The Rush Away From Rush
Making radio waves: As a veteran of talk radio (afternoons on WGAN in Portland from 1991-93), I know that nothing does more for ratings than to stir up a little controversy. Management loved it whenever angry callers announced, “I’m never going to listen to your station again.”
“Great,” they’d reply. “Be sure to tell all your friends.”
You couldn’t buy better publicity than that.
So, it’s no surprise that WGAN head honcho Cary Pahigian isn’t particularly concerned about the outrage Rush Limbaugh has generated with his ill-considered comments attacking a birth control advocate.Several advertisers have asked the station to remove their spots from Limbaugh’s show. Some listeners have demanded the station drop the program. There have been a couple of newspaper stories. Pahigian must be delighted.
That’s because most ads on Limbaugh’s show are part of larger contracts that include spots run in other day parts. Those companies that don’t want to be associated with Rush aren’t doing less business with WGAN, they’re just spending their money in different time periods. For the station, the bottom line is the same.
Another plus for WGAN: All the publicity is bound to drive some listeners to 560 AM just to see if Limbaugh or other hosts say something else that offends everyone. Any movement in that direction will be welcome, because WGAN had one of the worst Arbitron rating books in its recent history in January, barely hanging on in the top ten in the newly revamped Portland market. The station had traditionally finished among the top three.
Pahigian has to be hoping the anti-Limbaugh sentiments last at least through the next rating period.
If you can’t say something nice: Whenever I write something negative about somebody or something (which is most days), I expect to take some flack for it. An insulting comment or two. A few angry emails. Pretty standard stuff.
But that’s nothing compared to the reaction to my posting here earlier this week complimenting MaineToday Media and new executive editor Cliff Schechtman on their solid coverage of Olympia Snowe’s resignation. The emails were of such viciousness that I doubt they’d have been much worse if I’d slandered a college student for her views on contraception.
No calls for a boycott yet, but tar and feathers have been mentioned.
Ok, I concede. I’ll never let another hint of praise into this feature again.
The local angle – and bias: The Portland Pirates minor-league hockey team plans to play a few games in Lewiston next season while its home at the Cumberland County Civic Center is being renovated. That news was handled in dramatically different fashion by the daily newspapers in the two cities that will be sharing the Pirates.
In the Lewiston Sun Journal, the story made the top of the front page, and treated the announcement as a major plus for the area. The article mentioned the possibility the Portland team might play games in future seasons at the Colisee and would be engaged with that facility in bringing a high-level junior hockey franchise to the area.
In contrast, the Portland Press Herald coverage, buried in the local section, emphasized the temporary nature of the deal and quoted the Pirates’ owner as saying the shift of some games to Lewiston “hopefully will not exceed a handful.” There’s nothing about continuing that arrangement after next season.
The truth seems to be somewhere in between.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.