Hot Air: More Fun Than the Law Allows

Originally published in the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, this five part series examines the shock jock phenomenon… Colorado-style

Amy Oliver doesn’t feel muzzled at all by the management of 1310 KFKA-AM, based in Greeley, where she hosts a daily, mid-morning show in the coveted time slot before conservative firebrand Bill O’Reilly. She strikes a cautionary note, however, about lobbing verbal firebombs on the radio. “It is a duty to protect the most offensive speech,” she says, “because eventually people like that hang themselves with their own words.”

But she also believes that most people are mistaken in their understanding of free speech: The First Amendment ensures that a shock jock won’t go to jail for saying something crude on the air, but it doesn’t guarantee continued employment.

To keep her gig, Oliver wakes up at 5 a.m. to trudge through the national and local morning headlines for fodder. She also paws through editorials to read what others are saying.

Oliver is also operations director for The Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank led by the irrepressible Jon Caldara, a fellow talk radio host, on Newsradio 850 KOA-AM, and himself a frequent subject of Colorado Media Matters’ misinformation-busting.

Oliver is concerned that her show isn’t reaching an audience beyond those already attracted to talk radio.

As one of the very few female hosts in Colorado, and among even fewer with solo gigs, Oliver says she is careful about making gross generalizations and hurling insults at callers. She doesn’t discuss abortion, for example, because it’s such an emotional and divisive issue.

“I am personally pro-life and I am reluctantly by policy pro-choice,” she says, tipping her certified-libertarian card.

Oliver doesn’t completely agree that the antics of more notorious, high-profile women talkers, like the caustic family and marital advisor Dr. Laura Schlessinger, affect local female hosts, although she does admit that women in talk radio, like most other industries, have to work a little harder and a little smarter to get ahead. Being in a small market also helps. She has free editorial reign over her show, unlike the nationally syndicated programs that are influenced by Arbitron ratings and market research.

Beyond ratings concerns, however, Oliver is seemingly satisfied with her show.

“I can’t believe that they pay me to do this,” she says. “This is more fun than law allows.”

Read the companion chapters of the “Hot Air” series here. In part three, Colorado Media Matters leads the battle against conservative misinformation across the state.

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