Monday, April 8, 2013

Intelligent Radio doesn't have to have any Political flavor as long as it's Entertaining

When I spoke recently about "intelligent radio", naturally, many of you immediately assumed that I was referring to so-called, "progressive radio." I was not.

I regard intelligent radio as a show consisting of entertaining guests, opinion-heavy discourse, dialogue between the host and a caller or assistant. what a concept. If that show happens to take place on a conservative outlet, fine. Although I don't hear a lot of that on the likes of the Levin show, the Hannity show, or Beck, Mr. Carnival act. Savage is an exception because as I've noted in the past, his program is often devoid of a lot of politics --Savage uses politics as a backdrop to his own particular way of life. He's a lone wolf by a lot of his peers who can't figure him out and largely try to ignore him. I mean, calling Levin, "Groucho Marx", and referring to Sean Hannity as "Harvey Wallbanger"is priceless. It's also entertaining. It may not be intelligent, but that depends on your definition.

Air America Radio was an unmitigated disaster because holier-than-thou, righteous political hosts forgot that self-important leftist rants didn't especially make for entertaining nor popular radio no matter how worthy the cause. It's not the cause nor the host but the content and flow--that's entertainment, be it intelligent, disoriented or discombobulated. Take note, Mike Malloy.

I'm a walking contradiction. I think Howard Stern is still hysterical and funnier than ever. But Stern gets away with it because he sounds genuine and has earned the right to establish his brand. Rush Limbaugh is one pompous ass but as a broadcaster he still manages to command a show partly due to his ability to hold an audience. You'll notice Limbaugh doesn't use sound drops--it's still mostly monologue and even if you despise his rants, he keeps you glued. Hannity and Levin simply rely on old-guard rants that lose their appeal because they're the same old tired shtick.

John Rothmann and Mike Krasny are the epitome of intelligent radio. And yes, much of their content and program tends to tilt toward the left. So what? They're thoughtful, passionate, compelling and that resonates with listeners. Some of it may be a little to dry or erudite; perhaps too uber-NPRish, but it works. Figure it out.

Politics doesn't always dictate the popularity of a particular program. If it's moves the needle and lands an audience then it's a keeper.

*Follow me on Twitter and listen to me on KSCO/KOMY every Monday-Friday from 1-4 PM PT


  1. Hi Rich,
    So, how dense is your following that you have to go into this much detail to explain what you met. People are so thin skinned and easily (willing?)offended.

    I agree with you for the most party although I've yet to come to the same appreciation of Savage that you have. I've tried listening to him and have trouble identifying his position. He is clearly provactive but I'm not sure that equates to good radio.

    I'm a fan of intelligent radio which is why all KNBR 680 programming as well as most KGO and unfortuntely KNEW programing is precluded from my rotation. I've tried listening to your show online but something seems to be wrong with the link. I'll continue to try though.

    Satellite radio is where its at. Howard Stern (when he works...) puts on a great show mostly. It's authentic, unapologetic and...different. POTUS (Politics of the US) is what I imagine Air America was trying to be, only it succeeds by taking a noticeable moderate approach. I'm disappointed that terrestrial radio in the bay area does not have any moderate political commentary. The KSFO morning show is clownish. Hannity is simply dumb and Levin is amusing. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant to me. I want a politically moderate radio show in the bay area. Someone who isn't a Tea Party FREAK but acknowledges the need for reform in the state - especially Sacramento. My desire for this is reflected in my serious consideration to give Abel Maldonado a chance to convince me to vote for him in the next election.

    1. We fully understand why KNBR is not on your rotation.
      You are joined by many.

  2. Thanks for this. It's been on my mind a lot, and I know the topic pretty well.

    I met with AAR multiple times, and I can tell you first hand the people running the ship were operative idiots. They were not hoping to entertain, but to change the political discourse. And they hired people who had no idea what they were doing. One day I'll tell the story on the air, but I can tell you that it was from the person running the show to the interns, it was only about your politics.

    That said, being able to entertain has nothing to do with lib/con bias. Radio has "worked" for conservatives because the major companies have taken the successful conservative hosts and syndicated them. It's not like there are hundreds of different voices, and only conservative talk works. Not at all. They found a few that did, who began to gain traction at a time when people viewed the media as wholly liberal. And that was the radio rallying cry, so in essence it became their medium. But to suggest that only conservatives can do it would mean that liberals can only entertain in EVERY OTHER WAY!. that doesn't make sense at all.

    I've worked with liberals who have had HUGE ratings, like Neil Rogers, who was the greatest, Jack Ellery, and others, like Randy Rhodes, who has had huge ratings in local markets, etc.

    It has NOTHING to do with the bent, but everything to do with opportunity. PDs started looking for the "next Rush", or someone who could carry the water around Rush, for a built in audience.

    So please don't tell me it's about political persuasion that dictates why someone is good on radio. Granted, I'll give you this much: it's easier to be conservative on radio than liberal, but that's for the obvious reasons that Republicans nod their heads the same way on every topic, which is often a simplistic talking point. Liberals are often more nuanced, disagree with each other on the things they actually agree upon, and other factors.

    But if it's about ENTERTAINING, I can assure you there are countless more people of the liberal persuasion in that field than there are conservatives. It's just that the opportunity to grow in talk radio has been limited.


    P.S. I probably delivered the worst first hour in radio history last night talking about North Korea, but picked up considerably to close the show. Coincidentally, it has a lot to do with politics, or in this case, my desire at the outset to avoid being "too liberal", as is said.

  3. Rich, your title/ premise of intelligent vs. entertaining leaves out another and very important dynamic...

    (Some)studies have shown that libs are hard wired to be more suited to, and be able to deal with conflict while conservatives cave in to their fears.

    Most people buy(listeners and viewers are buyers) based more on emotion(including fear), and less reasoning. Accept that and the conservatives are an easy target.

    Example...Person builds a home with a moderate budget, they will almost always trade a good portion of the budget for energy efficiency (insulation, heating, etc.) upgrades for bling...granite countertops, fancy bathrooms, etc. Efficiency is practical but not sexy, so they gravitate to the bright shiny object, then gripe about the utility bill or comfort when they move in.

    Idealist libs are more likely buy for practical reasons...Prius, solar energy, etc. but still gain validation from their like minded their peers.

    The successful media types often dwell on the hypocrisy of the way things are, make a valid point to some extent to a broad audience, and find an entertaining way to accomplish it. The shows that struggle financially are the same ones that put people to sleep with reasoning alone...they can't tickle the buying bone of the average listener. ZZZZ.

  4. Stern used to be great. Those first couple of years on Sirius were fantastic. These last couple of years, Howard has become the celebrity he used to rail against. And what about all the time off? He went from 5 days on terrestrial, to 4 days, to 3 days a week, and even those 3 days aren't dependable.

    Stern would go from 6 on the dot to 10:30, 11, sometimes 11:30. Today, it's 6:05, 6:10 and out the door at 10. The guy has completely diluted his brand/product and has become a caricature of what he once was. He should have done 5 great years on satellite and been done with it.

  5. Lieberman's Back on the West Coast!April 8, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Rich: I know that you're unassuming modesty precludes you from comparing yourself to Bay Area radio greats Michael Krasny and John Rothmann. So I'm going to say what many of us are thinking.

    Hands down, you've evolved in a short time into the best radio talk show host in the Bay Area. Yes, better than Krasny. Better than Rothmann. Your afternoon program on KOMY AM 1340 is must-listen-to talk radio.

    No one else comes close to matching the incredible range and extraordinary quality of the guests you've featured. You've developed an engaging on-air presence, a terrific command of the issues, and your commentary is particularly insightful. There's just one little thing you still need to work on, and I hope you won't mind some constructive criticism. You still display a tendency to stutter often, especially when you're formulating questions and you lose your train of thought mid-sentence or are in an excited rush to say what you're thinking. Take it slow and easy. Take a pause now and again.

    1. I couldn't agree more!

      It's only a matter of time (I suspect the near future) before Rich is picked up by a Bay Area station and syndicated nationally.

      Thanks, MZ, for recognizing Lieberman's tremendous talent and innovative approach to the talk format.

    2. How about a Bay Area radio talk show with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual/Transgendered focus?

      Another for ethnic/racial minority groups to air their concerns?

      What about a talk format for 20 and 30 something hipsters?

      We have enough angry right-wing white men in their 50s and 60s hosting programs. They have saturated AM radio with their caustic venom. It's time for something new and different in this radio genre.


      Welcome back, big guy, to K-O-M-Y!

      From La Selva Beach on Monterey Bay to all over the world on the World-Wide Web.

      "Lieberman Live" returned to the air this afternoon on KOMY AM 1340 after an absence of two weeks necessitated by a family emergency.

      Rich was better than ever and in full command, demonstrating his mastery of the airwaves, and had two captivating interviews.

      The first with insightful and long-time CBS radio news reporter and bureau chief Dan Raviv; the second with Pete Giddings, former hugely popular weather man on KGO 7's Newscene, which in its heyday in the 70s and 80s was the Bay Area's number-one rated evening newscast.

      Just one word of advice: Talk more slowly so you don't end up stuttering or changing thoughts in mid sentence as others have pointed out.

    4. Nobody ... and I mean nobody ... can come close to matching the peerless radio host and blogger Rich Lieberman! Welcome back, Rickster!

    5. I am so sick of the "lesbian gay, etc." focus in the news, in newspapers, etc. No, I'm not homophobic. I'm as sick of that as I am Republicans and Democrats. However, if you think it will work, try it on podcast and build it from there. Just spare the rest of us. We already have Karel. And I'm sick of identity living. We're all humans. Why are we so stuck on gender identity?

  6. You were blabbering all over Pete Giddings trying too hard either to ingratiate yourself with him or impress us with your vast knowledge of the old days at KGO Newscene. You need to give your guests more space.

    1. Hey! Don't be jumping all over Rich. As he's explained countless times, it's not his fault. The problem lies in a time lag/delay with the people he interviews over the phone. That's why it sounds like he's talking over them. So, this isn't a valid criticism of Rich. It's a cheap shot, below the belt, for his few Internet trolling detractors. The rest of us will cut Rick appropriate slack, especially since he's the best thing on radio.

  7. Today's big question.

    Will I continue listening to Rich for his third and final hour on KOMY or switch to Gil Gross at 3 for his first hour on Talk 910?

    How many others find themselves faced with this dilemma?

  8. How about Don Imus in the morning?

  9. Rich should feature Chris Craft on his radio show as a co-host occasionally to liven things up. It would make for great radio!

    1. I would listen to that!

  10. GIL GROSS and RONN OWENS also deserve to be mentioned in the Bay Area talk hall of fame.

    Gross is doing a great job on 910.

  11. John Rothmann will be on the Gil Gross Show later this afternoon on Talk 910 (Gil just made the announcement).

  12. Has "Officer Vic," Tom Benner, formerly with the KSFO 560 Sussman & Morgan morning show, been fired by 910 KKSF? Are they going to can Lloyd Lindsay Young next?

  13. Great show, as always, Mister Lieberman!

  14. Your description of Air America fits KSOF in the mornings, just from the other perspective. Even the news on KSFO in the morning is compromised by your friend who knows better than to allow her opinions to influence the news. Heck, I listen to Len on podcasts now and I catch Savage and John Batchelor. I'm not into the politics of Savage. He's a great storyteller. Rich ain't bad either.

  15. Classic Air America story.

    I am working at a radio station in NJ, and we're doing great. Highest morning numbers in 20 years, or some shit.

    Then Air America happens. I'm told by friends they're giving away money, so since I like money, I figured maybe I'd go get me some.

    Send over resume and some other stuff, and never hear back. Another friend tells me, "They're not even looking at resumes. They're just hiring people they want to hire, and already know who they are...Franken has like 4 writers making over $100,000 each..." Meanwhile, I'm making $40k. Hmm...But I manage to get on the phone with one of the guys running this outfit.

    I come in, we talk, he tells me they're all staffed up, but that it was nice to meet me. I look around the place. State of the art, etc.

    Couple months later they bring me back in. They're not doing that well, and need a producer for Garofalo and Seder, which is probably the worst show I'd heard at that time. So I'm being interviewed by the two of them and 4 other people in a board room.

    All of these people have a copy of my resume, and they're all peering me and it over. Asking me all kinds/types of questions. I answer only as I know how: direct. I even point out the flaws with AAR and their show in particular. They no like this.

    So finally, Seder says to me, "Do you have any questions for us?"

    "Yeah, I think I have 2."


    "First, who are all of you? I've never been interviewed by 6 people."

    Sam, "Well, we all work on the show, so we want to make sure you get along with all of us. We're like a family here..."


    Garofalo leaves the room. I remember this because I was thinking to myself, 'if I had a question for her she certainly didn't care to anaswer it.'

    "I guess my other question is what are your backgrounds in radio?"

    (Laughter fills the air)

    I am looking around as they all look at each other.

    Producer guy, "Well that's kind of the big joke here."

    "Yeah, what's that?"

    "Our intern, Isaac, he's the only one who has worked in radio."


    Sam, "Yeah, it's kinda funny."

    Looking at Isaac I ask, "Where did you work?"

    Sheepishly, "I did one semester in college at Columbia's school radio station..."

    "You're kidding, right?"

    Seder, "Nope. Not kidding. We're all kind of new to this."

    I got up from that chair and knew right then and there, that even though I'm the most qualified guy probably in the building, I wouldn't be getting a job at Air America that day. When I followed up with Seder to ask why he said, "You were kind of an asshole...I mean, nobody wants to be judged by the guy they're interviewing..."

    I went back to Air America one more time, as I interviewed for Randy Rhodes' show as a producer. They brought in a real PD who liked me, but her producer, some clown who will remain nameless, told her I was a total asshole (this coming from the former group). So they passed again. This time I needed the job since I wasn't working in radio. the PD told me, "you were the best guy, but her producer really doesn't like you..." If I were him I wouldn't like me easier, since he had no talent.

    Anyway...that was Air America. A place where non-radio people became radio people, and then didn't again. Except for Randy, she's always been great. - DW