Opinion

Radio’s Vanishing Coverage

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Posted: Dec 12, 2018 12:01 AM
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Radio’s Vanishing Coverage

At the end of Rocky III, aging fighters Apollo Creed and “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa climb into the ring at their private gym—no cameras, no reporters—to settle a personal wager over who really is the better boxer. As they size each other up, Creed declares: “You know something Stallion? It’s a shame we gotta grow old.”

That poignant observation popped into my mind after opening an e-mail from longtime radio industry watcher Tom Taylor this week announcing that his incisive radio newsletter Tom Taylor NOW will cease publication on December 21st.

“Yes, it’s time for me to retire,” Taylor shared. “In my head, I may still think I’m a kid, but my odometer is about to roll over to a large round number (70). And at this point in my life, my family needs more of me.” He added: “In three decades of covering the (radio) business, I’ve tried to be fair, to get the story right, and to be at least a bit entertaining.”

Fair. Accurate. Entertaining. Over the years, radio hasn’t seen that kind of coverage very often. In the 1930s and 40s, newspaper syndicates saw radio as their enemy…able to actually cover breaking stories live (while their print counterparts were still cranking out “extras” which might ultimately prove inaccurate. As in “Dewey Defeats Truman.” In the 50s and 60s, radio was shunted aside as first 3D movies and then television captivated the public’s interest.

But radio—the most efficient, targeted and vibrant of all media platforms—reinvented itself many times…most notably in the late 80s as Rush Limbaugh led the conservative talk radio revolution into a genuine revitalization of the once-moribund AM radio band.

With radio sizzling again, you couldn’t count the professionals who were regularly chronicling the industry on just your fingers and toes. The legions included Randall Bloomquist and Al Peterson of Radio & Records, Dave Zurawik of the Dallas Times Herald, Perry Michael Simon of ALL ACCESS, Michael Harrison of TALKERS Magazine, John Mainelli of The New York Post and the dean of radio columnists, Robert Feder of the Chicago Sun-Times.

But over the years—as competition tightened, column inches in daily papers shrank to make room for ads for snow tires and the jumbo crossword puzzles and horoscopes—radio columns dwindled, then disappeared or migrated to “new media.” The Dallas Times Herald folded, and Zurawik is now at the teetering Baltimore Sun. Radio & Records went out of business, and Feder has continued to break industry news as an innovative online pioneer. And now, as Tom Taylor is packing it in…radio loses another champion highlighting its wins and losses. (I’m especially grateful for Tom’s attention to detail over the years, even a kind mention in his old INSIDE RADIO fax when I proposed to my wife Lori. Of course…on the radio.)

As pure radio coverage ebbs, what is taking its place are the vile, so-called “Media Correspondents”…people like CNN’s Brian Stelter, whose self-aggrandizing, slanted “analysis” is outdone only by his clownish colleague Jim Acosta. Talk radio—if referenced at all—is preceded by the pejorative “right-wing radio” (despite the fact that Mike Gallagher, Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and other talk radio hosts reach literally millions more “ears” than CNN ever will.)

And “media correspondents” devote much more time to nonentities like Joy Behar or the Kardashians than to the medium that everyday reaches countless millions of men, women and children at home…in their cars…and streaming: radio.

Americans on both sides of the microphone owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Taylor…for devoting decades of his life to keeping them plugged-into,  informed—and entertained—as their one-on-one love affair with radio continued to grow and flourish. His was the rare medium that was well done.

To borrow from FOX News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, Tom Taylor was radio’s Power Player of the Week. The industry will miss him.