Sometimes I get a nostalgic feeling for Air America Radio and how it appeared with its cool quirky hosts at a time when things were low in my life, very bad in the government, and no one was supposed to talk about things lest they be viewed as somehow unAmerican. Because I'm a fool, as my grandfather might say as he dragged his ancient self up the hill in front of the house to pull down the IMPEACH War Criminals sign, to prevent the fire bombers from coming, I was, at the time really itching to find out the truth. I was also interested in what could possibly be in the minds of people who lack empathy for others and I wanted to look hard at the truth of cognitive dissonance up close and personal, as I was seeing it all over the place. It was such a relief to hear these new voices find their ways in their new jobs and to hear a fresh message that was researched and carefully backed up as true.
Well, its been a long 4 years and most of the stand-out original voices have long ago fallen away in one way or another, mostly by foolish management decisions, and the changing face of who owns the network and their personal proclivities. And, honestly, its been painful to watch this thing get disassembled in bits and chunks like a toy, and as if it wasn't at one point, a long time ago, a vital part of information dissemination of the sort that we had when the fairness doctrine was in effect.
What started as a utopian dream; a great experiment, as I've called it before, has been dying a slow spiraling death for far too long.
So, it came as little surprise when last week Randi Rhodes was suspended for a stand up routine in which she used the word whore
to describe Hillary Clinton and Geri Ferraro. It was during a show that she put on at an AAR affiliate in San Francisco and a few days later the AAR brass caught wind of it via a YouTube video, and they suspended her. What I found disconcerting about that was that the speech matched the venue and the crowd; its wasn't out of place for Randi to say something like that, and I don't know if rules had been set forth for her that she disregarded, but if they didn't want this sort of show, why would they book her? It seems that she was on the company clock and knew that the newest AAR owners were Hillary supporters, but it is just unlike the spirit of the Air America brand to try to shut down that sort of speech. Of course. its time to realize that the brand has changed; its now in a sport shirt and it visits Florida or the tanning booth; Its got a mean temper and is personally not well liked in political circles.
Yes, it seems that they Greens are still the public face of AAR, even though there is a new owner. The only major change so far is that the web site, which under the care of Sam Seder, is all new and fancy...its much better.
The rest? Well, Lionel is untenable, Thom Hartmann is more than a little slow and boring for daytime, and Randi has been on edge, seeming very unhappy, and ranting on and on as usual. Rachel Maddow has one foot at MSNBC, and I can't imagine that her future wont be in the visual media. I have to think hard to remember who else there even is out there, but I do love Ring of Fire, vanity project that it is at this point, and I adore Sam Seder and his Sunday show plus all his jumping around filling in.
And its there that I found myself today, after a hard week of trying to get medical care for a child who has crappy insurance (not y child even, but mine has crappy insurance too,) and stranger than fiction goings on around this homestead, listening to Sam filling in for the suspended Randi. I was heartbroken to see his surprise and outrage when he found out, on the air, that the brass had booked Richard Belzer for the slot next week. They hadn't told him before they leaked it to Huffington Post, and the whole thing sorta smacked of the sort of disrespect that they have shown not only to Sam all along, but to departed talent Kent Jones, Mike Malloy, and Marc Maron. It seems that no matter who the management is at this place, they lack the ability to treat their talent right.
In the old days, actors and announcers and the like were viewed as a commodity to be owned, and treated as so much disposable puppetry. But that is a very old fashioned idea, and the people who were originally recruited for this startup roller coaster ride are of a different ilk. It seems like it should be taken into account that the path that was forged by this group, and the hard work, threats, and unstable work conditions, were not nothing. Some of the original hosts relocated to New York leaving behind family, to work in a new medium that required alot of research and knowledge, besides just becoming comfortable in broadcasting. And for that, they got treated with something less than respect, and in some cases, with total disregard.
So, I'd like to see a little something come out of the new management of the new AAR. Start with Sam Seder and give him a regular weekday show. He is, without a doubt, the best talent that you have left there, and he only gets better. Thousands of fans will attest that he should be on weekdays over any star turn by Richard Belzer or anyone that you can rope into the position. next, Get Marc Maron back on a regular show immediately. Try a signing bonus in Marc's case, and a raise and bonus for Sam while you're at it. I would also strongly suggest that you start to give Rachel a little more budget. She not only is better with some sort of co-host, but she should be able to have Kent Jones with her (and he is, in so many ways, the signature versatile voice of AAR.) get rid of Lionel right away. He doesn't represent Air America Radio or progressives. Its hard to tell what he represents, and its even harder to figure out how he ever got on air with that voice!
I can understand that every new set of owners wants to put their mark on the station. I know that you have your program managers and specialists on board trying to figure out how best to put the interactive mode of AAR into effect and to make big announcements, but listen, you are best served by rolling the thing back and building on the initial foundations that were there before the shuffle began. The hosts never had the time that they deserved to move the numbers properly...and to expect a profit from a media outlet that was started from scratch, and one that has endured so much shuffling of lineup, is insane. Anyone who invests into an outlet like this expecting a return right away, or even in a couple of years, is dreaming. Where are the rich liberals who want to finance this thing because its sorely needed in this country? Why was this sold to the Green brothers in a questionable deal that allowed it to go for a fraction of the agreed upon price in cash, and then a payback to only certain debtors, while throwing the workers and talent under the bus? And now that the new owner, Charlie Kireker, is in place with additional money and suits, why are the Green brothers still on board?
If Kireker is there to infuse money into the business, then I hope to see some positive announcements very soon. If Sam Seder quits or is relegated to some secondary role again, I am just moving into a place where I further don't give a shit...I'm already there more or less...but I'm ready to move it over to NovaM, spend money there, and seek out podcasts that are produced in a way that doesn't hurt anyone (or do animal testing.)
For those reasons alone you would think that any one of the originals would deserve some higher level of respect. But, for some reason, each variation of management seems to lack basic skills in treatment of others...especially those who are on the air and having to juggle callers and concepts, timing and a ton of information. Its an incredibly hard job on many levels, and not the least of it is that its easy to get burned out in this atmosphere of bad government getting worse and having to roll with the punches in an industry that is historically rough.
For the life story of AAR check out Left of the Dial
, available on my coolio roundabout widget over on the right side of RIPCoco
, and also at any outlet you might prefer. Its such a great documentary, even if you're not a huge fan of this network...and it speaks volumes about lost opportunity and the kind of talent that the following management teams squandered.
Breaking: Randi Rhodes just appeared with Larry King Live and according to her statement, when the new owners were looking at the company and making their deal, they had a problem with the terms of her contract, in that they didn't have the power to fire her without cause. She refused to alter her contract and in the ensuing months they decided to send her on these stand up sort of appearances, and then suddenly found this instance of what they viewed as cause. They would not let her back on the air unless she agreed to amend her contract as they had originally wanted, and she refused. Since under her contract they do not have the power to fire her, she was to remain in limbo. But somehow she has a job beginning on Monday at NovaM radio, so she either had a standing offer, had been considering leaving, or she hustled and found a soft landing. Good for her! I am again happy that someone else got out alive, as I was with Maron (which doesn't stop me from hoping that these guys will prove me wrong and fix things,) and I continue to worry about Sam, who really deserves better treatment and more job security.
Good Luck to you all!
Bounce yer Boobies!
c/p RIP Coco
Labels: Air America, Marc Maron, Randi Rhodes, Sam Seder