From the Corner Office: August 2012

August 3, 2012

Elections Have Consequences

I love politics. I love arguing with my friends; I love the give and take and the emotion that many of us invest in the policies, philosophy and politicians of our great democratic system. I love the way that people become engaged with their government and the world when they take sides.

There are things about politics that I dislike. I cringe at the rhetorical excesses, both negative and positive. I am frustrated when candidates try to raise a smokescreen with distracting wedge issues designed to raise the heat but not the light of the conversation. I would prefer more debate and discussion and less sloganeering and slick, often misleading, advertising.

Stepping back from the fray for a moment, it is our system as well as our tradition, and both sides are about to enter the heart of the battle – the political silly season, where many words are spilled, but little action is taken. We all know the dance of a general election and how all of Washington stops until the people make their wishes known at the ballot box.

However, I believe this is a much more significant election than most. We need to reach some sort of consensus in order to move forward on the multitude of pressing problems we are facing, most importantly, getting the economy back into gear. Elections do have consequences, and this one will set the direction of our country for some time to come. It will also tell us how we are going to start putting our financial house in order. Until we have some idea of the policy direction that is going to come out of D.C., business is trapped, treading water in hopes of having some more certainty about the future. There’s plenty to worry about, and much of the people’s business that has to be addressed decisively and clearly. We deserve nothing less.

Of course, for those of us in the media, election years are generally a financial bonanza. Or, at least that’s what the conventional wisdom predicts: with this year’s tsunami of political dollars, media will rake in the dough. I am not so sure. Yes, news and talk stations will see a bump; stations with the desirable baby boomer demographics should also get a piece of the pie. But I am concerned that we will come to rely on that political dollar to make the last half of our year. We cannot take the easy way out and sit back, waiting for PACs and Super PACs to come looking for us. We should not let political dollars impact the overall health of our industry. We need to continue to develop a new book of business and not rely on elections to make our financial goals.

Why? We all know that political is cyclical, non-recurring money. At a time when we need new avenues of advertising and consistent new revenue sources, political revenue is a sort of Haley’s Comet for sales managers, returning every four years. This time, we cannot afford to be distracted by the passing glare of politics. We need to respond to those avails, but we cannot take our eye off the long-term goal – to reinvent our business as a local media company.

On the product side, radio has an obligation and responsibility to present political news and events in a clear and concise and objective manner. We need to maintain this great tradition of our medium, and remember that as trusted local media, we are not obligated to either party or any candidate. When our formats contain opinion and dialogue, it should be clearly labeled as such, and listeners should not mistake opinion for fact.

We need to focus on presenting accurate information and an intelligent dialogue, regardless of what format we offer. If polls show our country as evenly split, then we need to remember that our audiences will reflect that same split sentiment. We need to keep these realities in mind as we do our jobs; we’re covering a significant election, not a sporting event. We don’t need to root for the home team.

At Greater Media, our goal is to strive to be good members of the community and good corporate citizens. We each need to do our part and contribute to the common good. That is what will make a difference, not looking to Washington for a quick fix.