Auto companies are removing AM radios from new vehicles
Excellent analysis. A sad irony that the Rush Limbaugh's garnered high ratings that ultimately helped to spell the demise of AM radio.
I did not know about this, Dave. Fascinating. Rekha and I just posted a two-part podcast on what caused the right-wing shift on Iowa media. https://open.substack.com/pub/julieandrekha/p/broadcast-medias-rightward-shift?r=222txn&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
We also interviewed Ted Koppel in part two: https://open.substack.com/pub/julieandrekha/p/ted-koppel-bots-bias-spell-bleak?r=222txn&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
I think it interesting that apparently Congress is already stepping in, considering legislation that would require auto makers to continue to install AM radios in all cars. I agree, the initiation of hate radio promoting Limbaugh and others filling airwaves throughout the day led to our current situation.
While I will never forget Doug McKinnon and "Scratchy" on KIOA in the late 50's, spinning' them platters, the only AM tuning done in many years is WHO for Hawkeye football.
I echo the shout out to Sirius XM Satellite radio--if one tires of Julie Mason and Michael Smerconish on the balanced, mid-stream POTUS channel (124) then toggle between Progress (127) with Obeidallah/Signorile and Patriot (125) with Hannity/Levin for the extremes--titillating to say the least and helps those silo walls crumble a bit. And with the satellites you never drive out of range. There is, of course, the "spousal channel compromise" that must be addressed.
I agree completely Dave and I’m glad to see someone say it. The AM radio industry totally bought this on themselves by turning their back on their greatest strength - the ability to be truly local. Now, the big corporate radio industry - the leaders of which are most often conservatives - want government to intervene and save themselves from the disaster they created for themselves.
Sorry to see what happened to AM, but like you, I now listen to Sirius XM w/o a bit of guilt.
Maybe someday somebody will re-invent local AM radio. We can only hope. But what a treasure it was before the big boys moved in and destroyed local radio by trying to fake it and filling it up with mindless, unthinking rants.
AM radio’s hey day faded quickly with the end of the fairness doctrine. As you know, Dave, I was a news guy on a smaller station in Lincoln, NE — even as a rocker, we had robust coverage, broke stories and served the community. Never wanted to do anything else but quickly became clear to me in the early 80s that radio news was declining. A shame, as “talk” radio informs less but stirs up more.
Spot on, Dave. My husband, Tim Boyle, did the morning drive shift at WMT-AM in Cedar Rapids for 5 years. He says the steady drumbeat of vitriol spewed by Rush Limbaugh and Jan Michaelson wore him down and eroded station morale. It's interesting how the company now known as iHeart Radio (formerly Clear Channel) made millions of dollars on these conservative talk show hosts, but ultimately compromised AM Radio as a whole.
I'm right there with you, Dave. My father worked for decades in radio, which was at the time AM by definition. FM wasn't even "a thing," as we would say today, until I was in high school -- and we made fun of it at the time for its sedated-sounding album-oriented rock. Commercial radio was the sound track of my childhood, and I was always kind of thrilled to hear distant clear-channel signals after sunset. It seemed so exotic, in the days before the World-Wide Web. Today, I too pay for satellite radio, because -- outside of public radio -- what's left on either band of the broadcast dial just doesn't appeal me.
I've been amazed for years that AM radio has survived this long, but I've learned over the decades that declarations of the death of media platforms are often premature. Disappearing from car dashboards might do it, but stay tuned.
I never could stomach much Rush Limbaugh or any of his many imitators. In fairness, let's not forget the experiment that was Air America Radio, which never managed to master and profit from "perspective programming" as MSNBC has on TV. I remember thinking Air America's predicament might have been that, as the old joke went, liberals couldn't take their own side in an argument -- a problem I've noticed most progressives don't have.
If AM radio has nobody to blame but itself, let's at least not pin that on the few truly local hosts, journalists and others still working there today. And let's acknowledge that the same could be said for other technologies that have proven mortal. Their ultimate demise doesn't mean they didn't do a lot of good in their day. Some of them are still doing it -- and might surprise us by hanging in there longer than in expected.
It wouldn't be the first time.
My thoughts, actions and reactions exactly. I see AM radio in a similar situation as local newspapers-injured by technology, cash starved and losing altitude monthly. Their replacements are not the reliable watchdogs we need.
I have an 'emergency' radio that uses a crank for power, but, during the last big storm, there was NO local radio coverage. All I found, even on WHO AM radio, was national entertainment. The National Weather radio band was just repeating the same warning over and over. Depressing to lose important safety communications. We were in the dark, literally.
“A slimmed down version of ‘faux news’”? Where have I heard this in the past?
You mean there is such a thing?
After a 45 year career in radio (all in Iowa), about 30 years of it in management, I am intrigued by your essay and the reactions. From my perspective: By the time Rush became insanely popular in the '90's AM radio was already on life support. Small town AM/FM combo's (where I worked) were making money only on the FM.
AM could not compete with the quality of the FM signal for music. And, there were many more FM signals on the air than when we listened to the Mama's & the Papa's on KIOA. So, AM was mostly limited to "talk".
My experience with local news (and local programming as a whole) was a disaster created by consolidation (as you recognized). I had a boss with Baltimore and Chicago experience. He never understood, and refused to listen, why our listeners cared about a HS softball game or a neighbor who died. Clear Channel (not my group) owned hundreds of stations and paid lip service to local service, but blindly dismantled it in the name of cost savings. What does a corporate boss in Houston know about what works in Creston? As it turns out: Nothing! When local news is what sets you apart, and corporate cuts the local news, what's left?
I often wonder what would happen if a station today actually produced a newscast as we once did? Could they make money?
I fear radio will die 20 years after the print media does- so, soon. I have worked in both and loved them both, but, like you, I now pay for satellite.