Charlie Cook On Air: Regarding Rush

This is not a political column and I promise I am not going to get political in today’s post. That said I want to talk about the Rush Limbaugh story.

Not the political angle—I want to talk about the power of radio. Rush has one outlet. Rush is on the radio three hours every day. He has no TV show. He doesn’t write a column in the New York Times. He is not a guest commentator in Newsweek or Time Magazine.

If you don’t listen to the radio you would not hear what he has to say. Now whether or not you have ever listened to him you probably know who Rush is. If you have never listened to him you still probably have an opinion of Rush.

There is little in America media that has created a stir equal to Rush and the other four letter word he used on his show.

This note is to the thousands of radio personalities who sit behind of microphones every day. You can have an impact on your audience. What you say does matter. I am not advocating you try to shock your audience to get attention. I am not advocating you rile up the audience with political comments.

What I am saying is that your topic is less important than what you say about that topic. I am saying that the radio is still the most powerful tool for making a statement in media.

Watch TV any night of the week and much more inflammatory things are said. Comments like Rush’s are made on CNN, MSNBC and Fox every night. Heck, this is not confined to News programming.

I have changed that channel watching ABC, NBC or CBS at 8 PM with my daughter Izzy in the room. She’s 10 and the language and subject matter that we hear on TV has to be monitored even during “family hour.” Yeah, I changed the channel and I’ll remember to avoid the program when she is in the room but I am not writing the sponsors telling them I will avoid their products.

No, it is radio that sparks this kind of reaction.

This is because radio, like no other media, is personal. Radio is a real companion and we have come to expect something from radio that we do not get from other forms of media. I guess we come to expect a level of civility that is not asked of TV or magazines, for example.

This is why a partnership between the record industry and radio is so valuable for both. Nowhere like Country music and Country radio.

When Big Shoe Stu says that he had dinner with Luke Bryan and he thinks that Luke is a great guy, this is a win win win for Stu, Luke and the listener, who now knows something about the personality and the performer.

Now referring to Rush here, he still has his legion of fans that feel he was targeted in this situation more egregiously than Ms. Fluke, but building a relationship with the audience allows you make that difference in a career.

This week I heard a former Nashville Country radio programmer/personality that is now on the air in another market, say on his morning show the award system for one of the trade organizations is a lie. He called the award process dishonest saying the awards were bought and sold by the record companies.

Below you see that I am on the board of both of these organizations. I sit on one of the committees that checks, double checks and triple checks the process to guarantee that everything is on the up and up. Yet because of the relationship this personality has with his audience, his listeners will now watch the awards shows later this year with an opinion based not on fact, but on false statements made by someone they trust.

I want the personalities that I work with to understand the authority they have with their listeners. I want them to take that responsibility seriously. I want them to build that relationship every day by learning about and telling their listeners about the artists. They are painting a picture of Sara Evans with every comment about her and after a period of time the listener sees Sara as a person and becomes a fan beyond her music.

I hope country singers understand that building a relationship with the programmers and personalities leads to having the most influential voice in media painting your portrait.

Can Pandora do that?


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