Michael Jackson (radio commentator)
April 16, 1934 |
|Known for||Radio host and interviewer|
|Spouse(s)||Alana Ladd, deceased|
|Website||Michael Jackson Talk Radio|
Michael Jackson (born April 16, 1934, London, England) is a British-American talk radio host based in the Los Angeles, California area. Jackson is best known for his radio show which covered arts, politics, and human interest subjects, particularly in the Los Angeles and greater Southern California area in the era before "shock jocks." His show originally aired on L.A. radio station KABC and briefly aired on KGIL.
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Jackson was born in England and experienced the Blitz as a child. After the war, during which his father served in the RAF as a navigator trainer, his family moved to South Africa where he became a radio disc jockey. The Jacksons were appalled by the apartheid then dominant in South Africa, and they moved to the United States in 1958. Jackson had always wanted to be on the radio in Los Angeles, but first, he worked in cities like San Francisco, where he did a Top-40 show for station KYA.
Listeners reportedly loved his British accent, but he didn't especially enjoy being a rock deejay. In fact, he hated rock music and ended up getting fired. When he was hired in the early '60s at KEWB to do an overnight shift, he gradually phased out playing records, and began chatting with callers. He got the reputation of being a problem-solver, and comedian Mort Sahl, a big fan of his, jokingly called him the "All Night Psychiatrist." The police regularly monitored his show, with his permission, so they could trace the calls of the occasional listener who expressed suicidal thoughts and make sure the person was okay. Time Magazine praised him for his ability to maintain a calm demeanor no matter what the subject turned out to be.
The Time Magazine article and other favorable publicity earned him some offers, and Jackson was finally hired in Los Angeles, where he briefly did the 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift at KHJ. Radio and TV critic Don Page of the Los Angeles Times took notice of him almost immediately, saying he was a "good talker and a patient listener," with an "elegant and flexible" command of the language. But when his ratings weren't what KHJ hoped, he was fired. Fortunately, the CBS affiliate KNX picked him up, but he found their format very confining. Finally, in 1966, heritage talk[clarification needed] station KABC hired him, and it was a perfect fit. The station was having great success with their talk radio format, and they gave Jackson the 9 a.m.-to-1 p.m. spot. Jackson remained with them for the next three decades, with critics continuing to compliment him for being "cultivated and enlightened." At that time, KABC broadcast the Joe Pyne show, and in the mid-1970s, when Jackson beat him in the ratings, he told a reporter that this proved "you do not have to be rude to be successful."
Jackson liked to book his own guests, and he became well known for talking to interesting news makers from all around the world, ranging from Richard Nixon's former counsel Charles Colson to economist Milton Friedman to Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan. He also talked to celebrities, psychologists and comedians, but he seemed to enjoy talking about current events. On the other hand, he was sometimes criticized for being too nice with his guests and not asking enough tough questions.
Jackson continued to be successful into the 1980s, but radio was changing. Although regarded by many as a liberal, he was not alone in that point of view: KABC had several liberal hosts, as well as several who were conservative. Rush Limbaugh was Jackson's competitor, on the air at crosstown KFI, and Rush had little difficulty defeating the veteran KABC talk show host. KABC's management ultimately felt Jackson's style no longer fit with the modern "in your face" talk shows, the vast majority of which were conservative. On July 3, 1997, Jackson did his last daily talk show for KABC, to the chagrin of his fans and a number of critics. Said one, "Jackson has served as one of the radio dial's last passionate voices of liberal politics…." The timing was especially bad given that Jackson had just won an award as "Radio Talk Show Host of the Year" from the Los Angeles Times. He was moved to weekends and ultimately let go in November 1998, after more than 32 years with KABC.
Jackson would return to radio, finding employment at KRLA (1110 AM), where he secured good ratings, but was still not able to beat Limbaugh. KRLA was pleased, however, because he increased the size of their audience. They had recently changed their format from oldies to all-talk, and station management felt that because he was so well known in Los Angeles, Jackson would be able to attract new listeners. Jackson found himself out of work again when KRLA was sold in October 2000.
In addition to changing hands, KRLA would also change its programming, becoming a sports station. He was then hired at KLAC, only to be placed out of work again in 2002 when the station changed its format back to music. In 2003, Jackson was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame; he was still a talented announcer, but at that point, he had no station to work for. The Englishman did some freelance work, producing interviews for all-news radio station KNX and doing some work as a news analyst. But he chose not to renew his contract, citing a lack of a regular time-slot as well as frustration when his long and thorough interviews were edited down into two-minute snippets.
Jackson would join the new KGIL 1260 AM; it had been playing classical music, but now the owner, Saul Levine, wanted to change formats, and Jackson was one of the talk-show hosts he hired. His first show for KGIL was on October 29, 2007, and he remained there for almost a year. His show was two hours in length, and his interviews of political guests with frequent call-ins were highly respected. Still courteous, still non-combative, Jackson was then 73 and as he told Steve Carney of the Los Angeles Times, he hoped that this time, he could settle in and work until whenever he chose to retire. That was not to be, as he was let go without explanation on Friday, September 12, 2008 upon his return from vacation two days earlier. He was not allowed to say a final farewell to his long-time listeners. The station reportedly decided to switch to syndicated programming.
In fall of 2009 Jackson returned to KABC-AM as the co-host of an investment-oriented show called "The Financial Insider with Michael Jackson" airing Sundays from 11 AM to noon. As of February 2010 the program was still on the air. Jackson filled in for regular host Patt Morrison on her KPCC (National Public Radio, Pasadena, CA) show on July 18-19, 2011.
- James Brown. "Talk of the Town", Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1979, p. H1.
- Steve Carney. "Jackson Seeks to Reclaim his Place." Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2007, p. E2.
- Cynthia Littleton. "Jackson's ratings good at KRLA-AM." Daily Variety, May 18, 1999, p. 3
- Don Page. "Radio Too Talky? It's Debatable." Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1964, p. B1.
- Ray Richmond. "Jackson Exits KABC Slot." Daily Variety, July 3, 1997 Thursday p. 1
- Myron Roberts. "Yackity Yackity Yack About Talk Shows", Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1967, p. C7.
- Hilly Rose. But That's Not What I Called About, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1978.
- William Trombley. "LA Turns On to Talk Shows", Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1975, p. A3.
- "Radio: The Ail-Night Psychiatrist". Time. September 21, 1962.
- Morrison, Patt (October 31, 2009). "Michael Jackson: Sir radio". Los Angeles Times.
- (Rose, 1978, p. 56)
- (Page, 1964, p. B1)
- (Roberts, 1967, p. C7)
- (Trombley, 1975, p. A3)
- (Brown, 1979, p. H1)
- (Richmond, 1997, p.1)
- (Littleton, 1999, p. 3)
- (Carney, 2007, p. E2)