My first thought upon reading the opening paragraphs was, 'we're getting to them.' For years, the paper has been the only voice driving or influencing thought in the area. Now, they have competition from the Toledo Free Press and from WSPD. Which is why they're certainly in favor on censoring anyone who threatens 'their' territory.
But then I read the section on Sen. Debbie Stabenow pushing for 'standards' in the talk radio market. Here's where WSPD is so much better than The Blade. On air, we talked about the fact that Stabenow's husband, Tom Anthans, was/is involved in liberal talk radio. As I wrote in an earlier blog post:
"(He's a )... former executive vice president of Air America's syndication division and previously ran Democracy Radio, another liberal talk radio upstart, which folded in 2005. In the spring of last year, Athans announced his new venture, Talk USA Radio, though I could find nothing on the Internet about its status today."
Obviously, Stabenow has a personal and vested interest in using Congress to give her husband an advantage in the industry he's in...and that's a conflict of interest. But The Blade never mentions that fact. They do this on a regular basis: exclude information (either purposefully or because of a lack of space) that would give the reader a more 'balanced' viewpoint of the person or the idea. And yet, they seem to be saying in their article that talk radio needs to do just that, despite their own failure to follow such 'standards.'
They also mention Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's complaints about WSPD:
"The mayor accused WSPD of not giving him equal time to respond to "diatribes" against him..."
Again, they give only one side. Finkbeiner made a public statement calling morning show host Fred LeFebvre a liar, accusing him of telling "mistruths, half-truths and outright lies." Carty was challenged to prove his claim or apologize. When he did neither, he was prohibited from the air until he did so. Twice since that occurred, he was given an opportunity to come on air, but he refused. In retaliation for not allowing him on the air, he then prohibited his staff from speaking on air to the talk show hosts. The ban and retaliation do not include the WSPD News Department.
This is a second example in the paper's article that neglects to give the 'whole' story. Certainly the mayor's own behavior is as much to blame for his lack of air time, but that might give you a different impression of talk radio - and that's not what this article is all about.
The paper interviewed Al Peterson, president and editor of NTSMediaOnline.com, a national daily newsletter directed at the talk radio market.
"I don't subscribe to any grand conspiracy theory or anything else," he said in a telephone interview from his San Diego office. "The only real political philosophy that broadcasters have for the most part is capitalism."
They even acknowledge that our morning show host has said the exact same thing. But if it's just about market demand, the left would have to admit that the market doesn't clamor for their ideas - and that just can't be. So they talk to Mike Stern, news, talk, and sports editor for Radio and Records, an industry trade magazine.
"It would need to make money to be successful. That's true as far as it goes," Mr. Stern said.
"But to say it wouldn't make money because no one has done it is circular logic. No one was doing conservative talk until somebody did conservative talk. The logic of, 'Somebody would have figured it out already,' is kind of hollow."
He said the biggest challenges facing progressive or liberal talk radio aren't necessary financial issues but involve star power and listener conditioning.
Progressive radio lacks a breakthrough radio personality along the lines of a Limbaugh or Hannity, although Air America's Rachel Maddow, who also has her own hour-long talk show on MSNBC-TV, comes close.
Liberal audiences also haven't been taught to tune in to the AM frequency, where most talk shows air.
"I don't know if liberal or progressive people who would enjoy those stations are using that band," Mr. Stern said.
First, Stern admits the market influence, but then discounts it. His 'circular logic' claim is bogus, as no one is saying liberal talk radio won't work because no one's tried. it. They're saying it's been tried for five years now and has not proven successful - yet. Air America had to file for bankruptcy because they weren't able to earn enough to stay in operation. They've reorganized, after learning some hard lessons, and still may make a go of things. But they didn't fail because conservative radio is profitable - they failed because they weren't.
But Stern has a theory for that, as well - and it's typical of liberal thought in general: our listeners are just too dumb to find us on their own.
It's this sentiment that permeates liberal political thought: people can't take care of themselves without government support; they'll make bad decisions unless we make the decisions for them; you're the victim - there's nothing wrong with what you've done, it's that someone else is taking advantage of you which is why you need government. You see, you have to be taught to use the AM band, because you obviously are just too stupid to switch the button yourself.
Don't people who are left-of-center ever get tired of such negative perceptions? Why aren't they offended by the condescending, you're-too-stupid-to-know-better attitudes?
In keeping with the perspective that it's always someone else's fault, Stern and the paper then blame National Public Radio (NPR). Yes, a government-funded program is to blame:
"The NPR station may be fulfilling that niche enough that it makes it hard for a commercial talk entity to get off the ground," Mr. Stern said.
"If you can have forward-thinking, liberal-leaning progressive talk with no commercials in the form of NPR, it makes it doubly difficult to launch a commercial effort in that area.
"People don't think of [NPR] that way, but it does hold that place in a lot of people's minds."
(Side note: is this the same NPR that when conservatives call it liberal, the left howls about how balanced it is? The same NPR that when conservatives want to cut their funding, liberals get all up in arms?)
That Stern is making a conservative argument in favor of less government interference in the market has obviously been missed by him and The Blade. 'If only NPR weren't there, our liberal talk shows would thrive...'
Yep - here's a government-funded entity in competition with privately-funded radio stations and, because they've got money from the government, they have an unfair advantage and might be filling a need that the private sector would fill if only it didn't have the competition.
Irony at its finest. And no different than the conservative opposition to the city of Toledo's takeover of tow lot services, ambulance services or home rehabilitation with HUD money. Opposition, it should be noted, that comes primarily from WSPD talk shows.
But even though Air America has emerged from bankruptcy, the problem isn't their message - it's that they're having trouble, still, breaking into markets - because, you see, it's not fair, according to Bill Hess, Air America's senior vice president of programming.
The challenge, Mr. Hess said, is to create a level playing field for Air America affiliates.
"Where progressive stations are on competitive signals, with management and staffing levels similar to the other stations, we're perfectly successful," he said.
That dreaded 'level playing field.' The thought that they shouldn't have to compete in the open market, the same as everyone else, completely escapes them. This will be the spin as the Fairness Doctrine (or the concept under a new name) makes its return.
But if you pay attention to what Hess said, you'll see it isn't about government providing a level playing field - it's about their own ability to fund their operations: "Where progressive stations are on competitive signals, with management and staffing levels similar to the other stations, we're perfectly successful..."
So if Air America can afford to have similar staff levels and signal strength, they can compete? So the problem really isn't that they've got competition, it's that they don't have enough money (after a few short years) to be where the competition is today (after decades of trial and error and eventual success).
Again, it goes back to the open market and the 'evil' capitalistic concept of being able to sell a product and make enough money to expand. And the article even includes a quote that echos this sentiment:
Progressive radio is growing - gradually - in markets such as San Francsico and Portland, Mr. Peterson said.
"It is probably more slowly than some of its proponents would like. But it's not just there are more Democrats than Republicans in Toledo," he said.
"It's how many people are going to spend their money on advertising and how many people are going to listen to it. It's just a business; it's not philosophical."
Mr. Peterson noted that it took a long time for the conservative talk shows to gain traction and their growth was slow.
And then there is this - an emphasis on the financial backing:
If progressive or left-leaning radio is going to work in Toledo, it will require someone with deep pockets and patience to invest in purchasing a station and making it happen, Mr. said. (this is how the article appeared on line - without the name)
But even then, that's not a guarantee of success. As the paper points out, even long-time Democrat party operative and lobbyist Jim Ruvulo might not listen to liberal radio:
He said he's not sure he's ready for another station with a narrow ideological perspective.
"If they're giving me info that's more than their opinion and there is some news and analysis, I might listen for a while," he said. "But if they're just going to say things over and over again that get me fired up, I don't need that. I'm already fired up."
If you can't attract your base - who else will listen? Conservatives?
This is not the end of the subject. If The Blade is true to form, they will have some sort of sob story (or three) about someone who's tried to provide balance in talk radio but failed due to something that 'evil conservatives' have done.
Then they'll have an editorial endorsing some form of censorship of talk radio. Oh - they won't call it that. They'll couch it in the same terms as Sen. Stabenow did - accountability, standards - or call for a 'level playing field.'
But they'd better be careful about wishing for more 'fairness' in the media because they could be next. Currently, in Toledo, WSPD is providing the 'balance' that so many are saying needs to be present. We're talking about the things the paper doesn't.
Despite the paper's long-time emphasis on public records, do you remember all the news stories about Toledo taking months to provide red-light camera information? No? What about all the stories on how the red-light camera appeal hearings were closed to the public? Missed that one on their pages as well?
What about comparing the performance of elected officials to their campaign promises?
How about the facts rather than the emotion when it came to the bogus Food Stamp Challenge?
Or their lack of consistency when they say the area needs 'change' but then endorses the same failed philosophical perspectives year-in and year-out?
These have been topics of discussion on WSPD, which is providing the 'balance' in the Toledo market that has been lacking for decades. But if the paper really wants some sort of 'standards' when it comes to balancing conservative and liberal, they should start with themselves.