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Howard Stern: great interviews in a messed up radio system
By Ray Hanania — I really enjoyed listening to Howard Stern when he was on commercial radio years ago. Then he went to Sirius/XM and disappeared. Until I bought a new Nissan with Satellite radio built-in to the dashboard.
At first, when I subscribed to Sirius/XM, I took the basic package. I think I was paying $16 a month or something. It seemed like a little too much considering I only listened to Satellite radio when I was in my car, coming and going to work. It wasn’t a large part of my day. But one reason I wanted was that I missed Stern, the radio shock jock who is too easily criticized but is in fact a champion of free speech in its most extreme format.
Stern is also a great interviewer. He uses shock to get the news out of his guests and he rarely tosses softballs.
One day, Sirius/XM sent me a note asking me to up my subscription to get the Howard Stern show. Another $12 a month. But they’d give me a discount for four months. When I called to get the details, a man who spoke more Indian than English “answered” the phone. I won’t say answered in a clean way because they guy made no sense. He sounded like he had a lifelong difficulty with the English language, maybe reflecting one of Stern’s disabled guests. He kept calling me by the wrong name.
“Thank you for calling. Who am I speaking to?”
“My name is Ray.”
It literally went back and forth three times. I felt like I was in that cell phone commercial talking with “Peggy.”
Anyway, as it turned out, the discount was a scam. They billed me for the money upfront and then I saw my quarterly billings increase. At that point, I figured, fine. They took an extra $20 from me. No problem. I’ve given $20 to homeless people before and that guy at Sirius/XM sure sounded like he was either homeless or he needed to be.
But that’s only when the confusion began.
There are two Howard Stern stations. Sirius/XM 100 and Sirius/XM 101. They don’t tell you which one is his morning show and which one merely repeats old shows. I can’t figure it out and I used to do investigative reporting covering Chicago City Hall. I’ve been to Stern’s web page and there is no info there either.
So I started listening to both to see if there were any hints as to which station broadcasts Stern’s show live. Not a clue. I enjoy the show but I really don’t enjoy a show that I’m listening to and realize that it’s a repeat broadcast from one or two years ago. That sucks.
What I did discover, I think — you can’t be sure with the way Sirius/XM is broadcasting Howard Stern — is that Stern only does live shows Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Thursday and Friday’s are repeats. As long as the repeats are new shows, I don’t mind.
This morning (Thursday), I enjoyed the interview that Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers did with NBC’s weatherman Al Rokar. That was probably the best on-air interviewing I’ve heard. Stern threw a lot of goofy questions at Rokar i a very interesting way and compelled Rokar to go along with them. The questions and the answers were hilarious. It was great.
But how old was that interview? I don’t know and I want to know.
Stern’s system doesn’t help make it easy. The system is screwing Stern and I am not sure if he really cares. He’s pprobably making so much money these days that satisfying his audience probably isn’t his priority any more.
I want to keep listening to Howard Stern but he doesn’t make it easy. Maybe he doesn’t care anymore. I always thought he did when I listened to him before.
A lot of mainstream people don’t understand why Howard Stern is so important to radio. Unlike the rest, Stern is really about free speech but more importantly great interviews. But they love to write about him, like in May 2011 when everyone was reporting that Robin Quivers was going to bolt the Stern show. (Click here to read one story.) It didn’t happen — or at least I think it didn’t happen. (I’m not sure if I am listening to up-to-date Stern broadcasts or just filler-time which has become his on-air persona.
Of course, maybe you can’t judge by me. I think there is too much sports on Sirius/XM — I hate sports. The only real sport for me is Chicago and Chicagoland politics.
And that Spice Channel and the Playboy channel that are 103 and 102, well, they literally suck. No pun intended. It’s a bunch of no-talent hosts filling time with dirty talk, most of it isn’t even live. They have this attitude that really gets in the way of a good show. But I guess if you offer sex talk you don’t need to offer radio talent. But can you imagine if someone offered both sex talk and great radio talent.
Oh. I forgot. Howard Stern does that too, and does it very well.
Well, if it doesn’t change, the channel block will end with this alleged discounted subscriptions I was hoodwinked into buying. It will be back to basic Sirius/XM for me.
Stern probably doesn’t care anyway.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com.)
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com