Democrats in the air, duck! - Rob Felt

Atlanta finally has some of that liberal media bias that ultra-conservatives are always talking about. No no, not Dan Rather. Last week Air America launched its Atlanta affiliate, Air Atlanta 1690 AM, and now all the cranky Bush supporters really have someone to get mad at. In addition to being secretly dissatisfied with their President, that is.

Air America is a full frontal liberal network, created from the ground up to compensate for the unarguably misbalanced talk radio world, where conservative hosts relay the day's talking points from their friends at the GOP headquarters. That isn't an unfounded claim, by the way.

What does this new station offer to those within its broadcast radius? For starters, it's the only place you can hear someone on the radio question the actions of the Bush administration and not be hung up on or yelled at by an angry host who substitutes facts with a mute button and some rage. Think about that, supporter or not. Isn't the perceivable lean of an entire medium a bit unsettling?

Two categories of people will listen to this station. Democrats will tune in, and everyone else who feels Bush and the Cabineteers are expendable. My category is the latter, and I've spent some time this past week listening to Air America before deciding to write about it here.

Two weeks ago I made a suggestion to Republican voters that I'm still hearing about, so I'll make a slightly gentler one here.

Listen to Air America for a week. (That's 1690 AM, and no, I haven't been compensated for my endorsement.)

At the end of the week your opinions will probably be firmly intact, and maybe even strengthened. Changing your outlook on our President isn't my aim here, although it is the goal of Air America.

What I'd like the typical Republican talk radio listener to see is how easy it is to cherry-pick facts and present them in a way that supports any ideology. After a week of listening to how someone you don't agree with does it, maybe when you tune back to El Rushbo or Sean Hannity it won't sound quite the same.

These talk shows (including Air America) operate not for the purpose of informing the public, but for entertaining their listeners. Of course at the heart of all broadcast programming is the drive to build ratings and raise the price of advertising, but that applies to serious news outlets as well.

The great falsehood that conservative talk radio hosts love to propagate is that mainstream media is biased to the left, and their program is the only place to get the real story. Some hosts point out that ClearChannel doesn't cater to conservatives, only their bottom line, and would support any program that brought ratings in.

Somehow this same mantra doesn't apply to network news or CNN. How can they manage a "slant" despite what advertisers want, and some of the same advertisers, in fact?

Now that Air America has a station in Atlanta, commuters have an opportunity to listen to whomever they want so why not at least give them a try, Republican voter? Are you afraid you'll hear something that makes you uncomfortable?

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or rfelt@henryherald.com .