I started my radio career in the 1980s doing community forums and research for editorials at KCBS, a premier national news-talk station in San Francisco. Unfortunately, few radio and television stations produce such carefully crafted position statements voiced by station owners or general managers. Today’s media executives are employed by much larger corporations and they’d rather play it safe. They seem reluctant to take positions on local issues for fear of creating liability to their company.
Part of the broadcaster’s responsibility is, and always has been, to invite rebuttals from differing points of view. The days of more open and civil discourse in media has given way to war-like political confrontation. Pick your side, recruit your converts, and slug it out behind the relative anonymity of social media.
Sadly, the divide between our nation’s two major political parties is wider than ever. The number of Americans who consider themselves independent, middle of the road, or DRs — people who on some issues align with Democrats and on others with Republicans — seems to be dwindling at a rapid pace.
For some time, Dr. Kate Kenski, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Arizona, has been warning about the dangers of political “echo chambers.” Echo chambers, she says, become the ultimate expression of “preaching to the choir.” In turn, their primary mission becomes an all-out recruiting effort with the inevitable consequence of driving both sides further apart.
Call me old-fashioned, but what I find important about local talk radio is that people with a variety of viewpoints can join the conversation and have meaningful dialogue. This stands in contrast to social mediacommenters who tend to be passive-aggressive and feel emboldened by their relative anonymity.
If you are looking for a forum to present and test good ideas, welcome to KVOI 1030 AM, “The Voice.” More than 10 years ago, Doug and Mary Martin built The Voice into an important community access vehicle. When I bought the station in September 2018, I expanded its live and local talk to 13-hours per day (6 a.m. to 7p.m.). Since my days at KCBS, I have always valued the importance of local talk formats. Given the current low level of political discourse, its value could not be more evident.
I want to make The Voice a bigger antidote of echo chambers. All show-hosts live in Tucson and must face listeners in their community. They can be seen at their child’s school, neighborhood center or the grocery store. My hope is that they can foster bipartisan civility by speaking their mind but also listening respectfully to their audience and each other.
At Bustos Media, we are trying our best to live up to that commitment of diversity and civility. We want to reach out and include Tucsonans in a larger and more open conversation. We are adamant about delivering “Trusted Local News and Talk” on 1030 AM. I encourage everyone to dial our number and speak up on KVOI. The Voice has an important mission to get Tucsonans talking to each other in order to rebuild trust and common ground.
Amador S. Bustos is owner of Bustos Media.