I imagine that right now many journalists are busy writing “THE DEATH OF CONSERVATIVE TALK” stories. The death of Rush Limbaugh, an icon in the world of talk radio, leaves an almost unfillable hole in the talk radio world, and as different people scramble to fill that void.
My introduction into the world of conservative media began in 2009, when I began working at a small news/talk station in Natchitoches, Louisiana*. It was largely a conservative lineup, starting with Bill Bennett in the morning, then a morning show that I eventually hosted, followed by Moon Griffon (a syndicated host in Louisiana), followed by Rush. I was the news director, so I would be assembling newscasts throughout the day, and that left me in the studio while Rush’s show was on the air.
Eventually, I started listening outside of work. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, you can always tell what smaller news/talk guys will be talking about the next day because it’s the stuff Rush talked about on his show. The second reason I would listen when I could is that I was learning the job. I needed to listen to the heavy hitters, learn how they were carrying themselves on the air, learn how they handled callers, and all that stuff. I didn’t have a Snerdley. I was the phone screener/host/board operator. I had to do it all, and I needed that guidance.
I learned a lot listening to him, more than I learned from any other host. Because of my position, I listened to Sean Hannity, Ed Schultz, Hugh Hewitt, and many others. But it was Rush that I paid attention to. It was his style I learned.
There are many people out there who tried (or try) to mimic Rush’s style. They’ll never be successful because they aren’t using their own voice. They’re trying to borrow his, and it doesn’t work for them. Rush’s success and dominance of the industry came because he wasn’t trying to be anyone else. He was entirely himself, and that is the lesson that I had to learn (the hard way) when I was in radio.
As journalists sit down to continue working on their pieces signaling the death of conservative talk, I can’t help but laugh at them. They have been predicting the death of talk radio for decades, and every year we find it getting stronger. Every year, they would try to get him canceled, chase off his sponsors, raise all sorts of hell about things he said or didn’t say, and they never made it happen. If talk radio was ever destined to “die,” it’s probably at its weakest right now, but it will still live on.
Rush created the model that hosts who want to be syndicated go by. He created an industry that radio hosts and stations benefit from. That won’t be destroyed overnight, and it’s not something that will simply collapse because he’s gone.
I am very interested to see who could step up to fill the void left by his absence, but I know it will be someone who will have to do his (or her!) own thing. There is not another Rush, and there never will be.
Rest in peace, Rush. We never met and we didn’t always agree, but you influenced me and a whole generation like me in ways we still haven’t quite figured out yet. Thank you for your entertainment and your voice.
*Rush Limbaugh is the only guy in national radio to ever pronounce my hometown (NACK-uh-tish) and he did it back in the early days of the show when KNOC (the station I would later work for) was an early adopter of the show. He thanked KNOC of Natchitoches, Louisiana frequently in those days, as new stations weren’t so common.