Brad Krantz is probably quite sincere when he sarcastically laments the fact that he won’t have to get up at 3:00 am in the morning to be on the air. No doubt Britt Whitmire feels the same way.
Still, moving from the FM powerhouse of WZTK 101.1 in the morning to the more tranquil and localized AM station 600 WSJS in the afternoon is not a lateral move. Krantz says “at least we’re still employed”, and that’s pretty much on the money, no pun intended.
The management at WZTK claims that the format change from talk radio to some kind of crappy hits station was the result of economic changes and competition.
"While we were successful by any number of standards, the advertising slowdown of the last four years—combined with the entry of new talk radio competitors—made a business model we created in 2003 no longer sustainable."
Despite some claims to the contrary, it is obvious that Rush Radio did more damage to WZTK than Brad and Britt were willing to admit. There is no doubt that advertising sales have declined across the board in radio and those with money to spend could be more selective. Whether advertisers left the talk format for greener pastures or simply for Rush Radio, I cannot answer. Truth be told, Rush Radio is pretty crappy, too.
I can say that my main complaint about WZTK was the constant charade of an independent political/ideological orientation from their local hosts. In the beginning, I think Brad and Britt were the most balanced broadcasters in the area. But within two years, that started to fade quickly. The focus of the show day in and day out became centered on Brad Krantz’ dislike of Sarah Palin, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh. Rather than discussing issues of the day, large chunks of the show were devoted to criticizing conservative media bogeymen. This might appeal to the 20% of Americans who identify as liberals and who also hate Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but is quickly tiresome to the majority of listeners.
To me it appeared that the Brad and Britt show was in complete denial about the turn that the show had taken and how it was alienating a lot of listeners. The usual response was to lash out and claim that their critics were only interested in listening to discussions that confirmed their own views. But that wasn’t really the case. I think what most listeners wanted is intellectual honesty that the show was not “moderate” or balanced, but had become more like a radio version of MSNBC. I think the majority of listeners wanted an even-handed discussion of topics, not just reaffirmation of their existing views. Other than being a Brad Krantz fan, this is what initially appealed to me about the show.
Considering many of the comments on the Brad and Britt Facebook page over the years, I don't think I was alone. It appeared that calls for the equal application of standards was met with sarcastic and sometimes angry denials that the show had ever changed and snipey remarks about how they didn’t believe in “phony balance”.
“Phony Balance” apparently meant that liberal views are so often more superior to conservative views that conservative views ought not to be given any credence just so one can claim there is some “balance”. Similarly, conservative shenanigans were so more outrageous and offensive than liberal travails that the latter rarely deserved mention.
Fair enough if that's your point of view, but quit playing the independent/moderate/voice of reason card. That’s just dishonest. Of course, such a criticism would be met with the previously mentioned “you just want to have your views reaffirmed” argument. Now and then there would be a “and by the way we’re stomping our competition and we don’t need you” attitude added to the mix.
This was systemic in some ways because every afternoon, Alan Handelman would talk about how politically independent he was yet miraculously all of his criticism seemed reserved for conservatives.
Does any of this explain the format change? Maybe not. But advertisers go where the listeners are and where the demographics are. I suspect that those did change over time as the station moved in a leftward direction. Liberal talk shows fail in the United States because there aren’t enough liberals to support them.
Anyway, Brad Krantz banned me from the Brad and Britt Show Facebook page about a year ago in large part because of arguments based on the criticisms that I have made in this post. Still, I have no hard feelings towards Brad and Britt. I don’t know either of them that well, but I would like to consider us friends on some level. I hope they are successful as they press on at WSJS, but they should pay more attention to the criticisms. It was always intended as constructive.
Contrary to their frequent assertions, it wasn’t about reaffirming existing beliefs. I agree with many of Sean Hannity's views, but I can't stand Sean Hannity. I'd rather listen to Brad & Britt. Instead, it was about a show that initially advertised its fairness over time eventually not being fair. The early strength of the show was that nobody was safe from criticism. But that didn't last long and the lack of the previously advertised balance was striking.
Beyond that, the time consuming focus on criticizing other shows like Limbaugh and FOX News became a loser. People don’t tune into a talk radio station to hear what the hosts think about other talk shows, and if you are going to constantly criticize the bias on FOX News, how can you ignore MSNBC? These things don’t slip past the listener and aren't rooted in a desire to have all talk shows reaffirm existing beliefs.
The format change at WZTK is not the fault of Brad and Britt, but I do believe that they did lose their way on the flight to the stratosphere and that may have had some impact on how events unfolded.
Brad and Britt have created a brand in the Triad that could lead them to individual success beyond radio. On a personal level, I hope that brand succeeds because I think they are both good guys. Perhaps this change will be cause for some reflection and some retooling. I might actually start listening again- but only to have my views reaffirmed. Rush Limbaugh simply isn't enough anymore.