Re "Why the Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In," Commentary, April 18: Brian Anderson's attack on Air America Radio is petulant and inaccurate, an indication that conservatives are having a hard time dealing with a robust alternative to the monopoly they had on talk radio since the 1980s.
Regardless of how much Anderson and his ilk whistle past the graveyard, there is a large and growing audience for liberal talk. Every one of the original stations that picked up Air America has experienced dramatic increases in ratings. Our audience more than quadrupled what it was just nine months ago. We are on in 53 markets, including 16 of the top 20.
A recent study by the independent Paragon Media showed that in markets where we are on the air, the names Al Franken and Air America have a greater familiarity than any other talk-radio names except Rush Limbaugh. Our Internet stream reaches 1.3 million separate listeners a week, more than any conservative show. Is Air America having an impact? Ask Tom DeLay.
CEO, Air America Radio
Liberals would be best advised to stick to the quarterlies, Web logs and National Public Radio, where they can preach to the choir in a setting more attuned (no pun intended) to their base. Talk radio's rise came from the right, where the listener base was searching for some place -- anyplace -- in the media to have its views validated and reinforced. When Anderson cites the point "that liberals don't need talk radio because they've got the big three networks, most national and local daily newspapers and NPR," he is hitting the core of the issue.
Air America is still message-based, not entertainment-based. And love him or hate him, Rush Limbaugh (and those who have followed him) understand that the message must be based in a lively, entertaining format. By liberalism's very nature, this is the antithesis of how to put forward ideas. When the most entertaining segment of a show is an interview with Al Gore, you know they are in for a fall. Even hip comedians like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo give Air America an air of superiority.
And the bottom line is that most of us "crude and simplistic" listeners don't want to be patronized.
Anderson's negative rant was a reckless manipulation of facts and a large dose of truth stretching.
It is not fair to compare conservative pundit Bill Bennett's talk show's success with that of Air America. There are several hundred conservative talk stations across the U.S., and for Bennett, an established name in conservative circles, to land on 124 of them is not that big a deal.
For Air America programming to be heard on any radio station, that station must first take the significant step of changing its format. Stations have switched from all-Caribbean formats (WLIB in New York) or all-sports (KTLK in L.A.) or nostalgia (KQKE in San Francisco) to carry the Air America programming.
Anderson wrote: "In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still." The truth is in San Francisco KQKE AM has been on the air only six months and has shown steady increases in a market with the some of the strongest talk radio competition.
In L.A., KTLK AM has not been on the air for a full ratings period, thus making the "lousy" claim a bit premature.
The truth is, like it or not, Air America and Progressive Talk radio are here, they are flourishing and this is only the beginning.
Station Manager, KTLK
Anderson, in attempting to explain why conservative radio is so popular while liberal radio is not, misses a significant point.
Conservatives see every issue as black and white. Liberals see issues in shades of gray. Black and white is fun. Gray is boring.
Martin A. Brower
Corona del Mar