Friday, April 30, 2004

Stern Rising 

From the L.A. Times:
These days, Stern's broadcasts are divided between his usual schtick — interviews with strippers, off-color song parodies, jokes about celebrities — and rants against the president. Stern will never be mistaken for a policy wonk, but tune in to his show and you'll hear him cogently attacking administration positions on an impressive range of issues: stem-cell research, abortion rights, gay marriage, media consolidation, the handling of Iraq.

Meanwhile, Stern's revamped website looks more like Mother Jones magazine than Maxim: It features articles about the administration's trade violations in Myanmar and includes a link to the contributions page of the John Kerry for President site. Indeed, Stern has become an ardent Kerry advocate. "I call on all fans of the show to vote against Bush," he said on a recent broadcast. "We're going to deliver the White House to John Kerry."

Some might dismiss this as bluster, but Stern's words should send a shiver up Karl Rove's spine. Stern has a record of successful election-year activism; political observers in New York and New Jersey remember how his on-air endorsements delivered key votes to George Pataki and Christine Todd Whitman in past gubernatorial races.

What's more, although Stern's approximately 8.5 million listeners are often dismissed as overgrown frat boys, they might more accurately be called swing voters. They are overwhelmingly white and male, many are well educated and well off, and they vote. And millions of them listen to Stern's show in battleground states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida — where the election will be decided.

By all indications, Stern's message is getting through. Since the FCC crackdown, his ratings have been going up. For example, Arbitron says he's now No. 1 in Los Angeles in the 25-to-54 age group, a spot he last occupied in 1995. And among entertainer websites, his was rated second (behind Oprah's) in mid-April.


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