Making Your Voice Heard: Tips for Getting on Talk Radio.
This article originally appeared in Issue# 58
Institutional changes in the way the media operates are necessary to keep healthy democratic dialogue alive. But while we work towards fundamental changes in the way the media works, the public can tap newspapers, radio, and TV to make their voices heard. Too few members of the public take advantage of these opportunities.
What can you do? One of the quickest, easiest, and least expensive steps you can take is to call radio talk shows.
Talk radio has become immensely popular across the country. Hundreds of talk radio shows are on the air. You may not listen to them but millions of people do. In fact, 11.6 million listeners tune in to Rush Limbaugh and his callers each week. The efforts of some hosts - Michael Jackson, Larry Josephson, and Rush Limbaugh, among others - are distributed nationwide. Some are strictly local. Not all talk shows discuss political issues, but many do. Talk radio provides an electronic forum, not unlike the town square 200 years ago, for the public exchange of ideas and opinion. Like the broadsides and pamphlets of those days, talk radio represents a wide spectrum of political opinion.
Talk radio not only offers the public an opportunity to air opinions and discuss issues, it can also wield meaningful political power. In l989, when Congress was about to vote itself a pay raise, a coalition of talk show hosts galvanized the public and defeated the measure.
You may feel a little uncomfortable or nervous about the idea of calling a radio show. Don't be embarrassed. Lots of people feel that way. Most of us were taught how to pull a voting lever or write to the President, but are less familiar with how the broadcasting media works. It takes practice. Before you make your call arrange a role-playing session with a friend or colleague. Select a topic and have your listener act as the host. Jot down a few notes for yourself and practice what you're going to say.
Once you're comfortable with calling, get ambitious. Talk show hosts are always looking for new people and new ideas to present on their shows. Survey talk radio shows in your region. Get to know the subject matter, politics, and style of individual show hosts. Knowing the terrain will help you determine which shows to approach with your agenda. You can approach talk show producers with a press release followed up by a phone call or simply by phone. (Don't forget to plan what you're going to say before you call!)