Most folks do one thing for a living and are happy that way. I’m not. I need a lot of challenges that change all the time. I have a lot of different occupations, acting, playing music, writing and talk radio host on an LA station.Of the latter, I knew nothing about the genre at all when I got into it 10 1/2 years ago. Never listened to it and still don’t. News stations occasionally, but generally, the sound in the car is music.I found that there are a lot of people that just love talk radio and in all walks of life. Most remarkably, lots of fellow musicians. They’re addicted to it, the raving and the story-telling, the “painting a picture with words”. And many talk show hosts are “lifers” that dread being “on the beach“. It’s a massive rush to keep spieling, as Mike Watt would say and it is a rare skill. As I have never had a problem freely offering an opinion (asked for or not) or at a loss for words, it was a natural fit.Thing is, talk radio is really not at all what it appears to be. On the surface, it is the voice of outrage, the sound of angry people, villagers rising up with pitchforks to the sound of their leader’s voice, pure populism. And that’s what many successful hosts do. They represent for the little person–or so it seems.
That the genre is getting beaten up on badly of late has a few proximate causes. An aging base of fans is one reason. Another is the sheer tedium of predictability–a road trip from Portland Me to Portland OR would be about 4 days long and there is almost no chance you’d ever hear anything on AM that’s different one city from another. That means dullness and laziness and copycatting,
The irony is that when AM talk stations–supposedly moribund–go back to their roots and go local and social and personal, they thrive. In California, KMJ in Fresno and KFI in Los Angeles are the prime examples. Limited national babble and lots of local means the hosts can’t lean on talking points or be completely predictable (as the audience is right there in the center of the topics, not distant from DC). It helps that in the latter station’s case, their morning and afternoon shows have hosts whose politics are wildly unpredictable. KFI is the nation’s #1 talk station and since KMJ became privately owned, its ratings have soared. What does that tell you?