In 1993, I lost my Vincennes, Indiana, disk-jockey job to Rush Limbaugh. The station’s new owners switched formats from country music to talk, and Limbaugh was the next big thing. It was an AM radio station. If music listeners could hear rock and country on static-free FM, why wouldn’t they? There’s a reason legendary WLS-AM in Chicago switched from rock music to talk in 1989.
Even with blogs, podcasts, and social media forums, listeners aren’t always privy to what happens behind the scenes.
Syndicated shows like Limbaugh’s are a boon for stations urban and rural. No single station, especially in a small market, could afford a talent like Limbaugh, but spread the cost among 600 affiliates and, well, do the math.
Syndicated stars often replace local announcers, including those who had a special rapport with their listeners. When that happens, phones ring, and hostile e-mails pile up. But those who fire people don’t answer the phones when listeners call to complain. Those calls are manned by hapless station personnel likely to be terminated next by corporate decision makers in another state. This is when we learn that few things hath fury like a loyal listener scorned.
It doesn’t matter. The sad truth is that eventually life goes on, even for jilted listeners. And radio execs know it.
Jim Newton, Itasca