Talk Radio Revisited
Before the November presidential election, we discussed the political influence of talk radio.
Two prominent Nevada commercial talk radio hosts joined KNPR’s State of Nevada to revisit this topic almost six months after the election of Donald Trump.
(Nevada Public Radio Host Joe Schoenmann) Chip Evans, according to Talkers magazine, listenership for commercial talk radio has risen about ten percent since November. It seems like a significant jump. What are you picking up from your listeners in Nevada, and maybe your guests, since the election or the inauguration?
(Chip Evans of “The Buzz” in Reno) Well, since the election the number of people who feel they have to do something, that want to be heard, who seem like they need to enter the discussion, has really ramped-up here in Northern Nevada. You see it in groups like Indivisible Northern Nevada, and even in the revival of the Democratic Party up here. And for the first time in a long time, liberals are looking to radio as a format that they can be part of. They thought this was conceded ground for a long time. They’re back. I had a show for three years on another station before the election and then I went to run for congress up here in Northern Nevada. When I came back to a new station what I found was that the number of callers that are calling in, and the number of people that want to be guests, is so much higher than it was before the election.
[Joe Schoenmann] What are guests and listeners concerned about? What issues are driving the topics and the conversation?
(Chip Evans) The best is really: everything. I think one of the things that Mr. Trump brings to the political discussion is uncertainty, which he values. But almost every principle that the liberal community felt was in place – women’s rights, civil rights, protection of the environment – all those things seem as if they’re under assault now. And all the presumptions of “those things are done, we’re moving onto other issues” are gone. And, with those presumptions gone, anyone who has any particular dog in the hunt here wants to be heard and wants to have an opportunity to say, “I’m against this. What can I do?” and “Let’s get together” and “Let’s have a voice. We need it now.”
(Joe) And, Alan Stock - your program has a conservative bent to it. I wonder, are your listeners happier now that Donald Trump has been elected?
(Alan Stock of KXNT Radio, Las Vegas) For the most part absolutely they are much happier. Chip said something very interesting, though, and I want to address that. I see what he said as being true for both sides. Since the election of Donald Trump, and now the inauguration, the democrats and the liberals feel more energized and are trying to grow the Democratic Party as a response or reaction to the president. I think that happens on both sides. Because of eight years of Barack Obama – he was actually a gift to the republicans and to the conservatives by getting issues focused on what we were opposing. And so, I think he helped, in many ways, grow the Republican Party and grow the conservative cause. I agree with Chip: I think that Donald Trump – yes – being in office – I’m not surprised that democrats are growing in the way he’s suggesting they are. My listeners are very concerned about the issues and, so far, very happy with what’s going on – at least with the president.
(Chip Evans) To Alan’s point - the old notion was that so much is settled already and we have few battlefields that are coming up. But it really has opened up the entire discussion on both sides. What’s safe? What’s possible? I think on the republican side: what’s possible with a republican Congress, a republican president. Now can’t we get something done? And everyone’s been wanting to get into the hunt because this is a real turning point for the whole country.
(Joe) Do you allow dissenters on the program? Or, do they call?
(Chip Evans) It’s pretty rare for this particular station and this particular show at this time. In my previous show, I had a lot of my republican friends on. There are some good moderate republican friends who I’m glad to talk to about this, but at the moment there’s not much appetite for that side on my show.
(Joe) And Alan Stock. What about your program? Are most of your listeners devout followers of Donald Trump? Or, do dissenters call in?
(Alan Stock) We have mostly conservatives I would say. We have a lot of liberals listening. I welcome liberal callers. We’ll generally put on people who disagree with me first. Almost everyday that happens. I’d rather have that happen than just have people coming and saying, “I like you a lot. I agree with you a lot.” That’s great. I appreciate that. But it’s nice to be able to have a dialogue with somebody that I disagree with.
(Joe) Do you yourself ever say something, as a conservative, that goes against what most conservatives would believe? Do you ever instigate that kind of discussion yourself?
(Alan Stock) I never say anything that I don’t believe. I’ve been in media for about 35 years and talk radio for 25 years. And I can say in all candor – I’ll take a polygraph on this – I’ve never lied on the air one time. There’s no reason to. One lie leads to another leads to another. So, that’s stupid. You say what you believe to be the facts, the stats, the case, the issues. And you do it from your heart as well as from your head. I’ve always done that and it’s served me well all my life. And that’s the way I’ll continue to do it.
(Chip Evans) Do I say things that are somewhat provoking? I agree with Alan’s philosophy. You certainly don’t ever say anything that’s not true to yourself. But I do get feedback every now and again when I just kind of poke the democrats and say: You sat on your butt. And the republicans have successfully installed a minority government. They got less votes for Congress. They got less votes for president. And yet these are the people who are calling the shots. So, who’s fault is that? It’s not the republicans. It’s just that they’re looking just a little smarter than us right now.
(Joe) Alan Stock, do you wish all liberals and conservatives could talk as rationally as you two are talking to each other right now?
(Alan Stock) Yes, I do…But no matter how much we want civility, and we do want to have a sense of what some people call comity, where you get along, and you can have a discussion that makes sense, people are also rubberneckers. People go on the freeway and they see an accident. You don’t just drive by and ignore it. People slow down. They want to see what’s going on. So, there is an element of having to have that conflict that drives people to talk radio. I would like to see people, again, get along with the issues. The discussions can be done in an entertaining way back and forth without being boring. But when some people start getting uppity about things, and screaming things - that’s when the phones really light up. They want to respond to that kind of a thing. So, it’s a two-edged sword. It’s hard to say one way or another. I like the idea of dialogue. I like the idea of talking. But sometimes you have to walk up to the envelope and maybe just barely step over it a bit.
Alan Stock, talk radio host, KXNT in Las Vegas; Chip Evans host, Saturday morning talk radio program on "The Buzz" in Reno