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Local Progressive Talk Show Debuts in Quad Cities PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 28 June 2005 18:00
Talk radio has long been dominated by conservative voices, but progressives are finding some friendly places on the radio dial. The Air America network was launched last year, and local AM station 1270 changed its format several months ago to carry its programming.

And starting Saturday, the station will feature a half-hour progressive show that was created locally.

Conversation with Cathy & Karl will air Saturdays in July from 9 to 9:30 a.m. “I think it’s a welcome relief,” said Karl Rhomberg, co-host of the show with local activist and artist Cathy Bolkcom.

The duo is recording the show themselves – “We’re producing in a Wayne’s World basement,” Rhomberg said – and paying the radio station for the airtime.

“That’s how we make our money,” said Ron Evans, program director for Progressive Talk AM 1270. “We sell time.”

But Rhomberg stressed that the program shouldn’t be seen as an infomercial. He and Bolkcom approached the radio station about the show, and “they bought the pitch.”

Furthermore, Rhomberg said, the arrangement allows the programs hosts to pursue underwriting, and possibly even make a little money, because they keep any revenue the show generates. For the July shows, he added, he and Bolkcom have secured enough sponsors to pay for the airtime.

Rhomberg said the show is modeled after the local KFTT show Conversation with Ruth & Fred, which aired for more than 15 years many years ago. Rhomberg called the show “a conversation with the community about the community.”

He added that he’d like his show to maintain a similar tone. “It’s lighthearted,” Rhomberg said. “It’s supposed to be banter back and forth. ... I don’t think more yelling is going to get us anywhere.”

The first show, previewed by the River Cities’ Reader, suggests that Conversation with Cathy & Karl will be a safe haven for liberals, instead of a provocative effort to convince conservatives of the error of their ways. The introductory show includes some background on Progressive Action for the Common Good – for which Bolkcom has been a key organizer – as well as segments about Iraq and Wal-Mart. Rather than trying convince people who might hold different perspectives, the first show reinforces basic leftist tenets without providing much in the way of supporting evidence: The war in Iraq is bad, Wal-Mart is bad. Of course, poorly backed-up dogma is a mainstay of conservative talk radio, too.

Although the show does discuss several local events – such as an informational picket Saturday at Wal-Mart in north Davenport – its focus is primarily on national issues. Rhomberg promised more local content in the weeks to come.

Rhomberg said that he and Bolkcom made two demo shows before recording the debut that will air on Saturday. Although both are radio novices, they have decent rapport, organize the time well, and have no difficulty filling the half-hour time slot.

Because the show does not air live, Rhomberg and Bolkcom will not be taking calls, but they have set up an e-mail account for the show: ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Rhomberg said he hopes the show will continue beyond July.

“My expectation is that we’re going to get some good local response,” Evans said.

Progressive Talk AM 1270 has yet to receive its first Arbitron ratings for the new progressive format, Evans said. “Advertisers have been a little standoffish,” he said. But audience reaction has been strong, he said; roughly 90 percent of calls to the station have been positive.

The goal is to reach “people who haven’t been serviced by radio recently, or at all,” he said.
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