This week's All Access newsletter took forever and several rewrites to finish, and it still seems half-assed and thrown together. That's because it was, sort of:
A few items to remember for talk radio as we reach the end of the campaign and go to the polls Tuesday:
1. If the success or failure of your show depends on which party is in power, you're doing it wrong.
You see all those "what are Rush/Sean/whoever going to do if Obama wins" stories? You know how silly they are, because those guys can just as easily -- maybe more easily -- play from the outsider angle as from the winner's circle. That should be you, too. Whether you're liberal or conservative or something else, it should never matter who's in charge. That's because....
2. Your job isn't to get a candidate elected, or a referendum passed.
You don't work for a political party, or, at least, you shouldn't. You work for the listeners. (And the advertisers, but that's another column) Your job is to entertain. And if that's what you do....
3. The end of the election season shouldn't be the end of your ratings.
If you concentrate on entertaining rather than selling a political position or being simply an information source, the people who came to you for election talk will stick around because they're entertained by you. If all you did was hardcore inside-the-beltway election coverage, you didn't give them a reason to come back once the new president-elect makes his victory speech.
But for those of you who talk about politics, Tuesday's the day. Have fun with it. And convey that fun and excitement and disappointment and tension and emotion on the air. That's the difference between hard news and talk radio. You get to put on a show. So do that.
Last week's column about... well, see, here's the thing. It wasn't intended to be about the Fairness Doctrine. It was intended to be about the different types of talk radio that I think are underrepresented in the industry's overreliance on standard political talk. But I wanted to use the Fairness Doctrine debate as a way of getting into that, so I made the mistake of leading the column with my opinion on the law, which led a lot of people to react. In fact, a lively e-mail exchange developed, which I mostly sat out just to see where it went. (Also, I figured that I could borrow from what people were saying to get a cheap and quick column out of it) For the most part, it went where I expected it to go. Those on one side of the political spectrum had no problem with the government stepping in and mandating "fairness" or "balance," and the other side, well, they didn't get involved much in the discussion. And I could recount all the arguments that people made -- in fact, that's what I'd planned to do -- but then I remembered two things: one, that the Fairness Doctrine doesn't apply to this column, and two, that I wasn't trying to get discussion going on the Fairness Doctrine, I was trying to get people to see the value of doing talk that doesn't rely on a host's specific political orientation. So if you want to discuss the Fairness Doctrine, be my guest, and if you want to disagree with me, that's fine, too, but I'm going to take a break from the debate for now, because I'd rather focus on how to make talk radio better without the need for, or worrying about, legislation. I suspect we'll be revisiting the Fairness Doctrine topic soon enough, anyway.
You knew that I wouldn't get through this week's Letter without acknowledging that the Phillies won the World Series. I could actually tie it into a relevant talk radio issue, but I'm going to save it for another time. Right now, I'm just happy the drought is over.
This week's items at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics show prep column deal with all of the above -- the election, the Phillies, all of it, plus the economy and other "real news" stories. But there's more, much more, including bad Halloween treats, farting dogs, pants-dropping coaches, suicidal squirrels, the joys of ear wax, Peter Frampton's complaint, buffet violations, gelato with a "special ingredient," overcrowded marathons, and more, which I'll cut short here because I'm way late on the deadline for this. There's also "10 Questions With..." The Hog Sportsradio/Springdale, AR host and GM/Partner Grant Merrill and the rest of All Access with news, features, charts, columns, etc., etc., free.
Hey, did I mention that the Phillies are the World Champions? Yes? Well, I'll mention it again. I'm afraid it may be another 28 years before I can do that again.