Archive for May, 2008

Talk radio illusions

Friday, May 30th, 2008

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.

Free Ride

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Here’s my review of Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, by David Brock and Paul Waldman.

Overall, the book provides a great framework to understand McCain, even if there’s not a lot of new material. I thought the section on McCain’s testy relationship with the Arizona news media was particularly interesting.

The book should have had an index, to help researchers.

This version of my review is available for full use by anyone.


Breakdown of breaking news

Friday, May 9th, 2008

For my Saturday column, I analyzed the breaking-news emails distributed by The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News from Feb. 1, 2008, to May 6, 2008.

Here’s a breakdown of the Rocky’s 39 breaking-news emails sent during this period:

21%      sports
18%      crime
15%      election
13%      business
10%      traffic
5%       disaster
5%       national politics (Spitzer stories only)
5%       state politics (Garcia resignation; Benson approval)
3%       international politics (Fidel Castro resigns.)
3%       Iraq War
3%       celebrity (Fishbein dies.)


Here’s a breakdown of The Post’s 70 breaking-news alerts emailed during the same period:


34%      sports
17%      crime
11%      election
7%       business
7%       traffic
6%       disaster
4%       state politics (Garcia resignation, Bruce “peasants” remark, and Benson approval)
4%       celebrity (Fishbein dies; Ledger overdose; Winehouse visa granted)
3%       national politics (Spitzer stories only)
1%       international politics (Fidel Castro resigns.)
1%       editorial opinion (announcement of The Post’s endorsement of Mitt Romney)
0%       Iraq War

(not equal to 100% due to rounding)


As I write in my column, there’s nothing about Congress or the President. Other than the presidential election, the only national political story to make breaking news was Spitzer’s sex scandal. The only breaking news from the Colorado Legislature was the Garcia resignation. There was nothing about the passage of bills in the Colorado Legislature providing health insurance to 50,000 kids who lack it or requiring energy companies to credit customers who use wind or solar power to make electricity.