recently, and WHAM's hardly alone in going in this 
>>direction, joined by other legendary stations up this way like WGY, WBEN 
>>and WSYR - but you've got to wonder whether WHAM could ever again be 
>>perceived as "the station for everyone," as it once was. To bring this 
>>back around to Boston, I think it's fair to say that WRKO in 2005 also 
>>lacks the broad spectrum of political views that made WRKO in 1990 so 
>>interesting to listen to. It really was "THE talk station" then. Today 
>>it's "SOME PEOPLE's talk station."
>But this could be said for most of our culture today, not just talk 
>radio.  Remember when Top 40 had something for everyone and pulled 
>double-digit shares even in major markets?  TV variety shows like Ed 
>Sullivan, Red Skelton and the like which drew huge audiences across all 
>demographics?  I'd imagine that concept is mind-boggling to anyone under 
>30 today.

I'd respectfully beg to differ. There are still plenty of media outlets 
that endeavor to appeal to broad segments of the audience. Mass-appeal 
entertainment shows like American Idol come to mind, as do broadcast 
sports, most local TV news and, yes, the poor, beleaguered daily newspaper. 
I'm not saying that Idol or NASCAR-on-Fox or 7 News or the Globe are 
automatically everyone's cup of tea, just that they're not specifically 
designed to play to one segment of the audience at the explicit exclusion 
of others. The same is true of the handful of general-audience talk 
stations still out there, like KGO, KMOX and WGN.

The incredible profusion of entertainment and news choices means we'll 
likely never again see the kind of ratings that an Ed Sullivan or a Walter 
Cronkite drew in the old three-channel era, but I'd make a case that the 
audience for American Idol or CSI or Law & Order is just as demographically 
broad, if admittedly smaller.

>We have as a society become so niched we don't want to hear or see 
>anything that contradicts our own tastes or prejudices.  Who's gonna put 
>Humpty Dumpty back together again?

There have always been niches of one sort or another. They just shift media 
as times and technologies change. Go back a century and buy a newspaper on 
the streets of Boston and you'd have had your choice of, what, a dozen 
dailies, each with their own prejudices and criticisms and often very 
strongly-worded editorial viewpoints? Whatever institutional biases and 
prejudices may slip into today's Globe and Herald are meek and timid 
compared with the partisan papers of the nineteenth century (and, even more 
so, those of the eighteenth century.)

I have no problem with that. I'm just saying that if I were running a 
station like WHAM or WRKO (or WABC, for that matter), I'd be looking for 
ways to make my product more appealing - or at least not an automatic 
turn-off - to the half (or more) of the potential audience that doesn't 
share those political views.

One final note, by way of a request for courtesy: this list has a long and 
proud history of being a civil place to discuss broadcasting and related 
issues. Could we, perhaps, all agree to steer clear of name-calling ("Air 
Amerikka," "Faux News") and to give those with whom we disagree the 
courtesy of calling them by their proper names? It would be a shame to see 
the high level of discourse here sink to the level of, say, the radio-info 
board...and even worse if our Moderator were forced to jump in.


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