[../../../_private/magazine_tmp.htm]Like Him or Not, Roger's Not
One To Hedge on the Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Morris Buckley
 Roger Hedgecock has held many titles in his life: supervisor, mayor of San Diego from 1983-85, father, rock promoter, author, TV personality and talk show host. Now he's taken a liking to a new one - teacher of empowerment. Just call him Professor Hedgecock. "I like that," he said upon hearing the title. "It goes along with my surfing degree from Santa Barbara." Of course, Hedgecock is not a real professor. But he does view his talk show on KSDO 1130 AM (weekdays, 12:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.) as his classroom. The show recently moved to the afternoon so that local listeners could call Rush Limbaugh's popular national show, which now airs live from 9 a.m to noon. "People have called my show a graduate course on behind-the-scenes-politics." Hedgecock said. "And that's just what I think
it is."
 Lounging in his small office at the radio station, Hedgecock sat at a desk cluttered with reviewers' books and a box of goodies delivered from a local restaurant. The whole office had a party-like feeling and Hedgecock's Hawaiian shirt, donned after a morning of surfing, only added to the festive mood. Excited about that day's show, he spoke in the rapid-fire manner of a man with something to sell.
 "My show is a community forum where people can come and learn about what's really going on in the community and to get active to do something about it," he said. "This show empowers people to change what's going on around them and teaches them how. That's not taught in the school."
That's where talk shows such as Hedgecock's are seemingly picking up the slack at an alarming rate. The host has seen a dramatic change in talk radio during his tenure at KSDO. "Seven and a half years ago, when I started this show, midday talk shows were basically for shut-ins, unemployed and retired people," he said. "Today, with fax machines, car phones and flex time, our audience has grown enormously in numbers."
Hedgecock also notices a decided change in listeners.

"People are finding, as they're growing older, that they need to know more about politics and economics and the interplay between them in order to figure out what's happening to them," he said. "Their standard of living is going down; their prospects are drying up; and their family's future is on the line. People are turning away from mindless music to interactive radio." That's where Professor Hedgecock fits in. His lesson plan is as follows: "First, you have to be aware you're not powerful and you want to get powerful," he said. "Second, you have to know what's going on - who are the players? Then you must understand knowledge is power. Who's doing what to whom and how do you affect them?
"Third, you have to act on that. None of this is in the school system, of course. That's what we try to do. It's a remedial course in empowerment."
Hedgecock has tackled such issues as prostitution in Balboa Park, welfare fraud, and "community issues that come up involving how do we save this park or how do we get a stop sign."
Reaction to his show is both positive and negative, but the degree of response is the key.
 "This show has been successful beyond the wildest expectations of those that started it, including me," the popular announcer said. "Four quarters ago I was No. 8 in the market out of 36 stations; now I'm bouncing around No. 1 or 2. That's phenomenal growth; and while I'd like to attribute it only to my sparkling personality, it's really because we're riding the right wave." That wave is the same one that's made Rush Limbaugh the hero of the conservative working class. Many Limbaugh lovers also stick around for Hedgecock. This doesn't bother Hedgecock. "I think Rush is an enormously gifted guy who's brought a sense of humor to the conservative point of view, which before was dry and academic," Hedgecock said. "His appeal is that he's shocking because he's saying conservative things on the radio. He's also an egomaniac and a windbag, but I think people like that because he's funny."
 The big difference between the shows lies in their angles. "Yes, we have an overlapping audience," he said. "But what I'm doing is local. If you've been in San Diego for 10 minutes or 10 years, you're going to learn something every day you turn on the show." With the time-slotchange, Hedgecock is adding a weekly remote broadcast. "We're going to bring the show to the people," he said. "We want to really pick up on community concerns. For example, we went to Santee and talked about the trolley expansion: Is it good or bad for that community? Does it bring in illegal and drug smugglers or is it a more convenient way for the working person to get downtown- or both?"
 Hedgecock appears to have a strong opinion on almost every local issue. And, he admitted, he's not afraid to voice that view. Loudly. This tendency has upset many San Diegans. Gay activists have slammed him in the media. Some people have attempted to get him fired. "This gay thing has gone too far," Hedgecock said as he jumped out of his chair. "These activists think that beyond tolerance they can club 99 percent of Americans who aren't gay into acceptance and approval. As far as I'm concerned, tolerance is an absolute prerequisite for America to work. But when you try and get me to say that gay sex is the same as any other kind of sex - that's not the way I feel about it, and I don't mind saying so."
 Hedgecock's opinions have created a small feud with The San Diego Union-Tribune. He's not afraid to say what he thinks in this case either.
"The merger left it less of a paper," he said. "This newspaper is careening out of control. They've been reading too many National Enquirers. I fully expect to read a story about David Copley taking a trip on a UFO.
"They didn't like me as a supervisor, a mayor or a talk show host. The reason is the same in all three instances: I'm independent, I speak my mind and I say the truth. That's too much for them." Getting Hedgecock to talk about something other than his show takes a bit of patience. Hementioneda brief recording career a few years ago, but he isn't interested in pursuing rock 'n' roll dreams right now. "Basically, I'm running, surfing, raising two boys (12 and 15) and having a  really good time," he said. He also just completed a book with Francine Phillips titled "If We Say it Enough, We'll Believe It." In addition, he's a TV commentator on Channel 51 News at 10 Monday and Wednesday nights. This is Hedgecock's second shot at television; he anchored a news show that failed.
 But he still prefers radio to TV. "In radio I can get a complete thought and discussion out," he said. "TV is very packaged. In TV it's difficult to tell the truth because it's manipulative. I love this radio show because it's interactive, uncensored and unedited. You'll never get that on TV." Here we are - back to the subject of Professor Hedgecock's radio show. He especially loves talking about how listeners learn from the show.
 "Every time I hear people talking and a light bulb goes on, it's a thrill," the talk host said. "I love calls when people say, 'I've had it; I'm going to do something about it.' These commitments people make to make a difference - this is the most important thing I can do."



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