By Eric Paulsen Special to Published Apr 06, 2005 at 5:27 AM

{image1} Have you found that listening to talk radio in Milwaukee means you're hearing a lot from the "right" side of your speakers, but little to nothing from the "left?"

If the likes of Sykes, Wagner and Belling leave you wishing for some response, Scott Stearns has an opportunity for you to make your voice heard ... or at least read.

Stearns, a local blogger whose entries can be found on, offers up an online petition that strives to illustrate a ready market for liberal talk. The petition is addressed to Milwaukee's radio program directors and major ownership groups such as Entercom, the Milwaukee Radio Alliance, Milwaukee Radio Group, Clear Channel and the Journal Broadcast Group, which collectively own 18 of the area's radio stations.

Stearns says the petition itself won't bring a liberal talker to town, even if everyone in town signs it. Evidence that a station can succeed with such a format is what matters.

The argument that liberal talk radio doesn't bring the audience and ad dollars that conservative radio does has held water for a long time. But, liberal talk network Air America just added its 51st affiliate, recently made it through its first year of business (despite many predictions of its demise) and ratings for many affiliates are starting to make a dent. The market for liberal talk, the petition argues, now exists.

"I'm not seeing this as the be-all, end-all. The main purpose is to raise awareness that there is a demand here for Air America and talk shows like it," Stearns says. "I'm hoping down the road we'd be more likely to get that here. There's always radio stations switching formats, and I want to prove that there are people who would listen to an Air America-type format, and that market is not being served."

Talk radio's conservative dominance can be traced back to 1988, when Rush Limbaugh went into national syndication. The sheer size of his audience -- and the ad dollars that followed -- led some to credit conservative talkers like him with "saving" AM radio. More conservative talkers followed to share in the success of the market throughout the '90s, with some now popping up on the FM band.

Air America formed to counter conservative talk radio. Spearheaded by personalities such as Al Franken, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes, its affiliates include "The Mic 92.1," a Madison station owned by Clear Channel, which also airs Rush Limbaugh on another of its Madison stations.

Clear Channel's balance in Madison is not duplicated here. The closest thing we have to liberal talk is Racine's WRJN (AM 1400), which broadcasts Ed Schultz (4-7 p.m. on weekdays) and Sean Hannity's nemesis on Fox News Channel, Alan Colmes (9 p.m.-midnight on weekdays). WRJN also broadcasts Bill O'Reilly, proving some stations swing both ways.

The online petition aims to see more of a balance on Milwaukee stations, and invites any station owners to take a closer look.

The petition was posted online on March 15. On the morning of March 31, Air America's one-year anniversary, the petition had 227 signatures. If you'd like to add your name, you can sign the petition online at:

Eric Paulsen Special to
Eric Paulsen is a Milwaukee native but also grew up in Chicago, Detroit and Dallas, which means he’s never lived in a decent climate. Paulsen works as the Communications Officer for the Greater Milwaukee Committee, serves as a writer and contributor for commercials and a national TV show and pops up on 103.7 Kiss FM on weekends, doing his share of overplaying Top 40 hits. Previously, he was a business partner and director in a start-up online research company that began in 1998 and reached the Inc. 500 list by 2005. He was an early contributing writer for, dating back to 1999. He got his MBA from UW-Milwaukee in 2007 and also holds a BS in Consumer Science (a degree he can’t explain, either) from UW-Madison and thus cheers on the Badgers with reckless abandon. Eric is a graduate of the Future Milwaukee Leadership Program and participates in many community-minded events and initiatives, invited or not. When he’s not working, Paulsen enjoys running, road trips and practicing for a future career as a beer connoisseur.