The following appeared in a memorandum from the manager of WWAC radio station.

"To reverse a decline in listener numbers, our owners have decided that WWAC must change from its current rock-music format. The decline has occurred despite population growth in our listening area, but that growth has resulted mainly from people moving here after their retirement. We must make listeners of these new residents. We could switch to a music format tailored to their tastes, but a continuing decline in local sales of recorded music suggests limited interest in music. Instead we should change to a news and talk format, a form of radio that is increasingly popular in our area."

Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

According to the memo, the manager of the WWAC radio station believes that WWAC should increase the news-and-talk format of its programming to increase its audience because the previous music program is losing listeners, and the new local population is seemingly disinterested in the music program considering the closing of local record stores. Despite the validity of the author’s argument, we still need to answer some questions that will help us to effectively evaluate the author’s argument.

The first series of questions we need to ask concerns the reasons for the decline in the number of listeners to WWAC’s rock music programs. Although WWAC’s rock music audience has declined, this may not result from the unpopularity of rock music. Is it possible that some of WWAC’s own problems have led to the decline in the audience for its rock music programs? If the answer is positive, e.g., jazz is popular on other stations and WWAC’s audience is declining because of the poor quality of its own rock shows, then the conclusion is weakened. If, however, listeners of rock shows on other stations are likewise declining, there is reason to believe that the popularity of rock as a form of music is indeed declining, and the author’s conclusion is strengthened.

Second, we need to know whether the increase in population due to retirement will have an impact on WWAC’s target audience. Even if the increase in the current population comes primarily from the retired population, this does not account for the fact that these new retirees will make up a large percentage of WWAC listeners. If it turns out that the retirees only make up a small percentage of WWAC’s audience despite the large number of them, and that the mainstream of WWAC’s audience is other age groups, then the author’s proposal to cater to retirees doesn’t hold.

Thirdly, does the closure of record stores mean that music is no longer popular? Suppose the closure of a local record store is due to an economic downturn that reduces the purchasing power of the listener, or due to the advent of new technologies that make it unnecessary to rely on records as a form of listening to music, even though people still enjoy listening to music. In this case, the closure of a record store may be influenced by a number of factors, not necessarily directly related to the local audience’s taste in music. Thus, the author’s reasoning is illogical, and the author’s proposal to replace the music program with a new format is unnecessary.

Finally, in order to measure the necessity of the author’s proposal, another question needs to be answered: would news-and-talk programs really help WWAC increase its audience? Although the author mentions that news-and-talk shows are becoming more popular locally, it could also just be that news-and-talk has just recently become more popular because of its previously low popularity, but that’s not enough to support WWAC’s listenership numbers. If it turns out that the actual number of listeners of news-and-talk is actually less than the number of listeners of rock shows, then the author’s conclusion is weakened.

In short, while I fully understand the reasoning behind the argument, I withhold my approval of the recommendation until the author can provide clear answers to the aforementioned questions.

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