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March 08, 2012 07:21 PM UTC

Should we ignore the crazy talk-radio hosts in our back yard?

  • by: Jason Salzman

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

[Note to Pols readers who agree that it’s worth airing out the misinformation on talk radio: If you want to help me hold the shows accountable, please get in touch at]

The media frenzy around Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” comment last week, referring to a woman who believes birth control should be offered as part of her health insurance plan, makes you wonder whether we should ignore the right-wing whackadoos on the radio.

Obviously, insults run deep on the conservative airwaves, and you might think, about anything Limbaugh says, what else is new?

Limbaugh hit a nerve last week, but Rush-like comments aren’t uncommon from radio hosts in Colorado, too. And all over the country.

Should the major media, or the minor progressive media critic like me, ignore them, given the tiny audiences (mostly) who listen?

The Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow wrote a good piece a couple weeks ago laying out different explanations for why conservatives dominate on talk radio and TV.

But she didn’t address the question of whether they deserve the attention of reporters, like her or me.

Should progressive journalists listen to their shows, shine the sun of the blogoshphere on what they’re saying, and hope the attention stops their insensitivity/hate/insults from infecting others and spreading underground? The assumption here is that educating the wider public about this stuff is a good thing.

Or does the light of day simply allow the worst of conservative talk to gain strength? The assumption being that publicity help these jokers get more people to listen to them.

But before we get to those questions, here are possible explanations, offered by Ostrow for why talk  radio and TV is dominated by conservatives: 1) the right is more hate-filled, and the angrier the rhetoric, the more people gravitate to it in the talk format, and 2) conservatives own more radio conglomerates, which provide the infrastructure that the left lacks.

I’m not sure what the reason is, but I tend to agree with Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, whom Ostrow quoted her article as saying that the conservative audience is more alienated, more monolithic in its beliefs, and therefore more easily targeted than the liberal audience.

Ostrow reports that even though most of the radio airwaves are filled with righties, Denver’s David Sirota pulls a cumulative weekly audience of 115,000 on AM760, beating KHOW’s Peter Boyles by 2,000 listeners. But Sirota trails KOA’s Mike Rosen by 30,000 listeners.

At the end of her piece, Ostrow writes that even the best known talkers actually has very small niche audiences.

That would include Rush Limbaugh. In other words, their voices are loud and shrill, but few real people are listening.

Unless, of course, a righty talker like Limbaugh ignites a media frenzy like he did last week. Then his audience is massive.

So this leads back to the question, should we ignore our local Colorado yappers when they get ugly (e.g., Democrat Donna Brazile as “ignorant slut,” and Michele Obama as “Chewbacca,” kill all Iranians, Katrina victims who didn’t leave deserved their fate, etc. )

Or is the silent treatment the best way to fight back?

If you follow my blog, you know I’m on the side of listening and exposing them. That’s why I follow these talk shows and write about the misinformation, omissions, and rudeness you find there (not all the time, for sure, but too often).

I like to think that pulicizing the latest talk-radio outrage, and possibly educating some people about it, undermines the audience for it in the long run, though maybe a few more people are drawn to it in the short term.

Limbaugh’s idiocy last week proved my point. Now more people are educated about birth control, women, and Rush. More will dismiss the Limbaughs of the world when they say insulting or outrageous things about women who expect birth control to be covered by their health insurance. (OK, I know, Republican Greg Brophy stands behind the substance of Limbaugh’s comments, but still.,)

Limbaugh and his anti-woman cause lost ground last week–and advertisers.

And eventually Limbaugh and his allies in Colorado will lose their audience and their jobs, as they become more and more irrelevant, right? Or is that wishful thinking?


23 thoughts on “Should we ignore the crazy talk-radio hosts in our back yard?

    1. There is local talk radio and then there is national talk radio carried locally.  I think the impact is larger than counting local  listeners at any given time.  If people tune in to KOA for weather, traffic, and sports, they also hear “Fox News..Fair and Balanced.”  It is the steady drip drip of conservative spin that is indoctrinating.

      I predicted the 2010 Republican sweep back in February 2009 purely on what was being said on talk radio.

      I think you should cover it, Jason, but you are in a funny position…..if you do straight reporting, you miss context, if you “suck up,” then you are just promoting, if you don”t “suck up” no one will talk to you.

      Good luck.

      1. How do you rate the rest of the right wing media’s effectiveness in getting out their spin? They’re on TV, they have newspaper columns, they write books, they have blogs, they post youtube videos. They do all that as well as talk radio, but I only ever see you discussing talk radio.

        1. I wrote an excellent analysis/rebuttal, and hit the wrong button and deleted the whole thing.

          Let me say this….the newspaper columns, the books, the blogs, etc….provide all the content for talk radio.  They reinforce each other.  

            1. Now, of course, I can not begin to measure up to my own egotistic appraisal, that was not meant to be taken seriously…nor was your comment, I presume:)

              Let me give one current example.  Charles Murray is an MIT graduate, author, “prominent conservative,” on the staff of the American Enterprise Institute.  He has recently written a book, “Coming Apart.”  He asserts that the apparent collapse of the lower or working class of America is not due to economic stagnation and poor public education, but rather the lack of “morals” in those classes, as evidenced by  a lack of a work ethic and illegitimacy.  The book was reviewed in the New York Times and is getting some attention from scholars mostly negative because of the sloppy statistical reasoning.  However, Murray is now a feature on talk radio.  He was on Bill Bennet for hours.  He also appeared locally on David Sirota’s “progressive”program…which I did not hear and so I don’t know how that went.

              But, Murray’s premise that “if you are poor/underemployed, etc., it is your own fault is being spun across talk radio” and it coincides with republican talking points.  They all reinforce one another.

    1. I liked your post, I might have even promoted it, but this blog is about Colorado politics. You might notice the blog posts about the local angle on this story, Sen. Greg Brophy, were some of the most commented on this week.

      1. Beginning with Colorado Springs. It also quotes a Republican woman from Douglas County who is leaving her party. Thought that was newsworthy.

    2. I’d use it to pop your swollen head.

      Your diary doesn’t get the response you think it deserves=Polsters don’t care about Rush Limbaugh.

      Alternate explanation:  There were scores of other bloggers and media sources who wrote better pieces than yours, and people read about this ’til their eyes bled, and since your piece didn’t provide a unique or interesting perspective it went unremarked.

  1. I would say that the numbers Joanne quoted are probably high and include the same people for multiple shows. I was an Arbitron listener several years ago when they still used the written diary. If I was on a station for more that 5 or 10 minutes ( don’t recall which exactly) that counted as me being a listener. As a listener to the other side, except Rush, I find that the same people tend to call Boyles, Rosen, Brown and Caplis & Caplis light. So I suspect as you pointed out – there is a core audience and some people who graze.

    Jason, I do believe they should be called out when they are over the line. I don’t very often find myself out and about in the evening, but when I have been I find that  Michael Brown is way over the line most of the time. Some of it is basic GOP talking points but it is obvious his audience is miniscule because he has few callers except for long haul truckers now and again. So when he runs out of talking points he goes to “Obama is sending storm troopers to your house to take your guns” time. Scary stuff.

  2. Call em on their lies, inflammatory remarks, wedge-issue distractions,lack of scientific data to support their positions, and their polarizing nonsense.

    That right-wing bullhorn does a lot of damage. It should be challenged.

  3. Obviously, insults run deep on the conservative airwaves, and you might think, about anything Limbaugh says, what else is new?

    Would you say the same thing about liberal talk radio?  Why or why not?

    1. but I am sure it runs the gamut, from shock jock infotainment to NPR facty-type stuff.

      This is kind of a tangent of the same subject, but I saw this yesterday, and thought you might like it.  This is Obamas’ response about the whole Rushbo/Fluke affair:

      This is what makes me proud of Obama.  What he says can apply to the left as well as the right.

      1. But the leading progressive talkers, like Hartman and Ed Schultz, aren’t as nasty as Rush. I don’t have data to back that up, unfortunately, but that’s my impression, through my bias.

        But you have a point, and I’d respond that the nastiness on the left should be called out too.  

          1. I don’t defend it – neither do i when it’s Rush.

            Howard Stern, Imus, and a hundred others are mean and rude and crude and whatever. When they’re ratings tank, they’ll shut up. Or at least their media access will dry up.  Rush used to have a tv show.

            Hell, David Letterman can be pretty mean.  He’s still funny.

            You know who’s not mean, generally?  Dennis MIller. Tiny ratings.

            Unfortunately/fortunately, as the head of the GOTP Rush occupies a special place in American politics, right up there with Mitch McConnell and  ahead of Boehner.  

            And that’s why when Maher assaults Ann Coulter or Mrs Gingrich (es) it’s news for 5 minutes and no one cares. But when Rush gets into it, it’s news a week (or two or three) later.

            Recall this – in 2008 Rush signed a $400,000,0000 over 8-years deal with Clear Channel. $50million/year. I don’t think even Stern’s  satellite deal was anywhere close.

          2. A lefty political comedian, true, but a comedian. His job is to make jokes, not give in depth analysis or thoughtful commentary.

            Granted, Rush Limbaugh doesn’t really provide that, either, but that’s a matter of degree, and the lack of intellectualism he brings to his work. He’s still presented as a serious voice. Maher is not.

            Further, Maher’s only on HBO, late at night, with a show aimed only at adults. Rush is on every day, in every radio market, on the free airwaves, and can be heard by children, especially those who are too young for school. (That’s not to make a “what about the children???!!!” argument, but Rush isn’t relegated to a timeframe in which it’s unlikely for kids to come across his show. It’s the kind of argument I remember being made against Howard Stern before he decided to join Sirius.)

            Finally, Rush is often lauded as one of the great champions of the right. Politicians have even said so in defense of him in this very controversy. Maher, OTOH, is nobody’s hero – if we hold anyone in that regard, it’s probably Jon Stewart.

            Finally, and this is of the utmost importance here, is the choice of targets. Sandra Fluke is not a politician. She did not testify before Congress with the intent of getting her name and profile out there. She’s not a public figure. Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, the two targets of Maher’s sexism I know of, are.

            That’s not to excuse Maher and some of the sexist shit he’s said. But the right is desperate to find an example of someone on the left who “does the same thing,” even when the examples aren’t comparable.

            It would be nice if, for once, the right would just condemn one of their own when he crosses the line without the childish need to point out that “so and so does it too.” I guess it’s that team mentality they have – defend your guy, no matter what. Be united. Well, being united certainly helps the right wingers in this country get their way, there’s no denying that. But it can cut the other way.

  4. Your frustration about not getting interviews with “newsmakers” is understandable, but, Jason, you’re not Talk, you’re Print (even if in pixels). These folks don’t want their stuff to be screened, even if it’s to protect their own ignorance or liability. Worse, you’re “librul” print. These folks using conservative media want to talk, blow forth, either freely over the air waves or safely to a sympathetic (or stupid, or lazy, or complicit) scribe.

    Well, good news! You don’t need them to talk. They already have. And what they’ve said, while relevant, is not what’s of concern. It’s the medium’s attention to journalistic standards and integrity or lack thereof that interests you. Your interest, talent and concern are in the media, more so than the (explicit) messages of the guys interviewed or of whomever is at the other mike or at the keyboard.

    You offer a valued service here at CPols as a watchdog of rightwing main-and-less-than mainstream media. (You think I’m going to spend one second checking in on KPuKE Radio in Colorado Springs?! Whew, I’ll leave that heavy lifting to you.) That said, I would like to see you become more of a media critic (in the positive sense), albeit an adversial one, even a fiercely opinionated one.

    Open politics is desparately in need of constant vigilance. The Govs and a few pollsters do a good job of that here. I’d like to see someone–you–take on the smarmily hidden and denied media politics with this goal: reform. Don’t ask me what I think; tell me what you think and why, and what I should do about it.

    Now, I assume you have friends (associates?) in the media. You may  not want to offend them. Well, on the personal level, that’s important. But professionally, if they’re not doing their job, screw ’em. (You do seem to have a certain timidity about your “criticism”.) But if it takes light to expose stupidity, laziness, complicity and/or crookedmess, shine it. If it takes shaming, pile it on. If it takes being shunned by the entire Colorado media community, threatening messages to your dog’s facebook page or stomping out a blazing cross on your front lawn–well, maybe you ought to back off a bit.

    But keep at it. It’s a dirty job, but somebody….

    Yours in Strunk and White,


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