Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Newstalker Mark Davis Anointed by...Bryan Styble?!?

Just one posting below I first wrote about Mark Davis, and now this morning up again pops his crisp national newstalk hosting style! Another coincidence or two like this, and I'll surely start delusionally believing that RadioactiveSeattle is having industry impact.

You see, I lamented only two nights ago about the dramatic drop-off in hosting calibre we've suffered ever since Matt Drudge last year vacated his influential Sunday night show ["Not (Ahem) Bonding with the Cunningham Show"]. Then I parenthetically observed that the best choice as a Drudge replacement might have been veteran WBAP host Davis.

And now, a mere 35 hours later, the Dallas-based Davis is in an even more coveted chair than Drudge's--he's subbing for an influenza-felled Rush Limbaugh on the Excellence in Broadcasting Network. It's his debut turn in the stead of the newstalk radio titan, as well as the first time in years I've heard Davis's voice--which is penetrating, not unlike his hosting approach.

Davis first dazzled me early this decade on his weekly open-line syndicated program, now defunct and which never aired in Seattle. I'd await every new week, as The Mark Davis Show often regaled me each Sunday afternoon down in nuclear New Mexico, where I listened over his Duke City affiliate KTBL, a competitor to KKNS, where Radioactive Albuquerque with Bryan Styble was heard weekdays across what I enjoyed mischievously calling the Nuke City.

His weekly national platform may be no more, but Davis seems to have lost none of his terrific faculty for newstalk. By sign-off yesterday, Limbaugh did sound like he was dissatisfied with some of his under-the-weather performance, so there was an unexpected opportunity that Davis has seized adroitly on less than 24 hours notice, becoming one of but a handful of conservative newstalkers entrusted even for a single shift with the EIB network, the genre's gold standard.

Davis is also the beneficary of good fortune, with Limbaugh being unable to answer the bell on a crucial primary day. Hillary Rodham Clinton is widely seen as holding her last stand against the Obama juggernaut in today's Ohio and Texas races. Limbaugh's senior staff, who reportedly choose his subs subject to their boss's right of refusal, would have accordingly been expected to tap a fill-in talent in either of those pivotal states. Such attendance to detail is but one of a couple dozen reasons why Limbaugh's production remains the best in the business with nary a close second, as RadioactiveSeattle has been recently spotlighting.

Davis, an intellectual stalwart since 1994 to his loyal Dallas-Fort Worth area listeners, was described in my piece below with the unfortunate modifier "obscure". And that's too bad, for his WBAP local show, heard mid-mornings across what everyone there calls the Metroplex, is widely-recognized there as first-rate, in part due to his capacity for perspicacity.

I've bragged to my KIRO overnight audience that the critic's comment in review of my newstalk work of which I'm most proud was penned by a Harvard man. That was the quite liberal rock-band frontman John Sousanis, who had guested on my show less to talk about politics than music. Sousanis was also a weekly newspaper columnist, and I was surprised when one Friday soon thereafter he devoted his entire space to his in-studio experience with me, concluding that "Styble is one of the few people in newstalk radio who understand that a heated discussion need not be uncivil." He was writing about The Pontiac Insomniac with Bryan Styble, heard over suburban Detroit WPON--talk about obscurity!--but that so-gratifying evaluation applies equally to Davis.

A fine example of why for me Davis's work was love-at-first-listen was heard in his second EIB hour this morning. He was annoyed by the rampant incorrect employment of a particularly nasty word, so he offered a tutorial on what precisely it means to lie.

Davis emphatically implored the Rush audience to get this down once and for all: "A lie is something that you know to be untrue, but you say it anyway, with the intent to deceive." His was an irrefutable slam of a confounding habit so many unclear speakers display in the current political culture, where any misstatement or opinion someone disagrees with can be viciously mischaracterized as a lie. As Davis explicated, this not only treats a particular statement unfairly, but also downplays the erosion of veracity fostered by those far fewer untruths which actually qualify as lies.

As it happens, my own audiences heard me hammer home those very same you-can't-unintentionally-lie points over KIRO, WJR and lesser newstalk venues for many years. Now, some of those listeners might assume that a perennial small-time player like me, who never in nearly two decades as a newstalk radio professional got a national shot (despite one notable near-miss [see "Styble on the late Messrs. Buckley & Steibel", archived 2/27/2008]), would have some mixed emotions here. They might presume I'm listening to this ascension of Davis with some embitterment.

After all, Davis engages in this arcane art form known as commercial newstalk radio hosting with an overall sound more elegant yet still quite similar to my own. (And yeah, that inherent bias may inevitably taint this rave review.) So while I deal with the prospect of my particular style maybe never again gracing a station lineup, Davis has just zoomed into my beloved genre's stratosphere. So some cynics might even suspect I'm secretly wishing failure upon him as a national talent.

Sorry, but I don't do schadenfreude. But Mark Davis does do absolutely sterling newstalk radio, and I hope any syndication deal for him ensuing from this EIB anointment today rapidly becomes the next big nationwide newstalk hit.



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