Monday, August 25, 2008

Newspaper values opinions that radio announcer scorns

Somebody named “Party Ben” resents the degree to which“the public” is permitted to waste precious public radio airtime in a “Mother Jones” online blog, “World, Shut Your Mouth: The Horror of Public Radio Call-In Shows.” It is one of very few circumstances in which I have been disappointed by “Mother Jones,” which is an otherwise excellent magazine.

Person screaming into telephone
Party Ben, who identifies himself as a late-night radio DJ, resents that public stations waste one-sixth of their programming on call-in radio shows. He dismisses every single caller, in every single case, as “yammering and paranoid.”

I wonder if it has occurred to Party Ben that one of those radio callers for whom he holds such disdain could be the next Larry the Cable Guy?

Our news editor, Mandy Feder recently talked with Dan Whitney, a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy, during a telephone interview. Larry the Cable Guy appeared this weekend at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. One of the things Whitney told her was that for 13 years, he called a local radio station as the character he had created. “He’s the relative or friend who will say or do anything, burp, fart and talk about his sister’s moles,” Whitney told my colleague.

I asked her if that DJ’s air-check recordings will be collectors’ items someday. I asked her if Larry the Cable Guy still calls that radio station and she told me that he still does.

I’m embarrassed for our local stations when someone like Party Ben condemns the call-in audience. Some of our local programmers welcome listeners’ calls and I find it difficult to believe that they would prefer that their audience keep silent.

What especially irritates me about Party Ben’s condescending attitude toward callers is that too often the paper I produce, the Clear Lake Observer American, must go begging for letters to the editor.

From time to time, people give me suggestions for an “article” they want me to write but what it usually amounts to, is that they have a personal bias that they expect me to put into print.

Whenever these would-be editors try to “assign” me an opinion, I try in turn to encourage them to submit a letter to the editor. Who better than you, after all, to accurately present your viewpoints with your personal passion and conviction?

Too often, however, my suggestion is treated with contempt or, at best, lack of interest. This toward what ought to be the most vibrant and dynamic part of our local newspaper!

I’ve read newspapers for years and, long before I started writing for one, I would submit letters to the editor whenever I had something to say. In fact, my very first appearance in the Lake County Record-Bee was as the author of a letter to the editor!

I wouldn’t dream of demanding someone else express my opinions for me. Why are so many other people so willing to abdicate that right?

So don’t expect any sympathy from me, Mr. Party Ben. You might prefer that your audience shut up and go away. I, however, prefer to reinforce that that the Clear Lake Observer American and the Lake County Record-Bee are ready forums for readers’ opinions.

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