Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Sheldon Drobny
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Sheldon Drobny ( was the cofounder of Air America Radio. He is also the chairman and managing director of Paradigm Group II, a venture capital firm specializing in socially responsible businesses. Mr. Drobny received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Roosevelt University in Chicago and is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, an honorary fraternity recognizing academic achievement in colleges of business administration. We were curious about the inspiration to create Air America. “The inspiration was that no one else was doing anything about media in liberal politics,” Sheldon recalls. “Having been involved with the higher echelons of the Democratic Party, I kept telling them that if you don’t influence the message that the media is going to disseminate you’re going to lose every time. And I asked, within the Democratic circles, ‘Is anybody working on a media project, anywhere?’ The answer was no. There were plenty of discussions about the media from an intellectual point of view, but nobody was doing the heavy lifting of starting a new company or taking on a new project from existing companies.”

Does Sheldon think that Air America is creating a political shift in the cultural landscape? “The shift has been dramatic but we still have a lot of ground to make up. If you look at the numbers, even with Air America now going, the ratio of public broadcast is extremely distorted toward the conservative. Maybe it’s now in the area of twenty conservative stations to one liberal, as opposed to one hundred to one not long ago. We made some significant inroads, but we have a long way to go and plenty of opportunities. We are the fastest growing market in radio by far. But that’s a little distorted because when you go from nothing, growing fast is easy. Still, in many markets Rush Limbaugh is down 30 percent.”

Will satellite radio help deliver more new voices to the airwaves? “Definitely,” says Sheldon. “Not only will satellite broaden the available selection, but it will also make terrestrial radio much more conscious of their programming – which only benefits Air America. Radio programmers are not exactly visionaries and what they try to do is stay with the prevailing truths. So, whether it’s music or talk radio, they’re not the ones who put together new ideas. Radio is now being challenged, so conventional programmers are going to have to be a little bit more careful about what they throw in their broadcasts. And that’s critical. We need truth in free, mainstream media for the masses of people who can’t afford to pay fifteen dollars a month for satellite radio or only listen to talk radio because they like to hear a voice as opposed to music.”

Will more diverse voices on radio help our society get out of the “us versus them” mentality that dominates conservative talk radio? “Telling the truth is one thing and having a point of view about it is another. For example, if you’re going to talk about taxation, you can argue for progressive or regressive systems, but you’ve got to argue with some truth at hand. What conservative talk radio is guilty of, in my opinion, is the same as what the administration is doing; it’s sending out stuff that’s not truthful. If you make it up as you go along, as conservative talk radio does, then you have people who are polarized. Conservative Republicans are causing this polarization intentionally. They want to make the American people believe that there’s no difference between the parties and that it’s a team sport. Right now, liberal Democrats don’t know what to do about it; they’re shell-shocked.

“When people start hearing other voices you’ll see a change in the dynamics. It all seems to be happening at once now when you see the failures and disintegration of the current administration. I’m hopeful that the crumbling of this administration won’t lead to chaos but, instead, a positive point of view where people can discuss alternative ideas truthfully.”

“Air America’s objective is not, and never has been, to favor one party. We’re not out to polarize people. We’re rooting for America. I don’t mean that in a shallow, selling-the-flag sense. Patriotism is a very subjective thing. I think most people in this country want a better America and want to be proud of their country. Air American is concerned about where American is going and our position in the world. We’re concerned about the way this country treats the least of us and about the lack of safety nets; America seems to be the only first-world democratic country that doesn’t particularly care about its own citizens.

“That’s a function of our government. It’s terrible and I wish that we had another choice besides the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican parties. But let’s face facts. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you can’t beat corporatism in terms of getting policy. Money talks. We’ve got to get big corporate money and cronyism out of our system – and for once have a country that resembles the republic our founding fathers intended.

“Watergate did not flush out all the corruption in government. It only flushed out the Nixon corruption. Washington needs to operate much more visibly, as opposed to being underground. I’m really hoping that the public will be able to find out what’s been going on with our government, which we have not been able to see for a long, long time.”

Is Sheldon hopeful about the future of media? “If I didn’t have hope I don’t think I could get up in the morning. I’ve seen a very big shift in the way the major media is looking at their dissemination of news as sacred truths. It’s a fact that progress, or lack thereof, moves even the multinational media companies. Some media are dying; print and newspaper circulation is decreasing dramatically because they’re not appealing to the twenty-five to forty group. And they’re not watching network news, either. Younger people are really sick and tired of being thrown that garbage. So the audience is literally dying with the baby boomer generation.

“I think there will also be markets that will be captured by independent companies like Air America as long as they stay independent and are not bought out by another major media company. As a matter of fact, I would rather see media companies be pure. If there’s to be some future regulation, there should be a bill submitted to Congress preventing multinational corporations from owning media. These big conglomerates should be forced to divest themselves of media companies because that’s not the idea that the framers had about the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We’re all threatened by the stranglehold large corporations have on America. No matter what industry you’re talking about, a few large conglomerates control it. In that sense, media is just another industry. But in another sense it’s the most important one, because that’s where people get their information.”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

The Flip is available at your local bookstore or online at, Barnes & Noble, Joseph-Beth, and Borders.


Home | Excerpts | The Authors | Meet the Flipsters | Contest | Press

Copyright © 2006 The Flip. All Rights Reserved.

Web site by Celestia International

To view corrections, click here.