Been listening closely to Air America, and happy to admit for the most part its exceeding my expectations.
My basic worries were:
1) That it would adopt the stuffed shirt tone of NPR at its worst.
So far I haven’t heard much of that. The Al Franken show (O’Franken Factor) with Katheriner Lanpher, formerly of Minnesota Public radio, has the most NPR-like feel in that it doesn’t veer too far from the centrist mainstream of the Democratic party and its humor/commentary is pretty dry and wry rather than edgy and biting. But I think Franken’s comic voice is coming across well on radio. I also like the Grateful Dead bumpers.
Nothing else I’ve heard has much of an echo of NPR. The tone and texture of each are very different.
Morning Sedition is trying hard to combine a harder-edged political satire with fast paced morning drive newsyness, but I think needs a while longer to hit its stride.
Randi Rhodes show in afternoon drive is hardcore, unapolegetically demotic talk radio, paced at high-speed, combining Rhodes’ sharp, clever, funny, unsettling monologues cut-in with lots of phone-calls.
Janeane Garafalo and Sam Seder’s Majority Report is genuinely funky free-form. Though the hosts are in their 30s it sounds like more like college radio. The opposite of tight and formatted. Though Garafolo’s a show biz celebrity the show’s not personality driven. In fact it seems to be guest driven and audience driven, audiences suggesting topics and guests, which are pursued open-endedly, some might say (and have) meanderingly. Often hard to tell where the radio show ends and the blog beginsvice versa. But the off the cuff amateurishness works. Also wonderfully plugged in to the liberal-left politico blogosphere via Atrios, Liberal Oasis etc.
2) Narrow Political Range
Though the styles are different the message of shows so far are pretty narrowly gauged. Everything from the center-leftward is unified around Anti-Bush. Something I’m all on with but that won’t be the basis for a really viable longer-term alternative radio. The good news is that most of the programs seem to leave room for eclecticism and heterodoxy and will hopefully soon enough overflow the bounds of democratic party politics as usual, expressing more populist, libertarian and underground currents against the democratic establishment on things like, e.g. the drug war. Unfiltered with Chuck D, Liz winstead and Rachel Maddow is particularly promising in this regard.
All in all I like the sound and spirit of what I’m hearing, remembering that this is commercial radio we’re talking about, where I’ve gotten used to expecting nothing much but the worst over the past 20 years.
I’m not sure how commercially sound this all is but it’s filling a big audio vacuum in the political-cultural space between NPR and Pacifica, both of which in different ways have been stuck in a rut for quite awhile.
Phil [12:44 PM]
More good (and unfashionable) reporting from Mr. Perlstein. A somberly realistic at how and why- outsourcing, the "proletariatization" of bigger and bigger chunks of white collar workers, and reality of jobless pseudo-recovery notwithsdtanding- mass popular opposition to neoliberal orthodoxy remains timid, scattered, dispirited and intellectually muted.
Phil [11:35 AM]