The unreal world of talk radio is multi-dimensional.
The most destructive illusion is that the topics debated on talk radio are on the minds of most people. In fact, talk radio is actually disconnected from most people’s reality…-except a narrow band of folks, which includes many journalists and other influentials, who actually listen to it.
Put it this way. If you and your friends listen to talk radio, and you and your friends happen to be journalists or policy wonks, and you talk together about what you heard on talk radio, you tend to forget that talk radio is irrelevant for most people. Issues on talk radio seem more important than they actually are.
Even savvy media consumers sometimes mistake the talk radio world for the real one.
Another illusion is that talk radio is somehow a free and open forum for the people’s voice. I addressed this in my Sat. Rocky column. As you know if you listen to talk radio, these shows are really about the voice of the talk show host, not the voice of the people.
Against this backdrop, is the most serious problem about talk radio. Some of the most popular shows are filled with distortions and outright falsehoods. The talk radio debate about immigration is a tragic case in point.
Colorado Media Matters did a great job analyzing how the issue is treated by some talk radio shows in Denver–as well as other broadcast media. Its report on this topic gives you a good framework to understand the methods used to hype this issue, drum up uninformed fear about it, and in the end boost the ratings of the shows promoting the falsehoods and distortions. Yuck.