The Real Liberal Media

I've always been perplexed that people think of the media as liberal, especially after the coverage of the war, local gay civil rights issues, and free trade have all been decidedly right of center over the past few years. That's why it's refreshing to hear that there is a new unabashedly progressive voice on the radio: Air America. This radio community includes shows with Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, two faves among progressives. It will debut at noon today, so be sure to log on and be one of the first to hear.

The question is, when will we get this programming on local stations? WCHL apparently thought about including these shows, but then bailed. Who will step up to the plate to make sure that we have progressive voices in with the mix of right wing and centrist voices on our airwaves locally?

Issues: 

Total votes: 180

Comments

extremely sorry for the number of posts, my internet is very fickle, feel free to delete

If you think the media is center-right, please check

http://rantingprofs.typepad.com

She's one of Chapel Hill's own.

And just so you know, you all here may be so far to the left, that in your perception the media is centrist.

Everything is relative and nuance to you anyway, shouldn't your claims be the same?

And I can't imagine listening to Garofalo. How can you take the woman seriously? She never can back up her argument with anything substantial. Seems like you'd want someone fighting the good fight for you who is seemingly intelligent and well-spoken.

If you think the media is center-right, please check

http://rantingprofs.typepad.com

She's one of Chapel Hill's own.

And just so you know, you all here may be so far to the left, that in your perception the media is centrist.

Everything is relative and nuance to you anyway, shouldn't your claims be the same?

If you think the media is center-right, please check

http://rantingprofs.typepad.com

She's one of Chapel Hill's own.

And just so you know, you all here may be so far to the left, that in your perception the media is centrist.

Everything is relative and nuance to you anyway, shouldn't your claims be the same?

And I can't imagine listening to Garofalo. How can you take the woman seriously? She never can back up her argument with anything substantial. Seems like you'd want someone fighting the good fight for you who is seemingly intelligent and well-spoken.

Just so you know, while Al Franken's show is excellent - as is Janeane Garofalo's - Chapel Hill is missing out on Randi Rhodes, who is the best of the three main hosts on Air America.

But - at least you can catch her on line of you go to the KPOJ Portland Oregon website. They're a Clear Channel station (!) and have Air America running round the clock - and have tripled POJ's local audience.

Just so you know, while Al Franken's show is excellent - as is Janeane Garofalo's - Chapel Hill is missing out on Randi Rhodes, who is the best of the three main hosts on Air America.

But - at least you can catch her on line of you go to the KPOJ Portland Oregon website. They're a Clear Channel station (!) and have Air America running round the clock - and have tripled POJ's local audience.

Great detective work! The site at least gives us info and options as potential volunteers. Good enough. So where do you think they will get the 11K?

R

The following is from one of Jim Heavner's posts.

"WCHL does make a major commitment to big projects like our annual Chapel Hill-Carrboro Forum. The first one was last spring and I believe this year's Form is scheduled for May 25. It is a 12-hour forum, with one hour devoted to 12 different topics, and 50 or 60 speakers."

This forum is a great idea. There were some very interesting exchanges during last year's forum. However, the event could be greatly improved by expanding the diversity of the list of panelists to better represent the full range of our community's talents and ideas.

For instance, the policing and neighborhood safety hour only had government police and, I think, fire department reps. Strikingly absent were neighborhood leaders who could share their view from the other end of policing and safety issues.

The affordable housing panel should have had Dawn Peebles who has spearheaded successful and creative work (and received national recognition) with Carrboro Community Housing.

I can't recall specifics on the other topics, but I do remember noting that the panelists were very "establishment" (for want of abetter word) oriented. The broad range of creative activist thought was by and large absent.

It may be that the producers of the program just weren't aware or didn't know how to identify these other important community voices. Perhaps this forum could help tp provide information to Jim Heavner and others concerning the perspectives that were unrepresented at last year's event.

What do you think, Jim? And others?

Thanks,

Mark

So I finally heard back from Weaver St. about WCOM.. there's a website up for the new station here.. it's kind of a disaster but I guess it's just been up for a few days:

http://www.communityradio.coop/

Apparently they need to raise $11K by June 30. They don't seem too well organized at this point (it took almost 2 weeks to get back to me) but I hope they can make it..

John,

I don't know whether or not any NPR affiliates were clients ( that info was not germaine to my end of the business) but numbers for all stations in the market areas are tracked to compute market share and demographic reach.

Cheers, Alex

Alex:

"I would think that advocates of a free market would be pleased to welcome this new 'product line' into the competition of the marketplace of commercial radio as a positive development."

I was and I did.

I was just offering my prediction that the potential demand for this product line would prove to be quite a bit smaller than the demand for right-of-center talk radio. However, we free-marketeers favor entrepreneurial hypothesis-testing over predictions, so I'll just wait and see how this version goes. Early affiliate problems aren't a good sign of their business plan, but perhaps this is just the early, steep part of the learning curve.

As to your point about Arbitron, are you saying that the NPR affiliate got Arbitron ratings? Hmmm.

Yeah, OK, John, I oversimplified the genesis of 'supply-side' theory' as a doctrine of free-market economics springing from the Chicago School--We could split hairs about that all day.

But that's completely beside the point as it was merely a hypothetical example of the sort of conversation that, in my view, has limited the appeal and discussion of progressive values to the reach of the sound of one hand clapping. The central theme of my rather lengthy tome was that the knee-jerk tendency to reject exploring more widely accessible media, and the tailoring of the programming to reach its audience is inherently insular, and thus, self-defeating.

Some years ago I worked for a subcontractor to Arbitron Media Services(the primary ratings service for radio). From that experience, I know that commercial media outlets reach a far larger audience in terms of raw numbers, and a far broader demographic than NPR, and other 'alternative' media. We (the progressive community) need to use every available outlet and tactic to reach as broad an audience as possible. I would also contest your conclusion that the potential audience for progressive radio is a 'niche' market as premature. In the best free-market tradition, I would argue that, if properly presented, the notion that the policies of the current administration have caused grevious harm to the fortunes of working Americans, and its secrecy and bungling of foreign policy have placed our nation at greater risk, can have great currency and succeed on their own merits in the free marketplace of ideas. I would think that advocates of a free market would be pleased to welcome this new 'product line' into the competition of the marketplace of commercial radio as a positive development. Eh, John?

Cheers,

Alex

I just wanted to let you all know that response to our first few days of "Air America" has been overwhelmingly positive. "The O'Franken Factor" with Al Franken has generated a multitude of phone calls and many emails, as well, and most of the people who've been in touch hve accolades for the show.

I also wanted to thank all of you for participating in this incredible exchange of opinion over the past week or so. Comments have certainly slowed now, but for a while there, we really had it going!

Ruby, I thank you for providing the opportunity!

Please let us know how you feel about Air America or anything else we do on WCHL. We're trying hard to provide local coverage you can't get anyplace else, and hopefully, with these new shows, a

better diversity of opinion. I think I speak for everyone at WCHL

when I say that I would welcome your comments...positive or

negative...any time you want to share them!

Hmmm... Were those alienated listeners already conservative, and therefore a market waiting to be tapped? Or did the evolution of the right-wing media tap into unaffiliated alienation and give it a conservative voice? What if a left-leaning populist media had evolved or does evolve?

This is a real issue for progressives and the Democratic party. We need to figure out who we can get on board and how to do it. And I don't mean how can we get dittoheads to flip. I'm referring to the millions of media alienated, politically unaffiliated, and non-voting Americans.

Two thoughts: We're not going to do it without changing our strategies. But, I'm not sure the strategy to use is shrill, defensive radio announcers.

Interesting post, Alex, but 1) Milton Friedman is not a "supply-side" economist, he is a monetarist whose views on several key issues (such as currency exchange rates) are diametrically opposed to the supply-siders, and 2) I don't understand how a dairy farmer could be driven out of the business by the "collapse of the dairy market," which implies low prices for milk, and then end up not being able to afford the suddenly high price of milk. If this is some kind of predatory pricing theory, I'd ask for some evidence of predatory pricing leading to this outcome in reality.

That said, and obviously I wouldn't exactly cheer this, there are probably some left-leaning folks out there who can't stand NPR but will chuckle at Franken and grok Schultz. I guess I would predict, though, that the number of listeners in this group who feel fundamentally alienated from the establishment media is smaller that the number of conservative listeners who felt alienated from the establishment media a decade or so ago. The latter turned out to be a huge untapped market; the former looks more like a niche market.

But people make good money serving niche markets every day. Again, best of luck to Jim and the folks at WCHL.

Been listening to the inaugural afternoon lineup on 'CHL, and would once again like to congratulate Jim and the station for their responsiveness to community input (much of it, might I dare say, coming from this forum) in airing Air America programming as a companion to Ed Schultz. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this hard-hitting programming, unapologetic in its progressive perspective, I find refreshing when contrasted with the abstract, dry-as-the-sahara academic discourse that has been de rigeur in media outlets that have traditionally been characterized as 'liberal'. It signals to me, a trend that many have talked about (in appropriately measured tones) being long overdue: Namely, that we could learn a thing or two about presentation and participation from the right-wing media.

Much of their success springs, like it or not, from the ability of these outlets to frame complex political issues in a fashion that is accessible to a wider audience than self-described 'wonks'; To describe the questions at hand as as having direct and immediate effects on the lives of the listeners, and just as importantly, to engage those listeners directly in the conversation. An empowering effect of this strategy has been that the consumers of this programming are a part of an active process, rather than merely an audience being enlightened by passively witnessing 'learned discourse'. It is this technique that has allowed the right-wing to co-opt the natural constituents of progressive politics.

Howard Dean alluded to this phenomenon in his admittedly ill-phrased observation that if we were to be successful, we need to appeal directly to the interests of working-class folks across the broad spectrum of society, and that we could no longer afford to limit the message, and it's nomenclature to appeal to those subgroups that have been the progressive base. This criticism, at it's core, expressed the idea that despite our professed fealty to the interests of inclusiveness and diversity, that the methods and outlets of communication have served neither: We have viewed plain talk as 'base' and 'anti-intellectual'; We have looked upon the notion of tailoring the message to appeal to listeners of commercial outlets as a 'sellout'--anathema. The result is that we have been having a genteel, and illuminating conversation in our own national 'salon'.

Where do 'salons' happen? Look in high-income neighborhoods for the line of $50,000 Volvos and follow the scent of Brie and Beaujolais. See any pickups, or smell any BBQ? Which of the following do you think would be compelling to a wider audience: a) a panel discussion of leading economists discussing the relative macroeconomic effects of Freidman's 'Supply-side' economic theory versus the Keynseyan notion of direct public investment as a stimulus tool, or b) a caller describing how she lost her home, savings and health insurance after being laid off, while her boss recieved a million-dollar bonus and a tax cut that he used to buy a Lear Jet?

How about c), The dairy farmer who lost his farm after the collapse of the dairy market, who can't buy milk for his kids now that the price has reached $4 per gallon, or b), a pair of authors describing the socio-political theory advanced in their new book, 'Feminist Vegetarianism and the Sexual Politics of Meat'(I kid you not--Care to guess the theory?) Don't answer all at once, please. Is it possible that our own choices have lent some credence to the criticism that progressives are an effete group of theoreticians out of touch with 'regular folks'?

I would suggest that rather than objecting to the 'shrill', and 'angry' tone of this new programming, we may consider that if we are to energize and empower those who have of late, not been part of the 'progressive' fold, that we recognize the need to turn up the volume just a little bit, get out of the 'salon' and into the saloon(Phrasing stolen from Pete McDowell--Sorry, Pete), and encourage those folks to join in expressing their own opinions about the tangible effects of these disastrous years. This is not a new idea: Shortly before his death, Dr. King expressed exactly the same recognition in his drive to expand the civil rights movement to a 'poor people's campaign' to reach out and involve those at the bottom of the economic ladder who shared a common bond of deprivation that would transcend racial and cultural barriers. Just listen to the range of callers expressing themselves in these new 'prog-talk' programs, and you may find that these folks are beginning to do just that.

As to the critique that this programming experiment will supplant the local programming that has been 'CHL's hallmark, ponder the value of providing a more widely listened outlet and forum that expresses prevailing local values on national issues that can have the most profound effect on the environment in which all local events unfold. Rather, I would suggest that the effect of this expanded scope of programming will have an additive effect, energizing discussions at Country Junction as well as Weaver Street Market. Jim has already offered some ideas about how the local aspects can be expanded, and in the spirit of 'Put Up Or Shut Up', I will join Ruby in volunteering to participate in this effort.

So, again, Kudos to 'CHL for exploring uncharted territory in local media!

Cheers,

Alex

WOW, this discussion is great, and I hope that everyone who's voiced an opinion on WCHL actually listens to the station---if we're serious about supporting a local voice on the airwaves, we have to help WCHL with their market ratings!

I really appreciate WCHL--it's an important community resource, a great place to hear about what local people are thinking, doing, and learning.

I can't wait till we get John Kerry into office and then we can continue the list!

I thought WCHL leaned conservative until they brought on Ed Schultz. Jim Groot's show used to drive me crazy, but mostly because he took forever to make an argument. The Special Hour has had some very interesting interviews, but I've rarely heard anything controversial or provocative. It definitely tends to have old white guys as hosts and guests.

But the LOCAL coverage, is just that. Progressive issues get a little bit more coverage because our elected leaders lean that way. But they cover such a range of stories that it's hard to interpret any serious bias. And the community commentator spots are truly all over the map (see http://OrangePolitics.org/archives/000225.html ). Personally, any time I've needed publicity for my organization, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advoate, the station has been happy to help and easy to work with.

I figure it's Jim Heavner's job as a business owner to figure out how to keep his station afloat and make some money. I'm glad that one of the major tools he uses is local coverage. It's my job as a listener to push the buttons on my radio. I usually listen to WCHL for 20-30 minutes a morning and it's great. But as a consumer I can flip around to whatever I want (Al Franken, Talk of the Nation, Jim Rome, Rush Limbaugh, music ... ) So let the man put on some biased stuff if it helps him keep the local programming afloat.

After all, I don't know what I would have done without WCHL during the last ice storm/hurricane/eathquake/whatever. Thanks Jim for being on the air when I was sitting in the dark with nothing to do but listen to the radio, and thanks Ron for seemingly being at the station 24 hours a day during every disaster!

I guess all those contemporary American history courses I've taken have paid off after all:

Clinton: Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky

Jim Bakker: Jessica Hahn (My big bro's friend found her issue of Playboy dumpster-diving outside the A&P when they still sold child-unfriendly mags, or were in business around here, period).

Gary Hart: Donna Rice

Gary Condit: Chandra Levy

Gary and Donna got popped by photographers while their dirty deeds were being done dirt cheap aboard the aptly titled "Monkey Business."

Thanks Mark, I enjoyed. Now I have to get in the shower and scrub off the poli- and PTL-sex geekishness.

-Nick

Fawn Hall was Oliver North's secretary, she shredded Iran Contra documents. Fannie Fox was the dancer friend of Wilbur Mills who bathed with him in the reflecting pool at the Tidal Basin.

Bob's right, Fawn Hall was Ollie North's secretary. Now print out this post and match the following women from the first list with their scandal related male counterparts from the second list:

Jessica Hahn

Paula Jones

Donna Rice

Chandra Levy

Monica Lewinsky

Gennifer(sp?) Flowers

Gary Condit

Jim Bakker

Gary Hart

Bill Clinton

Enjoy!

-Mark

PS Extra credit for coming up with the name of the yacht that Gary Hart was caught on!

One more thing. The type on this darn thing is too small for my old eyes. I can spell better than that. I need to proofread better.

Jim,

Don't worry about the proofing. Standards are inevitably lower on the web, I observe, and this typpe relly iz tiiny. . .

I have to disagree with some of your critics. Surely the airing of opinioned fare on WCHL isn't contrary to its unique mission. The problem would be a lack of balance across the program day. In fairness, such ideological balance is not typical in commercial talk radio anymore (I see this less as a conspiracy or a political agenda and more as a result of changes in audience, with Limbaugh drawing a much larger audience to news/talks since the late 1980s than they used to have, this audience disproportionately right-of-center, while many left-of-center listeners have gravitated towards NPR as it adds more strong news and talk programming during the day).

But obviously many people see WCHL as occupying a unique position, because of history and the nature of its local audience. Can't say I disagree. As you know, WCHL was my first taste of news/talk radio, which was probably true of many former UNCers.

Whit and Terry, et. al.,

Just to make sure you know, I hear you loud and clear. And, happily, unlike those poltiicians who have to worry about re-election and have a hard time saying, "I'm not sure," or "We may be wrong," I can say both of those things. I, too, worry about whether there will be enough balance. But, nothing is permanent, and we can see how it shakes out.

One more small things that may be helpful in analyzing what WCHL does: Overwhelmingly, our listenership is from 6 a.m. until around 8 p.m. That's where we focus most of our effort. So, I am less concerned about the effect of Garafalo.

And, about proseletyzing: Jim Groot, a local, solid conservative, did a live show from the the time we returned WCHL in November, 2002, until last month, at 10 p.m. He was willing to learn to operate the system and did it all on his own, until he finally tired of the hours. His apperance on the station was less a desire to have a conservative voice than our willingness to give that time period to someone who was willing to do a local show that we beleived was competently assembled.

And, we still may have Bernie Reeves, a conservative voice, and an almost local one. He lives in Raleigh, so he's a quasi-foreigner.

As it now appears to be shaping up, WCHL will have exactly the same number of local hours between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. as it has since we started. There is no abandonment of the three L's.

Then, if I understand it correctly, there will be only one less hour that is local after 9 p.m. than we have broadcast since the inception.

"In real estate, there are 3 L's... Location, location, location. For WCHL News, the 3 L's are LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL."

From the WCHL web site.

http://www.wchl1360.com/wchlnews.jsp

Mr. Heavnor,

Say what you might but the recent programming moves at WCHL have fundamentally changed the station's persona.

One could have considered Ed Schultz an aberation, or the exception that makes the rule. But the addition of Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, especially after such avid pursuit of Air America, belies a conscious strategic decision to remold the station as a mouthpiece for a political viewpoint. As I'm sure you understand from your business experience, three data points make a trend.

Rather than remaining content to simply report on our community in all its diversity, you are proselytizing.

This may be a shrewd business move, but it does come at a cost. Too bad you couldn't stay above the fray. There's something pure about that that is all too rare these days.

I'm getting old and forgetful. Was Fawn Hall the hooker in the

reflecting pond with the Arkansas senator? Help Mark, you

know all the political history.

yup

From Jim Heavner:

Christy Jones is in charge of orchestrating how all of this will shake out at WCHL. She is a terrific manager (she has been in our companay for 27 years) and will make all of this work, but I think that all of the pieces are not in place. (I am out of town right now, happy that this is in her very capable hands.) I can tell you a few things that I know and I can certainly answer questions about poicy.

--Franken will be live, from noon to 2. His show actually runs for three hours, but we want to keep our two o' clock hour local. I believe that we will continue to have D.G. Martin's show on Wednesdays in that period, Vilck Wentz does a fun show, and Eleanor Murray does a potpourri of things in a new show in that hour that is currently set for three days a week.

--It does not really "replace" Donaldson. We just lost Sam and will be sad to see it go. He was balanced, skeptical, intelligent, civil, all of the things that I would like for our community, and WCHL, to be. He goes away in early May. I believe that period will now be filled with local programming, with the Ron Stutts mid-day report from 11 to noon. I mentioned earlier that we may have a local talk program from Bernie Reeves at Metro Magazine, but that is not completely worked out. We haven't announced anything, but it's not a secret, either. I hope that works. He will provoke!

--I was happy to see participation from my friend John Hood, whose conservative John Locke foundation does some good. It is certainly conservative, but I find it--most of the time--to be deductive and reasonable. When I don't agree with it, I can see why reasonable people may disagree.

--To answer John's question abouit whether Schultz is "fun," if I had my "druthers," I would do away with all programs of such narrow viewpoints that the "other" side is never credited with anything good. But, I don't have that choice and I am not sure that my own tastes should be the arbiter of what we air. The public, including many thoughtful and political people, find them to be of value nad listen to them. And, we simply pick from the best that is available.

The truth is that many people find it entertaining. Rush Limbaugh has been clear that he did not start out as a conservative politician. He was a radio talk show host and found a "schtick" that resonated, big time, with a large audience and he just built on a good thing. He became a political star along the way. Those are his words, not mine.

And, John, my view is that a dozen libeals would find about the same amount of "unique and entertaining" content in Limbaugh's show a dozen conservatives like you find im Ed Schultz, which is heard on WCHL from 3 to 5 each day. Limbaugh is on a noon on WPTF, so it might be fun for some of you to sample each on a given day and see what you think. I find their styles to be similar. Reaction depends on the view of the beholder.

--Maybe one of the things that will come out of this dialogue is that we can find more talented people in the community with the time, talent, and willingness to help us host a show that will present the kind of balance that I would like on local issues. It would need to be at least once a week.

Trust me. I would love to have more programs that help people in our community understand each other, that would be courageous but not shrill, and that would englighten. We need to know each other better.

Because they deal with important and delicate matters, these shows require a high level of skill to produce and moderate. If WCHL can continue to grow, maybe we can afford to produce them professionally in the future.

It is much easier to report the news to a high standard, as I think WCHL does, than to analyze it.

--WCHL does make a major commitment to big projects like our annual Chapel Hill-Carrboro Forum. The first one was last spring and I believe this year's Form is scheduled for May 25. It is a 12-hour forum, with one hour devoted to 12 different topics, and 50 or 60 speakers. It requires a huge amount of work to produce it ao a WCHL standard. (I wish it were earlier because many are already gone for the season at that time, but for reasons I don't know, that was the earliest they could get it done this year.)

--Somewhere along the way, I think I read here that someone said that WCHL's news coverage has a liberal bias. I will always challenge that assertion until shown some evidence of it.

My sense is that, at this point in our history, local political bodies are dominated by incumbents from what I would probably call a "liberal" sector, but which calls itself "progressive." The incumbents are there making news every week and, until those with other views make the news, you will hear the points of view of those in office.

Bob Holliday was one of WCHL's great news directors who stayed here for many years. I remember my good friend Jimmy Wallace complaining bitterly to me that Bob would not adequately "cover" the need for a southern bypass around Chapel Hill (from north of Fearrington to I-40). Bob was quick with an effective defense that he had reported Jimmy's view, but that there was nothing else to cover and that Jimmy's idea just died for lack of a second.

Generally, I think that most people who criticize our news coverage as too "liberal" could remedy that by creating more "conservative" newsmakers.

--If I were to critique our news department's efforts, it would probably start with a veiw that our own reporters are not sufficiently skeptical of all utterances of public figures. Using that oild jounalistic maxim as a standard, we do a fair job of "comforting the afflicted," but not enough to "afflict the comfortable."

Generally, that has been my view over the last 40 years of watching our news departments work. It requires harder work to be skeptical, it takes more homework, and our local news departments are always overworked.

My observation is that they are so busy getting the day's news out, they don't have time to be biased. Same is true for Christy and the rest of the administrative crew.

I am surprised that Ollie North, Ken Star and Fawn Hall would be upset by Jim Heavner's decision. He's a businessman making a business decision about what he thinks the local listening market wants to hear. Seems like the free market at work? Not surprisingly John Hood can appreciate that . . .

I think I have made this point before on OP.org, but we are indeed lucky to have a local for-profit radio station in a community as small as this one. That's not to take anything away from the excellent spectrum of non-profit radio that we have in the Triangle (WUNC, WXYC, WNCU, WKNC, WXDU, WCPE and the Shaw University station - WSHA? okay so I hardly ever listen to Shaw's station, sorry). And soon (we hope) WCOM out of Carrboro! And I probably even forgot a station, too.

But none of those stations give any significant news coverage of non-musical events in Orange County. WCHL does, and I think our community benefits a lot from it. Their coverage of the last local election day was truly outstanding. WCHL also reports weekly (at least!) on the activities of our local governments. For sure, WCHL is the only broadcast media outlet that ever covers the Carrboro Board of Alderman on any matter other than Foreign Policy.

John, I think Donaldson's replacement is Air America.

Ruby:

Got it. I thought WCHL was taking Franken live, but it appears that two hours of it will be tape-delayed the following day 10a-12p (right, Jim?) Thus, the midday report with Stutts is still on -- local programming preserved.

Well put, Jim. And much nicer than what I was going to say.

Mr. Heavner,

I can appreciate your position about pseudonyms. However, I must point out that you have already addressed some questions (or accusations as the case may be) from those who hide behind pseudonyms. As long as the questions are reasonable, why stop now?

Ms. Sinreich,

It's your ball, your bat, your ballpark, and your game. If you don't like pseudonyms, why don't you change the rules of the game? Otherwise, calm down and lets discuss "The Real Liberal Media". Can you hang?

Jim:

So if Sam Donaldson's show is going off the air, are you at a point where you can announce your replacement programming? Might this turn out to be locally produced, thus addressing some of the concerns expressed here about too much nationally oriented, and polemical, material?

Bravo for jumping in and defending yourself here, by the way. I must say that the Ed Schultz program, which I have heard a couple of times, didn't feel "fun." And I don't think it was because of my politicial leanings -- it just seemed shrill. Frankly, most nationally syndicated hosts from the Right also turn me off, too. The material is repetitive, the jokes strained, and the tone off-putting. Make fun of me if you like, but the exception for me is Limbaugh. He's unique and entertaining, actually a much softer touch than the various clones.

(Insert obvious pharmaceutical joke here.)

The questions from "Ken Star" are reasonable ones. It's good to see Oliver North.

But, if I try to respond to those who hide behind pseudonyms, I open the door to unconstructive dialogues with those who choose not to be accountable for their own thoughts. It is a poor use of time.

So, with no due respect, to you, sir or madam, I will confine my discussions with those who are identified.

It was good to see Joe Capowski, Ruby Senrich and Rickie White all offering their views, all of which I respect.

Ms. Sinreich,

No one said that. But then, we are not talking about "all media". We are talking about WCHL, Air America, Mr. Heavner's political philosophy, and "The Real Liberal Media". I appreciate your interest and attempt (nonetheless) to spin around the context of my questions around anyway.

Excuse me Mr. Starr (cute), but who said that all media must be "in the center of the political spectrum?" In fact, most of it is not. Do I even have to mention Fox "News?"

Most people (or media outlets) that tell me that they have no opinion on something make me wonder if they're lying or just don't know the truth. I much prefer honesty in reporting.

First, thanks so much to Jim (and Ron) for participating here and giving us your thoughtful perspectives! It's great to converse straight with the horse's mouth.

Second, I will mention that (along with Ethan) I hosted and produced a weekly call-in talk show on WXYC for a few years. I can't make any committments right now, but I would definitely like to lend some of my time and experience to such an effort.

Mr. Heavner,

Since you are here and with all due respect.

Could you please elaborate on your previous comments about polarization in politics?

Also, would you please so kindly explain how adding programming from Air America (an organization whose leadership has publicly stated that one of their sole purposes for existing is to have President George Bush removed from office and who is also alligned with moveon.org), is in keeping with your personal philosophy of polarization in politics (regardless if you agree with them on removing President Bush or not)?

We are all aware of what exists in the Raleigh and Durham metro areas, but in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Orange County local metro, would you agree or disagree that this change in programming presents Orange County residents with a local news and information source that is no longer in the center of the political spectrum?

What position on the dial do Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County residents tune into to receive local news that isn't biased or at least is close to the middle? (Hint: They can't tune into a Raleigh or Durham station for local news.)

I love the idea. All we need is someone to put it together and host it.

A couple of thoughts. A monthly show is fine, but it's hard to make much happen on such an infrequent show. Most radio listening is a function of habit, so most shows are either daily or appear on weekends. (Most of us have one set of weekday habits and a different set for weekends.)

Abouit hosting a radio show, it is easy if you know now to do it, but there is a skill to it that is not quite the same as moderating a debate on a stage.

But, don't let these thoughts deter your enthusiasm for putting it together. It just needs a strong host.

D. G. Martin, a strong liberal voice, would be good, but we already have him "overvolunteered." If have not heard him on One on One on Wednesdays at 2, you will like that. And he is now an almost regular anchor on our 5 p.m. hour. Really good stuff, I think.

Jim, you have just demonstrated why this website is such a great resource for the community. WHen I started this thread, I had no idea that in two weeks' time we'd have such a great amount of information and background on the subject be posted. And thanks for having the courage to post to this site and challenge the "faceless" posters that feel they can't use their names on this site for one reason or another.

And thanks for WCHL. I (and lots of people I know) hope to become a more consistent listener soon.

Perhaps we should have more synergy between the website and WCHL in the future. How about an orangepolitics monthly show. :)

Christy Jones pointed out this website to me this morning. It's neat. I wish it were a WCHL product! That's because WCHL needs all the local involvement it can get and I wish we had it.

I am truly happy to see WCHL getting all this attention, because that, for any radio station, is what it needs to stay in business. So, keep those emails coming in.

When you do have sufficient interest, as I hope you do, to question the station's policies, you can find out directly whether we "bailed" or did anything else that interests you, you can contact me at jaheavner@vilcom.com or Christy Taylor Jones, GM, always closer to the action, at cjones@wchl1360.com or Ron Stutts at rstutts@wchl1360.com.

What follows is likely to be more than you want to know, so feel free to stop here. These are not earth shaking announcements.

But, here's how to know WCHL's philosophy and how to influence what it does. You may be surprised that, because we have 24 hours a day to program, you can influence a lot of it pretty quickly through your own energy.

My goals are simple.

1) I want our community to have its own radio station. If we are good at it, it can have great and measurable benefit to a community's sense of itself and a quick and easy place to get the word around about things that people will like to know. Then, when it really matters, there will be a station to communicate in emergencies, especially those that affect electricity. Someone on our staff is on call 24 hours a day to ensure that we meet that most important need.

2) To achieve that, we must do all of the things that are explained well, I think, on WCHL's website, wchl1360.com. On the left menu bar, click on "The Station," and you should understand what we try to do. Although we need food and shelter to survive, that's not what we live for, so we try to program a station with a varied diet of news, important talk, conversations, jokes, fun, sports, everything that's important to our the people in our community.

3) None of us gets to stay here forever. My long term goal is to build a station that will surive my involvement. So, for sure, we are trying to find a way to balance the need for the best programming we can get on the air and the need to make the station economically viable. So far, it is working well, even as it is a work in progress. (I could likely make about as much money delivering the Herald before breakfast, and with a lot less risk! But, this is a lot more fun, I think.)

We are trying something in programming that, to the limits of my own knowledge, is unique. Chapel HIll and Carrboro are populated by extraordinarily intelligent, knowledgeable, successful citizens with a record of great accomplishments in their field. Because we are in a college town, many of them have teaching backgrounds and are good in public.

Neither WCHL nor any other community radio station could afford to hilre such professionals. So, we have set up a program of "community contributors" who have added immeasurably to the quality of our programming, partiicularly in The Special Hour, which airs at 9:10 a.m. and 8:10 p.m. M-F and 1:00-6:00 p.m. on Sundays. Those who are hosts reflect good, if not perfect, diversity. You can see the current hosts on the website under "The Special Hour."

That's a wonderful group, I think. But, it's too white and, with a few lovely exceptions, probably too old. We welcome your help in getting others.

That's a tricky show to program, becuase we are not "The People's Channel," where anyone who shows up can perform. The hosts must exhibit a combination of interviewing skill, catholic curiosity and commitment to do regular shows to be a part of that and recruiting more diversity is always a goal.

We also want WCHL to be a "one-stop" information source that keeps you in touch with local, national and world news and other information. So, the networks and syndication play an important role in that.

But, I will tell you that, when we were brining WCHL back to Chapel Hill with a totally blank slate (Curtis returned none of the programming that it got with the station when we sold it in the mid-90's.) I personally checked out over a hundred syndicated shows and I think I listened to most of them. There are a lot of angry folks out there doing talk shows, most of it right wing and very poor quality. Not Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

I am a big fan of Sam Donaldson's show, an oasis of intelligence and the kind of deductive didactic from which we can actuallly learn. I think he's perfect for Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

Alas, it is going away. For reasons unknown to us, ABC is taking the show off. (We will probably be accused of replacing "fair Sam" with "biased Al".)

Mostly, we want to get as much opinion on the air as possible, presented in a way that reflects the community in whch we live, which we hope will always value discussion that enlightens as it provokes.

About our politics. I want WCHL to be enlightening, fair, courageous, and open equallly to every view. Wherever the programming is under our control, I want it to be intelligent.

There may be an opportunity to provide some balance. Bernie Reeves, editor of Metro Magazine, seems interested in donig a program that may be one hour a day. Bernie is outspoken, opinionatged, usually intelligently, and will gore anyone's ox, including mine, and will bring what I think is a moderately conservative view that may encompass issues in state government and the university, where I think we can improve. Bernie might do it, in part, for the exposure for his magazine. (A lot of good media today is generated by such arrangements, good for all concerned.) Importantly, I think Bernie would enlighten, becuase he is deductive in his opinions.

One more thing about our news policy. I have no problem with your using WCHL's Commentators program to criticize me or, for that matter, WCHL. In our small word, I am a public figure and if I can't handle that, I shouldn't be in it. The point is that I want WCHL to be your station in the same way the schools are your schools and the local governments are your governments.

I welcome your e-mail, too. But, wherever you post or address your opinion, have the same courage and civility as the rest of us to sign it with your real name. It is easy to discount the views, as I do, of those faceless wonders who toss "incomings" at the rest of us and hide.

About budgets, it is, indeed, much more expensive to produce local programming, even that with community contributors as hosts, than syndicated or network programming. So, cost is a factor.

But, more than that, I think that it is not possible to produce round-the-clock local programming that would be of the quality of what we can get from syndicated programming. So, it's a balance.

To clean up a few more questions that are likely out there. When WCHL put Ed Schultz on the air, Air America had not been announced. We liked what Schultz offered, he is very successful and I think it fits well on WCHL, even though he is sometimes a little bombastic for my taste. He IS fun.

Then, Air America came along. Now that they discovered that you cannot take over a radio station's entire schedule for "networking" and has moved to a syndication model, we would be foolish not to take Franken and Garafalo.

(I am worried about whether the Air America business people have the organization to be viable. They seem to be learning quick, but they most master a steep learning curve.)

Having said all of that, I don't know whether that many hours a day of such liberal talk is too much of a good thing. It is easy to make the case that this is too much of one idealogy. But, if you balance it again what comes out of Raleigh radio and all the stuff on cable TV, I have no problem defending it to anyone who says that he or she doesn't like it. There are plenty of places to get other views.

But, for the long term, WCHL needs to attract enough people to listen enough of the time to make our advertisers happy. That's the way the bills get paid. We think we are good at it, but it is, and always will be, an experiment in progress.

Times change, things change, and WCHL changes to respond. Thank heavens, this is not brain surgery, and we are not loathe to experiment.

The most imortant thing you can do it get your own view on the air. And, if you have a yen to do so, and think you have the relevant talent and experience, we have a lot of air to fill. Become a community contributor. Or nominate or persuade others. Or apply for a job. The more local we are, the better we are. The more diverse we are, the more people we are likely to touch, and the more likely we are to keep WCHL in our community, under community ownership, for a long time.

Joe C

- Most radio stations don't use CD's anymore.

- WCHL is computerized.

- Installing syndicated programming is more often than not, less expensive than paying a board operator.

- Radio in general, not just AM, is a money loser. Market media saturation, government regulation (and in some cases de-regulation) are all contributing factors to the cost of doing business. Thats why we have the large mega-corps like Clear Channel, Bonneville, Jaycor, Curtis Media Group, Capitol Broadcasting, etc.

From a financial perspective, no one can blame Heavner for doing what he has done. Because of the larger stations in Durham and Raleigh, the Chapel Hill radio market has never been as great from a financial standpoint. Perhaps programming his station so that it will appeal to a minority audience all across the triangle (not just in Chapel Hill) will equal increased revenues. However, popular success does not always translate into financial success.

Regardless, from a idealogical standpoint, Heavner has made a hypocrit of himself by airing programming that ultimately promotes ideas that attempt to polarize the community. The programming is largely op-ed and not news or information. The polarization, is something Heavner has publicly spoken against on numerous occaisions.

I don't understand you guys jumping all over WCHL for trying

the Francken show. Let it be on the air for a month or two

before you praise or chastise. It may suceed or fail, nationally

or locally, but let's give it a shot. As far as Jim Heavner

putting his profit motive ahead of community values, that

is ridiculous. Local AM radio is a money loser, unless

the station becomes a part of a chain, with a disk-jockey-free,

CDs-played-by-machine, with as few human beings as possible

involved in running the station. Jim brought the station back

to us locals, bucking the national trend, and we ought to thank him

for it. As far as the content they propose, WCHL is a local station,

which means that all of us can put our opinions on its airwaves.

Indeed Ron, Eleanor et al are constantly looking for people to do commentaries. Try that with a Clear Channel Communications station.

"Here’s the deal. My job is rhetorical jiu-jitsu: I take the words of right-wing jerks, and I use those words to heap scorn and ridicule upon them. It’s what I do .... These guys say so many stupid and dishonest things every day that no one man possibly can sift through all of them. I need you to be my eyes and ears, so that no right-wing ideologue can ever again safely traffic in distortion and calumny. " - Al Franken, Air America

Is this an accurate statement of Chapel Hill / Carrboro's "Community Values"? It doesn't sound too friendly and it seems to be an anger driven statement. Why would anyone consider that extreme?

Ruby, I mean no disrespect, but if you keep spinning you are bound to get dizzy.

Ruby,

I'm still going to miss Ron's Mid-Day Report at Noon. He's been a great lunch companion.

"Sorry to see you go," you're right. I was oversimplifying. Of course their motivation must be to make money first, but compared to many businesses I think they take a broad view of what is good for them and good for the community. I still disagree with what they say and do sometimes, but I just wanted to point out that Jim Heavner has mad a real effort to return the station to it's local community orientation, even when it's not the most profitable thing he could do with those airwaves.

I don't see anything wrong with Franken's statement. It sounds like he intends to expose the lies of our so-called leaders by using the truth, and this is exactly what we need more of from the media. "...so that no right-wing ideologue can ever again safely traffic in distortion and calumny."

I'm not here to defend Air America, but I appreciate what they're doing. I manged to listen to a few minutes of one of their programs (not one of the ones WCHL is getting) and I found it just as mind-numbing as any right-winger's rants.

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