Friday, January 21, 2022

Don’t be afraid, it’s just public radio

I've been on WBEZ many times. You talk, the words go over the airwaves.
No non-profit police yank them back.


     When the idea of merging the Sun-Times with WBEZ — OK, we’re being given to them, but allow us a fig leaf of pride — was initially bandied about, my first impulse was to write something mocking the station, perhaps a parody of their membership pledge drives, a regular cup rattle that can send the most passionate National Public Radio listener lunging for the dial.
     But I never got beyond contemplation. Talk about an easy target; what I call a “duck in a bucket.” Imagine: the mallard placidly floating in the pail at your feet, quacking softly as you raise the shotgun. Where’s the challenge in that?
     With readers asking for my take, I remember how for decades I’ve fought my way to the WBEZ studios through the dense crowds packing Navy Pier — trying not to have an eye put out by a churro, reflecting glumly every time at how before the pier was renovated, I scoffed that anybody would go all the way out there. It became the most popular tourist attraction in Illinois. A prophet I am not.
     The folks at WBEZ always seem earnest, professional, young. True, they look at me like some mud-caked rhinoceros lumbering unexpectedly into the Botanic Garden’s annual orchid show. But that could be my own unease.
     Yes, I read the Tribune editorial, snapping open their lorgnette and examining the merger, umm, acquisition, tutting about election endorsements being scuttled by our non-profit status. Having spent five years on the editorial board, let me tell you, endorsements are a nightmare to produce, like running a geography bee over six counties. So now suburbanites will have to pay attention to their own local politics and come to their own conclusions. Or use the Democratic Party cheat sheet in the voting booth. Not the end of the world.
     Readers worry: Will I be muzzled? Will I start solemnly intoning about global warming, instead of my usual chirpy, trivial, out-of-the-blue, oh-my-God-I-can’t-stop-talking blabbery?
     I’m not concerned. The fear seems to be that nonprofits must be neutral. But consider how that plays out in reality. WBEZ is not some generic radio news ticker spewing anodyne information. Listen for 15 minutes and certain political shadings are easily detected. There is a particular worldview, a perspective, despite their non-profit status. WIND it is not.

To continue reading, click here.

The tough part about going on WBEZ is fighting through the crowds at Navy Pier. Getting to the
station without gagging on the smell of honey roasted nuts or having your eye put out by a tourist's 
churro can be a challenge. 



6 comments:

  1. Hey! For what it's worth, Out of the Wreck is a proud part of my sobriety book collection. 7 weeks sober here.

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    1. Congratulations Dave. That's the hardest part. Just remember that it gets better every day, and while the thing will certainly come back and try to reel you in, you know you have the tools to keep it at bay. I'm glad our book is among them.

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  2. When I read the speculation yesterday in the Tribune editorial that the S - T's non-profit status "could chill its most daring reporters and opinion columnists," I had a hunch that our host here at EGD would maintain a toasty warmth. ; )

    I've never understood why WBEZ thinks that Navy Pier is a good place for their operation, but there's a *lot* of stuff I don't understand.

    It seems to me that the evident spirit of optimism is warranted. I hope so. At any rate, this sounds a lot better than either paper's dance with Michael Ferro.

    A toss-up today for my favorite line. "... the Tribune editorial, snapping open their lorgnette and examining the merger..." was delightful, once I had visited the dictionary (!) but "I’ve fought my way to the WBEZ studios through the dense crowds packing Navy Pier — trying not to have an eye put out by a tourist’s churro" is tough to beat.

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  3. The other day on the Tribune's Editorial Page they referred to Mike Madigan as Mike Madison so the Tribune might want to spend more time paying attention to their own business.

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  4. I worked for WIND in the 70's when they were a top-notch player. They had a great talent roster. I listened to them when my family moved to Chicago from the SF bay area in the 60's when I was 15. Big-time talent and a REAL news department, not the least of whom was Fran Speilman. So sad what happened to a once great radio station.

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    1. Another Salem Media, Christian-oriented, Fox-affiliated purveyor of the orange Kool-Aid, thanks to its gasbag jabberwockeys. That's what happened to WIND. The Answer? Gimme a break. Eddie Schwartz must be spinning in his grave. Met him at one of the Kite Festivals in Grant Park. Still have a couple of his "Chicago Ed" T-shirts, but I don't think they fit me.

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