The Human Need to Make Our Issues Public

radio airing personal mattersThere are some critics of talk radio and talk shows who feel that the cultural practice of airing personal problems in a public forum is narcissistic. They claim that putting personal problems on display in such a manner is vulgar and nothing more than a means of seeking celebrity status. However, there are others who would defend this type of catharsis, arguing that the need to make personal matters public comes from an innate human need to consider the opinion of the group. Its origins lie in our nature as a collective, social species.

Our media has a long history of talk radio and public television being presented in the format of a host in the role of judge and an audience in the role of jury. On television shows, the audience is present at the filming location, where as in radio programs, the audience is typically not present at the broadcast location. Regardless, the people who appear on or call into these programs are subjecting audience members to their personal matters. This practice seems to be logical to some and offensive to others.

It is certainly true that this media format can be abused, as in the case of the Jerry Springer show and other trash talk programs, but when used correctly, the format serves as a valuable public asset and discussion forum. People who serve as talk show subjects are essentially volunteering themselves for critique by the expert talk show host, as well as for second hand judgment from the show’s audience. This gives the subject of the program valuable insight into their own problems, and it gives the listening audience insight into the general problems being discussed.

Psychologist talk radio programs that invite callers to purge their personal matters on air are inviting them into a discussion forum that they trust for direction, and feel secure in. This is a valuable public service, not vulgarity or celebrity obsession.

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