An Interview With Larry Elder
Yesterday, I was thrilled to get an opportunity to interview syndicated radio host and columnist, Larry Elder. What follows below is an edited transcript of our conversation. Read and enjoy!
John Hawkins: Despite being lavished with favorable attention from the mainstream media, Air America just went bankrupt. Now, you’re a successful talk radio host, you’re syndicated all over the country, so you know the business. Tell us, why did Air America fail?
Larry Elder: Air America – first of all, I’m not sure it has failed. It’s gone into Chapter 11 which is re-organization and it’s not uncommon for companies to go into Chapter 11 and come out leaner and stronger, so I don’t think we ought to write their epitaph just yet.
…The reason they’re having difficulty is because of why they exist in the first place. They are not there because they perceived there to be a need in the market place. They’re there to counter what they consider to be this monolithic domination of talk radio by right wingers. A radio star becomes a radio star in his or her town first, like the way Rush did in Sacramento, and then begins taking in markets. You do it from the bottom up rather than from the top down.
This is somebody saying, “Ha, right wingers have dominated talk radio. Let’s do something about it,” as opposed to, “There seems to be a screaming market for liberal radio. There are areas in the country where a liberal radio host would do well because our surveys have shown that prospective listeners have nowhere to go.” I doubt very seriously that they did it that way.
They did it as a counter to talk radio rather than as a need to address a gap in the marketplace and the reason there is no gap in the market place is because Air America, in a much more subtle form, is on television every day. It’s just called ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN.
If you want to have an article or a point of view against gun control, in favor of the Brady Bill, and in favor of further gun control, cut on your television. You know, …there’ll be talking heads that will talk about the need for further gun control just the way a talk show host on Air America would. So, it’s not as if the marketplace is screaming for points of view that are liberal.
If you want a point of view about the need for Hillarycare, a type of health care, cut on your television. It’s there. If you want a point of view about the need for greater federal government involvement in education, cut on your television. Cut on your local news, cut on your national news, pick up your local newspaper. Read the editorial section. It’s all there.
Talk radio on the conservative side fills a need. The need is that our perspective is not getting out — the desire for limited government, lower taxes, a strong national security, calling Bush “not a moron.” Those kinds of things are not addressed in the…I call it the “mainscream” media – and that’s the need.
So I figured it was going to fail as soon as I heard what their desire was, which was to basically serve as a “counter” to what they perceived to be the pernicious effect of right wing radio. Hey, that’s a recipe for a disaster.
I’ve run a business before. I practiced law for 2 ½ years, John, and then I ran a head hunting business for about 15 years. I sold it to go into talk radio, never missed a payroll, always kept the door open, and it is a very, very difficult thing to do – to start and run a successful business, which is why most of them fail. But, you don’t go into it saying, “I’m going to right the wrongs, I’m going to level the playing field.” You go in there because you feel that there is a market demand that you can fulfill. They went in there for exactly the wrong kinds of reasons.