Sunday, November 9, 2008

Concession and Redemption

Like a lot of people, I thought John McCain's best election season speech was his concession. He looked tired. He looked weathered. He looked beaten. He looked relieved. It was relief that he could finally just relax and...get ready for himself.

Something the candidates have no shortage of are advisers to tell them what to say and how to act. There are briefings about briefings. Sports scouting reports have nothing on political ones. Every audience is different. Everybody wants something else. Political advisers are the shape shifters and the politician is the shape. They're coached, combed, and created. I don't know if John McCain wrote his own concession speech. I certainly hope that he did. Regardless, he was never more liked than when he had lost and had put his guard down. Why couldn't this have been the way the campaign was run? Because I'm sure the "advisers" had other ideas. This is where we segue to radio. Right after I get a soda, anyway..

Radio advisers, or "consultants", are a relatively recent invention. They've been around for about 20 years or so. I have nothing but contempt for them. They are the radio equal of the advice columnist. They give the advice and, no matter how disastrous the results are, don't have to live with the consequences. Radio's downhill spiral into irrelevancy is directly related to the rise of the consultant, as is the homogeneity. Satellite radio is an outgrowth of the disdain for terrestrial radio, whose downhill spiral is directly related to consultancy. Consultants have had a world of influence and that influence has been universally negative. And yet, they continue to exist.

Consultants will tell a station what to play. They'll tell the jocks what they should talk about. They'll tell the station how to position itself- all from hundreds of miles away. The advice will be an outgrowth of occasionally listening to the station they consult. Consultants destroy- sorry, "work for"- dozens of stations at a time, so the attention they spend on one station can't be very much. Yet, their advice is swallowed like Kool-Aid at Jonestown. Thus, stations don't develop their own personality. They're just one of many such clones across the dial. The songs are the same, the websites look the same, and the jocks are told what to do. Initially in the business you're told to "be yourself". In the end, that's the last thing they want you to be. It was a consultant's advice that I be let go, and KWNR's ratings have not been the same.

I don't know if Clear Channel had a major role in the McCain campaign, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if they did. That would explain a hell of a lot.

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