How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Ed Schultz, host of The Ed Show on MSNBC and The Ed Schultz Show on radio.
Like most people, I sleep with my BlackBerry on my chest. I hit it in the morning, get a cup of coffee, go online and start looking at a few things: The Huffington Post, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
I do a national radio talk show so I have the benefit of listeners cluing me into different stories. I'll ask them what their hot-button is and they'll say "Ed, you gotta check this out" or "Ed, you've gotta listen to this." It's like I get to have a town hall meeting every day.
I also work the phones and follow-up with people I've interviewed. That's how I got a story out of Iowa about the outsourcing of Whirlpool and what had happened previously with Maytag. I think in this business you can't be an expert on every story. There's only so much you can do in 24 hours. You have to rely heavily on your instincts for what the audience will be interested in. There may be 30 or 40 stories each day and I'll focus on three or four of them that meet the criteria of being informative and grabbing the interest of the viewer. You can't own every story but you also can't just be in a state of reciprocal pickup. I want my own stuff. I wanna do Wisconsin. I wanna do Ohio. I wanna do workers' stories.
I'm not a big magazine reader. Most of my favorite news personalities are old school. I had a lot of respect for Andy Rooney. I really paid attention to his obit on 60 Minutes the other night. I thought he was a very relatable and unique talent. And then there was Paul Harvey. As much as I totally disagree with his politics—beyond how much you'll never know—Paul Harvey was a phenomenal broadcaster. He was dealing with one sense and that was hearing. He just had a way of being a fabulous storyteller.
Now, because of the Internet, there's a tremendous rush-to-judgement mentality. The take is quicker. The spin is quicker. I'll give you an example. Wikipedia. I mean Wikipedia in my opinion is dangerous. There is so much stuff on Wikipedia that is completely false. It just has serious errors. Right now, for instance, there's something on Wikipedia on me, Ed Schultz, that says I'm against gay marriage. I'm not. Never have been. Who the hell put that up there? What am I going to spend all day correcting that stuff? I don't care who anyone marries.
Technology is changing the media so fast, terrestrial radio is almost obsolete. If you want to expand your brand, you have to be multiplatform. I think talk radio is a conservative industry because of the ownership. There are a lot of major radio companies that haven't even tried progressive talk or liberal talk because they're owned and operated by conservatives. Citadel doesn't do liberal talk radio. Bonneville doesn't do liberal talk radio. The Salem Radio Network, same thing. Of course, ownership does have its privileges. If Ed Schultz owned 600 radio stations, I can guarantee you Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or any other right-wing hack job would not be on my stations. But until liberals go out and buy signals, you're not going to get a lot of liberal talk radio.
And I don't buy that there are more conservative listeners than liberal listeners. A lot of the liberal listeners are listening to NPR. In Washington or New York City, the NPR station has huge listenership. That's where most of the liberal audience is and that's who we, the commercial liberal format, have to peel away listeners from. This industry is ideologically-driven. That's the culture of it. The hosts out there that think they can strike a chord with the middle of the road people have it all wrong. What's the middle of the road position on universal health care? What's the middle of the road position on having the wealthy pay taxes? What's the middle of the road position on fighting foreign wars? Liberal radio has identified absolutes. If you're true to your conviction, I think you can run a business in this industry.