And who will give the blog free publicity?

Today is a sad day for Connecticut media. At 10:00, Diane Smith will be signing off WTIC for the last time; at 6:00, Colin McEnroe will do the same (who knows – by the time you read this we may be short several more dailies and scores more weeklies as well). Both shows are as much a part of my daily routine as getting in the car and driving to and from work every day. I want to take a moment, before getting into the nuts and bolts of these moves by WTIC (more nuts than bolts, believe me), to pay tribute to Diane and Colin. There will be plenty of time to analyze this from a business perspective tomorrow.

Ray is a pro and I’m sure his show will still be good as a (briefer) solo show. But it won’t be as good. Diane is smart and funny, and was a perfect foil to Ray. Neither one of them was in danger of being elected to the sports broadcaster’s hall of fame, but listening to them interview UCONN’s Randy Edsall was always fun. The show, being in the morning, wasn’t overtly political, but politics clearly was present – something will be lost when it comes up on Monday and Diane isn’t there to counter Ray’s “don’t tax me ever, but I still want good schools and services” sensibility. I also don’t know if there is truth to the rumor that the show will be renamed, “Die, polar bear, die.” Diane will be missed.

Speaking of people who won’t be inducted in to the sports broadcaster’s hall of fame, Connecticut will lose a gem at 6:00 when Colin goes off the air. Yes, I agreed with him far more than I disagreed with him, and yes, he had me on the show a couple or three times; this isn’t about that. The show was good. You didn’t have to agree with him or be a guest to think that. But while we are on the topic, one thing that I loved was his willingness to support bloggers. He had many of us on his show multiple times, he credits us when he cites our work (it sounds like a small thing, but its not, it is very rare), he pretends to not notice the Cheetos-stains when we venture out of our moms’ basements. And more than that, he supports all kinds of local – if a local poetry festival fails, he’ll start his own! And he used his show to do it – many people will miss Colin’s show for reasons not political – from the Mark Twain House, to bloggers with and without nose hair issues, to me, who picked up a new favorite mystery author when Colin interviewed George Pelecanos last summer.

What was best about the show, contrary to a lot of talk radio hosts on both sides of the political spectrum, was his willingness to take on callers who disagreed with him. Their views got an airing, Colin listened, and then often took them apart. Others have written about his chops as a gadfly – pressuring the Rowland administration, falling asleep on the air after making Senator Lieberman’s head explode, being a tempering voice in the days after 9-11 when seemed as if anyone’s blood would do, and pushing back publicly against the case for the Iraq War. I won’t repeat that here except to say that, agree or disagree, someone like that is needed for a healthy political discourse. Something fundamental to our Connecticut democracy is lost without a person on a (digital or analog) soapbox shouting at power.

For me, two other examples of excellence in broadcasting stand out. First, transportation – months ago, before any budget issues, I heard Colin take Governor Press Release to task for not using her inflated approval ratings (political capitol) for something bold. He challenged her to create a Manhattan Project for transportation in Connecticut, both to alleviate the job-stifling traffic conditions across the state and to deal with skyrocketing gas prices. A few weeks ago, he returned to the subject again after the Governor was unable to name the few projects (think like 6) that actually were shovel ready on an NPR interview about shovel ready infrastructure projects. And he made a great point, one that we are sure to return to at CTLP – that the federal government saying, “give us your projects and we will pay for them” is a once in a lifetime opportunity, that she needed to show some actual leadership and pressure everyone possible to get projects like the NewHaven-Hartford-Springfield train (and dare I dream, SUPERTRAIN?) ready, that it will be on the Governor if projects like that do not get built. I don’t know if I will ever be able to commute to Hartford, but I know it is less likely without Colin there to provide pressure.

The second example is one that all the statewide and national radio and television hosts of all the ideologies in the world can’t do and we will find it near impossible to replace. He held the Hartford Police Department’s feet to the fire, both in the Krayeske arrest and in the murder of the two Hartford/West Hartford teenagers. I won’t go into all the details here (this is getting long – use the google), but this is the thing that we will miss the most about his particular soapbox, and the thing that Colin should be proudest about – speaking for people who didn’t have the means, the guts, or even the breath to stand up to government when it is wrong. I have no doubt that I will be listening to Colin again soon on some station – a part of me hopes it is local, but the unselfish part is pulling for national, because he deserves it.

So, you know where I will be this morning, and again from 3-6; excuse me in advance for not answering my phone.

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20 responses to “And who will give the blog free publicity?

  1. Nice post, Chris. I’m sure Colin will find work if he wants or needs it. I’m just hoping it’ll be close enough to hear him on a daily basis. I’ve always found him to be fair, even when I’ve disagreed with his point. He tends to do a good job of presenting various points of view.

    This is yet another case where the state is losing to corporate mismanagement a journalist with a career of institutional knowledge about Connecticut.

    I suppose I could listen to Clark Howard on WTIC, but I can find him elsewhere on the dial and plan to do so.

  2. The Times has a nice piece today headlined When The Watchdogs Don’t Bark.

  3. Colin McEnroe, gone.

    Stan Simpson, gone.

    W here
    T alk
    I s
    C onservative

    WTIC

  4. Their views got an airing, Colin listened, and then often took them apart.

    Not really.
    Rush is an intelligent, highly talented talk show with an extreme rightward bent. Colin is an intelligent, highly talented talk show with an extreme leftward bent. Rush explicitly mocks liberals with the whiny sissy voice, et. al. Colin implicitly mocks conservatives and conservative viewpoint with a smarmy if you don’t agree with me you must be dumb as rock tone and inflection.

    The attraction of the left is the belief that individuals act the way we’d like them to act. Therefore it’s easy to “win” rhetorical arguments on the air, especially if you assume “facts” which aren’t and can terminate conversation at will.

    As far as MSM media, to paraphrase Cole Sear, I see biased liberal people. And they don’t even know they’re biased liberals. It is the implicit assumption of a world view not entirely borne by facts that skews the press. Therefore, it’s reasonable right wing talk is more popular — not necessarily because of the superiority of the viewpoint as much as filling a niche missing from the rest of media.

  5. Doug–

    FYI, Gabe penned this diary. Not Genghis.

    Gerard–

    Hey buddy, take it easy with the Kool-Aid….

  6. I’m listening to Colin’s final show now, streaming online. I hope some of you tune in.

  7. I’m listening to Colin’s final show now, streaming online. I hope some of you tune in.

    I’d rather shovel my driveway. Good riddances

  8. I have to say that my heart is not quite as heavy about Colin McEnroe leaving as so many others seem to be. Maybe I’ll miss him more than I expect; we’ll see. But I’m I just don’t think that he will leave the enormous vacuum that so may others seem to predict.

    WTIC is an important station. It serves a pretty essential niche in terms of delivering timely news in the Hartford area with an emphasis on government matters, especially at the state level.

    To the extent that a couple of on-air personalities like McEnroe and Diane Smith needed to be cut loose in order to preserve that core function — well, I accept that.

    I’m an avid listener to “TIC.” But during the afternoon drive home, I often found McEnroe a little hard to take. Too often a caller’s opinion would motivate him to blather on about what he thought about something, explaining that the issue just “seemed” one way or another to or that. To be fair, I believe he often was just trying to provoke debate — tossing out a controversial remark to entice callers — without great conviction. But eventually that sort of host just starts to look very lazy, and that’s how I’ve felt about him recently.

    When McEnroe appeared, as he eventually did, on television shows like Face the State he generally ratcheted-up his glib, quirky, smart-assed manner further — which turned me off even more. Too much is too much, and he was just flat-out obnoxious at times.

    We’ll see. But I don’t think the loss is all that great.

  9. Thanks True… sorry about that Gabe. Nice post.

    Love him or hate him, Colin McEnroe was pretty much the only voice of balance on the air in Connecticut — at least at 50,000 watts. But he never really did have equal time because the structure of the earlier right-wing shows doesn’t require continual interruptions for news and traffic. Those guys can go on and on and on …

    Talk radio is all about pontificating on the air. But at least with McEnroe he brought a reporter’s eye with him to the job. That was always clear.

    Rush is unlistenable and essentially has no link to Connecticut. It’s the same “liberals are bad” show, day after day. Vicevich’s tone is far more smarmy than McEnroe’s. Vicevich never really recovered from an exchange with a caller a few years ago — Terry from Terryville. She ripped his head off, tore out his libertarian core, and flushed it down the toilet. He’s been shrill ever since. Still mentions “Terry” once in a while with this bitter tone. He still hasn’t accepted the concept that Connecticut and the nation are in recession, but tries to sell the idea that he’s connected to the middle class and the military. Isn’t that right specialist? … puh-lease.

    The real dichotomy about Vicevich is that he listens to and promotes music by artists who wouldn’t give him the time of day if they knew his politics.

    Colin’s show had segments that I wasn’t crazy about. The tweezers thing was too long, in particular. But he got huge ratings, too. So it makes you wonder about the decision.

  10. I too frequently found McEnroe entertaining; often even more entertaining than annoying – despite his efforts.

    But he got huge ratings, too.

    If that were true, as it obviously is with Ray Dunaway; Colin would be on the air today at 3.

  11. If that were true, as it obviously is with Ray Dunaway; Colin would be on the air today at 3.

    No one seems to understand this — while McEnroe has his supporters, especially here, and seems to be a likable (although incredibly liberal) guy, he did not command enough support to remain on 1080 AM. If there’s a market for him, he’ll reemerge somewhere, and WTIC will be proven wrong. It’s business, not personal.

  12. No one seems to understand this — while McEnroe has his supporters, especially here, and seems to be a likable (although incredibly liberal) guy, he did not command enough support to remain on 1080 AM. If there’s a market for him, he’ll reemerge somewhere, and WTIC will be proven wrong. It’s business, not personal.

    They probably should have offered him a hefty pay cut; and brought in someone like Tom Scott.
    That would have been interesting.

    Bruce Stevens was a liberal as Colin, but no where nearly as bright or well informed. I found McEnroe alone far less annoying.

    Scott is a Conservative intellectual close to William F. Buckley’s level, and so far right that even Pat Buchanan would look like Keith Crane by comparison.

    THAT would be a good radio program.

    I doubt Jim gets paid a lot, or even half of what he’s worth for that matter, and there seems to be more commercial breaks; though the number of spots doesn’t tell the whole story; the rate for those spots does.

    It’s no secret that WTIC AM morning drive time has been the most expensive radio time in Connecticut for over 50 years, probably over 60.

    I’m sure Dunaway (stage name, but “Ray” is his real first name) didn’t relocate his then school aged family from relatively inexpensive Kansas to the Avon / Farmington area without an ironclad contract. He doesn’t strike me as stupid.

  13. yeah in the end, jack is right. i don’t think it was a ratings issue, although i do believe that his ratings were up there. the bottom line is a drop in the number of advertisers… just because ratings are good doesn’t mean people advertise. i would imagine it probably had something to do with his salary… he’s been there a pretty long time and likely was well compensated.

    all the same i’m going to miss him. i have listened to all the wtic shows on a fairly regular basis but i liked his the best and he’s a big part of the greater hartford community. i’m sure he’ll find something else. and so will the rest of us.

  14. Rush is unlistenable and essentially has no link to Connecticut. It’s the same “liberals are bad” show, day after day.

    You may not listen to Rush, and I don’t listen to Rush. But someone is listening to Rush. Or at least, the companies that advertise on Rush’s show are convinced that someone is listening to Rush. Otherwise, they wouldn’t buy advertising time and the station would pick someone else for that time slot.

  15. “Scott is a Conservative intellectual close to William F. Buckley’s level, and so far right that even Pat Buchanan would look like Keith Crane by comparison.

    “THAT would be a good radio program.”

    Right, but the media in Connecticut is not interested in pertinent or even entertaining commentary. They want to hog the stump. It’s always been that way. Same old stuff at the same old outlet.

    And listening to Rush is a guilty pleasure among libs and moderates. At least he can keep your attention.

  16. And listening to Rush is a guilty pleasure among libs and moderates. At least he can keep your attention.

    He puts me to sleep; his show always sounds the same. I tend to agree w/him but that alone doesn’t make him entertaining.

    I’ve taken to surfing the dial or landing on various NPR programs; or listening to audio books.

  17. You may not listen to Rush, and I don’t listen to Rush. But someone is listening to Rush. Or at least, the companies that advertise on Rush’s show are convinced that someone is listening to Rush. Otherwise, they wouldn’t buy advertising time and the station would pick someone else for that time slot.

    No question about that, gmr. I have listened to him now and again. He takes a lot of liberties with his “facts” and has been called out time and again over that. Al Franken’s book gutted Limbaugh and his entire “research” method. The book was on target and hopefully Rush learned something from it. He was unable to sue Franken over it, as I recall, so there you have hit.

    But Rush’s show is probably the only place you got to hear Dick Cheney speak publicly over the last 8 years on a regular basis. There is a value in that. Rush has a giant audience in comparison to McEnroe, obviously, because he’s a national show. He gets national advertisers and is thus better insulated from the tanking economy. But here in CT, where economic activity has essentially come to a grinding halt, even good ratings are not drawing advertising dollars. McEnroe doesn’t have the luxury of national advertisers.

    I think Rush has a listening audience estimated at 20 million… he has essentially hijacked the Republican party. I don’t know how Rush’s audience numbers break down in CT, but I would imagine McEnroe might have a comparable number of listeners here. But people have to have money to spend and advertising is one of the first things to go when the economy tanks.

    That may sound a bit like a McEnroe apologist point of view, but it’s not meant to be. He’s been complimentary of Rush “the broadcaster” many times… it’s essentially an apples/oranges comparison.

    The other idea to address is the possibility that McEnroe lost advertisers over his politics… but there’s no evidence of that that I’ve seen. There’s lots of evidence that it’s the economy.

  18. I’ve taken to surfing the dial or landing on various NPR programs; or listening to audio books.

    Yeah, I know what you mean. My wife is blind and has listened to talking books ever since I’ve known her; she reads about 3 books a week. But this is an apples and oranges comparison. Nothing can beat a good Bertie Wooster novel, and Rush, God knows is no P.G. Wodehouse. Neither is Colin, though he has pretensions in that direction.

    Rush may be “the same old” to you precisely because you share some of his views politically.

    Both Colin and Rush were reaching for entertainment, and to some extent both are political zoo keepers – you know, just feeding the animals the food they like.

    But there are differences. Rush’s success depend upon a couple of things. Over a period of years, he has invented a character that fills a niche, particularly for people who are in spiritual rebellion against the spirit of the age – which hear in Connecticut is a sort of well worn liberalism.

    And he was the first out of the gate. He pretty much invented political talk radio, and he has a patent, apparently, on the template.

    The libs can’t beat him at his game – he invented the rules. What they need is a new template, and a new character.

    Colin couldn’t supply them with that. He was rowing in Rush’s boat.

    But he did pretty well for himself. On the whole, his disappearance from the airwave is a net loss.

    So, what’s hot on talking books?

  19. Both Colin and Rush were reaching for entertainment, and to some extent both are political zoo keepers – you know, just feeding the animals the food they like.</blockquote

    great line, don

  20. So, what’s hot on talking books?

    I recently finished, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History ” by Tom Woods.

    What I should be listening to is some sort of “Learn to speak Urdu / Hindi”; that would give me a big advantage with both Pakistanis and Patel’s.

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