(By Mike McVay) A week doesn’t go by when I am not talking to friends and colleagues that are on both sides of the political aisle and as diverse with their opinions as they are diverse members of society. There is the optimist who believes we’ll have a vaccine before December 31st. There are those that think it will be no sooner than summer 2021. “Kids need to return to school.” “Kids should continue to be home schooled.”
Pick a topic, any topic, and those that are most vocal are extreme to one-side or the other. The majority of America, validated in the same research that I have seen for years, are somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. We all want a better world and a better nation within which we live and raise our children. That’s what most listeners want.
It’s time for a softer, kinder, gentler touch, and more understanding approach on the air. Many among your audience are looking for a break from the bad news, a chance to forget about the situation we find ourselves in and a break from what has become a new obsession with “Doomscrolling and Doomsurfing.”
Doomscrolling and Doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 or social unrest without the ability to stop or step back.
That isn’t to say that your station or your personality needs to change who they are or the way in which they deliver content, alter their sound, or become someone that they aren’t. It does mean that we need to accept that most people are just plain tired. Tired of the argument between political parties. Tired of air-talent who lack a medical degree spouting off on their thoughts about this pandemic. Tired of personalities who are screaming at callers and hanging-up on anyone who disagrees with them. When did we become so angry? How did we let these negative feelings bleed through the studio door, into the microphone and over the airwaves?
Those listeners who desire talk radio, and want validation, will listen to conservative-talk radio (which is found mostly on commercial stations) or liberal-talk radio (which is found mostly on non-commercial stations), and they’ll also flip between news channels on TV. They need a break, too. Television ratings spiked when the Pandemic first hit. There was another spike with the riots following the killing of George Floyd. The ratings have settled back to almost normal viewing levels.
My belief is that most talent should be encouraged to look for Good News stories, create features like Random Acts of Kindness, continue to salute First Responders & Health Care Heroes, identify individuals who are spreading positivity in the lives of your listeners and within your local community. They should avoid rumormongering, meanspirited dialogue and provide us with an escape. Even for a moment … give us a distraction.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation, but it is an encouragement to pause for an assessment of the talent and their content on your station, and stop doing what you’ve always done “because we’ve always done it that way.” We need a softer, kinder, gentler touch.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]