October 6, 2020

Who is the New Voice for Talk Radio?

Tuesdays With Coleman

With everything going on in the world, you would think it’s a great time for Talk Radio. Politics, the U.S. Supreme Court, public health, economics–it has all taken center stage, dominating our conversations. Try talking to one of your friends without mentioning the pandemic. It’s almost impossible. Is this an amazing time for talk? Or is it all being filtered through the lens of the same old voices and perspectives, homogenized into white noise?

In my experience, big changes in our world usher in new stars in all media. Someone rises to the occasion, sparks or captures the emotions that we are all feeling but struggle to express, and a star is born. A spokesperson for a new generation arrives. Suddenly, the clock runs out on that older, stately looking guy on CBS and somebody new picks up the ball and runs with it.

In music, Madonna’s “material girl” perspective was right in tune with the 80s. She epitomized the free spirit of that decade, but felt somewhat out of place in the 90s. In radio, Z100 moved away from the “Morning Zoo” format and gave us Elvis Duran’s more authentic, less “produced” perspective.

The unprecedented Iran hostage crisis gave birth to Nightline. We were no longer satisfied with 2 minutes on the crisis inside the nightly news, we wanted to talk about it for an hour or more every night. The show would eventually turn Ted Koppel into a star.

Rush Limbaugh started commenting on the news on KFBK/Sacramento in 1984, launching a new era in Talk Radio.

Kurt Loder became our trustworthy news source while mom and dad had that talking head going in the other room.

Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn in 1999, but it was George W. Bush’s presidency that drove Stewart’s biting political satire and made him a star.

Anderson Cooper took on the federal response to Katrina–and became a national voice for “keeping them honest.”

My question is: Who is the person to become “the voice” of this moment? To break from the tried and true, say enough is enough, clear the desk and say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (Wait, that’s been done, we need a new call to action.)

Because I worry that today’s voices have all taken their positions. We know what they stand for, we see their baggage, we can almost predict what they are going to say. And it’s falling on deaf ears.

Regardless of their specific ideological viewpoint, my hope is that someone will stand up, take the challenge, and become the voice of this moment. Embrace the different world we woke up to this morning, make sense of it for us, shed new light on the road forward, and speak to this time in America.

I loved the 2012 Chrysler Super Bowl ad, “It’s Halftime in America”. Maybe it failed because it was perceived as too political, supporting the auto-industry bailout. But it sure feels like halftime now. (Or worse, the clock is frozen.)

Who is going to pick up the ball?

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