Monday, December 15, 2003

There's so much echo I'm getting feedback. Al Giordano, whom I quote in my current Boston Phoenix piece on plans to start a liberal radio network, has responded on his weblog, Big, Left, Outside. How could I resist completing the circle?

Al disagrees with my analysis, which is that the network is going to have to get at least some of National Public Radio's 22 million weekly listeners to tune in. He writes:

Do the young folks who hang out at the Daily Kos, or the Democratic Underground, or the hundred-plus local Indymedia sites turn to NPR on the dial? I doubt that they do in great numbers: It's almost never cited as a credible news source at those places. What about the 400,000 members of Howard Dean's "MeetUp" groups, and all the others in the ones for Kucinich, Clark, Kerry and the others? And the people they talk to who don't attend meetings but who are radio listeners. Most of my readers don't consider NPR a credible, or interesting, source. All the progressive juice from the youth that is making this current presidential election more interesting every day comes from a demographic very distinct from the NPR crowd.

Does the all-important base of the progressive majority to come - young blacks and Latinos &endash; listen to NPR? Are you kidding? Most of them feel as I do: NPR is a bad, white, joke.

To which I say: fine, but if Central Air, as the new network is called, is going to succeed, it's going to have to put up some big numbers. Central Air claims to be on the verge of acquiring radio stations in five major markets, including Boston. That could cost somewhere between $100 million and $150 million. They're not going to pay off the note just by bringing in folks who hang out at Indymedia websites.

For the record, I'm an NPR listener who'd gladly give Central Air 20 minutes a day, as long as it doesn't suck.

But if Al and I disagree, it really doesn't matter, because Central Air seems to be on the right track. Rather than bringing in a liberal blowhard to counter Rush Limbaugh, the network is aiming for fast and funny (without necessarily giving up substance), bringing in people like the great ex-Boston humorist Barry Crimmins and, though the final details haven't been worked out, Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.

They ought to consider putting Giordano on the air, too.

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