Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About

I love talk radio. When done well, talk radio has the uncanny ability to transport the mind from the confines of one's car in rush hour traffic to the edges of the world, with topics ranging in importance and influence. From Octomom to Tiger Woods, from the economy to terrorism in Israel, good talk radio is a no holds barred discussion of global proportions. More than once, it has saved me from boredom and closed-mindedness.

My first and most consistent exposure to talk radio is Southern California's KFI 640 AM. Many years ago, one night in my old dorm room, frustrated with the repetition of mainstream FM radio, I switched to the AM dial and struggled to mind the clearest signal. Enter: Phil Hendrie. Initially, Phil's format seemed pretty standard: a sarcastic personality fielding phone calls from listeners about the day's most persistent topics and news stories. I quickly saw the proverbial man behind the curtain, and while I won't reveal the magician's tricks, I strongly suggest you visit Phil's website and listen to his archives. While he isn't prominent in the Southern California market anymore, I still haven't heard anything quite like him, but I was amused enough to keep my radio tuned in long after his show was over.

I'm reminiscing about talk radio because I had the pleasure of seeing it in action yesterday, as KFI hosted a radio-thon to raise money and collect nonperishable goods for the Salvation Army. They facilitated two broadcast/collections sites, one in Orange and another in Glendale, California. Since I live close enough to the Ayres Inn in Orange, I dared to wake up early for the short morning commute, and I watched Bill Handel and his morning crew push their audience for donations while quipping about Tiger Woods and another recent headlines. Bill interviewed a head honcho from the Salvation Army, and chapters of local Star Wars fan societies arrived in costume to attract a crowd, so I particularly appreciated the emphasis on the non-profit world and geek culture. To see these things I love collide for a worthy cause was more entertaining than I imagined.

I returned in the evening to watch the final segments of "The John and Ken Show." I've seen John and Ken live before, as well, when they were protesting tax hikes in my own backyard last year. Essentially bookending my day with these experiences was highly entertaining and most importantly mind-opening, both reminding me of the inherent needs in society, made most vulnerable during the holiday season, and the power of the media when focused on something positive, like trying to meet those needs. I'm not so disillusioned that I think one man can change the world, but one man with a microphone can encourage others to try, too, and that militant effort is a powerful thing. If talk radio can reach into the dorm room of a lonely geek and change his life for the better, who knows what else it's capable of?

1 comment:

johnny_justice said...

Geez, that Handel is a HOT STUD!