Connie Chung and the mainstream media can’t sucker punch conservatives and wholesome values any more without paying a price in ratings and circulation.
Rapidly growing “hot talk” radio has made the press accountable for inaccuracies, bias and, in Chung’s case, questionable tactics used in compiling the news.
No wonder the liberal media hate talk radio and try to dismiss it as irrelevant, dangerous or a fad.
Talk radio has ended the national press’s ability to control debate and elections, provided a forum for whipping-boys like Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to respond to criticism, balanced the daily news mix fed to the public, and given Mr. and Mrs. America an immediate soap box.
As media darling Chung learned this week, talk radio also has made it harder to destroy a conservative leader through character assassination a la Dan Quayle.
Chung thought she had the scoop of the new year when she goaded Gingrich’s mother into revealing her son’s pet epithet for first lady Hillary Clinton. But Chung’s tactics triggered such a firestorm of protest from talk radio that CBS issued a short statement standing by its story.
Sure, talk radio has a hard edge and attracts a few nutty callers and hosts. (Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy has recommended that students in dangerous inner city schools arm themselves.) But the format is thriving because it has connected with the man on the street who’s tired of underwriting the (Not-So) Great Society.
Since 1989, the number of U.S. talk stations has jumped from 308 to more than 1,000, including one in ultraliberal San Francisco. Spokane’s KGA has watched ratings soar since summer when it switched from country to a talk lineup that includes talk-jock giant Rush Limbaugh.
Meanwhile, the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report reveals that the number of people with an unfavorable view of television news has doubled in the past year. Americans view the press as “unnecessarily adversarial, negative, insensitive to the people it covers, irresponsible, and arrogant.”
By contrast, talk radio is vibrant, entertaining, immediate, and mobile. It is proving to be a good watchdog for an old watchdog that’s out of control.
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