The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
News Features  |  Talking Politics  |  This Just In

Chafee’s talk radio ban

On the Air
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  January 12, 2011


Governor Lincoln Chafee's announcement this week that his administration would forsake talk radio sparked all manner of outrage.

WPRO talk-radio hosts excoriated the governor for ducking tough questions, depriving listeners of insight on the issues of the day, and breaking his own pledge of open government.

As the story went national, the criticism mounted. "To ban an entire sector of the media is an outrageous abuse of power, an outrageous infringement on the spirit of the First Amendment," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, in an interview with the Phoenix.

The controversy was fueled, in part, by the administration's ham-handed delivery of the message. Gubernatorial spokesman Mike Trainor — and later, Chafee himself — said the ban owed something to the "for-profit" and "ratings-driven" nature of talk radio. And critics pointed out that newspapers and television are quite concerned with profit and reach as well.

But what Chafee meant, and eventually communicated, is that talk radio is more about entertainment — more about stirring controversy — than it is about news. And he is, plainly, quite right.

Indeed, the talk radio firmament is asking the governor to play by a set of rules — the media asks reasonable, if often probing questions and elected officials respond — that its shock jocks routinely ignore.

Trainor noted that when President Obama visited the state this fall, WPRO host Buddy Cianci wondered on-air if openly gay Congressional candidate David Cicilline would be sexually aroused by the presence of the commander-in-chief.

"Why would we want to participate in that sandbox?" said Trainor, himself a frequent target of talk-radio pique.

Talk radio may be a decades-old form, but it has more in common with the hyper-partisan, niche media of the moment than with legacy products like the daily newspaper or nightly news.

And no one expects President Obama, or anyone in his cabinet, to grant an interview to the conservative RedState blog. Or to Rush Limbaugh, for that matter. Play the partisan and you will be treated as such.

But Harrison's outrage at the banning of "an entire sector of the media" is not entirely off base.

It is, to be sure, a bit hyperbolic. The Chafee Administration is not cutting off WPRO and WHJJ entirely. The governor and other officials will talk to the stations' news reporters, even as they shun the talk-radio hosts. And officials will appear on the offending talk shows in emergency situations.

But even that approach may not be nuanced enough. Cicilline, who refuses to appear on Cianci's show, still speaks with host John DePetro — hardly a paragon of down-the-middle journalism — from time to time. The interviews aren't always cordial, but they are hardly disastrous.

Chafee, who has faced withering and often personal invective from Cianci, does not have to play ball with his staunchest critic. And if he refuses the others, it will not be the crime against the First Amendment that his sharpest critics suggest.

But a governor who pledged to bring the state together might do better to make an occasional appearance on talk radio. Even if he has to hold his nose.

  Topics: This Just In , Politics, Radio, Rush Limbaugh,  More more >
| More
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 07/09 ]   "Annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival"  @ Downtown Fort Fairfield
[ 07/09 ]   Bela Fleck and the Flecktones  @ Sunset Music Festival
[ 07/09 ]   Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit  @ Tanglewood Music Center, Koussevitzky Music Shed
Share this entry with Delicious
    Rhode Island's itty-bittyness is, of course, a handicap from time to time. But it is also a source of opportunity.
  •   THAT SINKING FEELING  |  June 08, 2011
    It was a particularly violent storm. And a television news crew was filming the wind and rain on a small strip of beach in front of the Ocean Mist bar when the camera panned up to the deck.
  •   BEYOND THE MOON SHOT  |  June 08, 2011
    Retired Congressman Patrick Kennedy has enjoyed a nice little boomlet of press coverage in recent weeks with his push to raise billions in private and public money over the next decade for brain research.
  •   THE BIG THINK  |  June 01, 2011
    TED, PopTech, and other 21st-century innovation conferences — nerds giving speeches to rich guys — have done something rather remarkable: they've turned the public intellectual into popular entertainer.
  •   SEGAL WEIGHS ANOTHER RACE  |  June 01, 2011
    David Segal hasn't decided whether he'll run for Congress. Far from it. But it is mulling season. And he is mulling.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2011 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group