Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Mouth That Roared - How Rush Limbaugh Changed America

It began as a crazy idea. DJs would get bored with music and start talking to the audience. They would take calls, tell stories, and even talk a little politics, sports, and pop culture. Early on, it produced some enduring national personalities like Jean Shepherd, and Brad Crandall, Long John Nebel, and Larry King, and Barry Gray, and Joe Franklin. It was known first as Spoken Word Radio. Later, it would give way to an even more colorful and cantankerous cast of characters. People like Joe Pyne, Alan Berg and Morton Downey Jr..

Talk radio moved to the big cities with folks like Don Imus and Howard Stern. In New York, Bob Grant would redefine the formula beginning in the early 70s. In fact so much of Trump on race, comes directly out of the Bob Grant playbook. Grant was the soundtrack for the New York that Donald Trump came of political age in.

The Fairness Doctrine would be repealed in 1987 and suddenly radio would be set up to have political power. Then in 1988, a little known Sacramento newscaster and talk show host named Rush Limbaugh would be let loose nationally. He took the freedom of being untethered from the Fairness Doctrine, combined it with the formulas that had already proven successful in talk, added conservative politics in a sardonic and entertaining tone, and the rest is radio history. It began 30 years ago last week, and it certainly changed our entertainment, news, and the political landscape.

To bring this all into focus, I'm joined by Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, the "bible of the talk radio industry."

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Michael Harrison: