So Long Dinosaur Talk Radio. Long Live New Media!

This is a public proclamation: Political Talk Radio is dead. Good riddance! Strangely for an industry that prides itself on being the absolute forefront of information, and whose personalities regularly eschew so-called low information voters, it couldn’t be convinced of that fact despite that it is literally beating them over the head. By the way, it is beating them over the head. And I don’t say this lightly.

WC Turck

WC Turck

As the manager of a small and new low power AM start up in Chicago, and a current and former host with a sublime gift of B.S. my driving inspiration is not only to entertain and inform, but cut through the clutter of everything else packing the airwaves. The key there is innovation, and I am astounded as we emerge more and more into the market at the fundamental disdain for innovation in this industry. More than that, I am stunned at the absolute disregard and ignorance by programmers of a rapidly changing radio audience. Strangely, this is exactly where the industry began.

And this is where I began with talk radio, decades ago. I grew up on “Super CFL” and John “Records” Landecker’s “Boogie Checks” on WLS. By the Late 1970s I was hooked on Steve Dahl with “Disco Demolition” on FM radio in Chicago, and followed him and sidekick Garry Meir over to WLS again. The hook was a mix of Dahl’s radio soap opera home life and an irreverent take on the news of the day. By the 1980s I discovered a ranting but even keeled Bob Lassiter(copied unabashedly to the hilt by Michael Savage). I even found amusement in newcomer Rush Limbaugh’s anti-establishment “America held hostage,” shtick after the election of Bill Clinton, not yet aware of the political and ideological manufacturing of his emerging brand. Despite his nakedly conservative slant there still seemed balance to talk radio with hosts like Jay Marvin. Balance was quickly forced from the radio lexicon, and even Rush Limbaugh could hardly escape the irony that it was his pretend radio nemesis, Bill Clinton, who was instrumental in turning nearly all of broadcast radio into a propaganda tool for corporate messaging paraded as political discourse.

And so radio devolved from a true public medium into something fundamentally antithetical to real public interest. Worse, it abandoned real entertainment. But this is more about format than content. Content will follow one of two paths; it will be driven in a propagandistic way by entities who wish to manipulate the audience or the audience will support and drive content in a truly empowered consumer market. In a nation that remains politically moderate, socially liberal and financially conservative we have seen an industry move to message decidedly to the Right, so obviously offering true balance and debate has not been an industry standard. The collapse of talk radio’s audience amid a rise of internet radio and social media indicates that traditional grid-like formats is a thing of the past. That programmers and advertisers demand breaks at the :20 and :40 with a yammering talk host filling the entire content is chasing away key demographics.

I had this conversation with my retired neighbor the other day, explaining how audiences are changing. She isn’t comfortable with listening to radio on her phone or computer and prefers the radio. All of my younger activist friends listen exclusively on their iphones, tablets and smartphones. AM radio? And they may listen live, or grab the file/podcast to list or share later. They want texture, energy and something that holds their shorter attention span. My neighbor, who will likely not rush out or await to purchase the newest phone or smartpad, represents the audience talk radio is currently locked to. The audience of tomorrow is tuning out, losing interest and going elsewhere.

A fair amount of that has to do with politics. People over 50 tend to vote in higher numbers. When it is all about the politics, this demographic produces results as in votes. They will sit through hours of Limbaugh or Hannity or Beck, younger audiences, the ones that advertisers covet, will not. I can already hear the shouts and disagreements, but those are the dying cries of an industry trapped by convention. Advertisers pay the bills, right? Especially those of you on the Right or corporate side, suddenly it isn’t about the marketplace? Hmm.

The new audience wants texture, music, movement, a 3 or 5 minute segment with a personality on an issue, and 15 or 20 minutes for a great interview. In short they want a show, which is not what they are getting from blah-blah-blah talk radio currently.

The radio audience of tomorrow is already here, though almost nobody in the industry is listening to them. I have already worked out a sketch of what that landscape will look like. We’ve already begun crafting and instituting it at que4 radio in Chicago. It will revolutionize the industry and remake stations that are willing to evolve to the realities of a marketplace that is changing fundamentally. For those who don’t, we’ll look for your bones in the natural history museum beside the other dinosaurs!

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray on AM1680,

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Syria: The Left has lost its way(The right never knew the way)

Marketing. Modern activism has become the victim of the same obtuse and hysterical marketing that has plagued the rest of our culture, particularly our friends on the right. The looming debacle over the Syrian civil war is a sublime case in point. I am stunned by a loss of idealism and integrity by many on the left. Not for their opposition to the possibility of war or a limited attack against Syria’s Assad regime, advertised as an effort to degrade his ability to launch Chemical attacks on his own civilians, but by the chicken crap reasons the Left eschews action in Syria.

From Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fl.) to Ed Schultz there is this refrain about angering Assad, or the fear that he might hit us back. Not sure that many police officers have the luxury of refusing to answer calls because a perp might lash out. If you get into a fight, you are in the fight to win, even if winning is letting some would-be bully, like Assad, that every time he gets out of line, or crosses a line, he knows that someone bigger and meaner will give him a bust in the chops. If that bigger and meaner guy is acting to protect someone smaller and weaker, what could be a nobler cause? If you know someone is beating his children and you do nothing, and cop the attitude that it is their fight, and why should I get involved, well, that says more about you than about the abuser.

And that may be the most dangerous revelation of all of this, that we are not afraid of principles, only to stand for them. We are afraid of the fight, the just and righteous fight. That betrays to the world a dreadful lack of resolve, courage and confidence.

The left is also pushing a panic narrative describing how there is controversy over who fired the latest chemical weapon that killed scores of Syrian civilians. There is no serious debate that Assad was responsible. First and foremost, the Assad regime has not denied using them. Citing the Alternative media only goes so far. So-called Alternative media, where one could also find stories about an SAS hit squad offing Lady Diana, Black seeds can cure anything, the ongoing prediction of imminent American collapse(Always two years away), something insipid from Glenn Beck, Aliens living among us and Russian pictures of a soul leaving a body, has its own issues with accuracy and reality. Anything in the Alternative media, like the corporate and status quo media should come with heaping scoops of skepticism.

And what happened to my fellow Lefties who long cried and advocated for a world without borders? Suddenly those same Lefties have retreated to a defense of stateism, and retreated from the ideals of going to the aid of our fellow human being? Where are my lefty pals who dreamed of one world and a brotherhood of all people? Their argument that this isn’t our fight, that it is a religious fight, a civil war, or that we need to worry about “our” people first would seem to support FOX News’ refrain that this is indeed a Center Right nation, and not at all a Progressive nation. It would seem to affirm that we do indeed have more in favor of the Ron and Rand Paul’s, and the Ayn Randian morality of self-centered culture, and that all the blathering by Progressives and Liberals the last couple of decades is as ideological and substantive as choosing up sides for a high school field hockey game.

Last is this fiction of Al Qa’eda in Syria. Certainly they are there. They are proving themselves in those small numbers as willing to stand and sacrifice for their ideals and are winning the hearts and minds of victimized and lost Syrians. We are not. Al Qa’eda, despite the hysteria over Benghazi was on the wane. They are capitalizing on this tragedy to our detriment as we cower and withdraw from the world, except where it will make us money. Again, “in our interest,” long the argument of the Right is now the chorus of the Left. But Al Qa’eda is more benefitting from pro-Assad propagandists, and the US has been tricked into their inflated presence and the fear of that terror collective. Shame on us.

Skepticism in all things is healthy, and there is ample history to support being ultimately skeptical of this government. They have not served us well, and they undermine our national credibility by acting purely on money-driven interests. But the debate should be to find the truth as a means of making decisions on doing the right thing, not in doing what benefits our protected and insulated corner of the planet. We should be the big mean guy with the big heart that is that shining city on the hill, who is that last best hope for mankind. The right won’t do it, and the Left is losing it. Find your selves again, my Leftist friends, and I pray you find yourself Progressive and not reactionary.

Catch WC Turck and Brian Murray only at Watch us every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., and Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m., on Chicago Cable Channel 19. Please don’t forget to Like us on Facebook.
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