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Radio Hosts Can’t Let Election Time Create Fear Of What Makes Them Unique

The Presidential election is in about five months. It’s a big one.

Interestingly, in every election cycle, our culture finds a way to frame the race as the most important of our lifetime.

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It’s as Groundhog Day as it is Truman Show.

By the way, I always — I mean always — get sucked in.

This time is no different, except that despite my discerning, sometimes cynical, and mostly mature outlook, I embraced the concept even earlier and with more intensity.

It really feels like this coming election will have a tremendous impact on what our country is going to look like and how it is going to behave moving forward.

How concerned am I? Very. Civil War concerned? No.

I don’t worry about the civil war scenario for several reasons. We can save that conversation for later, but the essential issue is geography. Where would the physical battle lines be drawn anyway?

There’s no north/south dynamic. Regardless of side, the so-called enemy would be everywhere. I am laughing, but mainly to keep from crying.

I say this without taking a side. Of course.

However, as I gear up for this incredible — some would say historic — stretch of time, I finally am willing to take a side on one particularly thorny issue: Telling people what else I listen to.

It might seem silly to you, but when I started in talk radio, I was encouraged to never mention either NPR or SiriusXM. I sort of understood that the former was the direct in-market competition and the latter was the Voldemort of radio – all-powerful and never mentioned. Podcasts almost seemed right under the surface, too. If I encourage people to listen to anything else, it would mean they would not listen to us.

I just feel that whole dynamic is silly.

First, NPR.

I don’t listen particularly often, but with content distribution the way it is, I follow the institution, so I see a lot of their material. When it’s worthwhile, shhh, I read or listen to it.

Phew, I feel better already.


Yes, I have it. Yes, I use it. And yes, I enjoy it. I like being able to access cable news networks, and of course, listen to the golf, music, and out-of-market NFL. Same with millions of other people, by the way!

I am done tiptoeing around it.

It was an odd, mostly apolitical story that sealed the deal for me. It was a morning when I was having a real-estate-focused interview. Like in many parts of the country, rent is becoming such a large household expense that a lot of people are having difficulty making ends meet.

On top of that, most people can’t afford to buy, either. Both prices and interest rates are high compared to the last 15 years. In Connecticut, the solution to build more units is complicated by intense regulations, high prices, and a lack of open space to utilize.

Anyway, in my prep work, I stumbled on a CT Public story with the headline, “CT Ranks Worst In The U.S. For Renters, Study Finds”. I had not seen the study, and it was a perfect piece of content to set up my interview.

I said to myself, I need to talk about this, and I did. But I also sort of mumbled it – “This story from CT Public really puts it in perspective.”

Afterward, I felt a little dirty about how I handled it. Why should it matter? Why can’t I just talk about it?!?!

Later, while doing what always gives me clarity (insert what you want to, but I mean walking the dog), I realized how dumb the whole thing is. If it’s worthwhile, if it’s worthwhile. If I need to credit the enemy, I need to credit the enemy (not of the people, just of my show).

Even though it was about real estate and not presidential politics, I realized at that moment that if I am going to be on top of the most important election of our lives, I better be able to reference everything out there with a clear conscience.

Don’t avoid mentioning something from MSNBC for fear of being labeled liberal. Same for Fox News and a conservative moniker. If NPR does something of value, stop avoiding the reference. Just talk about it! (I am pumping myself up to do it, as much as encouraging you).

And truth be told, even when the election is over, it should still hold true. God forbid, admitting that I listen or watch something else should not translate into an open endorsement for our listeners to go there … at least not during my show.

Brian Shactman
Brian Shactman
Brian Shactman is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Radio. In addition to writing for BNM, Brian can be heard weekday mornings in Hartford, CT on 1080 WTIC hosting the popular morning program 'Brian & Company'. During his career, Brian has worked for ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC, and local TV channels in Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find him on Twitter @bshactman.

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