Anger Is An Energy
March 18, 2016
Let's clear up a longstanding misperception about talk radio that I think misdirects programmers and hosts. Yes, there is such a thing as "political talk radio" and there is such a thing as "lifestyle talk radio," but the line between them is not as clear as those terms make it seem. The idea that there's a choice between talking Trump 'n' Bernie or talking about your favorite animated movie is a little too reductive; there are many degrees between the two poles, and the same host can hit all of the marks on that spectrum. But I want to focus on one example of what talk radio can do, arguably, better than any other medium, something of which I don't really hear enough:
Anger. We do anger really, really well when we want to.
But I'm not talking anger at, say, the President or Congress over the usual partisan bickering. I'm not talking the cartoon anger critics of talk radio would claim to hear in typical party-line talk. I'm talking anger properly directed at things and people who deserve it. And I'll explain with an example.
I was driving home from a meeting Thursday and heard a very good show on the Flint water crisis. You don't need me to explain the topic, and if you know even a little about the story, you will understand from whence the anger comes. But talk radio needs to be at the forefront of stories like this, because talk radio has the unique ability to whip up public sentiment and action, for good and bad. Your task is to find the stories for which you can do good, and then go do it.
This is not political. In fact, this works only when you stop looking at things from a partisan viewpoint and start looking at them as right vs. wrong, no matter who's involved. Your side in every issue should not be Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. You should be on the side of your listeners. What you do, how you approach issues like Flint or the gas leak in the Valley or any other story where your listeners are facing red tape and danger to their existence and government and corporate indifference, has to be based on your desire to represent the interests and needs of your listeners. And if it means you're a Republican who has to take on the Republican governor or a liberal who has to challenge a Democrat, well, that's your job.
Once again, I'll make something clear: Your job isn't to get someone elected. Your job isn't to represent a political party or even an ideology. Your job is to entertain, inform, and be there for your listeners. (Okay, to sell products, too, but that's another column.) And when your listeners are being poisoned, or subjected to anything bad, you have the unique ability to hammer on the topic day in and day out, demand accountability from the people in power, and represent your audience's best interests. Podcasts may get there someday, but for your local audience, talk radio can be more opinionated, more in-your-face, ruder and less bound to convention than newspapers, than television news, than anything. Social media can do it, too, but you have a microphone and that's still a powerful thing. And social media is more diffuse; the amount you see about any topic is dependent on who you follow and how many tweets flood your feed.
That's why talk radio still has influence and power. When you get on a mission and latch onto it like a pit bull, you can get things done. (I won't bore you with stories from my past; let's just say that it's been done before and it works, both to cause change and to build audience.) You can use your power for good, or you can talk about the same old stuff, the same stuff all the other hosts are talking about. If you're a local host, take advantage of that -- find out what people in your community are facing, find out what they need, and take the lead. Get angry at the right people, for the right reasons. That's not partisan, that's not lifestyle, that's something you can do better than anyone else. So do it.
If you're looking for things to get angry about, or stuff to make people laugh, or stuff to talk about while you're looking for better stuff to talk about, get on down to All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with news items and kickers and bad jokes for any kind of show, by clicking here and at the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item. And there's the new Podcasting section at AllAccess.com/podcasts. Finally, read "10 Questions With..." Tama Fulton, KKWF (100.7 The Wolf)/Seattle personality and co-host of the new "True North Story" podcast, who explains the show, the whats and whys of launching the podcast, and exactly what "True North" is.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, a division of Legendary Pictures and Legendary Digital Networks, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
Now, while you go off and feed your anger, I'll feed mine the best way I know how: I'll be watching the NCAA men's basketball tournament, hoping for a repeat of 1985 but expecting... well, it's been a long time since 1985.