Here's the Horse Sense: Talk radio shows serve an important role in our society. But show hosts are missing the mark and could do more if they really want to see America saved from disintegration.
Most people who want to find truth in the news end up looking further than television. Some read various internet news sties, some listen to talk radio, and many of us do a lot of all of these. But as a pundit myself I have found an interesting phenomenon in talk radio around the country. Over the past few years I've found myself being interviewed as a guest on hundreds of shows ranging in audience size from local to regional, to national. Of all those shows, only a few truly are providing what is needed by their audiences. Most miss the most important part of their jobs and, as a result, the listeners lose.
While the left accuses talk radio of just being entertainment, the fact is that it is a formidable force to get information to the public. Many, myself included, have found that they can get more accurate news from talk radio than they can from anything on television. And along with that news they can get level-headed commentary and discussion, not just hard left bias and name calling that is found in the mainstream media. But to discredit the impact of talk radio the left has attacked it as just being a form of entertainment.
Sadly, the public often buys into that narrative even though many of those buying that story look to the likes of Stephen Colbert for their news. Even though Stephen Colbert is a comedian who simply spoofs news stories, a lot of Americans take what he puts on the air as fact. Even shows like Saturday Night Live are accepted as speaking truth when they perform their skits with false claims made to be a joke, but taken as accurate information. Who remembers that it was Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey who, while pretending to be Sarah Palin, made the claim she could see Russia from her home? Yet even the mainstream news media treat that as though Palin actually said it. What Palin actually said was, "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."
That is a true statement. On Alaska's Little Diomede island you can see the Russian Big Diomede island. The two are separated by 2 ½ miles of ocean and are across the International Date Line from each other. But in an effort to discredit her the media has done little to back up the truth, they allow the joke told on SNL to be taken as truth and be credited to Palin. Using false "facts" like this, the media undermine the truth to the public and demonize great patriots and leaders like Sarah Palin. It takes constant vigilance and critical thinking to see through and counteract this kind of stuff.
Many talk radio hosts did a pretty good job helping their listeners see through the lies on that one. And they serve the purpose of getting news out to people who never hear the truth as compared to the lies reported by the mainstream media. But is that enough? Is that doing enough to stop the fall of America as we watch our nation crumble and start to be swept towards the dustbin of history? I don't think so.
I don't think it's enough for talk radio hosts to just report on stories that most people would otherwise not hear. I don't think it's enough for talk radio hosts to just get all fired up and rant on and on about some problem. Getting people upset isn't enough. America is in trouble and, just like rallies and other such events, a rant only goes so far. At this time in our history it's not far enough.
I'm laying a heavy burden on talk show hosts here, but they have been put in a very unique position for our time in history. Talk radio reaches millions of Americans every day, especially local and regional shows. Sure, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Levin, and a few others have a national reach, but in many ways they do not have the impact the local or regional host has. The national hosts really do represent the alternate news source for Americans. But the local and regional hosts have a different relationship with their audiences. Their audiences have a more intimate relationship with those hosts. Those hosts are in a unique place to impact the future of our country.
I believe that the local and regional hosts have an obligation to educate their audiences and to lead them in solutions. At a time like this, when even Fox News can no longer be seen as a consistently solid source of news, talk radio has both an opportunity and an obligation to make sure Americans hear the truth. But in addition to truth in news stories, they also can help their audiences see what they, in their personal lives in their local communities, can do to make a difference on the direction in which our country is headed.
Instead of just ranting on and on about stories in the news, they can offer solutions. A good example happened recently when I was on a show and the hosts were all wired up about a story in the news. This team is a man and woman who do a very good job of interacting with their audience. I've been on the show many times and the relationship between them and their audience is so good that they often recognize callers by the sound of their voices. That day a story had come out that had them all upset. They were ranting about it and as callers would call in they'd rant along with them.
I listened for about 30 minutes before I was due to go on-air with them that day. During that half hour another guest was on and they got him talking about this incident. The guest was also upset about it and they all ranted and raved about how wrong it was. Then it was my turn to go on. As we talked they brought up the same issue and wanted my opinion. I responded that I agreed with them and then asked them what they were doing to find a solution. That really threw them. I told them that while I agreed with them it seemed to me that if all we want to do is get upset and rile people up, then we're doing just fine. But if we want to make a change in our nation, then we need to find concrete solutions and talk to our audiences about what they can do personally. It's not just about "taking a stand" when you're put in a corner on these issues. It's about what people can do to make a change. Suggestions, depending on the issue, can range from recommending actual actions that people can take politically to continually reminding people that we need to pray for success and for the people on the other side who are so misled and warped in their thinking on issues. Well, it didn't go over too well. They gave it quick acknowledgement and then went back to their rant.
I've been on their show numerous times since and nothing changes. They simply get everyone all worked up over stories but never offer solutions or any effort at finding solutions. If a host doesn't have a solution they could even open their phone lines to callers with ideas about what could be done. Make it an on-air brainstorming session. No one has a corner on good ideas. We can all learn from one another.
I've been privileged to be on shows with some hosts who are trying to do it right. Here's a couple of great examples:
Bill Post at KYKN radio in Salem, Oregon has a great show dealing with everything from local to regional and national issues. Bill gets his listeners involved and when things need to happen in Oregon, you can bet Bill and his listeners are right there in the middle of it all.
Dave Bowman at KFIV in Modesto, California has another great show. Dave has taken one day a week to talk about the U. S. Constitution. He and his audience have an ongoing dialogue about our nation's founding and what our founding documents really mean.
Those are two great examples of hosts who do more than what most do.
We don't change things without taking action. But most people are not good at coming up with ideas to solve problems. Most people are followers, not leaders. Most people, if you lay out a solution, are very good at following steps laid out for them. Talk show hosts are in a unique position of influence and leadership. They can get things done because they have a platform that few people have.
We regularly hear stories of all kinds where we can make a difference, but we don't. We might get mad. We might tell lots of people what we think. We might even write a letter. But we often miss opportunities to make a difference.
When the Obama administration told Catholic Priests serving our Armed Forces that they could not perform their priestly duties during the government shutdown, what did we do? Little to nothing other than go into a tirade is the answer. But if talk show hosts had told their listeners, regardless of their religion, that this was an affront to all religious freedom and then sought solutions, they could have had major impact far beyond anything that was done. The same could have been done with the closing of the memorials and national parks during the shutdown. There are many issues that come up regularly where we could do things to make a difference.
Sure, there are people who already will take action, but to stop the mess in our country it's up to us to speak out loudly and often. If every time Washington faced an issue they were pushed hard by the public, they would get so tired of it that they would start to respond. And as we do it leaders will emerge and we will find new people we can support to run for office to replace the politicians who have sold us out.
Too many talk radio hosts are just in the business of getting a rise out of people about some current issue. That's not enough, not if we really want our country back.
I may not be invited back on many shows after this post, but it's about time someone said these things. It we all stand up together, it's much harder to knock us down. If we all stand up together it's hard to ignore us. But there need to be leaders helping people see when it's time to stand and how to do it. Talk radio show hosts are in a unique position to lead and I challenge them to do so.