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Originally published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:23 PM

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Broadcasting a plea for progressive talk radio

Seattle radio listeners try to dial up some progressive talk after their favorite talk-radio station switched to sports.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Carolyn Tamler and a small group of talk-radio fans are trying to bring progressive talk radio back to Seattle. She told me she is doing this “because there is nowhere else to get news.” Ouch.

The station that Tamler, an independent marketing consultant who lives on Whidbey Island, used to listen to, AM 1090, switched from progressive talk to sports in January. The CBS-owned station is betting the deep blue Seattle area audience is more passionate about sports than liberal ideology.

Tamler said Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata steered her to The Seattle Times, which is how I came to speak with her. I defended the relevance of newspapers a bit, and Tamler said she does subscribe to The New York Times on Sundays, and she checks out The New York Times headlines online during the week, but she trusts the people she listens to on radio most.

So Tamler and a few like-minded listeners (Julia Chase, Phil Harrison, Matt Carson, Larisa Wanserski, Rennie Sawade and RoseAnn Alspektor) are trying to find a way to return their programing to the air.

Last December, before the format changed, Tamler placed a petition online that reads, “Don’t let Seattle lose progressive radio! As a local radio listener, I pledge to support with my dollars any advertiser on any station that chooses to broadcast progressive programming.”

Tamler is a coordinator for the Whidbey Island council of MoveOn, and said the political organizing group helped get the word out so that 5,000 people had signed up by the second day. There are 9,600 signatures now.

They want to deliver copies of the signed petition to people who might be swayed by them, station owners, people who have money to invest, they’re not certain yet just who that would be. I’m not either.

Talk radio doesn’t appeal to me. I like commentary, but usually I read it. Of course, you can’t read and drive at the same time or read and putter around the house. Radio is great for that.

And talk radio draws millions of people who like hearing their positions championed, though the progressive side is not the most popular flavor of on-air politics. Conservatives rule talk radio, with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity ranking one and two nationally in audience numbers.

NPR has some progressive offerings, but its highest ranked programs are mostly news shows and conversation programs with broad appeal. And most of the time NPR is much too well-behaved to get a person all stirred up.

There’s room for a little passion in media. Sometimes you want a laugh, sometimes you want to share indignation. Sometimes we all want to know that someone else sees the same craziness we’re seeing.

Some news is just absurd and mainstream media don’t capture that well. They play everything straight no matter how ridiculous.

Think about the popularity of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher on television. Of course, they’re all comedians. Serious commentators on the left don’t often have the same bite as those on the right.

Tamler said she’s tried to listen to commentators across the spectrum, but finds the ones on the right too acerbic, and of course she doesn’t agree with them anyway. So she’s going to continue her quest.

These days she and her friends could always stream progressive talk over the Internet, or sign up for a podcast or a politically acceptable Twitter feed, but Tamler says she likes to listen to the radio as she drives around the island, and she wants it to be her local station.

But, you know, there’s always the newspaper for those times when you’re sitting still. Well, not always. When Tamler moved from Los Angeles to Seattle in the 1970s, she got a job as marketing research manager at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, back when most big cities had two papers.

Whatever your favorite medium is, support it or risk losing it. You can contact Tamler at Progressiveradioseattle@gmail.com.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com

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About Jerry Large

I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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