December 12, 2011

Deace Expands Beyond Iowa’s Cornfields

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Steve Deace, an evangelical radio host, left Des Moines’ WHO Newsradio in February for unspecified reasons. A few months later, on Aug. 12, Deace was back on the radio, this time under a different company.

“When I left WHO I didn’t know what was coming next,” Deace said, adding that he considered working more directly in politics or in a presidential campaign. “Several of them did contact me directly or indirectly,” he added.

Then, he said, he got a call from Stu Epperson Jr., the CEO of the Truth Radio Network, who said he was looking for the “Christian Rush Limbaugh.”

Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk radio host with over 15 million listeners, has a very different style, which may be due to generational differences, said Jennifer Buckley, a lecturer in the rhetoric department at the University of Iowa.

“Limbaugh’s baby boomer followers are not particularly big on irony,” Buckley said. “[But] irony is practically the hallmark of Generation X.”

Buckley noted the ironic way Deace skewers “the liberal conception of Christian conservatives as humorless Bible thumpers.”

The computer on her desk was opened to Deace’s website and she turned to read a sentence from his brief biography.

“‘Because he’s not that educated, Deace actually believes the Bible is literally true, and the Constitution isn’t a living, breathing document.’ That’s straight-up irony,” she read.

Deace’s new program, recorded on weekdays in downtown Des Moines, airs across the country in cities like Salt Lake City, Utah, and Richmond, Va. Video and audio also run live online.

The show is too young to determine the number of listeners, Deace said. But he noted that his program runs in ten of the top 100 radio markets. Reaching only one percent of those listeners would be roughly 160,000 a day, he said.

When Deace had his prime-time program on WHO NewsRadio, he said they had roughly a quarter-million listeners per month.

Deace’s program represents a niche audience: conservative Christian voters.

This is a solid market to be tapping into, Buckley noted, and one that may be uniquely attracted to radio’s interactive style. Listeners can call into the station, talk to the host and have their comments broadcast.

“One thing the rise of the Tea Party shows us is the deep resentment among some people that their voices were not being heard,” she said. Deace’s show gives them the mic.

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