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The Talk On Talk Radio


With talk radio available everywhere you turn, we’ve been wondering about the effect of radio on how we talk about politics.

Michael Harrison is the editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, which covers issues and trends in talk radio across the country.

Harrison told KNPR's State of Nevada that a decline in music radio, because of apps and streaming services that offer music anytime, talk radio is giving a boost to the industry.

“Spoken-word radio seems to be, whether it's public radio or commercial radio, it seems to be the savior of radio, in general,” he said.

Harrison said there are several reasons why there are more conservative radio talk show hosts than liberal. One of the biggest reasons is when the genre started to take off in the early 90s, the trend followed the talent.

“Conservative talk radio had some tremendous talent that became very popular,” Harrison said. 

He also said that liberals are more likely to listen to someone they disagree with than conservatives. Harrison said liberals actually love to listen to someone they disagree with.

“They love to hate them,” he said.

Another factor, according to Harrison, is that when talk radio started to gain popularity there was a feeling among many on the political right that everything in the media from TV to movies to newspapers was "liberal." When an alternative to that appeared, Harrison said they "galvanized around the radio."

Harrison dismissed the idea that talk radio helps or hurts the country's political discourse. 

“I think that it doesn’t have a monolithic point of view and it doesn’t have one result,” he said.

Harrison believes talk radio gives a platform to those interested in the issues that are important to the country, even if sometimes the discourse is not perfect. 

“I think talk radio is a very vital expression of the First Amendment,” he said, “And I think that the First Amendment, freedom of speech, is not a tidy affair. You cannot have free speech and have it be nice or the way you like it or only the truth or only things that are political correct. Free speech is the foundation upon which America is built.”

Harrison thinks it is on the listeners to be educated and discerning about what they listen to and what they accept as "truth."

Michael Harrison/Talkers Magazine

Michael Harrison, editor and publisher, Talkers magazine

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.