Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stop the Lies!

A few weeks ago in the newsletter I was raked over the coals for mentioning that Mike Huckabee said, wrongly, that Barack Obama grew up in Kenya, and for a swipe at Sarah Palin, arguably undeserved. The following email came in around that time, but was buried in my spam filter. I have no desire to reopen the debate in the newsletter, but I think the email, and my response, deserve an outlet. And this is it.

The Letter

I read your explanation of the Huckabee dust-up in this week’s newsletter and I think that many of the readers of your publication feel that you do have a political position that you have eluded [sic] to many times in your past newsletters.

The comments about Palin were not the first time that many of us “dumb hick conservatives” have sensed a certain leaning towards the Left by you. Maybe you aren’t aware of it, but many of your past editorial comments have made sly references to the fact that you think guys like Rush or Hannity are bad for radio. I personally don’t care what part of the political spectrum you reside in, but for hundreds of small stations like mine who serve very rural and VERY conservative parts of the country, we are rather tired of being branded as unsophisticated or backwards for believing in some of the principals of conservative politics like a smaller government and not spending more money than you make.

We discussed this point once before when you wrote negatively of the state of today’s talk radio and I stated that if it weren’t for guys like Rush, we would have been off the air years ago. And with our demise would have disappeared local weather every hour, local news every hour, live coverage of the local sports teams and the only information outlet that is focused on just our small community.

I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Journalism from the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia - one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the country. I’m not some country bumpkin with a transmitter and a tower in the collard patch out back. If that is the kind of broadcaster you think of when you picture the guys who air Rush, Hannity, Boortz, Levin, Beck, etc. on their stations, then you are sorely mistaken.

There is a real fight for ideology in the U.S. right now not unlike the Civil War. The two Americas are very polarized. And because of this, we have to have public discourse that is sometimes not very pretty. But I would rather us shout at each other instead of shoot at each other.

Jeff Lovett
President /General Manager
WGRA Radio

My Reply


Your email got buried ... I just found it tonight ... and wanted to let you know I didn't deliberately not publish it.

You make some good points about perceptions vs. "reality" (whatever that is). I have never, would never, and don't think it's right to, think of anyone as a "dumb hick conservative." I've heard that reference before, and I think it's a label that some people think is being applied to them, more than people actually apply it. (At least I'd like to think so.)

Unfortunately, as you point out, we live in an era of extreme intolerance ... and it greatly annoys me when the Ed Schultzes and Bill Mahers and Keith Olbermans talk about conservatives like it's a dirty word, in tones dripping with disdain ... just as it annoys me when the Limbaughs, Hannitys and O'Reillys refer to liberals the same way.

By the way, who came up with those terms, "conservative" and "liberal"? They are inherently prejudicial to begin with.

Hey, I owned radio stations in small markets, so I know first-hand how people in those communities think and feel - how I think and feel. But there's a big difference between the world we live in and the world occupied by the aforementioned radio/TV people, plus the Boehners, Pelosis, etc.: We could never get away with telling lies to our neighbors. When we see each other every day - at Rotary or Kiwanis, the Chamber meeting, the Friday-night games - we would be called out, if not outright ostracized, for the kind of shameless, obvious whoppers that our national talkers and political leaders feed us every single day.

I have www.factcheck.org, www.politifact.com and www.snopes.com bookmarked on my computer and whenever a politician says something I wonder about, I check it out. (FactCheck, for one, is from the Annenberg Foundation, and nobody would ever accuse them of being liberal!)

Okay, so I don't take anything at face value. Does that make me a liberal? I hope not! Especially since everybody lies.

By the way, my stations did not carry Rush, not because of his politics but because (a) he cost a lot of money and (b) businesses shied away from advertising on his show because he was too controversial - including those who agreed with him. We did, however, carry nearly every other conservative host ... and I can't think of one liberal.

Sorry to take up so much of your time, probably beating a dead horse. Whether "conservative" or "liberal," if everybody would listen for the lies and half-truths instead of maintaining that "all conservatives are always right and all liberals are always wrong," or vice-versa, we could have meaningful, respectful discussions that could really move our country forward.

Best wishes,


Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

A few days ago I received a nice gift from my friends Stuart Sharpe and Shayna Sharpe at Regional Reps: a coffee mug.

Now before you conclude that devoting a blog post to somebody giving me a promotional mug is a waste of precious Internet resources, let me explain. (By the way, it is predicted that the Internet will be swallowed by the sun in a mere 2 million years. Consider yourself warned.)


First, the mug was sent via U.S. mail in a box with no packing material whatsoever, and yet it arrived unscathed. I have sent indestructible lead weights via U.S. mail, with bubble-wrap, peanuts and boxes within boxes, and they still managed to break in transit.

Second, the mug could not have been more timely: my old “I Heart Tony Hayward” mug inexplicably developed a leak about three and a half months ago.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ignorance of History

Surrounding the death of the founder of our newsletter, we have spent a couple of weeks drenched in nostalgia and apparent longing for the good old days, I would imagine that our younger readers are a bit confused. What good old days?

Even someone who entered our industry in the year of our founding, say at the age of 23, would be 50 today—hardly a younger reader.

Working the other way, a 30-year-old radio person with ten years under his or her belt signed up in the year 2000. By then, the seismic shifts caused by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 were pretty much behind us. That radio person’s world has always consisted of mega-groups, market managers and regional DOSs. The concept of “seven and seven” is as foreign to him or her as, well, Foreigner.

But really, why is it important that anyone remember “Inner Sanctum”? Or “Make Believe Ballroom”? Or any of the great radio personalities down through the ages—whether Arthur Godfrey, Jean Shepherd, George Michael, Dan Ingram or—and he’d hate me for including him in this list—Rick Dees? (A certain consultant wrote a great piece listing all the accessories any old jock can relate to, like Ampex 350s, carts and 77DXs. . .but he’s notoriously protective of his work, so it will never appear in these pages.)

What about Newton Minnow? Reid Hundt? Miles David? Eddie Fritts? (Or David Rehr, for that matter?) Gary Fries?—and he will hate me for including him.

One of my favorite quotes—and I’m a huge quotes guy—is from early-Twentieth Century Spanish philosopher George Santanyana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

So, whippersnappers of the radio world, why should we take seriously Santanyana and something he wrote 107 years ago? Why is any of this important?

In truth, most of it isn’t. Most radio ramblings can be chalked up to the fact that each of us has a time of life that is most comfortable to recall. (Ask any Oldies programmer.) Each of these eras is the best for those who cherish them, but one isn’t inherently, historically better than another.

I think there are two aspects of history—radio’s, America’s, the world’s—that we disregard at our peril.

First are the lessons that, if well learned, will keep us from making the same mistakes again. As one who has weathered more than one downturn in his career, I feel for the first-timers who assumed the boom would last forever. Learning a little history might have helped them to cope better.

Second are the people who have displayed inventiveness, integrity, intelligence and leadership in their lives and careers. If more of us studied those people and followed their lead, our business would be a better place.

Fourth Estate Fire Sale

Back around the time our newsletter began, I consulted a station whose owner would gleefully frame and hang on his office walls the last editions of failed newspapers. He had maybe four or five of them.

We all thought it was great fun to find weakness in a strong industry, in a formidable competitor.

If that owner were around today, his walls would be, well, wall to wall with framed failures. And it is no longer great fun.

I for one feel that our society would suffer a great loss were printed media to become extinct. I get a lot of information online, but that medium doesn’t offer the quality or depth of a New York Times or a Wall Street Journal. Yet.

Actually, I’m more of a weekly kind of guy. I keep up to date by listening to the radio and checking my Google Reader, but for perspective, I turn to Time. But in the wake of the Newsweek situation—they are for sale, but who’s going to buy?—I fear for the future of the genre. Those Times are getting pretty thin, after all, reflective of a precipitous drop in circulation.

As much as I lament the inevitable, I have no printable words for the recent FTC idea-floating exercise designed to rob the strong and subsidize the weak—or should I say, rob the just getting by and further subsidize, since periodicals have long enjoyed a more-than-generous postal rate. (All I can say is, this idea is comparable to something else that floats.)

It’s one thing for our federal friends to exercise their power over electronic media to achieve their selfish and/or ill-intentioned ends—the cigarette ad ban and campaign finance reform come to mind—but now they want to add insult to injury by taking our money and giving it to a competing medium?

Why not? Since the beginning of time—well, 1926—we’ve been the low-hanging piƱata for our governmental masters. I can only hope that this floater is so manifestly wacko that for once it’ll be flushed without further ado.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


BOB DOLL It’s not often that we have a feeling of closure when a close friend dies, but I must confess to that feeling among the many that rushed in when I learned of Bob Doll’s passing. It turns out that just last week I had the opportunity to thank Bob for the many ways he enriched my life, all of which sprang from his giving me the opportunity to publish this newsletter.

Read what I said

Our inbox is brimming with notes about Bob, offering sympathy and remembrances. Many people tell basically the same story of their first encounter with Bob: when asked where they’re from, and mentioning the name of some tiny town that barely rates a dot on the map, Bob responds with a complete rundown of the stations in and near that town, replete with ownership history—and, more often than not, at least one colorful personal anecdote.

Bob and I were close, but we only spoke maybe a couple of times a month. As I reflect on our loss, the lyrics of a James Taylor song come to mind:

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

I’m not qualified to comment on Bob’s current whereabouts or whether he’s aware of the outpouring that his passing has prompted. But I can conjecture that if he were in fact a witness to the proceedings, he would wonder aloud, probably with a mild profanity, just what the fuss is all about.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Polar Extremes

As a parallel entrepreneur—which term I may as well claim to have invented (patent pending)—I’ve always pursued things that interested me. As a second-generation broadcaster, radio, of course, is—well, I was going to say my #1 interest, but in the unlikely event my first and only wife stumbles across this essay, I’d better say #2. After that love, manifested in our newsletter, my two biggest passions represent where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

In the Where We’ve Been Department, there is my card-and-gift business (www.getcardsfree.com), which uses the quaint delivery system known as the U.S. Postal Service. How innovative is that?

As antediluvian as it seems, sending a heartfelt thank-you or greeting card is today unique and memorable, simply because so few people do it. (Just ask the red-ink-drenched U.S. Postal Service how few.) Virtually every sales consultant talks about sending cards and notes to commemorate sales calls and contract anniversaries, not to mention more prosaic events like birthdays and holidays, to set yourself apart. I salute those who take the time to put ink to paper and keep a storehouse of stamps. For the rest of us, there’s an online-based system that automates the process from composition to fulfillment, for about a quarter of the cost.

My other love—the Where We’re Going part—is my web-development business (www.radioinsites.com), in which we spend whatever time we’re not actually building sites to stay current with emerging technologies, so we’ll be ready to roll them out when our small and medium markets actually adopt them. It requires a combination of art and science to know just when to introduce a feature. (I wish there were an app for that.)

Here’s a useful takeaway for you: Right now everybody is talking about texting, Twittering and Facebooking, but nobody is talking about mobile web sites. As important as social-networking may be—and don’t believe the huge numbers in some recently-published research, by the way—it presumes an underlying ability to drive people to your website on the same platform they’re using for the other stuff. You’ve just reached them on their cell phones, and now you expect them to stop what they’re doing and find a computer for the payoff? I don’t think so. We need to stop playing radio’s favorite game, Buy the Hype, and instead play a game we can win—Listen to My Market.

All this Internet stuff is enough to make my head explode. I think I’ll take a break and send a card or two. Even though I’ll do it online, the basic process hasn’t changed in 200 years. . .and I don’t need any research to tell me how many people in my market have mailing addresses.

RAB Resurgent

With the RAB’s announcement about its expanded, enhanced online presence, there is evidence that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of their services department have been greatly exaggerated.

There is so much emphasis on all things digital today that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that 90-95% of our revenues still come from good old radio sales. And radio salespeople still need the basic tools to present our medium and our stations in the best light.

While the days of 800-232-2121 may be numbered (my estimation, not the RAB’s position), the days of RAB.com lie ahead.