I'll be honest, I had kinda forgotten about Madison's progressive talk station, The Mic 92.1 FM.
I was an avid listener in the mid-2000s before podcasts really caught on. I remember a big push to save the station in 2006 when management threatened a format change. That was back when Madison liberals had the luxury of protesting something as inconsequential as a radio station.
Then some of the hosts like Ed Schultz basically moved to Madison during the Act 10 drama and were a regular presence up until the recall election.
Since the recall, I haven't really listened to the station very often with the exception of the only daily local program, The Devil's Advocates Radio.
The Mic's station management got my attention again by announcing they are switching up the station's programming. They've added a new local host for morning drive time, a flagship show for the station. It is the sort of thing that can give the station a new identity, reinvigorate it. Unfortunately, that new host is Madison radio veteran Mitch Henck.
In most cases, I'd be happy to see Henck get a show again. Henck belongs on the airwaves. The 2 Minutes with Mitch video blogs for the Wisconsin State Journal are a bad fit for his skill set; radio is where he prospers. As a quick aside, did the State Journal really need another middle-of-the-road white guy for their opinion section?
Filling three hours a day of airtime is a Herculean task at best, a Sisyphean task at worst. Henck is an entertainer; he can keep the show moving. More importantly, Henck isn't just 180 minutes of concentrated vitriol, a hallmark of most talk radio.
The problem is that Henck is a moderate, an often right-leaning one at that. It makes him an odd fit for the morning drive time host, the face of the station. Now, I'll admit that there aren't any local liberals at WORT or elsewhere who could fill that time with the exception of Dylan Brogan.
But the morning drive time host is the one who is supposed to be at events, do promotion work. I can't imagine Henck going around shaking hands at Fighting Bob Fest. Henck might draw in new listeners from his existing fan base, but are they going to stick around for people like Stephanie Miller?
Even though he is a skilled host, that doesn't mean Henck is the right fit for the flagship host of the station. Madison talk radio station WTDY once tried to mix political ideologies in its talk programming except their programming was flipped -- a left-leaning local morning show host followed by mostly conservative syndicated programming. WTDY's signal is now a sports talk station -- the experiment was less than a success.
The Devil's Advocates isn't purely progressive either. That show works because one of the co-hosts is a liberal and the other a libertarian. There's at least one host who fits the ideology of the majority of the listener base. I doubt Henck would want to share the glory with a co-host after so many years working solo. There's also the goal to syndicate the show around Wisconsin; they wouldn't want the show to be too liberal if it is going appeal to other markets.
In 2006, Clear Channel didn't seem to know what to do with The Mic so they tried to flip the format. In 2015, Clear Channel is now called iHeartMedia, and they are trying something less severe than a format change. But it is pretty clear they still have no idea what to do with The Mic.