Monday, April 05, 2004

America Eats Its Own
Here's the transcript of the over-the-top roughing up Ralph Nader received as an interview guest on the new liberal talk radio network Air America. With behavior like this, Air America looks like it will succeed, simply because it strives to be a bigger a**hole than conservative talk radio.

In all seriousness, I hope Air America survives. However, if Al Franken is their headliner, then I don't think the prospects look good. The problem I think with Air America is that it's relying on too many New York City based professional comedians as its hosts. Al Franken's show airs for 3 hours and Janeane Garafalo commands another 3 hours with her segment. Furthermore, Lizz Winstead, another NY comedian who appeared and wrote for The Daily Show in its early years runs 3 hours of her own. In fact, 9 hours of daily original programming are served up by New York City comedians. So in terms of liberal views, the listeners are basically going to hear for the most part the reflections of what NY liberal comedians think. Isn't that niche already well served by Jon Stewart's The Daily Show?

Another problem I see with Air America centers on Franken's show itself. The problem is with the show's very title: The O'Franken Factor. Simply, if you're setting your show up as a counterpoint to O'Reilly's very successful show, you're instantly suggesting that your show is the also-ran. Imagine if NBC had a newsmagazine show called "The Next 60 Minutes". Wouldn't it make you think that NBC was admitting defeat by trying to piggyback someone else's success? I mean, I think mockery through mimicry works for a while, and Al Franken may entertain as he presents himself as an O'Reilly-esque anti-OReilly, but I don't think it will work in the long run. Does Al Franken want to put forth liberal views in his own right? Or does he just want to position himself as the old muppet up in the balcony shouting insults at the real acts playing on stage?

Air America needs to find real radio personalities fast that do not have a Hollywood or East Coast liberal track record. It needs flamethrowers from Chicago, pundits from Peoria, sages from St. Louis. It needs voices from middle America. Talk Radio became the force that it did because a vast majority of people between the coasts were underserved. Guys like Limbaugh rose to popularity because they offered something different, and they did it on their own terms and in their own style. They weren't trying to position themselves as the anti-Rather, or anti-Jennings, or anti-Moyers. They simply said what they wanted to say, in a style that was original, and people tuned in. Air America needs that same originality if it is going to succeed and reach out beyond the boundaries of its own interested audience. Liberals who don't already get enough hip, sarcastic, anti-Republican jokes from Comedy Central, Simpsons, The Onion, Rollingstone, Time, Playboy, Maxim, NPR, et. al., will love Air America. However, liberals who want to hear liberalism presented in different and original ways will not find it on the new liberal radio network.


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