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Franken The Best Thing That's Happened To O'Reilly

by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

I heard on Bill O'Reilly's show that Al Franken had gone off the deep end. At the TALKERS Magazine New Media Seminar, a talk industry movers and shakers conference where he was to receive The Freedom of Speech Award, the veritable 2005 MVP of the talk radio industry, Bill reported that Franken, "a troubled individual" had a "meltdown"and had to be dragged from the stage. O'Reilly added that, being that Al was brought to tears, and in his present unstable condition Franken could end up hurting someone. Wow. Who would think that a small get together of over 600 conservative and liberal talk show players would degenerate into such...madness? I mean, it did sound like Al went mad, right?

Now it's not that I wouldn't take whatever Bill said to the bank. The guy, who according to the Annenburg Public Policy Center poll, more people believe to be a journalist than they do Washington Post's Bob Woodward, always tells it like it is. And if he says Al wigged out and was becoming a danger, well...

But, since I am a journalist -- at least I play one in this column -- and I would need some corroboration, I knew I had to verify the story, not just reread from someone else's column. As I have no staff to do so, I did the next best thing. I checked out the story myself by going to The Man -- Michael Harrison -- the editor of the talk radio bible -- TALKERS Magazine -- and the host of the event where Bill said Al went bonkers.

From what Michael, who presented the award to Al, told me, except for the meltdown, any indication he might hurt someone, or that Al was dragged off the stage, everything O'Reilly said was true. He did cry -- when he spoke of the wounded soldiers he had visited. What a pussy.

As a new entrant in the wannabe the next Limbaugh-sized-success story sweepstakes, I readily sucked in all that Harrison shared. Tapping into Harrison's industry knowledge for an hour is like getting a four year college education rolled up in a rather smooth sequence of the profundities and the hoped-for righteousness of talk radio. Yes. Believe it or not, as Harrison, a former talker himself sees it, done properly, there is a righteousness. "A talk show host should never knowingly decieve. It's not worth it to sell your soul for the benefit of ratings."

Obviously, Michael hadn't listened to talk radio in quite a while. Then again, he was sharing his beliefs, not the industry's actual condition. Did Franken have a meltdown? Not according to Harrison. He did speak longer than he was supposed to and he had to be reminded of that...strongly. And he did choke up when he spoke of the hospitalized soldiers. But otherwise, Franken was deserved of the TALKER's Freedom of Speech Award, given to the person considered to have the most valuable effect on the industry. is never meant as a political award. Others to win the same award: Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, G. Liddy, and last year, Rush Limbaugh. Now Franken. What a team.

Harrison believes the rise of liberal talk, the legitimization of progressive radio as a business, is good for the country and the industry; that Franken had the highest profile in making this happen. What might even be more interesting is the fact that Harrison believes Franken was the best thing that happened for O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity this past year, actually raising their profile. Which of the four do you think would be most pleased?

Harrison is also very clear in his conviction that the talk business is not about liberal vs conservative. It's about competition and that means liberal vs liberal and conservative vs conservative. No more is that more apparent than when the broadcast studios at Clear Channel where it houses the same stations broadcasting Limbaugh and Franken right next to each other. And for that the industry is healthier than ever.

As a side note, for those who were interested as to whether conservative Sean Hannity and liberal talker, Stephanie Miller, publicly hugged at this event as they did earlier this year at a Santa Monica talk show gathering, Harrison did not see the hugging renewal take place. Harrison did admit, though, that he himself did hug Miller and that he thoroughly enjoyed it. "It wasn't about politics," admitted Harrison. "It's all about the hugging."

And God willing, one day it will be.

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Albion Monitor June 15, 2005 (

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