“Who do you think you are? You can’t say things like that on the radio…”
— Unidentified caller to the first Austin Rhodes Show, July 16, 1992
Oh yes you could… and you still can.
Successful local talk radio, with an emphasis on CSRA topics and politics, had been virtually absent from the airways when the decision was made to hire me at WGAC more than 23 years ago. The only real “attention getter” in the format, “Voice of the People” host Barry Youn (known on the air as Bob Young, and NOT the former mayor), had been gone for well over a decade, making a good living from Texas to Florida to Arizona.
According to legend, the man who made sure he was hired out of the market was former WBBQ General Manager Ed Dunbar, who recognized Barry’s talent as a threat to his then Top 40 behemoth. The Augusta native packed his bags for the big city, and has been successful and well traveled, finally settling in Phoenix.
Among other things these days, Barry is one of the creators and owners of the most successful live weekend radio talk show in the country, The Kim Komando Show. He is married to Kim. I call him Mr. Komando. He has millions and millions of reasons not to mind that I do.
It was listening to Barry on WGAC in the early ‘70s that got me hooked on talk radio, and certainly provided the game plan to take on local politicians and newsmakers in the way that I do even today.
One of Barry’s major topics back in the day was the planning and construction of what was then hoped to be a godsend for the area, and a project that would pay dividends for generations to come. It was called “The Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.”
I can only imagine what heartache, embarrassment and expense would have been spared if the public had better heeded Barry’s words of warning and his repeated pleas for common sense and better stewardship. He said build it bigger. They didn’t. Barry was right, and the big-wigs were wrong.
Oh the fun he could have brought us and the enlightenment he would have shared had he been behind the microphone as both Augusta’s mayor and Richmond County’s sheriff were both hauled away in handcuffs to the federal pokey within months of each other in 1984.
I remember clearly hearing my late grandfather cuss the radio when he disagreed with Barry, and the way he cheered him on when they were on the same page. I often imagine Daddy Zeb listening to my show in the same way.
It is with that inspiration that I sign on each day, and with the image of my friends and neighbors listening for news, information and occasionally entertainment, that I so thoroughly enjoy what I do and the way I do it.
My detractors have their fun as well, and that is fine… it is all part of the show. There is not a successful, issues-oriented talk show host anywhere that has not attracted their own cast of protesters, arch enemies and, occasionally, kooks. As you probably know, I certainly have mine.
Virtually every broadcast in the 23-year history of the show has had something that ticked someone off. Every wayward politician, every criminal, every “citizen activist” gone cuckoo has a collection of family, friends and neighbors who don’t appreciate their buddy being picked on. Oh well.
All I can do is try to be honest and fair and, to be blunt, there is no way the show would have lasted nearly this long if I weren’t.
Analyzing daily life in the CSRA has proven to me unequivocally that criminal behavior, stupidity and malfeasance are equal opportunity afflictions in the purest sense. Such misbehavior is part of the human condition, and my main goal is to identify such substandard behavior and blast it loudly and clearly, in the hope that it is not so easily repeated. That we have so many of the same bad actors, who make the same poor decisions over and over, is what guarantees me and my kind gainful employment in perpetuity.
What has made the local effort successful is the knowledge that if something is afoot in local politics (or criminal scandal or conspicuous social misbehavior), chances are you can get to the bottom of it on The Austin Rhodes Show. That is a tribute to the audience as much as it is to me, actually. Probably more so.
There is a common lie frequently spewed by my critics that we can dispel once and for all as we enter our 24th year. The daily show is not popular because of some concentration of “Archie Bunkers” listening every day. Actually, the latest Nielson ratings show that on weekdays, 3-6 p.m., Augusta’s poorest and least educated radio audience (all persons 12 and older, with no high school diploma and annual household income of less than 25k) is specifically not listening to The Austin Rhodes Show. In that demo we have a 0.0 share. (For the record, WPRW-FM leads in that category with a 23.8 audience share)
In our target demos, and especially when you consider listening trends over time, WGAC boasts the best-educated and highest-earning audience in radio. In the same Nielson ratings report cited above, my afternoon program is the No. 1 show with all listeners age 12 and older, with a household income of 75k per year or higher, college educated with a 12.1 share. No. 2 in that same category has a 6.5 share. Our lead increases dramatically when younger listeners are eliminated from the mix.
To be clear, the news-talk format does not aim for listeners under the age of 30. For instance, among listeners 35 and older, with that all-important household income of 75k, we are No. 1 with a 15.8 share. No. 2 in the same category comes in at 6.1.
Again, these are Nielson’s figures, not mine.
So the next time you hear that the only people listening to conservative talk radio in Augusta are rednecks and Neanderthals, understand that those making the claim are lying. You now have the proof that shuts down the claim.
The daily conversation continues, and the continuing education is for the benefit of all. Especially me. So here’s to at least 24 more years of fun, debate, drama and aggressive citizenship. As Rush Limbaugh has been known to say, “I don’t intend on retiring until everyone agrees with me.”
Ditto that, Rush.