One unavoidable impact of The Great Recession that started in 2007 was how people’s wealth got wiped out in an unexpectedly sudden drop in the value of housing. The radio business has been hammered with its own wipeout, too.

Venerable career paths in the radio business now are gone from markets of every size and geographic location. The loss is especially significant because these radio career paths date back nearly a century to the glorious days of David Sarnoff. Everyone knows the job titles that flourished in the radio business of yesterday: Disk Jockey, On-Air Talent, Radio Announcer.

Evan Haning WNEW news, Washington, DC
Evan Haning, CBS radio news WNEW 99.1 FM, Washington, DC
One of my lifelong friends, Evan Haning (a Washington, DC news anchor on the CBS all-news station WNEW in Washington, DC), years ago could be heard on the legendary KRLA in Pasadena. In the Forward that Evan wrote for my Neon Fun Jungle ebook he directly addressed this loss of radio career paths:

‘Top disc jockeys in major cities enjoyed a celebrity comparable to that of rock stars. When I went to work at KRLA in 1973, the awe was tailing out (sadly for me!), but the stories I heard were amazing. KRLA was a 50,000-watt powerhouse (and competitor of Drake-Chenault’s blockbuster KHJ) located on the grounds of Pasadena’s Huntington-Sheraton Hotel.The staff told me that as many as 300 teenagers would crowd the lobby and parking lot—sometimes as late as midnight—hoping to see the jocks or visiting musicians. Disc jockeys were often encouraged to show up for work during the last record played by their predecessor, and to leave during their last record, to avoid being mobbed by the kids. Super groups such as The Beach Boys would arrive at KRLA and KHJ in a limousine to hand deliver their latest single. Same as the kids, the jocks were important them. The broadcast world Woody writes about no longer exists, of course…In fact, disc jockeys, as such no longer exist. There are radio personalities and talk show hosts, but apparently there is no longer any business need for cultural gatekeepers—Boss Jocks, Good Guys, what Bill Drake described as “hip older brothers” to introduce new songs, generate excitement, bestow “validation” on teenagers, and do whatever else they did’

The recent evidence of this wipeout was strong at the end of 2011. All on one day, numerous who one day worked on the air (as Disk Jockey, On-Air Talent, Radio Announcer, or by whatever job title) found themselves out of a job the next day. Music radio was not the only format affected. This wipeout splashed over into talk radio.

What caused this wipeout? The answer is simple: The ways in which the entertainment and information industries in the United States do business nowadays differ substantially from how things were done during the days before government regulations were changed by Congress. At the very least, the federal laws are very different today compared to 50 years ago governing what companies can or cannot do with radio stations. Consider whether there are there any media corporations today that would dare to give any major market radio station programmers the freedom to use strategies and tactics like what made 93/KHJ financially successful starting in 1965.Consider whether there are any on-­‐air personalities in any radio market today— especially in this era of mass terminations of on­air radio station employees—who can ever hope to achieve the national status and influence like Robert W. Morgan and The Real Don Steele did.

For those of you reading this who are attending college right now to prepare for media careers, stop texting or tweeting or masturbating and just wake the eff up. You are too young to remember the immortal words of Paddy Chevefsky for the lead character of Network (1976), but listen up like it matters to your life:

Peter Finch -- Network -- 1976
Peter Finch in “Network” (1976)
‘Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job.The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it…I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

I will close by adding my own, far less poetic, yet equally urgent cautionary words for the younger generation. What I have to say is based on having lived many years and never being satisfied to stay within only one career lane:

You should reasonably expect to have more than merely one professional career over your expected lifespan of 70 or 80 or 90 years. This means that what you learn during your undergraduate and graduate degree programs may end up being completely insufficient to serve you over your entire lifetime as you change careers in response to economic changes and changes in public policy in Washington, DC.

You should aim for achieving the capacity to keep learning. You should acquire life skills and the appropriate mental health to keep adapting your professional career choices to whatever happens to you in real life.

[This commentary written by Woody Goulart has been reposted here from http://www.hollywoodhillsgroup.com/. The original post date was June 24, 2012]

Lessons Learned from Loose Lips

As a kid, I first heard the phrase “loose lips sink ships” in the context of World War II era sensibilities. During World War II people believed that one should keep quiet about someone they loved who was serving on a battleship because they believed in the possibility that the enemy might learn of the whereabouts of that battleship and torpedo it.

Loose lips of an entirely different nature can be found in 2012 in radio programming in the United States. I am referring specifically to nationally syndicated radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh spoke out on the air during one of his talk radio shows using language that disparaged and diminished a particular woman who had advocated for government-funded birth control. Listen here for more details.

Just being real honest here, if any male over the age of 10 chooses to use specific derisive or scornful or mocking words (such as “slut”) to describe a female, he should never be surprised at angry responses from females to what he said.

Limbaugh is not a young person. He is 61. He has had employment in the profession of radio talk show entertainment for many years. He would have by now learned from a long career in radio talk show entertainment that what one says on the radio can produce angry responses.

Limbaugh could have chosen to be tight-lipped about the Congressional testimony that advocated in favor of government-funded birth control. There are plenty of other topics from which Limbaugh could have chosen to discuss on his live radio show. But Limbaugh chose instead to disparage and diminish a woman he didn’t know and never had met. Limbaugh chose to use specific language that any mature male or female would know in advance was so harsh and hurtful that it likely would cause an angry response.

This is not a First Amendment issue. I may have missed it, so please email me to educate me about the specific words contained in the First Amendment that guarantee everybody the right to have and maintain a professional career in commercially-sponsored radio talk show entertainment. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Limbaugh does not deserve to be forgiven by anyone whom he offended with his harsh and hurtful language over the air during his radio talk show. He chose deliberately to say what he said. Scores of commercial sponsors have withdrawn their financial support of this specific radio talk show entertainment. That is perhaps the most significant lesson learned from this. Commercially-sponsored radio talk show entertainment can risk losing revenue from sponsors if the radio talk show entertainment does not align with what the values of the sponsors.

UPDATE: Limbaugh minimizes the impact of the loss of sponsors. He chose a fast food metaphor to describe a minimal loss of advertising revenue: “That’s like losing a couple of french fries in the container when it’s delivered to you at the drive-thru.” I think Limbaugh has high credibility as someone whose body shows obvious evidence that he has eaten quite a few french fries.

Other radio talk show entertainers have brought similar loss of advertising sponsors upon themselves. Laura Schlesinger comes to mind specifically. She transitioned her radio talk show entertainment from terrestrial broadcast radio to satellite radio. Limbaugh should seriously consider the same exact transition so he will be unregulated and can be as unrestrained as he chooses to be.

ANOTHER UPDATE: After I published the original post on March 7, 2012, I saw a post online written by Michelle Malkin. You should read her post here: http://www.gopusa.com/commentary/2012/03/07/malkin-the-war-on-conservative-women/.

Malkin’s point is that her particular partisan side (conservative Republicans) have been so maligned over many years by the opposing partisan side (liberal Democrats) that nobody should get too upset over what Limbaugh said on his talk radio show. Malkin goes into detail about the kinds of disparaging and diminishing names that she, personally, has been called. She also gives examples of hurtful names that have been used to disparage and diminish other prominent conservative Republican women such as Kay Bailey Hutchison and Condoleezza Rice.

Malkin’s post is very persuasive in convincing readers civility in partisan politics officially is dead and gone. She does not seem to mourn the loss of civility at all. But, nothing that Malkin wrote changes my belief that Limbaugh should transition from terrestrial radio broadcasting to satellite radio where Howard Stern and Laura Schlesinger presently work. There Limbaugh would be utterly free to be as uncivil in his partisan political discourse as he pleases while having no annoying regulations to muzzle him.

ONE MORE UPDATE: I need to jump in here with yet another update because this story keeps on going like it just won’t stop. I want to call readers’ attention to an informed and intelligent commentary written by Skip Mahaffey, a broadcaster and media coach. This is a must-read in my opinion.

Mahaffey points out something that I had not considered: Mahaffey believes that Limbaugh has “milked this” story to benefit himself and to attract new listeners and new sponsors. The reality is, as Mahaffey clearly and persuasively expresses, Limbaugh does what he does on talk radio to be controversial and the whole point of being controversial is to generate buzz so that more people will tune in to his talk radio show. Any anger at Limbaugh only serves to feed the controversy, which only serves to attract more attention to Limbaugh. Any commentary (such as mine) only serves to bring more attention to Limbaugh, which is exactly what he wants to happen.

A major lesson learned is that Limbaugh does not have “loose lips.” Limbaugh is quite calculating. Limbaugh’s words are intentional. Limbaugh is an entertainer–a professional performer who gets paid to perform before a very large audience. Limbaugh generates controversy through the use of his spoken words. A famous quote from 1984’s science fiction film The Terminator says it best: That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him!