More Messages: Leaving the Air

Air America isn't thriving, but it isn't dead, either. As noted in this New York Times article, Air America representatives announced yesterday that Stephen Green of SL Green Realty Corporation has purchased the proudly progressive radio network, which filed for bankruptcy in October. Green, whose brother, Mark, is a sometime Air America host who ran for New York attorney general in 2006 but lost in the primary, appears to be the perfect type of person to take over this struggling business -- someone with a motive other than pure profit to keep the net operational. Yet even before he takes over, he's losing the biggest name boasted by Air America, whose offerings are heard locally on AM 760. Former Saturday Night Live castmember-turned-Rush Limbaugh basher Al Franken has announced that his final Air America broadcast will take place on February 14.

Franken's impending departure isn't a huge shock, since he's been toying with the prospect of running for the Senate in Minnesota for quite some time. In addition, he's likely grown tired of delivering glass-half-full rhetoric about Air America, as he did in an August 2006 interview for this Message column.

During that conversation, Franken insisted that he wasn't disappointed with Air America's growth. "If you'd said three years ago, 'You're going to be on eighty-some stations around the country by 2006,' I would have taken that," he maintained. As for predictions of Air America's imminent demise, he noted that "Bill O'Reilly goes on his show and says we'll be off the air in a couple of months -- and he started saying that when we had four stations. And then he said it when we had eight, and twelve, and twenty and thirty. He says it all the time, but we're still here."

Franken won't be there much longer, and Air America hosts such as Sam Seder haven't grown into major media stars despite face time on cable-news programs such as Countdown with Keith Olbermann. That makes Green's move a genuine gamble. But for a while, at least, it'll give his brother something to do. -- Michael Roberts