Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, April 16, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Becoming a parent sure has changed the way I listen to the radio. Gone are the carefree days of listening to whatever I wanted to without being concerned about song lyrics and, more importantly, what the DJs and hosts are saying. Why is it that three of our local talk stations — namely WKRK-FM (97.1), WDFN-AM (1130), WXYT-AM (1270) — no longer police themselves from the use of what I term as “mild” cuss words? You can hardly listen to even one segment of any local talk show without hearing them.
I know the days of “Ozzie and Harriet” are long gone, but what I fail to understand is why the people running these stations are knowingly excluding listeners, like me, by allowing so much of this kind of talk. It’d be one thing if it only happened occasionally to emphasize especially strong opinions, but these words are just part of casual conversation for most of the local personalities on these three stations. The only time I’m comfortable listening is when I’m alone, which, as a parent, is pretty rare.
I’d love to see research stating that people 18 and older gravitate to a radio station because of the constant use of the language in question. The thinking has to be that the more popular programs will succeed at making the listener think he or she is having a conversation between friends at a local watering hole. Only thing is, when most of us listen to the radio, it’s not when we’re at a bar. It’s when we’re taking kids to baseball games or driving around with our significant others. Is this really the way these guys talk when their own young kids are around?
It seems that the focus of radio companies to target only a specific audience has gone too far, to the point of not caring about people who get turned off by this kind of behavior. The days of broadcasting are definitely over. The attitude now, from both the hosts and the managers, is, “If you don’t like it, turn it off — we don’t need you.” And that’s what more and more of us are doing with CDs, MP3 players and satellite radio. Would it really be that difficult to host a talk show and use speech like you would at the dinner table? Come on, show some respect to all of your (potential) listeners.
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Fans of Michigan sports in Ann Arbor will continue to find the games on WTKA-AM (1050), as that station has reached an agreement with the university and production company Host Communications to continue its maize-and-blue tradition. Word from A-squared is a deal for a Detroit flagship station for U-M football and basketball has been agreed to in principle and is going through all the necessary legal reviews before it’s announced. Former Michigan flagship news-talk WJR-AM (760) is now the home of Michigan State University broadcasts; the Spartans’ last home locally was WXYT.
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Yes, even radio stations sometimes admit they make mistakes. Once-popular syndicated morning man Russ Parr has returned to the airwaves on hip-hop WHTD-FM (102.7) after being taken off the station when it moved to 102.7 from FM 105.9 — where it was known as WDTJ — last summer. It’ll be interesting to see if Parr can recapture his old audience, as many have probably switched loyalties elsewhere on the dial. Former morning host Suga Rae has moved to the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekday slot, which, in turn, bumps Spudd to afternoons 2-6 p.m., and Tune Up shifts to weekend afternoons.
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U-M’s public radio offering on WUOM-FM (91.7) received a resounding show of support from listeners despite recent allegations of embezzlement made against three former staffers. The station boasted nearly a 14 percent increase in pledge dollars over last year, totaling more than $766,000 for its spring pledge drive.
Public WDET-FM (101.9) GM Michael Coleman, indicted in the WUOM case, didn’t see that kind of support from ’DET listeners. That station’s pledges were well off last year’s numbers, possibly either because of the station’s move away from daytime music or because of the charges against Coleman in the U-M case. Wonder if we’re going to soon witness another radio station admitting it made a mistake or two...
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Itching to get your hands on the latest radio technology? ABC Warehouse has agreed to start carrying high-definition (HD) home receivers required to hear both the digital main programs and secondary offerings from most Detroit FM stations. The Boston Acoustics sets are pricey, starting around $250, but you’ve gotta experience hearing all-news WWJ-AM (950) in digital form — Sonny Eliot never sounded so good!
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Set Your Dials: Tom Wilson and Heather Novak feature a look at the famous Detroit jazz orchestra McKinney’s Cotton Pickers on tonight’s “Somewhere in Time” program at 6 p.m. on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.