Big-League Radio

By Nichols, John | The Nation, January 31, 2005 | Go to article overview

Big-League Radio


Nichols, John, The Nation


George Bush had best be careful when he fiddles with the radio dial in the presidential limousine on Inauguration Day. Instead of the soothing blather of his favorite right-wing talk-radio sycophants, he could face an aural assault from a 250-pound ex-football star named Ed Schultz, who is prone to exclaiming, "We're getting hijacked by Bush and his neocon fascists." Starting the same week the President begins his second term, Schultz, a fiery Midwestern populist who has turned Bush-bashing into a radio phenomenon, will be on the air in DC.

Gaining a coveted birth on the capital city's radio dial is the latest coup for Schultz, a veteran broadcaster whose national show started airing on two stations--in Langdon, North Dakota, and Needles, California--a year ago. Now it's on more than seventy stations and the XM and Sirius Satellite networks. In addition to Washington, Schultz has cracked the Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Miami and Denver markets. By comparison, right-wing radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh was on in only fifty-six markets, most of them small, after his first year. And the liberal Air America network, with its bigger budget and celebrity-rich roster, is on in about forty--although it too is experiencing postelection growth and will be hitting the DC airwaves in January. Gabe Hobbs, vice president in charge of talk-radio for the Clear Channel behemoth, says Schultz is "the 800-pound gorilla" of an unexpected new radio format: liberal talk.

What is it that works about Schultz? For one thing, he comes from radio. "I'm here to do a good radio show first," he says. "If you go into this with political aspirations, or thinking you're going to change your country, you're going to fall on your face." The former quarterback knows a thing or two about hurting his face, and his ego--and also about recovering. After the former NCAA Division II passing champion got turned down by the pros, he went into sports announcing in Fargo, North Dakota. Eventually, he got his own local talk show and, at the prodding of the woman he eventually married, started discussing issues like homelessness and the Upper Midwest's lingering farm crisis. …

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