Charlie Sheen, The Economy, And Other Important Stuff
February 25, 2011
I don't want to write about radio this week. I want to write about Charlie Sheen.
Well, maybe not. (Really, yes; YOU try to come up with something new about talk radio every week) After all, this is a radio column, and even though the latest Sheenquake started on a radio show, it's not really a topic that fits the column. It's not what people come here for.
And that's something that talk hosts run up against in cases like this. If you're a political host, you'll assume that if it isn't a serious political topic, you shouldn't go there. I've seen comments from talk hosts this week decrying that Charlie Sheen was among the top stories on the evening news, right up there with Libya and PsyOps and Christchurch and other topics of more serious import. Charlie Sheen? Meaningless. A story from the toy shop. Leave it to TMZ.
Allow me, then, to defend the toy shop.
I will not argue that the pronouncements of Charlie Sheen are important to the state of the world. What a multi-millionaire actor with bad habits, a sizeable ego, and a world view one might charitably describe as "unique" has to do with the important issues -- the economy, democracy, world politics, the environment, whatever else matters -- is nothing. If Charlie Sheen works or doesn't work or insults people or does whatever he's doing, it doesn't make a difference to anything that matters to me.
Yet he DOES matter to me, and your listeners. He is what people are talking about today. He's the quintessential "water cooler topic." And, yes, it's got all the hallmarks of slowing down on the freeway to gawk at the bloody wreck in the median, but sometimes you look, too. You might curse out the people in front of you who slowed down, but you don't avert your eyes. And you, and I, and probably the majority of your listeners uttered the phrase "did you hear what Charlie Sheen said?" at least once in the last 24 hours.
Isn't the goal to talk about what your listeners are talking about? If you want to connect to listeners, sometimes you have to talk about what, in the grand scheme of things, is inconsequential, trivial... Sheenish. Your audience does care about the economy, does care about the important, big issues, and does want you to talk about those. But you always gotta talk about the big stories, the ones everyone's buzzing about, and one glance at Twitter and Facebook on Thursday evening and Friday morning would have told you that the buzz was all about Charlie Sheen.
And then, sometime in midday, things calmed down -- on Twitter, the top U.S. trending topics at the moment are "Community" actor Donald Glover's rap alter ego Childish Gambino and "BornToLoveGaga" -- so we're back to normal and you could go back to the usual topics. Still, the Sheenalanche goes back to the idea I mentioned at the start -- people expecting "what they came here for." The truth is, they're not coming just for talk about politics, even if that's your focus. They're coming for you. They want to hear what you have to say about the hot issues of the moment. Sometimes, that hot issue isn't political or even all that important. And it's okay -- in fact, it's incumbent on you -- to talk about it anyway. Heaven knows, you can use the break from the "real news" once in a while.
I'm way, way late with the column this week, so no recap of the topics available at Talk Topics, the show prep column at AllAccess.com, but you know that whether it's "real news" or toy shop silliness, you'll find something to talk about there. (Go here.) After that, do take a look at "10 Questions With..." top sports radio consultant Rick Scott, who has a lot to say about the explosion of sports on FM and the success of the format in general. And don't forget the rest of All Access with all the news and features and ratings and job listings you can handle, updated all day every day, and all free.
Social media: Follow Talk Topics at twitter.com/talktopics and Net News at twitter.com/allaccess. And get the All Access app for iPhone here or for Android here, both developed by jacAPPS. My other writing, unrelated to (and not to be blamed on) All Access, can be found at pmsimon.com, twitter.com/pmsimon, and Nerdist.com, where I'm writing about pop culture, tech stuff, and other geek-worthy topics.
I'll now practice as I preach and be relatable to someone I know will be reading this column: Happy Birthday, Fran! (Yeah, my wife's birthday is a week after Valentine's Day. February's a good month for her)
Perry Michael Simon
All Access News-Talk-Sports