In the Club
March 15, 2013
Okay, first, it's that time of year again, and leave it to me to put a charity pitch before a radio column with which I bet a lot of you will disagree. But I don't have a radio show to spread the word, so this'll have to do. As you may remember from my incessant pitches of the last several years, my wife Fran, a cancer survivor of seven years, and I walk every May in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women in Los Angeles, which raises money through the Entertainment Industry Foundation for research and services dealing with women's cancer and is, obviously, a cause that's meaningful to us.
This year, the walk's on May 11th, and, well, please donate. You can do that at do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon2013. It will be greatly appreciated.
Now, on to the radio stuff. It's also the time of year for CPAC, and that meant that some of you dutifully went to Washington to be part of the festivities and meet with all the conservative politicians and frolic in the mist. That last part might just be my imagination -- the idea of people in suits frolicking in the mist is such an amusing image -- but you get the idea. There are always radio people, even some of my friends, at things like this, participating and networking and all that.
I wish they wouldn't. And that goes for liberal hosts at liberal political gatherings, and any radio hosts at any political thing. Here's why, and I'll say right now that this could just be from my personal experience rather than a hard and fast rule: Politicians are not your friends. Being connected to them does not help your show. Maybe it helps your career in case you want to go into politics yourself, or if you're looking to get favors from them, but it does nothing for your radio show.
That's because, at least in my opinion, there's nothing valuable for your show that you can get by networking with the people who are, to your audience, part of the problem. The image of politicians is awful -- while individual politicians may fare better, Americans are, by and large, not fans of their elected officials. (What's Congress' polling looking like these days?) And the squabbling over sequestration and debt ceilings and spending cuts just makes them look even worse.
Which is why you don't want to identify yourself with that side. You want to be the people's champion. You want to be the kid pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. And it shouldn't matter which party, or ideology, to which the Emperor belongs. Ask yourself whether you'd rather listen to someone who's pals with Congressman Bluster or Senator Blowhard, or someone who's pointing out how those guys are not to be trusted. That, to me, is the direction talk radio should be taking; it's not going "centrist" or "moderate," as some have tried (that hasn't gone well). It's not being more "civil," either -- remember, you want to entertain the audience, not lull them to sleep. It's about taking passionate, honest, aggressive stands, only it's not conservative vs. liberal or Republican vs. Democrat, it's the people vs. the politicians, who are supposed to represent them but too often only represent whatever will keep them in power and their coffers filled. There are hosts and stations doing that -- we were doing that in Jersey in 1990 and it's still successful today -- but too few, and when I see hosts and politicians sharing a Coke and a smile at things like CPAC, it reminds me that our industry often doesn't remember what it's really supposed to be doing.
Or, at least, that's what I think talk radio should be doing. I could be wrong. I've never been to a political event. I get enough Guys in Suits at radio conventions.
One thing everyone can agree upon, however, is All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics, which has hundreds of stories and comments compiled with radio in mind, available by clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where you'll find every story linked to the appropriate item. It's the show prep source everybody at the office can agree upon! And it's free, so even the boss won't object. And while you're there, read "10 Questions With..." WNSR/Nashville host and GSM Thom Abraham, and, yes, he's both a host and sales manager, which makes for an interesting perspective.
Oh, yeah, follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pmsimon. I also edit and write for the Nerdist.com website, part of Chris Hardwick's empire of pop culture. One more plug for that: Watch the return of "The Nerdist," March 30th at 10p (ET) on BBC America, after the half-season debut of "Doctor Who" and the debut of "Orphan Black." I'm not on it, but it should be good.
Remember, please donate to the Revlon Run/Walk for Women at do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon2013. Thank you!