May 15th, 2004


Another reason why I don't read the Strib

I had a few minutes to kill before meeting a friend downtown this morning, so I settled in with a a cup of coffee and a copy of the Fish Wrapper of the Twin Cities. Hey, it was either that or the New York Times, okay? Skimmed the front page, read the article on the gridlock in the state legislature (surprisingly unbiased), then the sports (got to get the baseball fix) and then this caught my eye on the cover of the Variety section:
A bumpy takeoff for Air America liberal radio network by one Deborah C. Rybak. (Registration required, but the laexaminer dodge works) Calling this a puff piece would be too kind by half. True, the article does mention the severe financial problems of the would-be liberal opposition to Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and other conservative talk-show hosts who have effectively dominated talk radio since the 1980s, but by and large the tone is upbeat and avoids any detailed discussion of the fledgling network's failure to attract national advertisers. Criticism of the network by people who actually know what they're talking about -John Rash of the Campbell Mithun ad agency and Michael Harrison of talk radio magazine Talkers - is buried at the end of the article.

The bottom line is that FrankenNet is a marginal presence in the major markets it needs to survive if it wants to go toe to toe with Rush, Hugh or even Joe Soucheray. It's been struggling to attract advertisers (and radio stations) if it wants to be taken seriously, and above all it needs to offer something different than the line of anti-Bush whining and "humor" we're already getting from the major networks, the major newspapers, and Hollywood. So far it's been a failure in all respects, not even managing to get more than Franken's show on locally. Hey, don't take my word for it - talk radio professional Mitch Berg has been on the case since before this turkey first tried to take wing, and links to a healthy helping of articles about the network's troubles.

Oh, yes - I'm aware that AirAmerica is moving from its current home on KMNN 1330 to KSMM in Shakopee at the end of the month. Ever heard of KSMM before this? Think you will after this?'s exactly the kind of reporting I've come to expect from the Star Tribune over the years. Somehow, I don't think a conservative radio network having the kind of problems FrankenNet has had would get this kind of kid-glove treatment from them. Call me cynical, but I've been reading this paper long enough to know better.