From 1982 to 1987 I was a talk show host on a now defunct radio station here in western Massachusetts. The station WREB was the one of the first all-talk stations in this market.
I lucked onto the evening drive slot from 3 to 7 p.m. Since it was a dawn to dusk station, I also had to do a half-hour, then hour-long newscast at noon in order to justify a full-time paycheck. When the morning man was on vacation or when his assistance wasn't there I had to come in at 5 a.m. to do that shift as well.
Despite the crazy hours and the low pay ($5 an hour), it was one of the best jobs I've ever had. From childhood I always had wanted to be on radio and I was able to be a journalist and a ham all of the same time.
And since I was the house liberal during the reign of Ronald Reagan, I received the most creative hate mail. I realized that it didn't matter how much money I raised for charity or how fair I was in covering politics or social issues, as long as I wore the "liberal" tag, I was the enemy to some of my listeners.
And as long as I disagreed with them on one key issue such as abortion, women's rights or the saintliness of Ronald Reagan than I was not to be trusted.
I have to say that I yearn to be on the radio again in a regular capacity as the fly-by-your-ass approach we had at the station to the format was invigorating. We had no call screener and no producer. You kept one finger on the delay button and you hoped for the best.
Despite over 20 years, I don't think anything has changed in the attitude of many of the listeners of talk radio. I know that many of my readers of the papers I edit simply peg me for being a "liberal" which is the same as being a Godless, socialist pedophile and don't even try to engage in a discussion without name-calling and using some sort of talking points they heard O'Reilly or Limbaugh tell them to use.
People want to use intellectual short-hand all the time to put others into neat little boxes, possibly the least democratic thing a true patriot can do. I do have friends and readers who disagree with me and I enjoy discussing ideas with them.
What so many people forget is the purpose of the O'Reilly show on both radio and television is to present something to lure an audience to it so advertisements can be experienced. FOX might have an ideological commitment to a particular political stance, but if advertisers felt that FOX wasn't reaching the folks it should, there probably would be some surprising changes.
People have got to get past all of the distractions lies by talk show hosts, puffery by pr flacks, "news" from the networks that really isn't news, entertainment and gossip slop and the frickin' labels if they really want to solve any problems in this country.