Oh, the shivers that were sent down the collective spine of the Hugh Hewitt Show audience that fateful summer day when Los Angeles Times columnist and wannabe Walter Mitty, William Lobdell, attempted to show the world how easy it was to host a nationally syndicated radio show. You can see Bill in the picture above leaving the studio after his three hour long hour of radio, contemplating the column he is going to have to write. That column appears in the Tuesday editions of the Los Angeles Times
. Here's what Bill had to say about his radio experience:
In the movie "For Love of the Game," announcer Vin Scully refers to the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium as the "loneliest spot in the world."
But I'd argue that it's behind the microphone of a conservative talk radio show that's picked up by more than 110 stations throughout the country. Especially when you're seen by the audience as part of the liberal mainstream media, which is like waving a juicy T-bone in front of a pride of lions.
No, the loneliest spot would have to be at the L.A. Times call center, trying every day to find the one cold call contact that will not hang up on you and actually consider subscribing to the Times. More Lobdell:
As soon as the show's opening music boomed into my headphones, my mind began to shut down. You wouldn't think being a talk radio show host would be all that tough -- just read a few newspapers, magazine and Web articles others have slaved to produce and then riff about them.
Maybe Bill didn't notice, but radio is an aural medium. Booming is what we do. That's why the Marcel Marceau Show wasn't a huge success. More Bill:
But here's the hard part. It's just you, your voice and the microphone. You are giving a monologue in an empty studio. You can't see your audience or sense their engagement. It felt like being locked in a sensory-deprivation chamber. Time seemed to slow, the awful way it does during a car accident.
You can't see your audience or sense their engagement? That's just like writing at the Times. Lobdell should have been a natural. But the really funny thing here was the fact that Lobdell claims he felt he was locked in a sensory-deprivation chamber. I was there. Adam was there. Hugh definitely was there. If only you could hear the coaching Mr. Hewitt gave Lobdell in his headphones during his lay-down of an interview with a fellow Times reporter, sensory-deprivation would not be the right description. In fact, at the minimum, it was sensory overload. Andrew Sullivan would most certainly classify it as torture.
The technical aspects of hosting a radio show flummoxed me as well. My producer kept barking instructions in my ear, messing up what little rhythm I had going. I had to put callers on the air, a seemingly simple task that resulted in several hang-ups and accompanying dial tones that made the airwaves. And I had to be constantly aware of the time, making sure the show broke away smoothly for commercial breaks and news (another failure).
Bill's rhythm, what there was of it, was impervious to anything I could offer. It's a simple studio, actually, we have four call-in lines. Bill acted as though he was Ernestine the switchboard operator from Laugh-In.
You ought to go read the rest of the whine-fest and watch the accompanying video here
for a chuckle. The best part after watching Bill's sullen, balding head saying how much fun this wasn't, then followed by the next assignment, which was a botox session. Bill seems hell bent on becoming a living cue ball with eyes.
The real reason Bill struggled is because radio is a real time medium. What you say, how you conduct interviews, how you think on your feet is responded to directly in real time, something newspapers just aren't capable of doing. When Bill writes a column, there might be an e-mail or two in a few days, but there's a buffer between the reporter and the target audience, a buffer that does not exist in radio.
Good luck with the botox, Bill. All that's left then to do is a trip to the Hair Club, grow a little beard, and then you can try your hand at being Kenny Rogers for a day.