It’s been a common theme here: how some Boston talk hosts struggle because they lack a basic understanding of the medium and audience.
Here’s an interesting discussion on Michele McPhee’s attempt to do a daily one-topic, one-town program on Boston and crime.
Nearly everywhere, talk radio builds its audience in the suburbs and rural areas, not the largest cities. Boston is definitely no exception to the rule.
Where I live, few give a rip about the place and even fewer visit except to catch a plane, baseball game, or if forced into a heart attack-inducing mega-commute. Many try to avoid even that by flying out of Providence or seeing the PawSox instead.
If something nutty is going on in Boston that is entertaining to suburbanites, such as the latest stupid Menino comment, then sure, it’s a topic. But nobody cares about City Hall and BPD inside baseball.
Single-topic shows also fail almost universally. The few exceptions have been during temporary, high-interest events, such as the OJ trial, which carried a few shows in California during the 1990s.
Police blotter crime talk doesn’t have a prayer, especially when it fails to relate to talk radio’s average listener. Occasionally, a crime wave in Boston joined with the mayor’s weak response might be of interest for an hour or so, but that’s about it.
Frankly, I’m curious: between McPhee and the station, who thought this concept would work and why? Did McPhee make any attempt to learn about talk radio and what makes it succeed elsewhere? Did she bother to talk to anyone in the field (especially outside of provincial Boston), or merely jump in head-first?
Does she have any interests outside of crime reporting? That would be the first step toward broadening the show.
Would you move into any new profession without first doing your homework? Why would talk radio be any different?