Monday, February 12, 2007

Talk Radio 93.7 Needs To Think Big

For 93.7 FM in Pittsburgh to be taken seriously as a talk station, management must do something bold. Pioneer News talk 104.7 FM has a fabulous lineup with locals Quinn and Rose, but virtually everything else is syndicated (Ellis Cannon, of course does the sports talk thing from town). Granted, if the rumor mill is true, the introduction of both Scott Paulsen and John McIntyre will be a good start. Both are among the most talented talkers in the market.

But alas, the talk market industries’s most intelligent, most diverse—stop with the hyperbole—the unrivaled best talk show host ever to click on a microphone continues to sit on a sprawling fixer-upper estate in one of the farthest southern suburbs of Allegheny County.

Open the checkbook for Jerry Bowyer.

The NFL now has Golden Boy Bill Cowher sitting out a no-compete clause to become perhaps a $10 million dollar (a year) coach. Cowher’s legacy will only balloon; his legendary chin will jut just a little further, much like Paul Bunyan and the blue ox Babe.

Talk radio, Pittsburgh chat radio in particular, has its own Golden Boy waiting in the wings. Jerry Bowyer first appeared on the scene as the head honcho of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy ten years ago. He led the drive to knock down a ½ percent sales tax increase in Allegheny County and nearly a dozen other neighboring counties. The money was supposed to pay for two new stadiums and infrastructure around the region.

I have a confession: early on I despised Jerry Bowyer. He seemingly didn’t care that my beloved Pirates—the primary reason I declare as the reason I moved here nearly 17 years ago—would possibly leave town for greener, albeit still losing pastures.


Around the time of that near-debacle, Jerry started to fill in on 1360 WPTT, (although he might have started earlier on an AM religious station), and showed some real talk show chops. His personality and knowledge of virtually every hot-button talk show chestnut converted me from ideological opponent to aficionado.

Before you knew it, Jerry was on full-time. It was then you got to know him and his encyclopedic knowledge of everything from the minutia of science to politics, as well as cartoon trivia. Then there was his mastery of economic theories and business, most accepted religions, and a rather lofty insight regarding Hollywood starlets. For a guy with a complicated relationship with baseball (his father was a MLB scout), Bowyer could cover all of the bases.

On the show, Jerry would often dismantle usually adroit talk show guests who got too persnickety. Bowyer could make polished fiscal pariah “Living Wage” union boilerplaters sputter and froth, thus showing their true colors as selfish, under-educated, special-interest cretins. I was so impressed with one particular verbal disrobing that I called Jerry to proclaim the interview was a comedic send-up.

It wasn’t.

Because of that admiration and my eventual offer to write a feature story, Jerry and I became somewhat friendly. Over the next few years, I ended up writing two lengthy pieces on him and his show for a couple of periodicals. Our budding friendship expanded to the point in which we worked together to bring a business and entrepreneurial charter school to Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods, but were ultimately sold a bad bill of goods from our sponsor. For the record, that company never did roll out their ambitious plan for several local Charter Schools, and the one it does run here is virtually invisible of the learning landscape.

We’ve communicated about collaborating on a book about leadership and nearly got into the television business together.

And on an even more personal note, Jerry proved to me that a religious man could still enjoy those potty-mouthed brats on South Park. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to return to church had it not been for his masterful ability to make religion seem “cool.”

It was Jerry’s desire to add more religious talk to his secular radio show that ultimately made him move from his comfortable post at WPTT AM to the Christian FM-talker in town. I remember him saying that he thought he could make more of a difference in an arena where he could focus on the Good Book. Apparently, that move bit him in the posterior when management there didn’t want him to deviate from the all-religion talk, even for important regional issues.

In addition to trouble with format content, health issues have also plagued Bowyer in recent years, as a result he’s retreated to the sidelines, to be with his beloved wife Susan and seven children, who the couple home-schools and/or runs various family businesses. It’s also possible that Bowyer’s made outlandish sums of money by utilizing financial techniques he’s cultivated with some of the best brains in the marketplace.

I have no idea whether Jerry would even contemplate a return to the airwaves. Perhaps 93.7 could build him a studio in his home, ala the persistently-injured and vastly overrated Fred Honsberger.

If the folks at 93.7 want to do something incredible, and revolutionary, with its impending talk show venture, they need to at put out some feelers with Jerry Bowyer.



Mark Rauterkus said...

I too miss Jerry's show.

I've since moved to more listening time at KDKA and Marty G.

Lynn and Doug get very little air-time here. When she and he were on the same station as J.B., I'd listen. Running Mates on the radio dial have had some influence with my habits.

I think that Jerry and a band of like-minded souls could do a killer PODCAST offering. Even a suite of shows. And, the 3-hour slot on the air is a killer.

Thanks for the posting.

Anonymous said...

I like it when bloggers seem to "know it all." No matter what you think about honsberger, get the facts straight. KD did NOT build him a studio in his home. HE built the studio, years ago, at his own expense. He uses it to do a show on the BBC every week and some fill-in shows for other CBS stations...he also uses it for production web work for his church.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Read the post. The Honz Man home studio was mentioned, in Tom's post. But nothing here said anything about who built it -- and the FACTS HERE are STRAIGHT.

Your insights help sustain the conversation. But your snipes that are bogus hurt.

"Know it all" folks don't reside here.

The facts are not in question here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark. I do see where the poster might have been confused. I'm pretty sure that I heard Mr. Honsberger mention that the studio was in fact his personal workspace.

Also, I wanted to thank Mr. Honsberger for reading the post. However, it the poster wasn't Mr. Honsberger, anonymous posts are absolutely and totally worthless.