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"Radio Static"

I was getting all nostalgic. You know, for the old Soapboxes, the essays which really lived up to the name. Taking a stand on a controversial issue that's bound to leave those who listened thinking I'm a complete kook, throwing change at my large soapbox and walking somewhere off down the street to live out the rest of their typically tragic lives.

Besides, I needed to take a week off from the usual deep, incoherent philosophy cram courses I write, often ending up with no point and making no sense because I didn't fully explain what I was talking about. Like I'm doing now. How about we go attack the issues, eh?

Ground rules, people. First of all, you have to get involved in this, like you give a damn. Got it? Even if it's about some issue which only affects Dallas's radio stations, you have to care. That's all I ask.

For maybe six or seven years, the airwaves in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were great to tune into in the morning. Yes, DFW was one of the first batch of cities to get Howard Stern every weekday morning.

Shame on you if you don't know who Howard Stern is. Mr. Stern's made a career out of his notoriety, starting off as a small-time disk jockey doing crude jokes and talking about sex and ending up as a multi-millionaire with a number one movie and two best-selling books, to go along with years and years of daily radio shows.

But, you know, that's not what's important about Howard Stern. What's important about him, and what's made him number one in so many radio markets is his personality, his habit of speaking whatever is on his mind. Stern's not trying to keep his job. He's not struggling to fit a mold. What makes him the most original personality out there is not his propensity to babble on about the female body, or what he does alone -- he is fascinating because he's human. He'll tell you what he likes and what he doesn't like. He's vicious with things he doesn't like. And he'll admit to his faults and think aloud about them on the air. He is how we all are in private, among people we trust. He's very open about his thoughts and feelings.

Bear any resemblance to anyone you know? Ahem.

A lot of people, particularly the sorts who would be on the Web reading this right now, since the only people who read this are those who have that Webbish sort of philosophy, that certain things are cool and certain things are very uncool, probably hate Howard Stern or think he's a fluke. Don't get me wrong -- I've listened to Howard since around when he started broadcasting to Dallas, but I've never listened to him because he has guests like gentleman's club dancers or famous celebrities on his show. I listen to him because he has the same mindset for presenting himself to the public as I do. Don't hold anything that isn't deathly important back. Be open. Figure out who you are by exposing your personality. I listen to him because he has a keen sense of humor, a way to make everything funny. He's intelligent and he thinks. He's original. He's just plain damn interesting.

Nothing like the rest of what we have here in Dallas. KERA (NPR) isn't all that bad, except its programs lack the hard edge I want sometimes. Other talk shows on the radio are exactly like Howard's, except that they have the genitalia jokes and nothing else. They're painful to listen to and there's no content behind the presentation. Imagine a generic university's web site, if you've ever experienced the sheer misery of having to look through one. It's well-financed and well-supported, but the web site is appalling and even after you get through the big 70k graphic, you can't find any information you need, like a search engine listing all the students and their e-mail addresses. You just expect much more out of it. What it ends up being is like a sideshow, or like some web page put up by elementary school kids whose teacher thought they'd become sentient by linking to Yahoo!.

But I digress.

You get the picture. I think highly of Howard Stern because he's honest and he cares about the philosophy behind what he does. You may think he just craves attention and you can't stand him. That's fine. I've shaved many minutes off my classes by sitting in my car in the parking lot listening to the Stern show until it gets to commercials. I had a sweet deal in 10th grade, see. I was taking an advanced Latin course, which meant I had to go to the senior high school first thing in the morning to attend the class. After that, I drove to my regular school and had a lot of leeway as to when I could arrive. Since biology was pretty much a busywork class, I took my time getting there. Still got all the work done in class. Still got a great grade.

High schools breed procrastination. It's all their fault!

Recently, the company which owns Howard Stern, along with the radio station KEGL 97.1 in Dallas, removed Howard Stern from the morning schedule. This was a sudden move, not giving the listeners much time to deal with the fact that the morning drive would become a bland trip into a medium full of college dropouts. The company (is it Nationwide Broadcasting?), some sort of investment firm, argued that Stern's personality was driving away advertisers. KEGL argued that it wanted to become an all-day rock station.

Just buckle under the pressure, boys. The fact is that Howard Stern is the most successful personality in the history of radio, and that's shown by his long-time number one status in the many cities he broadcasts in. Obviously those markets have no problems selling time for the Howard Stern show. In most of those markets, including Dallas, Howard Stern is the one who makes his radio stations number one.

Bad move, KEGL. KEGL used to be the number one rock station in Dallas, with Howard. So they somehow decided being consistent and removing Stern would be a lucrative business move. Do you find anything wrong with having a popular radio talk show on in the morning, then having rock the rest of the day?

Why haven't they gotten rid of that brainsuck of a radio personal help program that airs on Sunday nights? You should listen to this show. It's hosted by Russ Martin, a man with absolutely no sense of humor and who makes George Hamilton's career look like a complete success. They're so strapped for guests that most every week is just an hourfest of calls for Martin's friend, a psychic. Yip.

And the other disk jockeys are just as bad as the DJs on other stations. Horrible jokes. Plain awful. Personalities of Southern Baptists. Can't interview even with notecards. I feel sorry for the famous bands which come in, only to be degraded by such unprofessionalism.

There's no way KEGL will continue to be successful. The large listener backlash against them, combined with their incompetency (and repetitive playlist) will drive them into the ground.

No other station has picked up Howard, so he's off the air. It makes the mornings less satisfying. Can't listen to the show, which ends at 10AM, so you don't have the extra push to get you going in the day. I rarely listen to the radio now, and avoid KEGL if I can. I want to see them plummet. They don't care about their audience.

No one gives a fuck about their audiences anymore. Mediums are being bought out by companies which have no stake in the medium, but are involved only to make money. Decisions are handed down which have no connection to audience satisfaction. Web sites in particular don't care about presenting to a large audience (although I must admit, there have been large strides to improve that, and older browsers are gradually being phased out). Personal sites obviously don't care about content. Jesus, most personal sites are just tribute pages to other personal sites and how much they were fucking inspired (obviously, not all that much) by other people on the Web. "Click here to find out how much I love that site that loves me back!" TV stations don't care about what the audience likes to watch, so it takes constant petitions to bring shows back. No one cares. No one cares anymore.

What's wrong? Why don't people care anymore? Do they have time to care? Are they too dysfunctional to care? Have we become victims of our own desire to have more and more content and less quality? Have we become disillusioned by losing touch with politicians, values, and virtue? Has that led to apathy, which has led to indifference being the cool way to act? Are we at a point now where it exponentially gets worse with every passing day? Are we at a point where we don't care how we are abused and manipulated, as long as our immediate rights aren't infringed?

We have to look harder and harder to find the quality stuff. There's no stopping it. I feel like I just wrote the personal profile motives behind some villain in a Millennium episode.

Take time out to care about what you do. Okay? Hold on tightly to that which you consider high-quality, and don't let go. It may not be there when you discover how important it was to you.

Shit, this became a deep, incoherent philosophical cram course.

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