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?



How does exchanging a couple of syndicated programs for other syndicated programs ( ) mean "losing local" coverage?

It might mean more perspectives that you don't agree with. Many progressives have learned to tolerate that, perhaps you'll learn something from the experience.

Much to my surprise, Jim Heavner (the owner of VilCom and WCHL) has shown repeatedly that he is more motivated by community values than by money. Air America isn't some cash cow, likely the opposite. If you think this is a move for his financial benefit you are either blinded by ideology or maybe just not too bright.


Heavnor has, like most business owners in the area, contributed a lot back to the community. I don't know why that surprises you.

But don't confuse that with not having a profit motive. Jim's about that, too, which is the way it should be. After all, that's how he can afford to be so generous personally and professionally, not to mention how his companies can offer so many jobs to the community.

My guess is they think Air America will get very good listenership in this progressive area, which will be good for their business. Time will tell if they're right.

If you think this is a purely altruistic move, I'm tempted to say you're a bit naive but won't because I'd like to stick to your guideline of criticizing ideas instead of people.


I'd be just as dissapointed with bringing Rush to WCHL and I didn't say anything about extreme views. But, Air America is being marketed as a political viewpoint. It doesn't matter left or right. It was just refreshing to have our dominant local station stay above that fray and let the listeners have a neutral ground on which to express their own opinions.

To 'I left Chapel Hill',

Heavnor isn't as hypocritcal as those who lament the dominance of chains over local business and then applaud supplanting local programming with syndication.

I agree with Losing Local.

I guess Jim H's grand experiment to bring back local radio is a bust. A noble effort, but maybe a bad business model, and Jim doesn't stick with a bad business for long.

I do wonder whether he's hitched himself to a more profitable star. The success of these programs is far from proven and, while this area probably has a higher audience potential for a liberal format than other markets, there are probably a surprising number of local residents who will be just as turned off as those of you above are excited.

Of course, with non-political programming, one doesn't have to worry about that.

As far as radio goes, WCHL already provides the best and the most coverage of LOCAL issues in Orange County. And they've been at it for years. I think this just adds new depth to their programming and it will certainly make me and Rickie and a lot of other people listen more.

Having opinionated talk shows does not equal "politicizing." I don't hear any of you lamenting the dozens of right-wing programs available on Triangle airwaves. You have plenty of alternatives to listening to WCHL. Why shouldn't we have an alternative to Rush & co.?

As Ethan said above, if you think openly liberal is an "extreme" viewpoint then you can just add this to the list of many ideas that must shock you daily such as school integration, free public transit, equal rights for gays and lesbians, respect for immigrants, intermarriage, hip hop music, pedestrian-oriented development, homeless shelters, community watch, fair pay for a day's work, and christianity.

I'm to the left of Air America and I vote! Oh wait...

Todd, Not quite gone in those cities .... I'm sure you'll be linking to this news about AA's return to the air in Chicago, and perhaps LA...

Operarive phrase: "expects to"

We shall see.

Compare WCHL's programming before and after Air America and then you will see the difference between slightly left and extremely left. From the SAM DONALDSON show to the O'FRANKEN FACTOR. I am a regular listener of WCHL, but as of today, not anymore. I can excercise my right to change to a different station or turn off the radio.

Heavner is a hypocrit.

I regret the politicizing of this station in any way.

For whatever reason, Mr. Heavnor has decided to make a statement with these programming choices.

One of the nice things about the return of WCHL to local ownership was its original rather neutral stance when it came to politics. People from the left or the right had equal access to the airwaves as commentators. While that will continue, the station itself stayed refreshingly out of the fray.

Now six of the station's hours are filled with what the programs self describe and the station promotes as liberal proselytizing.

Most importantly, the time slot taken by Franken is the one so many of us used during lunch, either at home or while getting some errands done during our lunch hour, to catch up on local news with Ron. I don't know if they are going to move Ron's noon day report to another slot, but it's not the same as at noon.

What truly made WCHL special was local programming. It's too bad they seem to have made a strategic decision to move away from that instead of continuing to develop more so we can have a truly local option all day in Chapel Hill.

That they also decided to fill their national time with overtly political talk is also regretable, regardless what the political point of view is.

These developments represent significant changes at WCHL. Significant changes don't happen without a reason. Are they losing money with their local approach? Do they need these national names to bring in revenues? (They must think they can sell these better than the alternative.) Or has the new general manager been putting her personal political stamp on the station? If that's the case, what will happen down the road when the next manager happens to be from the right?

I hoped for better from this station which built its reputation as a reflection of ALL that makes Chapel Hill-Carrboro such a special place; one that bills itself as a member of the very few of a dying breed - a local media outlet which has stayed true to its local roots.

Thank you Ron Stutts and WCHL for giving Francken a try.

I hope it works, and I hope they survive economically.

Air America is openly liberal, but that hardly qualifies it as "extreme." Can we get some insight on how this conclusion was reached? Would you say it's further to the left than the Washington Times is to the right? I wouldn't.

And if you're going to call it an al-Jazeera knockoff (in the spirit of the cold war, maybe call it a Pravda knockoff?) then you've just disqualified yourself from any meaningful communication.

I've listened a little bit over the web and it's not great.. The Majority Report co=host guy sometimes has difficulty making sense.. but the show wasn't bad for a bunch of people who are diving into a full-time talk radio gig like that. I produced Northern Hemisphere Live at WXYC for a couple of years (and we were far left, if not extreme left) and it takes a lot of work even to do one two-hour show a week. JG is pretty sharp and they've had some high-quality guests.

To bring it back home.. I'll see if I can dig up some more info on what's happening with WCOM.

Listening to Majority Report now and they just announced that they'll be on the air tomorrow in Chicago and soon in Chapel Hill. Maybe this will be a chance for some local folks to get on the air? They're already talking to a lot of blogger types..

And while we're on this subject, I'm surprised noone from the Public Gallery or Weaver Street has posted an update about WCOM. Anyone close to the low power FM station in Carrboro have an update to share with us? Barring that, anyone want to start some more rumors? :)

WCHL always leaned a little to the left of center and thats a fact. However, this complete departure to the extreme left seems to go against WCHL/VilCom founder Jim Heavner's publicly expressed opinion about his disdain for polarization in local, state, and national politics. Did Heavner stop shaving his armpits, burn his bra, and buy a pair of berkinstocks?

I didn't mean to imply that WCHL is currently a bad station. I think its a great community resourceI just don't think I and a lot of other folks in town fit the usual WCHL listener demographic, and was pointing out that you might want to try some new strategies to pull people like me in... younger, single, progressive not necessarily talk show listeners but only because there hasn't been a good talk show option before. The people who listen to "This American Life". Maybe something a little more grassroots might be good. An article in the Indy would help a lot.

My $0.02

I think they will be out of biz in less than a year. They are an Al Jazeera knock off.

Gone in Chicago and LA already, but saved in Chapel Hill!

Hot damn! Thanks for the official word, Ron. I need to go get a better AM receiver.

This is great news. So is there going to be a press release and such? Any idea how y'all are planning on marketing to bring in the audience. I have to admit I don't listen to WCHL and I know a lot of people I know don't either so I think these shows will draw in a number of people like me that haven't been as interested in WCHL before.

We're sending out all the usual press releases today to the local newspapers, etc. Already, one of the local TV stations is coming by later today to do a story on it. Not sure about other marketing plans at this point.

We're also promoting it quite a bit on the radio station itself. Already, we've gotten a lot of response, both positive and negative. Thanks for your interest. I'm sorry you haven't listened to WCHL before...we've been over here knocking ourselves out every day...especially since WCHL was returned to its original operator in November of 2002, and brought back to Chapel Hill where it belongs.

Call or email anytime....we always welcome your response!

It's official now. WCHL will begin airing a couple of shows from Air America on Monday, April 19th. We will air "The O'Franken Factor" with Al Franken from 12 noon to 2pm....and "The Majority Report" with Janeane Garofalo from 9 to 11pm.

WCHL's General Manager, Christy Jones has signed an agreement with Air America Radio, the progressive talk radio network that launched March 31st, for the rights to broadcast these two shows. We had hoped to air these two shows on the day of the network launch, but could not reach an agreement at that time. The network was requiring that we take its entire day of programming, and with our strong commitment to covering the local Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Orange County community, that was not feasible. Last week, however, Air America called again, and discussions resumed. WCHL is rearranging its programming to accomodate these new shows, and both parties are enthusiastic about the new relationship.

You might also be interested to know (if you don't already) that WCHL airs The Ed Schultz Show from 3 to 5pm. He's a veteran radio personality who broadcasts from Fargo, North Dakota...a former conservative turned progressive, who refers to his show as "straight talk from the Heartland."

So...please tune in Monday, and let us know what you think!

Whatever, y'all. What are the LOCAL implications?

Sorry to answer my own question, but this is good news...

"t looks as if the Triangle will be able to tune into Air America Radio, the new liberal talk radio network, after all.

WCHL 1360 AM is close to a deal with the New York-based network to pick up two of its high-profile shows, "The O'Franken Factor," with satirist Al Franken, and "The Majority Report," featuring comedian Janeane Garofalo, station manager Christy Dixon said Wednesday."

Man, that's nothing. I heard George W Bush's phone is getting disconnected this week! The World Weekly News has extensive coverage of it . . .

Ummm... here's the story from Air America radio's website. I think the Drudge report may have been blowing things a bit out of proportion.

The gun smokes! Regardless of who is wrong or right, there is nothing better than liberals fighting one another!

This was just reported on Drudge Report today ...

After just two weeks on the air, Air America Radio, the fledgling liberal talk-radio network featuring Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, appears to have encountered serious cash-flow problems.

The CHICAGO TRIBUNE is developing a story, insiders tell DRUDGE, on how the network was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network's second- and third-largest markets, because, the owner of both stations said, the network bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million! A charge the network strongly denies... Developing...

I just went out and signed up for XM satellite radio. It will be worth it to listen to Franken.

Thanks for the clarification Ron, I don't blame y'all a bit. Your local coverage is a much more precious resource for us than national information. Hopefully Air America will wise up and do a more typical syndication model in the future.

Ron, I was definitely oversimplifying by saying that y'all "bailed" on the programming . I do hope they change their model in the future so we can hear this programming locally. The webcast quality is atrocious at this point.

I've heard that in L.A. and Portland it goes back to local programming for parts of the day.

No offense taken. I'm glad to get a chance to explain our thinking on it. Actually, I have heard of exactly one station that's picking and choosing what they want to air (somebody on the west coast..I forget which station) but they told us it was all or nothing. So at this point it's nothing. We will be waiting to see what happens.

Actually, there are some stations around the country that may go for the whole package, but we're not in a position to do that..nor would we want to do that. I predict that they will change in the near future, because it doesn't seem as if they've been able to recruit many stations. This is a major reason why. And, Ruby, thanks for your kind words.

Hey, All,

I'm surprised that Ron did not mention in his post that WCHL is carrying the 'Ed Schultz Show'. Airing 2-5pm weekdays, the show is a progressive/populist talk radio program done in an accessible, plain-spoken style that is a refreshing change from the oh-so-rarified 'measured tones' that seem to pervade the otherwise informative NPR fare. Calling out the 'Lying Liars' (sorry, Al) is Ed's stock in trade, and he can duke it out with the 'dittoheads' as effectively as anyone.It's a dynamic, combative, thoroughly entertaining show, and a fine complement to Al Franken's efforts. I would suggest that these efforts signal a positive trend indicating that we are no longer ceding the popular airwaves to the right. Far from bailing, CHL is, to my knowledge, the first commercial station in the area with the guts to make this foray into 'Prog-Talk' radio! Check it out, and thanks to CHL!



I contacted Weaver St. Market in December and Ruffin Slater said "We're going to begin working on the radio station in February." but I haven't heard anything else about it. The WSM website seems to be down at the moment, but they do have a page dedicated to the future station:

An earlier post said that WCHL "bailed" on its efforts to add Air America. That's not exactly true. We very much wanted to air Al Franken's show and also the show hosted by Jeanine Garafolo. However, the network required us to air its entire lineup of programming, which I believe would have been from 6am to 10pm, or some other such absurd schedule. We are not about to do that, because it would mean that we would pretty much have to scrap everything we do for the local community, which is quite extensive, by the way, and turn our entire radio station over to them. Of course, we're not going to do that, and I don't imagine that there are many other stations willing to do that, either. If this continues to be mandatory, the network won't succeed. Certainly, if network officials decide to revisit this issue, we will think about it again, as well. We were disappointed, by the way, to get that ruling, but that's the way it goes.

Now, while I have the opportunity, I would like to invite all of you who are concerned about and involved with local community issues to contribute commentaries on WCHL. As long as your opinion does not exceed 90 seconds, as long as what you're talking about is local, and as long as you're taking a stand on one side or the other, I would love to talk with you. Just get in touch if you're interested.

Glad I got a chance to explain this. We didn't really "bail" on anything!

I'm so glad you mentioned this, Ricklie. I also saw Vicki's article in the N&O and was disppointed to not get Air America here. Especially since their online stuff stinks!

I like WCHL's commitment to local public affairs reporting, but my AM reception is really bad, and I find it hard to listen to the ads for an exetended period.

Also, I have to mention some progressive radio in the Triangle:

- WNCU 90.7 fm has "Free Speech Radio - Pacifica News Network" every weekday at 6pm

- WXYC 89.3 fm used to have "Northern Hemsiphere Live" a local call-in talk show about various issues, it seems to be dead or maybe hibernating, but now they have news from the local Indymedia group (and sometimes Radio Nation, I think) Sundays at 5 pm

- WXDU 88.7 fm has "Youth Voice Radio" Saturdays at 5pm

I wonder what is up the low-power community radio station that is supposed to be starting in Carrboro? Does anyone know about it? All I know is that it's supposed to have 40% Spanish-language programming, it will share an office with Community Realty, and the call letters are WCOM.

And while we're at it, what the hell ever happened to the low-power FM stations that were supposed to be up and running around here by now? Other communities have got it up and running (scroll down):

What's up Public Gallery of Carrboro, Inc.? Where's WCOM-LP 103.5?

I really like Free Speech Radio from the Pacifica News Network on WNCU. People all around the world of many races and genders create it. It is not US centric or slanted towards so called first world nations.

How can famous comedians that are Hollywood/NYC insiders make the edgy liberal news we need to get more truth?

It’s true that having someone go up against O'Reilly and Limbaugh makes me smile...but aren't they just perpetuating the limited two party political system? This could be entertainment exploiting the new anger against tha shrub.



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