Skip to comments.When Bias Bites (Fired Host Maloney Speaks Out in New Essay)
Posted on 09/26/2004 4:23:47 PM PDT by ScoopandDizzy
When Bias Bites
How Long Can a Dissident Survive Inside a Partisan News Station?
By Brian Maloney e-mail Brian Maloney at RadioEqualizer@aol.com
It's hard to imagine a career that can throw you for a curve more often than one in radio broadcasting. The highs can take you into the stratosphere and the lows into an abyss. It comes with sticking your neck out in public. Sometimes you get rewarded and then, suddenly, you get whacked, mob-style.
The last week, for me, has been a blend of the two extremes. A strange existence in another place, where events that by themselves would have seemed unimaginable two weeks ago came at me one after another.
One week ago I was fired for, in my view, speaking out against Dan Rather and CBS news on a station that is a CBS affiliate and regional network radio newsroom. A large amount of media attention followed after an AP story ran outlining my contentions.
When it's your job to stir the pot, give opinions, and fearlessly charge ahead day after day, it's always a shock to be punished for doing just that, the best that you can. But it happens.
The standard advice you'll get from many people in radio is to keep your mouth shut when you've been fired. Stay quiet or you'll get blacklisted in the industry.
But I've never been like that. I entered talk radio 11 years ago, from a background in political campaigns and an upbringing in one of America's most politicized communities. I was trained by operatives in what is really a blood sport.
More than that, my entrance into politics was an act of young rebellion against a "progressive" (admitted socialist) political machine that had run my hometown, Santa Cruz, into the ground. Economic conditions consistently trailed the rest of California and for a young person it had all the promise of a Newcastle, England during the same time period.
So it's not in my nature to keep my mouth shut. That's why I'm in talk radio. But it came to me, I did not intend for it to be my career path. And yet once I took the plunge, it became addictive.
For three years I maintained an uphill battle to remain one of the few non-liberal voices on a notoriously left-wing station, KIRO-AM in Seattle. I had mostly been on conservative-leaning talk radio stations before KIRO, and I think there was some surprise when I was hired as a host there. It's a station that breaks into regular programming when Rep. Jim McDermott (Baghdad Jim to many outside Seattle) so much as sneezes.
The station's liberal programming had been propped up for decades by the hugely popular Seattle Mariners radio broadcasts, which brought ratings in abundance. But two years ago, Mariners broadcast rights were scooped up by a competing station. Suddenly KIRO was on its own, which direction would it take?
KIRO management made an ill-fated decision to steer the station even more to the left, with hosts that matched their personal opinions. They hadn't ever received the advice I got in high school when put in charge of ordering at a local mom-and-pop record store: get what will sell, not what you like. Are you listening, Air America?
As KIRO's ratings plunged without baseball and unable to attract an audience with its even more left-of-center programming (because Seattle liberals will never abandon public radio for the AM band), it became an increasingly difficult place to function as a token conservative. Management went out of their way to make me feel miserable. An ultra-leftist host would physically block me from entering the studio in time to start my broadcasts, extra commercials would run until he felt like leaving.
The stubbornness involved in trying to force an audience to listen to something it didn't want reminded me of all of those Marxists I knew at UC-Santa Cruz who insisted that communism most certainly would work if it were just implemented correctly somewhere.
For someone like me, it was necessary to make a decision. Do I become milquetoast on the air, or go for broke? I chose the latter, not out of any kind of courageous stance, but because I'm a stubborn person too.
And, if you're going to sell out in talk radio, you might as well leave and do something else. What's the point of trying to convince people of things you don't believe yourself? For money? The audience will figure you out quickly and you'll be out of work soon enough.
When it finally came to an end, to me triggered by my comments about Dan Rather and CBS (although they later denied it after initially giving vague responses), the only real wonder was that they didn't find a successful way to oust me sooner. They certainly didn't like the opinions I was giving on the air.
Station management had to be no doubt shocked to see news of my termination carried around the world, in Spain, Denmark, Japan, Canada, Greece and every corner of America.
I did dozens of interviews with people from everywhere. A few people accused me of milking it for publicity but most were supportive. Americans are much more clued into media bias now than say, 10 years ago, and many are fed up with it. KIRO could be the radio poster child for media bias.
And yet I have to admit there was something fun about it, of butting heads with the same kind of people in Seattle radio I once fought against in Santa Cruz. When they have the power, in the end you will probably lose, but if you have a chance to give 'em hell for a while, to me it's an irresistible opportunity.
e-mail Brian Maloney at RadioEqualizer@aol.com
I wish I could say that I believe every word without reservation. CNN, CBS, and most of the other MSM have taught me not to be so foolish.
Personally, I want to hear BOTH sides before I make a decision.
The reasons that I have heard about from the station do not seem unreasonable. Sports programming and dwindeling time slots.
My heart says to believe. My head says to wait.
Wait for what? He's been fired. There won't be any independent investigation.
Sure, they had to retrench. But you don't retrench by firing your lone conservative voice when audiences are abandoning you for being too far out in left field.
Please include original titles.
The station also beats the station that carries Tony Snow and Sean Hannity.
I did find one clip that says in 2000 when KIRO carried the Mariner's, they had almost a 19 share in the evening when baseball is carried and lead most day parts. So obviously, the loss of baseball did hurt, but the liberal programming seemed to be pulling it's weight and was handily turning away popular conservatives.
Compare KIRO with where they used to be. In the mid 80s KIRO had the second highest local share of any AM station in the country. They averaged almost 10%. If they are 5th in the area now, they have fallen fast and hard.
If this station is on the wrong track with liberal programming, then why are they still the top ranked talk station in the market and beating the conservative talk station (even with the NRP erosion that does not show in the ratings.)BTW, the station that carries Rush, Medved, Savage, O'Reilly, Ingram and Bill Bennett is ranked 11th. the station that carries Tony Snow and Sean Hannity is ranked 15th.
Those figures I cited were actually pre-Mariners. Until, I think, 1986 the Mariners broadcasts were carried on KVI. Of course, back then the Mariners were so bad they wouldn't have added to the ratings of KIRO.
I haven't lived in Seattle for a few years, but it seems that there isn't a strong talk radio station there. There are a few that compete, but I don't think KVI has the winning line up it used to.
I had started listening to KOMO a fair bit simply because they were rather entertaining and not blatantly liberal. I think the problem in Seattle is that conservatives, who are outnumbered to begin with, don't have one station to latch onto.
However same could be said for very conservative KDKA or WCCO (Pittsburg and Minneapolis). Those stations had at one time 15+ shares in the late 70's and early 80's. As FM began it's dominance and the market began to frament with more stations and choices, the once powerful and mighty fell. I think at one time WCCO had the highest share in the nation with something like 20. Now it's an 8.8. While KDKA is still #1 in Pittsburg, it now has a 10 share, down form it's years in the high teens. It btw, is the Rush station.