It really is radio when you go in a room and start talking to the closet door. Some say it’s not. I say it is.
That’s how deep the loyalty to radio must run. I actually wonder if I’m throwing away my principles by embracing podcasting. Imagine that.
Because if you think about it, podcasting is the arch enemy of traditional radio. There are only so many ears, so many people who want to use those ears to listen to a guy sitting around in his underwear talking into a digital recorder. There’s only so many ears that want to hear two dopey girls laugh about fashion, a loudmouth rave about the loss of honor in the mixed martial arts. There’s only so many ears that wanna hear about a cold case, an unsolved murder with twists and turns that the cops never explored. There’s only so many rants about politics that ears want.
There is amongst these ears, of course, very few that want to hear about the life of a local radio guy. And between those ears, there’s even fewer that give two shits if they’re forsaking radio by listening to podcasts.
Nobody cares. Isn’t that what I say when a caller’s going on and on about how people should be care about something that they don’t? Nobody cares. Nobody cares if radio dies. Nobody cares if the spoken word falls off the table. It’s just ears and it’s just want and there’s no way in hell that I’m straying from my love for radio. No way. What I am doing is poking around for a way to keep it alive, and there has to be at least a modicum of honor in that. Doncha think?
Enough rambling. In the past couple of weeks I’ve assembled a website called JEDcastradio.com. It’s where Region podcasts go to flourish (hopefully) on the internet and on the air. On real honest-to-goodness radio. The kind of radio that shoots off a tower and hits some of those ears mentioned in a previous paragraph. The kind of radio that means something. Or not. Maybe nobody cares.
Is radio in and of itself an art form? I doubt it. It’s really not the delivery method that matters. It is the community that produces the radio that may matter more. Maybe you listen to it on a CD, or an old vinyl album, or on the air through a Motorola, or on your nightstand through a BOSE. Or maybe you hear it standing in line at the doughnut shop. You hear the radio. Someone starts talking. They’re saying something that you want to hear. That’s all it really takes to be radio. Then you get your chocolate doughnut.
The art form is the speaking, not the radio. True, there is proud tradition in radio. You’re somehow in touch with people from generations past. That can make you feel good. The waves go into your ears to spark some neurons and next thing you know you’re thinking about an avalanche in California that killed seven people or the injustice of the refs in the Alabama game or the first time you heard the Beatles sing “Yesterday.
It’s all the same. Radio carries you from the donut shop to the car to the kitchen to the bedroom. Somewhere in between you live some life. Then eventually you die.
But radio lives on. I’ll be dead and radio won’t be. I am certain of that. Doubters say it’s dying now. Don’t believe them. There’s a second act for… or is it a third or fourth or fifth act? You can will it to die, but you can’t kill it. Radio’s just too damn stubborn, like the locally famous sportswriter Al Hamnik who comes on the air with me every other Wednesday.
Next question? What the hell am I doing messing around with podcasting? It’s youngsters walking around with earbuds listening to podcasts on iTunes that’s killing radio. So why have I walked on over to the dark side?
Necessity. It really doesn’t matter to me whether I make a connection with a host who’s seeping out of the radio on my nightstand… or if it’s a podcast coming out of the earbuds connected to my iphone. It’s the same. Sure, with radio I feel not only the words of the moment but also the words of the past. So I guess there is a difference. When I listen to a podcast, the only way I feel a connection with the past is if the narrator refers to a cold case in 1978 in Oxford, Ohio. I can think about what I was doing in 1978, which was smoking weed and playing basketball. And then playing some football and smoking weed. And, finally, smoking weed and playing baseball.
But I constructed that bridge to 40 years ago. The podcast words didn’t. Only radio words can do that. If someone’s doing radio right - true, pure radio - then you can feel in his or her voice all of the voices that led up to that moment. And that’s pretty powerful. So before I go on half the night waxing poetic about radio, why don’t the three or four of you put down your phones and your laptops and go listen to some radio. You might have to fiddle up and down the dial, but my guess is that somewhere or another you’ll find something that smarts of being authentic. At least I hope so. Otherwise I’m just wasting my time practicing this art of no return, this beauty of no scent or malice.
“It’s just radio,” I texted to our afternoon producer. He had texted me to comment on another weird, out-of-sequence surprise that happened behind the scenes in the studios. “Write the book someday,” I texted.
“I hear ya.”
You see, he (Tony) gets it. If he didn’t, he would have texted, “I know what you mean.” Or “No kidding.” But he commented with his ears, which gives the three or four of you and the dog licking his paws at the end of my bed hope, which is all you could ever ask for in the 21st century. Good night. Another Thousand Words.