Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sorry State of Local Talk Radio

I've been listening to local talk radio since the advent of "The Morning Exchange" on WCHS 580 in the early 1990's. It has undergone many changes over the years and I have found something that I liked about each new expression of the medium, at least until now.

Other than a couple of different sports talk shows that are scattered through the weekly schedule, 580's talk show offerings are:

1. The infomercial-like "Ask The Expert" show where local egomaniacs and narcissists pay money to be on the air for an hour a day to promote their particular interest; or

2. "58 Live" in the afternoon where neo-con Mike Agnello and flaming moderate Rick Johnson host 3 hours of milquetoast banter every day. Agnello is always bringing on conservative guests who spew right-wing propaganda about the hot topic of the day, but the listeners and callers seem to only want to talk about the most innocuous of topics. The result is 3 hours of nothing every day. It is the single most dreadful show I have ever heard. While on the way home from work most days I will switch to one of our two sports stations to listen to commentary on the latest misadventures of Pac Man Jones or Michael Vick, ad-nauseum.

The other talk station, 950 on your dial, has Andy Albertini's "Andy & Company" that I posted about last week. The good thing about this early morning show is you only need to listen to it for about five minutes per hour to hear everything they have to say. You could pick up a copy of "Conservatism for Dummies" and pretty much figure out what Andy's going to say about everything. Andy's co-host and one-man "Amen Corner" does little to create interesting counter-point. The incessant drumbeat of "our government is oppressing us and our leaders are selling us out" gets very old, very quickly.

Even Jerry Waters, the nattering nabob of negativism that he was, was at least entertaining because his rhetoric raised the hackles of enough people on both sides of an issue to induce them to call the show. His downfall, in my opinion, was having school board member Pete Thaw on the air virtually every day. Pete's laugh (which, incidentally, sounds just like The Penguin from the Batman TV series) was grating and his commentary was beyond dull.

I can't believe it, but I am actually nostalgiac for the days of Danny Jones' show on 950 every morning as it was in the late 1990's. He was so much better as a talk show host than he is a mayor.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

And how about the "Statewide Sportsline"?
Since when did statewide mean Morgantown?
No matter what the subject is, Goober from Logan always calls in and steers the topic to "Whattaya think Coach Rod is going to do this week."

Anonymous said...

I could have written this! You're dead-on: Rick Johnson wont allow any caller to get really passionate on his show. It's a "flat-line" show. There's no ups and downs.. no highs and lows. It's just the same old preachy crap. This is not to offend advertisers of course. Andys show is a repeat: He could play the same show 5 days a week and no one would notice. Waters? Well.. at least he had highs and lows. Just when you though it was safe to turn on the radio, he'd something so off the wall that you'd almost wreck your car if driving. Danny was good in the beginning. Towards the end however, he seemed to really pull in his horns, as though he were about to run for something...

Anonymous said...

What gets me about 58 Live is the fact that major advertisers get instant access to the show. Show me something that Agnello believes in that doesn't relate directly to a major advertiser and I'll give way more credence to that show.

Anonymous said...

Why did the Kanawha County School board approve the superintendent being allowed to spend sources say 2 million for cosmetic work to select schools in the valley(some of them are new buildings) to impress visiting administrators on 10/09 from around the country when they say there is no money for text books? Some schools have to have bake sells in order to buy books. This is disgraceful Pete Thaw!!!!The public does not seem to know about this special event!

Anonymous said...

Which schools are you talking about? I have seen people working over the weekends and after hours at some.

Anonymous said...

Which schools are you talking about? I have seen people working over the weekends and after hours at some.

Anonymous said...

The so called select schools are: Webber Wood Elementary, Alban Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Middle School, Capital High School, George Washington High School, St. Albans High School, South Charleston High School, Ben Franklin Technical and Career Center...those are some I have seen and some been told about

Joseph said...

Business Lexington COLUMNS
HIGGINBOTHAM AT LARGE
HOLD THE TALK SHOW HOST AND CALL A LOGIC PROFESSOR
------------------------------------------------------------------------
copyright 2008 by
Joseph Higginbotham

When I recently accepted Jack Pattie's invitation to appear on his "9
to 10 Show" and discuss one of my recent Business Lexington columns,
one of Lexington's most influential citizens asked me if I don't worry
that talk radio will rot my brain and make me write bad columns, and
he asked me why serious people legitimize and dignify talk radio by
appearing as guests. Well, as you can see, I have a lot of explaining
to do, so I choose to do it here in my column where the talk radio
discussion began, because I do worry that talk radio may be "dumbing
down" our discussion of complex issues and diminishing our ability to
detect logical fallacies or distinguish ad populum nonsense from
cogent, critical thought.
The problem is that many talk radio shows are built around and
dependent upon a logical fallacy called "the false dichotomy." The
false dichotomy fallacy occurs when an issue with more than two
"sides" is framed as if there are only two ways to look at it. There
aren't, as the saying goes, "two sides to every issue." Some issues
have 3 sides or 17 sides, but on talk radio you will hear two — and
only two — points of view. This is because many talk show hosts have
reduced themselves to little more than fight promoters and the format
to a formulaic codification of the false dichotomy fallacy where the
goal is to present two sides of an argument and get people to argue
about those two sides.
And no matter how many times the talk show host uses the word
"debate," talk radio is not a debate. If talk radio were a real
debate, there would be rules and impartial judges who would penalize
combatants who play to the gallery and make the kind of illogical
arguments that talk show hosts let people get away with on the radio.
For example, during any talk show discussion of the U.S. invasion and
occupation of Iraq, somebody will say "we have to fight 'em there
unless we want to fight 'em here." This common expression commits at
least four logical fallacies: the false dichotomy, false cause,
suppression of evidence and equivocation, but I've yet to hear any
talk show host expose this argument for its logical fallacies. The
above argument is often accompanied by an argument that Al Qaeda's
failure to commit another major attack on U.S. soil is proof that
fighting "them" there is keeping "them" from fighting us here. This is
an example of the cum hoc, ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore
because of this) fallacy. If talk radio were a real debate, any talker
who made this argument would lose the debate every time. Each time I
hear a talk show host let a caller or guest get away with making a
fallacious, illogical argument, I wonder if the host — who presumably
took a college logic class — can't detect a logical fallacy when he
hears one or if he let the speaker get away with it because he agrees
with the speaker's conclusion. Either way, I worry that when a talk
show host lets illogical arguments go by without exposing them, the
talk show host is missing a chance to elevate the discussion and
teaching people to be lazy thinkers.

I believe in free speech and I even believe in a person's right to
make dumb arguments if he wants to, but as a public service to
listeners, I want talk show hosts to start pointing it out when
callers or guests make the kind of bonehead arguments that would get
them kicked off the high school debate team or earn them an "F" on a
high school speech.
Thanks to Jack Pattie — who treated me with kindness and respect, by
the way — I have a colorful name for the kind of talk show format that
actually depends for its very existence upon the false dichotomy
fallacy. Jack calls it "Hold the cat and call the dog." Incidentally,
Jack is living proof that you can have a big radio audience and pretty
good radio career without being a fight promoter who holds the cat and
calls the dog.
I was once "the cat" on one of those "let's you and him fight" shows
after I wrote an article about the church growth movement and
megachurches. Unbeknownst to me, the talk show host had cast a local
pastor in the role of "the dog" and was absolutely panic-stricken when
instead of mauling me, he agreed with me and the two of us tried to
have, heaven forefend, a civil discussion about the ideas I expressed
in my article.
Reducing every discussion to two and only two sides, and allowing
callers and guests to insult each other (ad hominem) and make
unchallenged, fallacious arguments, does not represent balance, and I
worry that "hold the cat and call the dog" radio personalities are
diminishing our ability for critical thinking.
Reason with Joseph Higginbotham at JosephHigginbotham@GMail.com.