An Open Letter to Thom Hartmann – entrepreneur, author, radio host, et al.

Dear Thom,

In 2002, you wrote an oft-cited piece for Common Dreams in which you noted the overwhelming number of right-wing talk radio stations and the virtual absence of any liberal ones. You advised program directors that radio “stations that take the plunge into progressive talk will serve democracy by offering a loyal opposition (which Americans always appreciate), and earn healthy revenues in an industry where it’s increasingly difficult to find a profitable niche.” You urged listeners to “call [their] local stations to let them know that you want to hear progressive or Democrat[ic] voices, and will even patronize the advertisers of such shows when they run them.”

I’m not sure when I first read this article but it was probably around the time in May 2005 when I took the “plunge” that you suggested. I bought KRXA 540 AM in Monterey, CA, with the express purpose of programming it with liberal talk and that’s exactly what I did. At the time, I had no experience in radio and had never managed any business. In fact, I hadn’t even worked for a for-profit corporation since I was in college 20 years earlier. We started broadcasting in July 2005 and have been on the air in Monterey continuously since then. I am happy to say that you were in our original lineup and despite the inevitable program shuffles and slot changes, you have remained a fixture in our weekday lineup.

At times, it’s been a tough road. During our first few years, our expenses were higher than they are now because I had to employ and pay people to do tasks that I had yet to learn. About a year after purchase, I began hosting my own show thereby bringing a distinctly local vibe to KRXA. Within a couple of years, we got our cost structure under control unfortunately at about the same time industry-wide advertising revenues plummeted. But, it’s been a blast and we are now profitable. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than hosting a show and owning and operating a liberal talk radio station – well maybe owning and operating two stations.

It heartens me in these distressing political times that KRXA is making a difference. Many of the liberal and green candidates whom we spotlighted in recent local elections have prevailed. Sometimes, I even feel like I’m reaching staunch conservatives at least on some issues.

Thom – another thing I love about KRXA is that I learn so much from our hosts including of course from you. You really are an educator. From listening to your show, I have learned much about the history of organized labor in America. Your discussions of debates over various provisions in the Constitution are always instructive and you are a leading voice for our environment.

I have also learned a lot about you. I learned that you have written many books – over 30. The one that I read closely – The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight – calls powerfully for conservation and a sane energy policy. I learned that you are an entrepreneur who has started successful businesses and then sold them. I know that you also acted as a business consultant and that you started working in radio over thirty years ago.

Given your history, there is nobody better positioned to buy and operate a liberal talk radio station. Your many years in radio and as a business owner/operator mean that you won’t have to learn on the job as I did. And, as I mentioned earlier, profits while hard to come by can and do come. Excepting of course websites, radio stations are the most inexpensive media to buy. Indeed, they are substantially cheaper now than when I purchased AM-540. In most markets, you can find a decent signal for between $500,000 and $1 million. And while that amount is prohibitively expensive for many Americans, it should not be for you. I do not know how much money you have but I have to assume that your many books and successful businesses have left you with a substantial nest egg.

In light of the recent suspension of Keith Olbermann, we assume that the corporate media will continue to broadcast liberal voices at our peril. Only through owning the sticks themselves, can we who love America ensure that honest decent voices will be heard.

Thom – follow your advice. Buy a radio station. Heck, buy two. Most markets have no liberal talk radio at all. Choose wisely and you’ll have the fields all to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about a wet-behind-the-ears owner/operator moving you to a less desirable time slot or worse.

Hal Ginsberg

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16 Responses to An Open Letter to Thom Hartmann – entrepreneur, author, radio host, et al.

  1. dick whittington says:

    I appreciate Thom as you do, I but wouldn’t have presumed that his financial status was such that he could buy a station.
    Maybe it is…but it’s no ones business.

  2. hal says:

    Dick – it’s obviously our business. Thom makes it our business every time (and there are plenty of times) he talks about his business and book selling successes. If he’s going to regale us with tales of his business acumen then why doesn’t he do what he has urged others to do and what we all know needs to be done?

  3. I’ve never heard you suck up to Thom so much before… often I hear you criticize that he is too professorial. I think your open letter is really a plea to Thom to help you buy a second station. Not a bad idea. While Thom has said on his show that he is too busy to get involved in running a station, we all recognize that the Progressive message does need to get out more (even though I believe some extreme Progressive approaches to protecting the environment could become the final nail in our economy’s coffin due to their feel-good unscientific approach, i.e. the numbers won’t work). Perhaps you could start an investment pool if Thom doesn’t bite. Ed Schultz is another candidate to back you; he has been known to back other worthy businesses. I would help back you myself if I could afford the not-so-small risk of losing my modest retirement nest-egg. Keep up the good work!

  4. Denica says:

    I luv Thom’s show, usually catch it online when I can. I wish we all had research teams, and I would also like my own liberal eco feminist tour of America/ Work on that Thom. lol
    I think he’s doing what he can, but in general it is true that liberals have to work so hard to be “on the air” because of the finances involved! My Republican neighbor asked if I make any money “doing that” and I had to say no. She was somewhat satisfied until I told her that usually you have to lie (Rush, Savage….) to make a lot of money in radio – and I wasn’t willing to do that. I live in the SC Mountains and many people in OUR county watch Fox news or listen to right-wing radio -FOR INFORMATION. If that’s not enough to motivate people to present Real info on KRXA, I don’t know what is. The advertisers on KRXA are allowing us to stick our foot into the ballroom of crazy and shine a little light on the issues. Thanx Hal for your investment – it is paying off in intellectual dividends, the best kind.

  5. Denica says:

    Also, having said that we have to make sure we don’t “sell out” by having people who re-sell the stolen American Dream (foreclosed homes) *you know who you are* sponsor shows on KRXA, I think it runs against everything this station stands for.

  6. I would like to see Progressive broadcasting expand towards the San Jose area & towards Sacramento. I understand that expanding your signal would require a second transmitter but this could ultimately work to your advantage. Initially most programing could be the same as KRXA’s but over time you could find local hosts & sponsors. Perhaps it would be possible to affiliate yourself with Green 960, a college, or university.

  7. getoile says:

    I have noted that KRXA and other “progressive” stations have been deleted recently by Google’s ALOT, and by ALURATEK.

    What is going on? Or is the right wing starting to exert control over

  8. Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!

    • hal says:

      KRXA does not have a facebook fan page. We have periodically worked on facebook but have decided to concentrate on this website. Please feel free to start your own!

      • Denica says:

        Hal, there is a KRXA Facebook page, which is often spammed with weight-loss stuff. It would be cool if we could start one that was up to date. Twitter would b cool but there r so many fake accounts on Twitter I would focus on FB!

  9. “The station is noteworthy because it was the first progressive talk radio station to be owned by Clear Channel Communications… …KPOJ was the first station to call its format “Progressive Talk”, a tag that is often used. Just prior to adopting the present format KPOJ was an oldies station with low Arbitron ratings. Immediately after picking up talk, KPOJ quadrupled their number of listeners, and in its first Arbitron ratings book became the most-listened AM station in the market, particularly among younger listeners coveted by advertisers. Following their success in Portland, Clear Channel rolled out the format and a nearly identical on-air lineup on many of their struggling AM stations in other markets, to mostly modest success.

    With the switch to its current format, KPOJ, in just two years, has gone from a low-rated afterthought, with many format and call letter changes over the years, to one of the most influential stations in the country.”

  10. Chris says:

    KPOJ has did well the first few years, but Thom left Portland, they fired one co host and hired another, only to let her go and now Carl by himself is not that great, IMO as a host. I think they would do better with Stephanie Miller.

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