Howard Stern: great interviews in a messed up radio system

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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.”


“No, 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

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This post has already been read 2173 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.

His Facebook Page is

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com
Ray Hanania