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Airwaves: September 9, 2011

Thoughtful Talk

In these days of “in your face” talk radio, where the likes of the former Dean of talk radio -- Michael Jackson -- have been essentially driven off the radio airwaves, shows that do strive to be a bit more calm ... more thoughtful ... tend to stand out.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking conservative or liberal, most political shows tend to be, well, mean. Not all, of course. KABC’s Larry Elder stands out for being a bit more thoughtful than many. And I would even place Rush Limbaugh -- heard locally on KFI (640 AM) on the more thoughtful side, as it is a misunderstanding of reasons for his popularity that makes many of those who try to copy his style so negative. This misunderstanding, in fact, is what doomed Air America from the start.

Another of those who stands out is Earl Hutchinson. Hutchinson is an author, journalist and broadcaster with numerous books under his belt. His talk shows -- leaning toward the liberal side -- are almost like a flashback to what talk radio used to be. No yelling, no interrupting of callers or guests, and thoughtful analysis of his topics.

His guests include some major newsmakers -- Colin Powell, Michael Reagan, and former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson.

The only problem is that he is heard on KPFK (90.7 FM, Saturdays from 12 noon to 1 PM) and KTYM (1460 AM, Fridays from 9:30 to 10 AM) ... two stations few ever tune in. In the last Arbitron ratings survey, KPFK tied for 55th place with a 0.1 share of the audience and fewer than 120,000 listeners per week, while KTYM didn’t even show.

Too bad, because I find Hutchinson’s programs interesting, at least during the times that I break my personal boycott of talk radio programs. I tend to wonder what would happen if he were on a major station with real marketing.

Ground Zero

KABC’s John Phillips (weekdays 6 to 10 PM) is heading to New York for a live, special four-hour broadcast Sunday at 5 PM in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Phillips will be joined by survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center who will tell their stories of that horrific day. He will also explore what we lost, what we learned and what lies ahead for our Nation as we continually move forward while continuing to fight those who wish to take us down.

Letter Bag

“Doug McIntyre is a personality that might interest you. These days, it is very rare indeed to find a personality rich with different experiences and usage of vocabulary at an ambrosial level. no sound effects, no slappy words. He gets too excited sometimes but his opinions are colored with depth from living.” -- Betty O’Meara, Malibu

I had to look up “ambrosial.” Extremely pleasing to the taste. What an interesting way to describe McIntyre’s show, and I agree. I have long been a McIntyre fan and find him especially listenable at night, where he is now with the syndicated Red Eye Radio (locally on KABC, Sundays through Thursdays at 10 PM, Fridays at 11 PM). McIntyre is one of the few personalities who gets numerous repeat mentions in letters and emails. I never did find the definition of “slappy,” by the way ...

“The stations you mention are just your preferences, but you foist your taste off onto all your readers That’s a blog, not a newspaper.” -- Unsigned postcard from Philadelphia

True. Well not the blog part, but yes, this column from its beginnings in 1987 has always been about my views of radio. That’s what makes me a radio critic, I suppose. I look at radio from the viewpoint of a huge fan of radio. In fact, I began writing it as a way to keep in touch with programmers so that I could eventually land an on-air job ... until I realized that my version of radio was quickly disappearing.

I know that this drives some people nuts, as I continually try to keep radio as close to what I believe radio should be: a locally-focussed entertainment medium serving the public interest. I do try to keep it on the positive side, and if I cannot verify facts I always label them as either rumor or my opinion. I have been very fortunate to have worked under editors who give me great leeway to write what I want to write, at least usually.

At the same time, I do it for you as well. So if you think I haven’t covered something right, or you have a suggestion for a show, personality or station that needs exposure, I welcome the suggestion. Or if you just have a question, I am happy to help.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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