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Air America signs off: What does it mean for progressive media?

Air America signs off: What does it mean for progressive media?

Air America, a progressive radio network that was home to the likes of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rachel Maddow, announced that it was closing up shop and setting up to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy late Thursday afternoon. The station is running “best of” shows on its affiliates through Monday, and then that’s it. One of the largest progressive media institutions in the country is signing off, another casualty of a harsh economy and dwindling ad revenue.

The station helped launch Rachel Maddow’s career and intensified the reach of people like Randi Rhodes. While controversial at times, Air America added a much needed perspective to contemporary talk radio, and the airways will be a little duller without it.

Peter Rothberg of The Nation and Richard Corliss of Time have penned fitting memorials for Air America. Both note the devilish glee with which many right wing blogs and media soapboxes are commenting on Air America’s passing.

Rothberg writes: “See the aptly-named HotAir, which argues that the network’s failure demonstrated the lack of interest in liberal talk radio or the Newsbusters blog which contends that the network was redundant because of the blatant leftwing bias of National Public Radio.”

Here’s the thing: There is an audience for insightful, incisive progressive radio—Rothberg cites Democracy Now! as a prime example. The problem is not in the content or the audience, but in the infrastructure. And Air America was not alone in its struggle for sustainability.

This is a deadly difficult time for media, especially independent outlets that seek to impact pubic conversations. In my work with The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets (of which Air America was a member), we’re trying to address those issues of audience and sustainability to help build a better future for independent media as a whole. The problem is, a better future means massive (and I mean massive) changes in infrastructure, content delivery and audience interaction. We talk a lot about the “future of media” in our recently released report, The Big Thaw.

Need an example? Almost any media organization must now be multi-platform. You can’t just have a radio show, you have to have a solid website and audience engagement strategy that backs it up. Air America was starting to do this work with their October relaunch of AirAmerica.com. But being multi-platform requires a great deal of capital and an enormous cultural shift for many organizations.

The short take: Independent media simply cannot survive alone. We, as listeners, watchers, and readers, must be involved and contribute to the journalism that we find valuable. But media organizations also have to work together to share best practices and support each other as innovators and communicators. It’s only through collaboration and connections that we can see it through.

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flickr photo courtest of Loopzilla
By Erin Polgreen, Senior Program Associate, The Media Consortium

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182 comments

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2:31PM PST on Jan 27, 2010

Oops, sorry! I forgot! Thanks for all the green stars guys!
I love taking on idiots! Like Judge Judy says, "like shooting fish in a barrel!"

2:30PM PST on Jan 27, 2010

Again, folks, keep standing up and answering back whenever you see ignorant, erroneous information masking as opinion. It isn't!

It is ignorance, pure and simple and it needs to be answered and exposed.

8:41AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

...wow! this one is still goin huh? too funny!!!

7:32AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

Keith Olbermann said it best last night when critics accuse him of being the same as the likes of O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and Beck. No he isn't.

O'Reilly, et al incite violence in those of the right who are angry and like to "kick some ass".

Just ask the family of Dr. Tiller, who O'Reilly continually accused of being a "baby killer", murderer, and kept up this assault until one of his "nut job" listeners went into a church and assassinated this man.

Or just ask the family of the boy who was kidnapped, raped and held captive and when finally returned to his family, O'Reilly accused of liking where he was held captive because he didn't have to go to school and he could play video games all day.

I don't know anyone on the left who is spewing this kind of hatred and incendiary speech and egging people on to commit violence.

I believed in 1995 when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, that Rush Limbaugh was responsible for firing up these nut jobs.

This, my friends, is not free speech, but no one has actually called them on it. Bill O'Reilly should have been charged as an accessory to murder in this outrageous act by one of his whacked out listeners.

I refuse to be tolerant of this type of dangerous rhetoric and I refuse to sit back and not shout them down when I hear it.

Those of you who feel we should be "tolerant" of anyone's opinion are digging your own graves and perhaps the next target of this type of vitriolic "opinion" could be YOU.

5:42AM PST on Jan 27, 2010

Cry me a river!!!

4:24PM PST on Jan 26, 2010

If there were more progressive media outlets and progressive speech available, I don't believe the country would be as bad off as it is. News coverage should be as even handed as possible, but it very often isn't. Editorials and expression of ideas need to be wide spread and cover all points of view, but as a liberal myself I find it disheartening that almost everywhere I turn (not just Fox News and most talk radio) what is being said goes far to the right. As an advocate of freedom of speech, I think the right should have its voice although more honesty and fewer lies would be nice. More progressive voices are definitely needed, however.

11:31AM PST on Jan 26, 2010

Hey Samuel, I would answer you on here, but I do not intend to give the uninformed the answer. They will need to look it up, but I will repeat that if it had not been for France, we would not have a country, we would still be under English rule.

The uninformed who continually like to beat up on France and Europe and call them socialists are just wrong and I will call them out on it every time they say it.

11:05AM PST on Jan 26, 2010

I think you've been listening to FOX too much, Sheila.

11:01AM PST on Jan 26, 2010

It's regardless, not irregardless. And no one said there wasn't freedom of speech, but the informed have the right to confront the ignorant and ill informed who have been driving the debate for the past 12 or so years since the inception of FOX Noise.

Anyone who believes that listening to Bill O'Reilly and Laura Ingram in addition to Progressives, is sadly mistaken that they are getting both sides. I would suggest Ron Paul and other intelligent voices not the above ones you mentioned.

Again, people of reason have the duty and the right to confront this type of reactionary ignorance and inflammatory speech, which by the way, would not have been allowed (and wasn't) years ago when the Fairness Doctrine was in place--before Ronald Reagan nixed it.

Ignorance and inflammatory speech, along with maliciously and purposefully maligning good people and inciting people to violence is NOT a matter of free speech. You cannot shout FIRE in a theater, which is exactly what the likes of Glen Beck, Laura Ingram, Bill O'Reilly are doing. Please do not give me the "they have the right to their own opinion line" . It is becoming quite tiresome, and I am quite tired of the ignorant leading the debate.

Again, people of reason rise up and shout down the ignorance whereever you see it and don't let people make you feel guilty because you choose to make them look stupid!

8:48AM PST on Jan 26, 2010

I do keep an open mind, I subcribe to MOTHER JONES, listen to Bill Moyers, Rachel Maddow at times, along with the conservative viewpoints of O'Reilly and Laura Ingram. I try and listen to everyone and get the best out of it. I HATE Labels; but I am a democrat and I am not happy with the progressive left trying to take over the democratic party. I don't want a one-sided idealogy or I will espouse the Independent party. But, Freedom of Speech is for EVERYONE irregardless of belief(s).

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