The Terrible Truth about call-in shows | Street Jazz

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Terrible Truth about call-in shows

Posted By on Sun, Jul 17, 2016 at 3:27 PM

There was a time when I was terribly enamored of television and radio call-in shows - until I had my own for several years and discovered the Terrible Truth: most of these (especially with a local audience) shows have about 17 committed callers.

Admittedly, this not an absolutely scientific pronouncement, based as it is upon my own “study” of local shows and speaking to others around the country who have had their own call-in programs. But I suspect that I am hitting pretty close to the mark.

When I first began doing my own show way, way back in the dying days of the 20th Century, I was excited about the very idea of doing a call-in show. Which is pretty much how I got the show in the first place - I asked a fellow from Fayetteville Open Channel, “Why don’t you guys do call-in shows anymore?”

“You want to do one?” was his response.

Really, sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time . . .

It doesn’t long for the bloom to fade from the rose, as they say.

having callers is a sort of verification that somebody - somewhere - is watching your show at all. And in the excitement of the moment, it can be easy to feel that, just because the phone lights up a few times an hour, that you are in high cotton, that the spirited debates between that week’s guest and a caller in intellectual validation.

Until you begin to recognize the various voices - even the ones who try to disguise their voice - and realize that the same folks who wanted to talk about city planning last week, abortion the week before, or chat with a novelist this week, are the same ones who previously called about incinerators, municipal bonds, AIDS and Star Trek.

And then it comes to you, the same folks who are calling your show are the same ones who call the other call-in shows on your channel.

All 17 of them.

And you notice it is true of the local radio shows, as well, be they political or religious. They each have their committed callers, many of whom seem to be on a first name basis with the program host.

It took almost four years to make the decision to change the format, but I’m glad we did.

Because here is another Terrible Truth about call-in shows - a lot of the callers are just calling in, basically, to hear the sound of their own voice.

Hey, I’m on a call-in show! My opinion matters!

This was before Facebook and Twitter, where we can get such validation every time we post something, whether it makes sense or not, whether it is even remotely true, or not.

And when someone calls in the middle of a show and asks, “What are ya’ll talkin’ about tonight?” you realize that you may not be getting the cream at the top of the milk bottle.

But the ultimate Terrible Truth about call-in is this - they disrupt the conversational flow, especially if you are on a roll and somebody has to call in, with a powerful opinion based on nothing factual at all.

Once again, Facebook and Twitter have been the salvation for these Lost Souls, who would, no doubt, otherwise be among those folk one encounters wandering the mall, muttering under their breath.

I have enjoyed the show a lot more without my callers. I hope they still watch on occasion, even if they are Tweeting and posting on Facebook at the same time.


And then, there were folk who thought their show would get all the calls they ever needed

I have directed a number of such shows over the years, hosted by people who brought in enough material to talk for about ten minutes, and then sat uncomfortably waiting for the calls that just weren’t coming in.

Often flop sweat would appear, and they would be reduced to robotically repeating the phone number, coming across like a used car salesman.

Eventually I’d take pity and ask a member of the crew or someone who worked at the station to go to the break room and call in with a question; that usually broke the ice, so to speak, and other folks would start to call in.


Today’s Soundtrack

Today’s typing was accompanied by the CD “Jim Croce: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and Other Hits.”


Now on YouTube - Jori Costello

For your listening viewing and listening pleasure - JORI COSTELLO: The Studio Sessions - a collection of music videos from the popular Northwest Arkansas singer/songwriter:


Quote of the Day

“Ha!” barked Angela gleefully. “Take that, you blasted alien monstrosity! This isn’t just Earth you’re trying to invade. It’s England!” - Doctor Who/Wishing Well, written by Trevor Baxendale


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