Sunday, February 10, 2008

The clear and present danger of local talk radio


[Saturday, at the Lewiston Armory, spreading the gospel] [The Hillary sisterhood]
[Hillary, after the town hall, signing autographs]

[I’m pleased to welcome a new contributor to Words Matter. While you may remember Mary from previous guest posts (including this one), I’ve now given her carte blanche to do some reporting and offering her thoughts on the political campaign, as it rolls forward.—JB]

I have to admit that I don’t listen to much talk radio, like I once did.. I do a lot of traveling for my job and 80 percent of that time each week is in my car. Instead of listening to talk radio and getting all wound up, I now listen to a lot (and I do mean a lot) of books on tape (thank you Portland Public Library in Portland, Me ). I also listen to my local television news station, WCSH, on the radio.

Yesterday, I was on my way to the Hillary Clinton town meeting, being held in Lewiston. I decided to turn on the radio to WGAN, at around 10:15am.. The main reason I turned to this station, which I hadn’t listened to for ages, is that on Wednesday, my husband was listening to WGAN and found out that Bill Clinton was coming to Portland the next day. I figured that WGAN must have informed news. Also, my husband had mentioned to me in passing that Barbara Merrill, the former gubernatorial candidate and now hosting a talk show with Phil Harriman, and would probably have some commentary on both Senators Obama and Clinton, since they were visiting the state on Saturday. I voted for Barbara Merrill when she ran for governor. She lost to our current governor, John Baldacci. I thought Barbara and Phil would be able to give me some additional information about the events leading up to the democratic caucus this Sunday.

As I drove to pick up my sister, so we could both see Hillary together, I listened to Merrill’s Inside Maine show. They were talking about the political happenstances around the state of Maine. It has been an exciting weekend for Democrats in the state of Maine. With visits from both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Former president, Bill Clinton, had been in Maine on Thursday night, and Senator Ted Kennedy, as well as Chelesa Clinton had also come to Maine and were campaigning on behalf of their respective candidates. And then we had the big events of both Clinton and Obama in Maine, in Bangor and Lewiston (Clinton).

Around 10:30, Merrill mentioned that she had an exclusive interview with Senator Obama. He was going to be speaking later that day at the Bangor Auditorium and I thought that it would be great to hear the interview. Then the hosts mentioned in passing that “wasn’t Bill Clinton at Becky’s Dinner this week?” It was as if Merrill and Harriman were confused. One of them mentioned that the “locals must have ignored Bill.” (My husband informed me afterwards, “it was probably the right-wing Harriman that disparaged Bill Clinton). I thought Inside Maine hosts should be a little better informed. Is this a paying gig for Phil and Barbara or do they provide their services for free?

Barbara and Phil pay close attention! Rob Caldwell had an exclusive interview with Mr. Clinton and it was well done and informative. In the interview, Caldwell captured the former president speaking about his role as an ex-president, now campaigning for a family member running for president. President Clinton spoke about how a former president should handle himself.

On the other hand, these local hosts didn’t seem to get how key this interview was. They said something like “wasn’t Bill’s visit to Becky’s Dinner on maybe, WCSH?” Again, clearly confused. This interview was important to Caldwell and the folks at WCSH, as well as others. I was on my way to work on Friday morning and yes, I was listening to THE TODAY SHOW. I was waiting for my caffeine to kick from my morning cup of coffee, when I heard Matt Lauer say that they will be hearing from former President Clinton, when one of our affiliates in Portland Maine, WCSH, spoke with him. This was a national story, as Caldwell’s interview was the first time that the former president Clinton had mentioned specifics about some of his recent difficulties campaigning for his wife.

Both Merrill and Harriman were absolutely clueless about this. They once again resorted to their corny joke about how “the locals must have really loved (hahaha) seeing Bill Clinton at Becky’s Dinner.” What’s their problems, anyway?

Then, it was time for Merrill’s big exclusive with Senator Obama. I was expecting to learn a lot more about Senator Obama’s campaign for the White house and how it would affect Mainers. Senator Kennedy, the day before, while on a campaign stop mentioned about a bill not passing for the much needed fuel assistance for Maine people. If Senator McCain had voted for the bill, it would have helped many Mainers who need fuel assistance to stay warm this winter.

Before the interview I thought that the interview would hit hard about the many Mainers who are struggling to stay warm this winter (Senator Kennedy knows it), or how about families just keeping their homes from foreclosure, or having jobs that that pay a living wage, or health insurance for those without. Instead, Merrill opened with a question about Mainers being so concerned about the environment and Al Gore’s possible role if Senator’s Obama wins the presidency. Good lord! The environment is very important but does Barbara Merrill not read or listen to national polls? Obviously not! In this presidential election, Americans have shifted their focus. Their number one concern is the economy. I think the economy would mean jobs or lack of them, and of course would cover having enough money to pay your fuel bill, as well as mortgage.

I was getting more and more irritated, listening to Merrill hack away at what could have been a very informative interview with possibly our next president of the United States. And Barbara! Don’t even try your attempt at humor regarding a Patriot football trade. It just doesn’t come off. I shut the radio off after the interview in disgust!

Let me wrap up with three points. First of all, thank God the exclusive interview with Senator Hillary Clinton airing on February 10th on WGAN is being conducted by John McDonald. Secondly, I am so glad Barbara Merrill didn’t win the governorship for the state of Maine, even though I foolishly voted for her—Governor Baldacci you are doing a good job! And lastly, I know why it is not healthy for me to listen to talk radio.

WGAN take a closer look at your hosts. It’s time for a change!!!!
FMI on the Clinton campaign and the real differences between her and Barack Obama, check out this excellent website. You can actually cut through the hype and compare resumes.