Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Silence. Try It. You Might Like It!

The “Off” Button

Every radio I have ever seen comes equipped with an “Off” button. The off button is especially useful on the AM frequencies, although you and your children’s ears may not be entirely safe in the FM spectrum either.

If one wants to hear many sides to a story, that listener often says that they listen to AM radio. Some critics call AM radio—talk radio—the pulse of the nation. That frightens and even offends me. The blather one hears spewing from talk show hosts, local and nationally syndicated, I sincerely hope does not have the rhythm of the heart beat of this city, this state, and this nation. Too often, however, when hosts decide that they know more than their prospective audience, they utter the most awful things.

Local radio should, indeed, reflect the community it serves, but its standards should be high. Broadcasting on KLBJ hit a new low with the “Todd and Don” show. Co-host Todd Jefferies should know better as the radio station’s news director. Journalists should do more than Mr. Jeffries did in trying to throttle Don Pryor’s recent racial slurs on the air. I do hope that the two will learn something during their reported two-week suspension without pay announced today (Wednesday, July 15, 2009). Too bad they cannot connect with the past.

KLBJ AM’s standards are historically high. I know. I was KLBJ AM & FM’s first news director after the Johnson family sold KTBC TV to the Los Angeles Times Mirror Corporation in the early 1970’s. Lady Bird Johnson was still very much in the picture. General Manager J.C. Kellam, for whom the administration building at Texas State University is named, demanded the very best. I remember sitting in Mr. Kellam’s office as a 24-year-old news director, learning from the very best. Mr. Kellam and Mrs. Johnson would have been outraged with this kind of talk on their air. Apparently, current owners, Emmis feels much the same, having slapped the talk show hosts with unpaid suspensions.

True, broadcasting has changed in these past 35 or so years. Deregulation under Ronald Reagan resulted in fewer and fewer stations doing serious radio news. Many stations turned to talk formats. Music had moved to the FM dial, and talk was cheap. Talk was cheap, but it didn’t and doesn’t mean that talk is good. During these 35 years, another kind of broadcaster came along both at the local and national level, one who could create conflict and controversy, one who didn’t care about ethics or good taste so long as it created an audience. This broadcaster has no roots, no depth, no perspective. Just chatter. This broadcaster sickens me.

It is time to use the “off” button. Deprive them of the audience, and they will go away. KUT-FM is a good alternative.

© Jim McNabb, 2009


Ed Mayberry said...

You've got me wondering exactly what words were uttered!

Anonymous said...

a 2 week Puerto Rican vacation does not erase the damage already done. I'm with you, but the consequences should be more harsh!


Anonymous said...

Say it on tv and you WOULD be fired... but because they probably have a decent enough following i.e. making the station money... they will be protected with only a two week vacation.

Gutless greedy corporate management protecting it's revenue stream.

Bage Anderson said...

Occasionally hosts will show their true colors which is unfortunate as they should keep their crap to themselves. As Jim points out there is an "off" button and it should be used by listeners to cast their vote against their offenses. Moreover, advertisers should voice their concerns or vote by pulling spots.
However, I feel that given the amount of air time needing to be filled the occasional sensitivity insults are inevitable. While I am not defending what they said (I haven't heard it), in general this is the result of the ability to speak freely. Left or Right, Right or just plain Wrong, it is a necessary evil that we must live with in order to maintain the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Agreeing with a previous poster, "Say it on TV and you would be fired" in other countries you cannot say it all and worse than firing, you could be shot or hung if you don't tow a much tighter government line. I hope we never see that day here and that freedom of speech does not morph into freedom from speech.

Anonymous said...

I have heard someone before describe broadcast as the mirror of our country's coltural and moral fabric. Sure, there is freedom of speech.I suppose what broadcast is missing nowadays is class.if we are comfortable excusing such nastyness, then perhaps that says something about us.

Anonymous said...

When did the term "wet-back" (what these arse-clowns said) become a racial slur? They certainly aren't Mexican-Americans, Mexicans maybe, but then that's a racial slur as well...

Why is it fine with the media when non-caucasians (since they hardly in the minority) call white folks all kinds of names (cracker, wigger, etc...), but the same isn't true the other way. Please...

Let's talk about the fact that they are here illegally and should be deported back to the craphole of a country they came from. If they continue to come over illegally, then they go to jail.

How about some news on Michelle Obama's shopping trip to London last week on OUR DIME, weeks after BO berates corporate execs for doing exactly the same thing. Oh wait, I forgot, the media LOVES BO and it isn't news.

It's Freedom OF Speech and Freedom OF Religion, not Freedom FROM Speech and Freedom FROM Religion.

Take a few minutes and read the Constituion and Bill of Rights, you might be suprised what you didn't know.

Policital correctness and the biased media in this country make me want to puke.

msidoric said...

KLBJ-AM has been a vapid wasteland for years. Todd Jeffries permits rapid-talking mumblers to deliver 'newscasts', and allows uninformed zealots to host political talk shows.

Maybe that drives ratings. It drove me to KUT-FM where I am now a proud contributor. Their local news and balance are a welcome alternative.

Emmis needs to grow talent and conscience -- and recall they operate on OUR airwaves for the 'public interest, convenience, and necessity'

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't the program director disciplined as well? He's responsible for all content and was listening to the show at the time and did not take issue with what was said on air.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this blog so I’m getting in a little late on this discussion.

Msidoric, I empathize with you. I too did some time in the KLBJ newsroom. Only those few who have seen it up close can appreciate the gut-rot awful situation behind the scenes.

Todd Jeffries is sloppy and scatter-brained. He’s prone to factual errors. He exaggerates for effect. He cuts corners. He can’t write to save his life. Fortunately for him listeners can’t hear those flaws on the radio. He’s learned to exploit his well-practiced shtick of belting out a few snappy-sounding headlines in that booming faux authoritative tone of his.

His flim-flam news operation is fueled by re-written press releases, bland sound bytes from the same rotation of hired spokespeople and a steady stream of scummy crime stories plucked from the police blotters.

Few good reporters stay long; they’re either run off, burned out or like Msidoric, irritated by Jeffries and his lazy brand of radio news. How do you think KLBJ treats their best veteran reporter? They worked him like a mule and then laid him off earlier this year, that‘s how.

Some of the marble-mouthed stumble-bums he’s hired in the past had no business coming within a mile of a microphone. Many of them possessed about as much news sense as a bucket of sludge.

So it’s no surprise that such a shallow and careless approach to radio eventually bit him on the ass, when he thought he could pull off a smart comedy bit about illegal immigrants. If he’s a questionable news director, then he’s definitely a mediocre talk show host who demonstrated awful judgment.

Todd Jeffries should be thanking his lucky stars he still has a job. His dream of big-market success in Dallas apparently didn’t pan out a few years ago, and this failed foray into talk radio nearly cost him his gig in Austin.

He’d do well to drop the show biz fantasy and hope to God that this whole episode hasn’t made him damaged goods at KLBJ. One more bonehead move and he’ll be another ex-media guy working as a PR hack somewhere.