Interview: Ellen Ratner

Ellen Ratner is an author and the Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and political editor of its sister title Talkers Magazine.

Ellen Ratner is an author and the Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and political editor of its sister title Talkers Magazine.

She spoke to PRWeek about the talk medium.

PRWeek: What are some of the most interesting developments you've seen in talk radio?

Ellen Ratner: The use of the Internet is one of the most important things. Now, anyone can put audio or video on the Internet for the world to see.

This obviously is affecting newspapers, as blogs are. It will affect terrestrial talk shows. But I think it will wind up strengthening the talk talent that's good. Obviously, there's a lot more competition, but I think we're going to see really solid broadcasters emerge.

PRWeek: Now that Air America has declared bankruptcy, there has been a lot of debate about whether the talk-radio medium works for the liberal market. What are your thoughts?

Ratner: Air America had two problems in my opinion. One, they got themselves into a situation where they spent an enormous amount of money on something [for which] they could have spent a lot less.

Second, a lot of their talent was not talk-radio talent. Randi Rhodes, for instance, who is a great talk-radio host, has done very well. There are other independent people - Ed Schultz and Tom Hartmann - who have just done great.

Talk media, talk Internet, talk radio... is still very much available. The idea is to be able to hone your message in a creative, fun way so that people want to hear it.

PRWeek: Do you think that PR pros are using the radio medium enough?

Ratner: I think young people in the PR field, 30 and under, have a pretty good idea about it, but sometimes they cannot convince the plus-30 or plus-40 crowds... that they need to do this.

Anybody that does PR at this point needs to have a talk-Internet strategy, a [plan] to access [both] local and national talk radio, and a blogging strategy. Without that, you don't have a complete PR strategy for your client.

PRWeek: What is your interaction with PR pros?

Ratner: People pitch us all the time. I got an e-mail the other day [from someone looking] to pitch a new book for the news service. It was a pretty well-known politician. So, I wrote back and said we were interested. And they wrote to me and said, "Who are you? What are your call letters?"

They hadn't done the basic research to know that we are a news service and we're like AP, but for the talk-radio medium. What a lot of PR firms are doing now is casting their net really widely's not as specific [as it should be].

Name: Ellen Ratner

Outlets: Talkers Magazine, Talk Radio News Service

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