Clear Channel’s WISN is running a promo spot this week about how wonderful their all-wing-nut-all-the-time lineup is. And what a line-up it is! They have the unapologetic racist, Mark Belling, winning his afternoon time slot by successfully exploiting and validating his audience’s darkest instincts. In the morning, they feature a steady stream of third-rate "talent" like drive-time chucklehead Jay Weber and hyperventilating Madison import Vicki McKenna to carry the daily Republican message and otherwise poison the political environment. Nationally, they run the table in the race to the bottom with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the ridiculously apoplectic Mark Levin.
You could listen to the station all day and night and not find one legitimate opinion backed up by one true fact. That’s WISN for you – beating you over the head the license they hold from your very own government.
Of course, the never-ending parade of fabricating squawkers have to catch their breath once in a while during the broadcast day. They will certainly step aside for commercials, the printing of money by use of the public airwaves being the sole purpose of all for-profit radio stations. Then at the top of every hour, WISN pretends to lurch back from their right-wing fantasy world and present "the news". It might be only a minute-and-a-half of content, crowded by more commercials, traffic, weather and sports, but, still...They call it a "newscast", it sounds like a "newscast"; what the heck. If they want to pretend to be a good corporate citizen by giving their listeners a little unskewed information – even if it is only to placate the toothless FCC and their quaint "public service" expectations – let’s at least give them credit for that.
But, not surprisingly, WISN’s commitment to the "news" is as thin as its commitment to the truth the rest of the broadcast day. For one thing, their national news feed is from Fox News. The only difference between Fox News on television and Fox News on the radio is you can’t see Brit Hume smirking through the stories about Democrats on the radio. It was a couple of years ago that Fox took over for legitimate news organizations that had provided hourly news updates for affiliates like WISN for decades. Apparently, the wing-nuts complained that the truth was getting in the way of their shtick, and Fox News very existence is to give them a softer landing.
Then there is the local part of the "news" programming. Clear Channel never took local news seriously, actually trying to run it out of their studios in Cleveland several years ago, the "anchors" and "reporters" pretending to be in Milwaukee.
These days, the news during the day is frequently read by a "reporter" named Nick Reed. Reed has even anchored some of the station’s election coverage, I believe. Just one problem: Nick Reed is also a fire-breathing fill-in for WISN’s regular wing-nuts when they get days off.
So, there he is, the same guy who read the straight news yesterday is on the radio today, running the same talking points as the other wing-nuts, scoffing at the same Democrats, making excuses for the same Republicans. He is quite the little whack-job, too, obviously having gone to the finest finishing schools for such art. For instance, after the news of John Edwards’ affair broke last year, he followed a proud WISN tradition by making racist comments, saying we didn’t have to worry about Obama straying in such a way because a black woman would "slap the tar" out of her husband if such a thing happened. Get it? Black...tar. Classy, no?
No. But tomorrow, he’ll be back at the news desk (if they have one), churning out supposedly objective content, for people gullible enough to believe he is going to play it straight. Not that WISN gives a rip about tradition or journalistic ethics or anything else, but does anyone else see a problem here? Why would anyone believe anything Reed says during his "news" spots? What stories does he choose or not choose to fit the Republican agenda he drives on the right-wing shows? When he leads with the GOP reaction to a Democratic proposal rather than the proposal itself, do you think maybe he might be playing favorites? Gee, ya think?
As long as this is going on, why not just cast all pretensions of objective journalism to the winds and just let Belling read the news? What’s the difference? At least it would be entertaining to make him try to read straight stories all this year about Obama's high approval ratings. Maybe, just maybe, we might be lucky enough to hear his head explode.
UPDATE: REED SPINS ONE FOR THE TEAM
As if to prove my point, wing-nut reporter Nick Reed was wearing his "news" hat this afternoon (1/5) when he "reported" on Obama's pick for head of the CIA. After announcing it was Leon Peneta, in the same breath, he "reported" that the selection created "shock" from unnamed someones, somewhere, because Peneta had no intellegence experience. Never mind that Penetta was emersed in all manner of intellegence as Clinton's chief-of-staff or even that he was an intellegence officer when he served in the armed forces. But the good wing-nut reporter never lets the facts get in the way of a good spin job that his compatriots or even he can use in the coming days. He sets 'em up, and, if McKenna gets the hiccups tomorrow, he'll knock 'em down.