Crashing the Gates: How a Handful of Progressive Activists Brought Liberal Talk-Radio Back to the Nation's Capitol
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The District of Columbia, Gallup tells us, is the most progressive region in the country – 40 percent of those living in the nation's capitol identify themselves as liberals. It's got a commanding lead – Massachussetts is the only state to hit the 30 percent mark.
But if you're stuck in traffic on the infamous Beltway and want to tune into some political talk, you've only had the option of listening to right-wing bloviators like Limbaugh and Hannity. Since Air America Radio's demise in 2009, Washington has been without a liberal alternative to right-wing hate-radio.
That is, until last month, when three long-time progressive activists – Cliff Schecter, Alex Lawson and Kymone Freeman -- took over WPWC 1480 AM, and rebranded it as We Act Radio.
At AlterNet, we're excited to see a liberal voice emerge in Washington, and we're really excited to introduce the AlterNet Radio Hour, hosted by yours truly, which debuts this Sunday at 6pm.
We caught up with the three co-owners to see how things were going.
Joshua Holland: So, you guys just decided to go into the belly of the beast, bringing liberal talk-radio to the DC area without corporate backing or a huge wad of cash.
Cliff, let's start with you. Are you guys crazy, or visionaries, or crazy visionaries? How's this going to work?
Cliff Schecter: First of all Josh, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What is it they say, once you become wealthy you go from crazy to eccentric? So I guess we'd better hope this thing's a homerun!
On a more serious note, there's no doubt the radio business is a challenging one. It combines technological know-how, marketing savvy, regulatory...um let's call it "understanding," and so on. But, here's the thing--we went into this with a solid business plan, a number of solid assets and our eyes wide open. It's true we don't have corporate cash. We're proud of that, actually. But we do have a number of individual funders who have stepped up to the plate, because they understand the importance of having a talk station in DC where, as we like to say, "the truth is our product."
Until our launch there was really only right-wing talk in DC. So the vast majority of us, who north of 60 to 70 percent in poll after poll agree that Social Security should be protected, arms dealers and investment banks shouldn't be able to buy off Congress, and our civil justice system shouldn't become a playground for corporations, to pick a few examples...we had no real voice in Washington. We do now. We will be a part of the conversation, from coffee shops to cab rides, that ultimately shapes conventional wisdom and eventually policy. And we're excited about that.
It made no sense that Washington DC, a top 10 media market where there is more than a passing interest in politics and a populist sentiment, had only right-wing talk. So in reality, there was a market opening, as well as an opportunity to represent all those who don't have lobbyists on a six-figure retainer.
We were also able to recruit top-flight talent. David Shuster, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster. Lizz Winstead, the creator of "The Daily Show." A variety of other top talents, from Sam Seder to Shannyn Moore. And of course, my partners Alex Lawson and Kymone Freeman are rock stars, who have such long resumes when it comes to helping others, while making their ventures hugely successful.
We can be heard in Washington, at 1480AM, but also at weactradio.com, so people across the country from Salem, Oregon, to Lafayette, Louisiana, to Anacostia, where our studio is based, can be a part of the We Act Radio's extended family.
Now we may still be crazy, irrespective of this undertaking. But I like our chances.