Feature

Talk radio takes a back seat

For the first time in 30 years, talk radio did not have a major impact on the election, said Steve Elman and Alan Tolz in<strong> </strong><em>The Boston Globe.</em>

Steve Elman and Alan TolzThe Boston Globe

Talk-radio hosts used to believe they could dictate national policy, said Steve Elman and Alan Tolz. During the ’80s and ’90s, as their audiences swelled into the tens of millions, Rush Limbaugh and his conservative imitators helped block congressional pay raises, build support for the Republicans’ Contract for America, and were a driving force behind the impeachment of a Democratic president. Yet this year’s election was the first in more than 30 years “on which talk radio had no major impact.” Limbaugh tried to block John McCain’s nomination, sabotage Barack Obama by directing supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton, and defeat Obama in the general election. But the power of Limbaugh—and talk radio—is waning. Audiences have migrated to a host of competitors: “satellite, netcasts, downloads, blogalogue, iPod entertainment, cell phone updates.” Much of the partisan energy once generated on radio has gravitated to cable television, where Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, and others are the new masters of “freewheeling opinion.” Straining for attention, radio jocks have become more rabid than ever, which may please their hard-core base, but convinces more casual listeners that they can “no longer expect talk-radio hosts to be reasonable—or even rational.” Sorry, El Rushbo: The glory days of talk radio are over.

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