31 December 2007

State of Talk Radio in the Valley 2007

I admit, it's a struggle to compose this annual roundup. I love radio, but podcasts on my iPod have supplanted much of my allotted news/talk listen time. Still, I've managed to cobble together another appraisal of Phoenix talk radio offerings. Every year that I've logged this account, the state of talk radio in the Phoenix market has deteriorated. And 2007 is no exception.

2007 ushered in the big KTAR AM/FM split, with 620 AM now devoted to sports and 92.3 FM the home of news/talk. Yes, "it just sounds better" on FM, but the lords of KTAR programming seem to have neglected the content factor. Worse, KTAR seems to be engaged in a deep identity crisis, at least from the vantage point of their proclamations:

  • First championing "live and local" as their trademark, but then dumping that notion for delayed syndicated fare, and bringing "local" hosts in from other parts of the country who themselves are self-proclaimed host-a-likes for the syndicated Glenn Beck.
  • KTAR programmer Russ Hill decries the attention to politics on talk shows, but the station now is even more political than it's competitor that it is falling behind in the ratings, KFYI.
  • KTAR boasted via on-air promotional bits how they are "not Republicans or Democrats", yet their programming is nothing but rabid right wingers.
  • Blasting the rival station for airing a "local" show that's not really local (Joe Crummey, who was replaced by J.D. Hayworth, broadcasted his Phoenix talk show from California), yet turns around and hires Crummey for their own station.

Seriously, KTAR has swayed on these and other matters, sometimes in a span as small as weeks. But contrary to these announcements, it does appear that KTAR does have an identity and it's in the mold of Glenn Beck and wannabe imitators.

Up and down the dial, on the other talk stations, things are pretty much as they were a year ago:

  • Joe Crummey, after the uproar over his local deception, was replaced by former Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth.
  • KFYI axed its nightly "wheel of hosts" format for the hate spew of Michael Savage.
  • KFNX continues its spate of colon blow and gold hawking shows, sans Charles Goyette in morning drive time.
  • Long time Phoenix radio legend John Dayl passed away.
  • On KKNT 960 AM, Liddy and Hill ended their on-air marriage.
  • Legendary Pat McMahon exits, again, from daytime KTAR radio.

Across the net, in blog posts and forum threads, I read a chorus of complaints about the stale state of the genre, and a never ceasing stream of queries on what new trends or rising stars can save talk radio from the sorrowful morass it has become. But it's not a perplexing puzzle at all — there is a tried and true formula that could easily restore the medium. It goes like this:

  1. An intelligent host lines up representative or experts from both sides of an issue (i.e., immigration, Iraq War, school vouchers, etc.…). It doesn't have to be always "political", but nothing stirs the soup like a heated political debate. But topics could easily extend to lighter fare, any subject where there exists a sizable listener interest.
  2. Host lobs a set of questions at each of the issue opponents. No way does the host have to be neutral, but he or she most certainly should conduct the interview in an objective manner. Nothing wrong with an opinionated narrator with their own slants and takes, but they must accommodate criticism and feedback for their adopted planks.
  3. Open up guest questioning to callers, and grant them a crack at addressing the declarations and points made and/or not made by the experts (or representatives). The dialogue and tone needs to be respectful, but the host shouldn't serve as public relations handler either.
  4. On a weekly or monthly basis, feature a special forum staffed by the most colorful and erudite callers, and let them have a chance to go mano to mano against each other and even enable other callers to challenge them.
  5. Incorporate an online presence for the radio show that serves as an extension or addendum, allowing devoted listeners denied the opportunity to call in and have their say. Or set up virtual buckets for show topic suggestions. Maybe voting on best guest of the week, or best call of the day.

While this model of conducting a radio talk show has disappeared from the airwaves, it has surfaced in the form of podcasts, albeit without much in the caller participation aspect (though with technology advances, that may soon change).

Regardless, the same old approach that's rolled out — put on an obnoxious host that just uses callers to as a prop for a diatribe — has become so tired and stale, and continues to chase listeners away. Yes, it worked for Rush Limbaugh, and for that exact age, may have been a marvelous strategy for a select number of programs. But it's a new age, and time for change, or at least a return to producing intelligent shows, without name calling and riled up, angry, frothing at the mouth listeners.

At any rate, off to the roundup:

  1. Jeff Farias (KPHX 1480 AM, 4p-7p)

    The only local progressive show on the air. While I detest most of the Air America programming equally or even greater than the angry conservative schtick that dominates the airwaves (except for the Thom Hartmann program), I like the blend of an open forum and variety of guests Jeff has included on his show. Even if he promotes some of the goofiest, wackiest, zaniest things like the Zeitgeist movie. Oh, did I mention that Jeff is the only local progressive talk host in the Valley?

  2. Charles Goyette (KFNX 1100 AM, 6p-9p)

    charlesgoyette.com still sits empty, a void hole. And the station Goyette does duty for, KFNX, is filled with colon blow commercials and gold peddlers. Still, Goyette's show is valuable, if just for the prominent guests featured, that get short shafted, or worse, smeared in ad-hominem attacks in Clear Channel land and/or LDS Bonneville country. Goyette has been featured on antiwar.com radio, but it would be nice if, in 2007, he could post podcasts online. Or even if KFNX offered a stream that worked on my computer.

  3. Andrew Tallman Show (KPXQ 1360 AM, 5p-7p)

    In last year's appraisal of local talk show offerings, I gave the #1 slot to the Andrew Tallman show. It's still a solid show, minus the Wacky Wednesday format. Further chipping into the positives is the extra features that the host crams into his "current events" Thursday that include "What would you say?", "Is this news?", and another on metaphors, whose exact framing question escapes me at this moment. As I wrote last year, the "wacky Wednesday" format is ridiculous — it either asks an inane question or the issue that receives focus is a hotly debated issue (i.e, death penalty, minimum wage, etc.…) where terming opponents as "wacky" is nothing but an adhominem attack. Worst, the host the embodiment of "Christians for Caesar", as he is pro-torture, pro-war, in favor of unitary executive doctrine, anti-worker, etc.… Still, I love the show as it's nearly always thought provoking and the host conducts an open forum and delights in addressing and tackling opposing viewpoints. Something that's almost totally absent on the rest of the dial.

  4. Bruce Jacobs (KFYI 550 AM, 5a-8a)

    Bruce's "Archie Bunker" schtick has carved him out a slice in the Valley talk scene. So much that he gave up his sports talk, one that I believe he's immensely more qualified at. Still, I'd rank him the best of the KFYI hosts and certainly the most entertaining, even if he is clueless about history and world affairs. Sorry, but reading the newspaper (and bashing it!) is not the journey to become informed on global and national matters. As Mark Twain once said: If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

  5. Barry Young (KFYI 550 AM, 8a-10a)

    As I did last year, I'll defer to the wisdom of others: There was a time long ago when Barry Young was interesting. I guess it has been 10-15 years or so now, but it was once the case. Now he needs his cheerleader girl to chime in with her snooty comments, backing up most everything he says. God how I wish she would go away. But I guess Barry has lost so much passion he can no longer pull it off on his own. Just not enough to say.… …she brings a horrible, elitist attitude to the show that's a turn-off. Listening to her talk of her Aspen vacation house, Doctor Husband and 18 cylinder luxury car is sickening, and I aint poor myself. When her and Barry get on a snob-roll, they're shutting out a huge percentage of their listening audience, as not all conservatives claim as large a disposable income as Barry and Michelle…. Well, guess I could add a word — bourgeois.

  6. Mac Watson (KTAR 92.3 FM, 3p-7p)

    Mac Watson has a Wikipedia page, and according to it, in 2005, Mac Watson was voted Richmond's most annoying radio talk-show host. KTAR brought another Glenn Beck clone (and like Ankarlo, has served as substitute on Beck's show) to town, though this one sporting a high pitched voice, easily distinguishable. Sandwiched between traffic updates and news alerts, when Watson does step off the soapbox and entertain a call or two, the result is a predictable one, given right wing modus operandi in this matter — ignore the caller and instead launch into a diatribe on how big a moron said caller is.

  7. J.D. Hayworth (KFYI 550 AM, 4p-7p)

    Booted from his elected office, J.D. Hayworth takes to the airwaves on the big daddy conservative blowtorch station. I suppose, like the barely famous one, he enjoys a loyal segment of followers who hang on his every utterance, but it sounds to me like he's reading his spiel off from scribbles on grade school ruled paper. And the times I've tuned in, his gaze his focused on Bill Clinton or badmouthing John McCain. At least when he's not engaged in some whole hearted illegal immigrant kicking. You stay classy, J.D.!

  8. Darrell Ankarlo (KTAR 92.3 FM, 5p-7p)

    Whenever I tune into Ankarlo, I sense my IQ dips by at least 30 points. It's not just the simpleton corporate shilling and Glenn Beck sound alike mode (I have a difficult time distinguishing between the two). Nor is it the sucking up to Sheriff Arpaio and other Valley bantering that Ankarlo has no clue on. Perhaps it's the incessant illegal immigrant bashing and xenophobic hate mongering. Maybe it's the host's allusions that his show is some bastion for freedom, when in essence, it's just a giant ego trip where it's all about Darrel Ankarlo. What a shame in what KTAR has descended to, even the cowardly neoconservative David Leibowitz would be a giant improvement over this.

  9. Gaydos After Dark (KTAR 92.3 FM, 7p-10p)

    Worst show ever. Maybe if I cared for transvestite stories or other sensationalist fare based mostly upon the ignorance of the host, it would carry some merit. I reckon Gaydos is earnestly attempting a "hot talk", Howard Stern wannabe deal, and perhaps there is a market for such a beast.


Every once in a while I give in and listen again to Mac Watson in the afternoon, as it is the only show that will tune in where my radio is located. Each time I am reminded why I don't like listening to him. Can't anyone coach him to get off his high horse and stop reminding everyone how he's doing great financially (like who cares?)His story today about his "vacation" to the Grand Canyon was so annoying. He talked like he had just encircled the globe in a hot air balloon and was now one of the elite. He even talked about how people who travel are "different" than the ordinary ones who do not. News Flash: A drive to the Grand Canyon is not exactly travelling, more like a weekend getaway. Whoopee. glad he had fun,but he acts like some world traveller because he heard many different languages. I have to close now so I can change my radio station to some static that makes sense.

Add Comment

This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it