Stephanie Miller is not your run-of-the-mill talk-show host. She's a liberal in a medium dominated by conservatives. She has yet to be extended an offer to expand her empire through television appearances. While her brethren tour large arenas (can you say Sean Hannity?) or conduct live shows via closed-circuit feeds (Glenn Beck, anybody?), Miller seems to prefer to meet people at a local Italian restaurant. Furthermore, Miller has found unconventional success in Tucson on the market's most unconventional signal, independently operated KJLL AM 1330, The Jolt.
"My ratings have increased 4 1/2 times since I've been on the station, so I'm coming to have sex with each and every person in Tucson," said Miller, jokingly (probably). "I'm coming to get naked and lay in a pile for every person responsible for my ratings. We can just spoon if you want, Tucson."
In the political talk-show arena, where apocalyptic ramblings often overshadow in-depth discussions, Miller has mixed her liberal leanings with doses of juvenile banter.
"I get paid to make fart jokes with my two best friends every morning," said Miller, who started her career doing what she calls awful comedy bits on a friend's program in Buffalo--"things like Katharine Hepburn in the traffic helicopter, Linda Blair with the weather, very current, cutting-edge comedy"--which she parlayed into her own program. That led to stops in Rochester, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles before she became syndicated.
"If it's possible, (my show is) actually more and more immature," she said. "It's proof that you're only young once, but it's possible to be literally immature forever."
Whatever the formula, Miller has been something of a boon for KJLL, which placed second among talk stations in the winter '08 ratings book. And while KJLL's overall 1.2 rating among listeners 12 and older doesn't look like a windfall, it has folks at the Jolt ecstatic--and others taking notice.
"Tucson is really important for us. The Jolt is not all conservative or all liberal, and that's how we feel radio ought to be. That's why we're using the Tucson story, our ratings there, to help change radio," Miller said. "My Washington, D.C., station (WWWT) is the same. Before there was such a thing as progressive radio, I was on regular radio. While progressive radio has created more stations for us to be on, in some sense, it's sort of ghettoized it: 'Everybody liberal belongs on this station; everybody conservative belongs on this station.' Most people are not all conservative or all liberal, and in radio, it's about doing an entertaining show and getting ratings. I don't get why stations need to be segregated like that."
Still, the model is slow to change. Even in a Democrat-dominated city like Tucson, the overwhelming majority of political talk is conservative. KNST AM 790 has controlled the format for decades with Rush Limbaugh as its anchor. KVOI AM 690 is conservative, as is FM talk entry KQTH 104.1. As a political talk outlet for the left, the Jolt pretty much stands alone. Maybe that isolation is paying some dividends in terms of a changing political climate, and maybe this progressive radio thing has a shot after all.
"The myth is, they've used (liberal talk-radio network) Air America's bankruptcy to say, 'See, it doesn't work," when people like me, Randi Rhodes and Ed Schultz have been doing radio for 20 years very successfully. There have been individual liberals who have done shows. There just hasn't been a wide platform for them to be on," Miller said. "Rush Limbaugh is on 600 stations. There just aren't 600 stations that will put us on. Most of them go with all-conservative. That's why we're using stories like the Jolt and WWWT in Washington to say, 'Look, just put on good shows that get ratings.' Especially with the political climate the way it is: When you look at the president's poll ratings and the Republicans ... people are more left these days. They're against this president; they're against this war; they're against a lot of Republican ideas."
Miller is slated to be at Mona Lisa Corleone's, 6632 E. Tanque Verde Road, from noon to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 28. Tickets are $45. Call 808-0293 for tickets or visit tucsonsjolt.com for more information.
RADTKE TO BECOME VOICE OF UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA SPORTSRyan Radtke will wrap up his decade-long stint as a sportscaster in Tucson once the Sidewinders close out their season. Almost immediately, he'll begin a new journey, as the radio voice for football and men's basketball play-by-play at the University of Nevada, in Reno.
It's a perfect fit. Radtke will also handle baseball play-by-play for Reno's as-yet-unnamed Triple-A team, which is bolting Tucson for the Biggest Little City in the World.
"I'll be able to do play-by-play year-round," Radtke said. "It gives me a chance to get back to my roots as well. Basketball is the first sport I did."
Radtke attended the UA and interned at KNST AM 790, which then had a local evening sports show as part of its contract with UA athletics. He hosted that show and moved onto other sports related duties, and then made the jump to KCUB AM 1290 (my part-time employer) when it landed the Wildcat contract. Radtke eventually landed a spot on the Sidewinders broadcast team as the No. 2 voice behind Brett Dolan. When Dolan landed a job with the Houston Astros two years ago, Radtke took over as the voice of the Sidewinders. Additionally, he handled scoreboard updates and anchor duties during the network-radio portion of UA football and men's basketball broadcasts.
"I'm definitely excited about (the new opportunity)," said Radtke, who will handle Wolf Pack play-by-play, a coach's show and a daily sports-feature segment. "I had a lot of great support from people at the UA who helped me, and I'm thankful to them for everything they did."
I've had the pleasure and good fortune of knowing and working with Radtke for most of the last decade. He's a talented, consummate professional, as well as a remarkably caring person and a valued friend.
Reno got a good one.