A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Progressive radio has been hamstrung by the perception that most radio listeners are conservative – a view encouraged by right-wing radio. With the election of Obama revealing a center-left majority in America, progressive radio should be seen as commercially viable.
-- Ron Reagan, Air America Host and youngest son of the fortieth President of the United States
We have been listening to the new Ron Reagan show on Air America, which comes on at 8 pm Eastern after Rachel Maddow, and we have been enjoying it.
Reagan has a natural radio presence, makes the listener feel comfortable, and never has a moment of dead air. He's a good interviewer, doesn't pontificate, and is just plain curious about a whole lot of things.
We saw him speak on stem cell research at the Democratic Convention in 2004, where he was given a respectful welcome (it was still somewhat startling for the delegates to have someone named Reagan speaking at the Democratic conclave.) He didn't officially endorse Kerry in 2004, but he did back Obama this year.
Reagan expresses his progressive viewpoints while still showing respect for and admiring his parents. He carries it off with integrity and candor.
This interview is part of our ongoing series that helps to highlight the importance of progressive radio.
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BuzzFlash: Ron, BuzzFlash has done a series of interviews over the last year or so with progressive radio show hosts including Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes and Mike Molloy. One of our first questions relates to on-air presence. How do you describe your radio "style"?
Ron Reagan: I do not consciously attempt a "style." Neither do I portray myself as an expert on any particular subject. I'm curious about the world; I try to reflect that in my approach to interview subjects. Common sense questions are often more effective at uncovering truth than ostentatious attempts to play "gotcha."
BuzzFlash: You're the newest host on Air America. How did you come to settle in on your own radio program?
Ron Reagan: I was asked on a Friday to begin broadcasting a show the following Monday. Settling in was a luxury unavailable to me.
BuzzFlash: How do you pick out what you are going to cover each evening and how do you prepare for the program?
Ron Reagan: At the moment, my show runs 1 hour. Most of the time that makes picking a topic – there's generally just one per show – rather easy. We just ask ourselves, What's on everyone's mind today?
BuzzFlash: You have a natural radio voice that makes people feel very comfortable. Do you feel you inherited that from your father or is it something that you worked on?
Ron Reagan: My voice is naturally similar to my father's. I've had virtually no vocal coaching. Just lucky I guess.
BuzzFlash: We were in the Boston arena when you spoke there on stem cell research in 2004 during the Democratic Convention, and we also heard you - four years later -- officially endorse Obama on your program shortly before the election. Clearly, you've taken a journey that has brought you fully to the progressive side of the dial. You speak very lovingly and respectfully of both your parents. What do you say to people who say that you can't separate family from politics?
Ron Reagan: Grow up!
BuzzFlash: As a medium, what are some of the advantages and constraints of radio for you?
Ron Reagan: Radio allows for a lot of freedom in terms of subject matter, range of opinion and expression. The constraints are mostly self-imposed and involve the boundaries of good taste.
BuzzFlash: BuzzFlash has been a long-time booster of progressive radio, since it first started. We see it as a vital adjunct to the Internet, and now some of the progressive talk show hosts, such as Rachel Maddow, are creating a beachhead on television. Are you optimistic about the future of progressive radio, despite its tough start-up period?
Ron Reagan: Progressive radio has been hamstrung by the perception that most radio listeners are conservative – a view encouraged by right-wing radio. With the election of Obama revealing a center-left majority in America, progressive radio should be seen as commercially viable.
BuzzFlash: Now that Obama has won the election and it appears our eight years in the wilderness have ended, what do you think will be the emphasis of your program content given that we are not in the opposition?
Ron Reagan: We need to constantly nudge this administration in a progressive direction – no backsliding! Issues that transcend politics (or should, anyway) – environmental degradation; civil rights etc. – will be on the agenda.
BuzzFlash: How do you view your relationship with your radio audience?
Ron Reagan: I'm a concerned citizen with opinions and questions, just like my audience.
BuzzFlash: Finally, you've worked on television. How do you compare that to being a radio host?
Ron Reagan: TV is a much more collaborative effort. More money is involved, so there's greater corporate oversight and control of content. Radio allows more time and leeway to explore issues from perspectives outside the mainstream – you can challenge the dominant paradigm with less fear of losing your gig. There is also a much more intimate connection to your audience since you actually talk with them.
BuzzFlash interview by Mark Karlin.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW