Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 10 lessons we learned in 2007

There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Hopefully, this little year-in-review spotlight will prevent us all from insanity in 2008. Okay, maybe not.

Nonetheless, here are ten things we learned in 2008:

1. Give your listeners what they want

Air America Radio has been through quite a lot this year. The network was sold out of bankruptcy back in January and the on-air roster went through many changes. Some changes were very well received (sliding Thom Hartmann into the vacated Al Franken slot) but some were real head scratchers. Hiring Lionel to replace Sam Seder in late mornings was a move toward legitimacy in the radio market, and on paper, it made sense. Lionel already had a successful late night show on the WOR Radio Network and was well-regarded in the industry. But the bungling of he change, and what was perceived as rather crappy treatment of Seder, royally pissed off fans who vowed to completely avoid Lionel's show. It's not Lionel's fault, and Lionel is very good at what he does. But if this whole thing were handled a bit smoother, he would have had a better reception.

Aside from the whole Lionel thing, the other additions of "Air America 2.0" were a bit strange. A nightly show, The Air Americans, was a non-starter and complete dud with no direction that occupied four hours every weeknight. It was replaced by weekender Richard Greene, a likable person who needs new bumper music (unless there's a deal in place to send Sting and his bandmates in The Police royalty money for repeated plays). On weekends, they added pay-for-play programming dealing with veganism and atheism. And of course, the network's new president Mark Green gave himself an hour to play with.

With the on-air roster again expected to change once again in January, with morning man Cenk Uygur calling it a day, Air America at this time has decided not to do a morning show (which would obviously be good news for rival Bill Press). Perhaps they could heal a few old wounds by giving the hardcore fans what they want - a Sam Seder/Marc Maron morning show. But that would just make too much sense.

2. Don't jump to conclusions

A freak accident in New York back in October involving Randi Rhodes has yet to be resolved. It may very well have been just that. But what would normally have been a molehill was turned into a whole mountain when, in a game of 'telephone' gone awry, nighttime host Jon Elliott and his listeners assumed more was behind it. Blogs and message boards blew up, claiming it was some sort of political hate crime, not out of the realm of possibility. When all was said and done, there was no hate crime. It was simply a freak accident. In the aftermath, there were quite a few people with egg on their faces, who simply overreacted. Hopefully, we'll all learn to stop, take a deep breath, and think before we post. This is why I said in the initial article not to point the finger until suspects are in custody, why I only post strong rumors and why I don't believe in simple conspiracy theories. Things can easily go horribly wrong.

3. Right-wingers should stop being so whiny.

When the accusations in the whole Randi Rhodes incident came to be unfounded, the other side of the blogosphere went apeshit, and when the whole hate crime accusations came to be unfounded, they - get this - demanded that the accusers apologize to them, as if they were the ones victimized! Oh boo fucking hoo! No, I'm not making this up! But this should all come as no surprise. After all, right-wing pundits and bloggers are perhaps the most insecure and whiniest people on the planet. The crybaby conservative brigade can dish it out, using clever terms like 'unhinged,' 'traitor,' ''communist' and the like. Try throwing similar terms in the direction of these asshats and look out! They go nuts!

As Harry S. Truman once said, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

4. Don't go out of your way to be funny if your programming is already a joke.

FOX News is taken seriously only by those already drinking the Flavorade. Lots of screaming and yelling, wrong facts, errors, fluffy news and ridiculous posturing by on-air hosts have made the 'fair and balanced' network a bit of a joke. So why did they go out of their way to do a right-wing knockoff of "The Daily Show" when the rest of their on-air lineup is a parody in itself?

Oh yeah, the intentional comedy attempt was a dud.

5. Don't bite the hand that feeds

We've been though this one before. The recording industry has been in somewhat of a funk. CDs are fading in popularity, since iPods don't play them. Distraction has also come in the way of video games and DVDs. So, sales basically suck. So what to do? Piss off your listeners even more. The RIAA, fresh off their scorch-and-burn campaign of suing their ardent fans into oblivion for alleged filesharing, has officially shown that they are clueless when it comes to the internet. This time, they tried shaking down internet radio. Early last year, their extortion arm, Sound Exchange, tried to impose a riciculous royalty rate structure on webcasters, one that would have killed the most independent of all of them. Sound Exchange turned a deaf ear, taking a "let them eat cake" approach and to figure out how to sell more advertising to pay the shakedown money.

Well, the webcasters weren't going to take this sitting down, so they banded together and went to Congress. The result was a bipartisan effort that more or less forced Sound Exchange to pull back and try to play nice. Currently, the RIAA is going after terrestrial radio to help pad their bottom line, rather than the other way around, helping to ensure that in the future, all radio stations will air either talk or sports.

And as the major recording labels tried to shove inane garbage like rapper Akon's concept album about strip clubs and crass marketing projects like the Pussycat Dolls, some notable artists proved that they could do better without the music cartel. They went indie. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead took their current projects directly to the web. Older artists such as Paul McCartney and The Eagles broke away from the major labels and partnered with retailers such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart to market their new albums, to spectacular results. An up-and-coming singer named Colbie Caillat went on to sell a million copies of her debut album based mostly on MySpace popularity of her catchy song "Bubbly." No, I will not shed a tear when the Music Mafia crumbles over its own bass-ackwards, heavy-handed silliness.

6. Don Imus is an asshole

True, we knew this all along. But in 2007, Don Imus' mouth finally got him in real trouble. Only thing is, we knew for many years that he was a jerk. And his handlers at CBS encouraged him. That is, of course, until he went too far. Referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's" can't easily be defended, and when Imus' advertisers scurried away from him, so did CBS.

But Imus is only partly to blame in all of this. It was pretty hypocritical of CBS, which went through something similar with the whole Opie and Anthony "Sex for Sam" controversy a few years ago, to pretend to keep taking the high road when it is them who enable the Imuses of the world by encouraging them to be outrageous and controversial.

7. Right-wingers can't come up with real bogeymen

Whenever right-wingers need to pull something out of their asses to attack our side on, a good bogeyman always comes in handy. For some strange reason, the best they could come up with is an investment banker named George Soros. The way right-wing bloggers and media goons talk about this guy, one would think he's as bad as bin Laden. Unfortunately, as much as the always constipated-looking Bill O'Reilly barks up and down about that 'big bad' Soros funding that 'big bad attack machine' Media Matters for America, neither he nor anyone else can actually tell us what exactly makes Soros a bad man. The truth is... nothing. He's just a rich guy. Nor can they actually tell the truth, which is that Soros' contributions to liberal organizations and think tanks do not directly include Media Matters for America (though MMfA did go on record and claim that they would indeed welcome contributions from Soros). Nor can they admit that their side has and is doing the same exact thing, and for much, much longer than our side has.

Funny, I don't ever recall O'Reilly and the like mentioning the names of conservative billionaire sugardaddies like trust fund muckraker Richard Scaife, Amway pyramid scheme founder Richard DeVos, cult leader Sun Myung Moon and families with names like Coors, Bradley and Olin. Follow the money here. The road is rather interesting, and more detailed than anything Bill O'Reilly can come up with.

8. Skirt-chasing is not news

I commend Time magazine for their recent list of the Top 10 Underreported Stories of 2007. Sure, it's ironic that a prominent member of what we call the 'mainstream media' would publish a list such as this. Even more so that Time's sister TV news outlet CNN probably dedicated more time to Paris Hilton's blink-and-miss-it jail stint, Lindsay Lohan's boozing, Anna Nicole Smith's death and Britney Spears losing her damn mind to things such as the chaotic infighting in Somalia, that B-52 bomber that flew from North Dakota to Louisiana with the wing fully loaded with nuclear missles, the rise of Angola and Brazil as major oil exporters, corruption at the White House an other things. Who gives a shit? Britney's 16 year-old kid sister just got knocked up! To the helicopters!

9. Don't ever use child porn for research purposes.

Earlier this month, Bernie Ward, longtime talk show host at KGO in San Francisco, was indicted on federal child porn charges. His lawyer used the Pete Townshend approach, in that it was research done several years ago for a book project, and that the government was already aware of it. In all reality, some may question the sometimes heavy-handed Orwellian tactics used to fight child porn, but the reality is that searching for child porn on the internet, even for alleged 'research' purposes, is a bad idea. Don't do it.

10. Stop enabling Rosie O'Donnell

MSNBC dodged a bullet last month when word leaked out that they were in talks with Rosie O'Donnell to host a new show on the network. The word likely leaked out from O'Donnell herself, via strange blog posts and bad poetry on her personal blog. They immediately scurried away. What a relief! O'Donnell, who left her co-hosting gig on the already ultra-irritating "The View" is a walking trainwreck who feeds on bad publicity and outlandish public displays of insanity. In addition, she's just plain annoying. And she is not a representative of our side. She's just a pain in the ass. Perhaps if everyone would just ignore her, she'll just go away. Then again, if we all just ignored Paris, Britney, et. al...


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