The hottest new show in talk radio begins each hour with Patti
LaBelle's vibrant rendition of I've Got a New Attitude .
"I'm in control, my worries are few," LaBelle sings, by way of
introducing Laura Schlessinger, America's new favorite radio
psychologist cum moral philosopher to a daily audience estimated
at more than 10 million listeners, including an estimated 8,900
each morning on Jacksonville's WOKV (AM 930).
The song "expresses my belief that it is attitude, infinitely
more than circumstance, that determines the quality of life,"
Schlessinger wrote in the introduction to her most recent
bestseller, How Could You Do That?!
And Schlessinger certainly brings plenty of attitude to her
daily three-hour radio program. Frequently impatient, often
demanding, she's intolerant of excuses and unwilling to listen
to long, rambling explanations of the problem. "I preach, I
teach and I nag to the best of my ability," she is quoted as
saying in a brochure describing her new syndicated newspaper
"Puh-leese" is her favorite on-air expletive, conveying
exasperation with callers who make excuses for why they aren't
responsible for whatever has gone wrong in their lives.
"Take it like a man," she exhorts the callers, an expression
she uses without regard to a caller's actual gender.
Not everybody admires this approach, particularly from someone
who is perceived, not completely accurately, as a psychologist.
Her doctorate is in physiology.
Schlessinger is "holding up the promise of simple, easy, direct
answers to complex questions in life" and creating confusion by
dispensing "moral philosophizing" to callers in search of
practical help, said David Levy, a psychology professor at
Pepperdine University who has written on the
subject of radio psychologists.
But, judging by the faxes she reads during her show and the fan
letters she reproduces in her book, Schlessinger's often-dogmatic
approach to advice giving is what her growing legion of fans
find exciting. They like her uncompromising advocacy of personal
responsibility and traditional morality.
Certainly Schlessinger considers that the essence of her
appeal. "I started talking about honor, integrity and ethics in
tandem with the more traditional psychological approach and
BANG!!! My radio program took off and became an international
phenomenon, while purely psychology-oriented shows have more or
less dropped by the wayside," she wrote in How Could You Do
That?! (Schlessinger did not respond to requests for an
interview for this story.)
EAR OF THE MASSES
Schlessinger's show, which went into national syndication a
little more than two years ago, now airs on more than 300
stations in Canada and the United States. An estimated audience
of 10 million people makes her the second most-listened-to host
in AM talk radio, surpassed only by Rush Limbaugh.
WOKV began airing Schlessinger's program in Jacksonville
earlier this year, after focus groups responded enthusiastically
to her theme of family values.
Currently, WOKV airs her three-hour program from 7 to 10
weeknights, then repeats the last hour the next morning from 11
to noon as a lead-in to Limbaugh. From 11 to noon, her show is
listened to by an estimated 8,900 people each quarter hour,
including an average of 5,300 in WOKV's target audience,
35-to-64-year-old adults. That's 2 1/2 times the audience for
any other Jacksonville AM radio station at that hour with that
demographic group. …