Hannity’s misstep displays truth about “News Radio”


The program director of WBEN in Buffalo, Tim Wenger, posted this the day it was revealed Sean Hannity had connections with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Tim’s correct.


Hannity is not a journalist.  He’s the self proclaimed “advocacy journalist” laying cover over all his opinions.

Hannity and many of the talk clones have simply sold their platforms to become mouthpieces for (in Hannity’s case) the political right. That’s what capitalism is all about. Good for Sean.

However, Tim’s tweet did get me to thinking.

Right leaning apologists that populate AM conservative talk radio will be quick to point out the Fox News channel, along with its talent like Sean Hannity, is an opinion channel and that it’s not really a news channel. It provides important social awareness, like our country’s annual December battle known as the “War on Christmas.” It’s where like-minded people who have been oppressed and marginalized by the mainstream media can gather and get the “fair and balanced” opinion so they know what to think.

Fair enough.

But, many of the conservative, mostly AM talk radio stations across America still tell you they’re news stations, when in reality they are no different than what their talk hosts will claim the Fox News channel is, opinion stations.

Many of these stations began as news and information radio stations with news staffs that actually covered news affecting their communities. Stations, then, were very careful to avoid blurring the lines of opinion and news. Some gave themselves the marketing moniker of “News Radio.” Since producing news content was and still is expensive, this was a big point of differentiation for them, since few competing stations would be willing to spend the money to take them on. This is why in many markets (and if the market is lucky) only one so-called news radio station remains.

Then Rush Limbaugh came along, his act enabled in the 1980’s when the FCC decided it would no longer enforce the Fairness Doctrine. And with Limbaugh’s success, the Rush wannabees sprung up like weeds in fertile spring garden dirt. Where did many of these copycats and their opinions end up? On the so-called AM news radio stations.

While these AM stations kept telling themselves they were still news stations, their image as legit news organizations eventually became overshadowed by the rhetoric and opinions of Rush, Glenn, Sean, Michael and Mark with their national and some would claim extreme right wing political views.

bell curve

Years ago I was in a research meeting along with other news and talk programmers and we were shown a bell curve. The middle of the curve was where most of the available audience existed. To either side were the political left and right audience extremes. We were told our news stations lived in an area to the extreme right and we must market ourselves more moderately (to the middle) in order to gather the biggest audience.

I remember thinking, how does the audience know when the real news ends and Rush Limbaugh’s opinions begin? Was it the beginning beats of Chrissie Hynde’s song about her Ohio hometown?

We were told, “They just know.”

Of course they didn’t and still don’t.

So how does a “news station” retain the image of a news station when they devote, in many cases, 15 hours a day or more to conservative, syndicated, national, political opinionated talk?

The answer is it can’t.

Smart radio programmers know to cater to the incidental audience that will tune in, especially during breaking news. Think about it. When a big news story happens, such as the recent school shooting in Florida, people searching for that news may find the AM news station. If they instead hear right wing national political opinions, chances are they’ll conclude the station is not for them, especially if they’re moderates. To them this perpetuates the image that “talk radio” really means “conservative talk radio” and “news radio stations” are in reality “conservative opinions stations.”

You only get one chance to make a first impression.  It may be time for some stations to drop the news radio nickname and admit what they really are.

My thanks to “America’s Advocacy Journalist” for helping shed the sterilizing light of truth on “news radio.”


Please make sure to follow my blog here and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

  14 comments for “Hannity’s misstep displays truth about “News Radio”

  1. April 17, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    I think Sean Hannity claims to be whatever he wants at the moment. It was only last year that he was claiming in the Washington Post that he is a journalist.

    The post wrote: In fact, Hannity often promotes the idea that he is one of few people doing journalism right.

    “Members of the lazy, destroy-Trump media aren’t interested in doing their job,” he told viewers on Monday. “So we’ll continue to do it for them.”

    Hannity now purports to be a journalist, both implicitly and explicitly. He should be judged as such.

    You can read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/11/29/sean-hannity-now-claims-to-be-a-journalist-he-should-be-judged-as-such/?utm_term=.c24861615c0c

    Maybe this is why so many people are confused.

  2. Scott
    April 18, 2018 at 5:56 am

    Sorry Darryl but I disagree completely. News radio exists at top and bottom of the hour when someone reports the news. The talkers are not journalists and no one with a brain thinks that they are. If you listen to Rush you would notice he says “I think” or “I believe” frequently and also specifically mentions occasionally that he is not a journalist. Talk radio is not the problem.

    • April 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      And people do a great job of separating news and opinion on Fox News or MSNBC too. I wouldn’t be so confident in your assessment of so-called news radio.

  3. Tom Lawler
    April 18, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    To further muddy the waters…you have a plethora of “NewsTalk AM XXX” stations that, yeah, have CBS/ABC/NBC whatever satellite news at the top of the hour…and maybe a local cast in AM & PM drive.

    Radio wants the same thing as Hannity – the prestige of being “news” without having to do much work or much effort…or adhering to any ethics.

    And by looking at the ratings for such stations like WABC & WOR…it’s working out as well as Hannity claiming Cohen wasn’t his attorney (but still would like attny/client privileges)

    • April 18, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      Stellar ratings the last time I looked. Add WLS and now WGN to that list of also rans.

  4. Eric Jon Magnuson
    April 18, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Then, you have folks like Bryan Crabtree, who ask questions like, “Why do we have stations full of conservative hosts polluted with liberal news anchors avoiding the news that our audience really wants to hear?”


    • Brad Lovett
      April 19, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Yeah, that was interesting. “In the news today, Our Lord and Savior President Trump has an 85% approval rating, More about Bhengazi after this message”.

  5. April 18, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    News talk Radio is as much an oxymoron as Reality TV, Just as the same thing can not be both reality and TV at the same time radio can not be news and talk at the same time

  6. April 20, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    The elephant in the room you are ignoring is the incestuous relationship with the Main Stream Media and the DNC. The so called standards of journalism; ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, etc… are nothing more than the PR arm of the DNC. One example of many is George Stephanopolis. He doesn’t even have a Journalism degree. He’s a Clinton Administration hack who was part of the West Wing war room that planned strategies to combat, as Hillary so eloquently put it, the bimbo brigade among other “threats” to the the Clinton administration. How does he have any credibility as a “journalist?” The rabbit hole goes deeper. http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2013/09/07/mainstream-media-honchos-related-towhite-house-officials/

    • Carl Gorney
      May 25, 2018 at 12:32 am

      Jeff: You’re COMPLETELY naive if you think that. The networks and their news coverage are centrist. AT BEST

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: