Feliks Banel has written a long, fair-minded piece for P-I.com that introduces (with a handshake) Seattleites to the animaux exotiques who are its local talk radio hosts.
Though the taxon may qualify as near-threatened, they're not all that exotique... at least though Banel’s eyes.
Banel sat in studios all over town writing up radio talk shows as they broke, starting with Bryan Suits (KVI m-f, 5-9a) and ending with Frank Shiers (KIRO m-f, 7-11p). The weekday talkscape: Suits, KIRO’s Dave Ross, KUOW’s Steve Scher, and Ross Reynolds; then KIRO’s Dori; KOMO’s John Carlson and Ken Schram of The Commentators; the Ron, the Don of KIRO; KTTH’s Dave Boze; KVI’s John Carlson Show; and finally, Shiers. It's a narrative of blabber.
Leaving the ratings to the bean counters and the predictions to the psychics, Seattle's local talk radio shows circa May 2010 make for a fascinating case study in how some of us still try to connect with our neighbors using telephones and transmitter towers, along with help from a dozen broadcasters -- all of whom happen to be white males ranging in age from about 40 to 60.Banel puts no political dogs on the fire; his perspective is as an objective, friendly guide to the bland behind-the-scenes of Seattle talk radio. He's an historian, a radio-head, and KOMO’s Not Quite Historian (Tues. & Thurs., 10:35a). He's a freelance producer at KUOW.
For the Seattle market newcomer or tourist, there’s much to be learned; for us blather-drenched, partisan, P-1 listeners who milk this mouse every day- seeing through Banel’s eyes and earballs is revealing as well.
Banel carefully estimates the age of each talker. Dave Ross’s advanced age (“nearly 60,”) is described as the “reigning patriarch (not, icon, to Felix’s credit) of Seattle talk radio.” Ross’s talent and long KIRO employ is given due respect, but there’s the implication that Dave’s tired. The word “befuddling” is used. “But the way Ross does it, [screws up an intro]” it's endearing, as if proving he doesn't care about the trappings of doing a 21st century talk radio show.”
Although politics are pretty much avoided, Banel notes that the early morning Suits starts the day with issues that are echoed by his partisan commercial radio peers throughout the dayparts. Suits started that day with the Arizona immigration law, and Banel heard it echo like a dog barking in the afterlife throughout the day.
Dave Boze (KTTH m-f, 3-6p) was an exception:
While Boze lacks the razzle-dazzle of his other commercial talk colleagues, he's not afraid to tackle issues nobody else is talking about on this otherwise immigration-obsessed day.John Carlson, the only talker in town with two shows on separate stations, (KOMO m-f, 10a-12p; KVI m-f, 3-6p) had a different experience -- repetition can get to someone who does two shows back to back…
Carlson and Schram did two hours on immigration for The Commentators earlier, and then Carlson spent all three hours of his show on the same topic. "That's the first time I've ever done five hours on one topic," Carlson says, sounding both fatigued and exhilarated.Ron & Don got a little distracted:
On this day, Ron and Don aren't talking about immigration in the first hour of their four-hour show. Instead, Ron is for some reason insisting that the title of the Nickelodeon cartoon "SpongeBob SquarePants" refers to two separate characters, SpongeBob and SquarePants. Don plays along, giving Ron perfect set-up lines to further assert his crackpot theory. The phonelines jam and email box overflows. As they often do, Ron and Don have hit a nerve, albeit a fluffy one.
We deeply enjoyed this glimpse into the local world-at-small of talk radio. Banel did his home and field work to bring light to a usually hidden, if banal, corner of show biz. We’re a little wistful, though- he’ll always be persona grata around Radiotown -- he can tread bridges we long ago burned.