The Listener Goes Off The Air

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Marc Fisher is radio's biggest fan. His book, Something In The Air, is a paean to the medium he grew up loving as a kid in New York City. (Want to hear a great Talk of the Nation? Listen to this.) But in the immortal words of — well, I don't actually know — if you love something, set it free. Marc Fisher is setting radio free, and giving up his weekly Washington Post column, "The Listener." And he is going out with a big hug, and a serious spanking for his beloved radio — check this out.

This is the last edition of The Listener, a column I have been writing on and off since 1995, and as I look back on some of the characters I have written about here and in "Something in the Air," my book about radio and what happens to old media when new technologies come along, I find a business and an art form in trouble: Just when radio cries out for creative revival, it is instead slipping into a disgruntled decline.
Today, hardly anyone turns on the radio expecting to be lured into intimate obsessions with voices that return each night, baring their souls and insisting on a relationship with the listener. Instead, we seek more voyeuristic entertainment in the far more random worlds of Facebook and MySpace, places where the lines between friend and stranger are fuzzy enough to deliver a bit of a thrill, but where expectations are lower and the talent is mostly anonymous and amateur.

Rough, right? Well, we wanted to hear him say it — right to our face! — so we've invited him and his "Listener" swansong to the Newseum.

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A radio station I listen to, KABZ - 103.7 The Buzz, actually has about 12 hours a day of local radio. It has moved to the #1 network in the area (Little Rock, AR). They even got rid of a national broadcast (Jim Rome) because the audience wanted something more local. That's what they did. They still use some national broadcasts at night, but it's mostly local.

Sent by William Babcock | 3:47 PM | 6-4-2008

Isn't this show just another example of the cheapening of radio? National talk shows are cheaper to subscribe to than subscribing to concerts. Up until a few years ago I loved public radio for a mix of classical music, news, comedy, and talk. Now (during the day). It's all national talk, talk, and, more talk. I miss my local classical music shows, which is why I don't contribute.

Sent by Treelee MacAnn | 3:54 PM | 6-4-2008

I wish I new about this columm; funny I heard about it on the radio. I love the radio, sadly here in Charlotte my options suck so I only listen to NPR. We do have a great local program called Charlotte Talks on our public radio station WFAE. I grew up in Chicago with lots of great local staions. What I miss most of all is listening to Pat and Ron broadcast the Cubs on WGN.

Sent by Margaret | 4:10 PM | 6-4-2008

We in the Greater St Louis are fortunate to have, not only our great NPR station KWMU, but an outstanding community radio station KDHX. I believe only 2 hours a week come from non-local sources, the rest of the programming comes from a very professional cast of volunteer DJs. Best of all, the have a regional broadcast presence, and a global web presence - kdhx.org - Check it out!

Sent by Kevin | 4:10 PM | 6-4-2008