John Avlon of The Daily Beast has an excellent article about the decline of Rush Limbaugh, both in terms of the number of his listeners and the quality of his program. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Avlon’s piece:
“‘This controversy will no doubt give Rush a temporary ratings lift, but it won’t be worth the damage that’s been caused in terms of loss of revenue and advertiser confidence,’ says WTOP program director Laurie Cantillo, who previously directed Limbaugh’s flagship station, WABC. ‘It is perceived by many as an attack on young women who represent the holy grail for ratings. Women 25–54 is the prize demo for most advertisers. Rush’s remarks strike at the heart of the audience they’re trying to reach, hence the apology. This is an audience that’s already been in gradual decline on many right-wing radio stations, so Rush’s gaffe compounds the problem.’”
“‘There’s been a lot of research done on women and talk radio and while women are keenly interested in issues and politics, women tend to reject the in-your-face conflict and combativeness of politics. That’s just not how women are wired,’ says Cantillo. ‘We prefer more civil discourse on the issues. And that’s why all news and talk programming that’s more even-handed are gaining popularity.’ While Rush is still a giant of the talk-radio industry, there are signs of erosion. Right-wing talk-radio ratings have been declining, at least in part because of PPMs, a new, more accurate way of measuring listenership. In Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis, local talk-radio stations outperform the station that airs Rush and his national conservative-talk cohort. In San Diego, Philadelphia, and Washington, the local NPR station outranks the Rush affiliates.”
“In what might be another ominous sign for Rush & Co., Mike Huckabee will be starting a nationally syndicated radio show in April for the Cumulus network, which could be positioned to displace Rush in some markets. A former preacher, governor, and presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee is highly conservative, but he is also unfailingly civil.”
“There is an irony in the spot Rush has put himself. His career first took off when he was hired as a replacement for the professionally offensive Morton Downey Jr. at Sacramento’s KFBK. ‘Rush was hired because he was passionate but polite—a nice Midwest guy. The agreement was that he would not be rude or cruel,’ says Valerie Geller, his former program director at WABC, director of Geller Media International and author of Beyond Powerful Radio.”
Some will probably doubt that there was ever a time when Rush was civil and polite! After all, he used the terms “feminazis” and “environmental wackos” even in his early days. But, in my opinion, whenever Rush focuses on discussing and debating the issues rather than calling people names, he can be quite effective, even logical at times. And there was a time when he was more willing to dialogue with people about the issues in public, for he appeared on news programs and talk shows (i.e., Donahue) and debated people who disagreed with him. He still does that sort of thing on his radio program, on some level, but I remember when he had more of a public profile in terms of discussing issues.
I’m pleased that there is a growing number of people desiring a civil discussion of issues—-an exploration of differences and policies as opposed to name-calling and “us vs. them.”