FILE – In this Jan. 1, 2010 file photo, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh speaks during a news conference at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. Advertisers and some radio stations may have abandoned Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown law student a “slut.” But the CEO of the radio company that distributes Limbaugh’s show, Clear Channel, says he’s sticking with the conservative talk show host, calling him the “king” of radio. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
Given my day job (in the conservative bastion that is public education), I do not get to listen to Rush Limbaugh during the day. Occasionally, when school is out, I can listen in, but for the most part, I can only catch highlights. So, at the end of the school day yesterday, I looked at my phone and saw the announcement from my local talk station that Limbaugh had announced he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
About ten years ago, I began working at a small radio station in my hometown. KNOC was (at the time) a small operation, and while it isn’t a talk station anymore (nor is it an AM station anymore), it did have an interesting history with Limbaugh’s program. Early in his national syndication career, KNOC was an early adopter and Rush spent at least a week thanking KNOC in Natchitoches, Louisiana (he is one of the few people in national media who know how to pronounce that town’s name correctly).
Being in college at the time I began working at that station, I was still moderate-to-liberal on a lot of issues. But, I worked as the news director and listened to a lot of the conservative talk shows on the air. Rush was a dominant part of the day, so I listened to a good deal of what he had to say. I will say he was a part of my conversion to conservatism, but what Rush really did was inspire me to want to succeed in radio. Circumstances being what they were, I didn’t get a chance to stay in radio for too long (a new kid plus a move to a bigger city meant changing jobs, where I worked at a newspaper for a couple of years before I switched to education), but the love of the business has stuck with me ever since.
In fact, because of that love of radio and my constant fighting to get back into it, I have gotten to sub in on a statewide syndicated show here in Louisiana, and frequently do political analysis for the local station. I have helped launch several podcasts, and have been slowly getting more and more audio work done because of that drive that Limbaugh inspired in me.
Now, to flip the old Shakesperean phrase, I am writing this column not to bury Limbaugh – who, despite his diagnosis, will be continuing his program – but to praise him. Limbaugh had a profound impact on the media, and that impact can be felt here at RedState, throughout the Townhall Media sites, and around the conservative media sphere as a whole. He kept AM radio alive, created the model for conservative talk radio as we know it, and drove people on the right to challenge the status quo in our media.
If it were not for Limbaugh, there would not have been such a major push the last couple of decades to challenge the mainstream media and point out their biases – and, at times, outright hypocrisy – largely because there would be no one big enough to challenge them. That changed with him, and it inspired both the media’s hatred of him and the right’s courage in joining him in those challenges.
What Rush did for media was make it better by following that old rule of capitalism: inspire innovation by creating competition. Even if you are someone who disagrees with him vehemently, you have to recognize that by introducing challenges to the status quo and by providing an outlet for alternative points of view to the mainstream media’s, he has made all the media have to rise to meet his challenges. Sometimes they fail and sometimes they don’t. But he has given a large part of America a voice where they had none, and he challenged the status quo that made that America so ignored.
Limbaugh’s show is not over, and God bless him and his family as he goes through his treatment. But, on the days he is not behind the golden EIB microphone, remember what he has given to the American media landscape. We are better off for it.