Pat Ford: Mr. Gobeil- Talk Radio is Alive and Well in RI

Saturday, December 21, 2013


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Good news, Mr. Gobeil; talk radio is alive and well in Lil’ Rhody… you just won’t find it in the tired corners of studios of the usual suspects. And it has taken on a whole new form.

Some perspective, please

When I arrived in Rhode Island more than 20 years ago, Rhode Island Radio was the place of legends. Mary Ann Sorrentino’s ascorbic wit routinely skewered political egos. The grace and humanity of Arlene Violet gave voice to countless noble causes, ignored by the rich and powerful. Steve Kass was there to analyze, provide perspective on the halls of government. Buddy Cianci wove in and out of the media, irrevocably blurring the line between government and talk radio

But, as they say, time marches on. The economics of information has changed. I will agree that shortsighted far-flung media executives have lost touch with the spirit of the local market. The consolidation of the companies that own media properties has accelerated this process

We evolve. We grow. But one aspect of Talk Radio has never changed. It is truly Rhode Island’s Town Hall. Where else could a “ham and egger” like myself be able to question--no, interrogate--the powerful? During my tenure as a serial talk show caller, I have been able to tangle with Senators, Governors, moguls, and the elite.

Talk Radio remains the only avenue for the citizenry to connect with an increasingly remote Government. A Government made more insular with the assistance of a complicit national and local media, who have been willing to trade access and political favors for silence. Witness the revolving door between established media players and Rhode Island State and Municipal Government as long time “journalists” have become highly compensated mouthpieces for the very people they used to cover.

There will always be forces at work to fill the needs of the consumer, in this case, the consumer of information.

New media, in the common parlance, refuses to adhere to the labels carefully crafted by three generations of “old media,” in a failed attempt to wall off their own information fiefdom.

We Talk. We Write. We Blog. We Video. We Create.

The bitterness and high level of snark in your article stems not from a high standard of journalism, but the recognition that none of the structures, rules, or hierarchy that dominated your world matter anymore. We get it … countless industries have woken up to their own irrelevance in the last few years. It can’t be pretty.

The transition has not been without friction. Your media obsesses over double sourcing. We wonder why your media “no-sourced” everything from the rise of Al Qaeda, to the 6-year failure of the media to properly analyze the implementation of Obamacare

We “hide” behind acronyms and pseudonyms, exhibiting “keyboard courage”, says Old Media. We don’t hide; we just eschew the cult of personality that has generated the John DePetros, as well as the Talking Head Anchors who describe themselves as journalists, when in fact they have risen to the level of high parody. For us, it’s the story that matters. The Brave New World of Media self polices … if you produce crap, you disappear.

And while you obsess over the comings and goings of a few personalities, you miss entirely the broad mosaic that is Rhode Island media. As the Providence Journal

fades gently into that good night, both you and I are given the opportunity to contribute in its replacement, GoLocalProv. The Valley Breeze Newspapers have assumed the mantle of political and civic coverage at the municipal level, proving that the printed word is still an economically viable delivery method.

But there is much, much more

The dawn to dusk programming of Adam Palazio and his merry band at covers everything from politics to rock & roll.

Then there’s the stunning videography of Robert Malin and Abel Collins, interviewing national guests, like Noam Chomsky, among others.

Or take Jeff Scott’s laser-like focus on the Federal Reserve, which has drawn Facebook Followers from around the globe. Better known is, where progressives blog and record on state and national issues.

And of course, there is The Coalition. We host a one hour-long form interview, Sunday evenings, live on good ol’ AM radio, as well as internet stream. The largest source of growth in our audience actually comes from iTunes podcasts.

Our show has featured uninterrupted hours with everyone from Green Party legend Gregg Gerritt, to General Treasurer Frank Caprio. Rhode Islander’s like Ray Rickman and Dawson Hogdson have been able to develop their ideas and platforms uninterrupted by self-absorbed hosts, free of the need to speak in talking points.

So take solace, Mr. Gobeil, in the fact that the “Circle of Life” occurs everywhere, even in broadcast media. Others will come after us, evolving; refining the product, with one constant… the individuals need to be heard will not be diminished, or ignored.

Pat Ford, also known as "PO Taxpayer," is a Libertarian radio personality with The Coalition; found on AM radio, online, and podcast.


Related Slideshow: Infamous Talk Radio Controversies

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Arbitron Ratings Scandal

In 2008, radio host John DePetro found himself in the midst of a ratings controversy.  The Boston Herald reported,

The briefly stellar ratings of controversy-dogged-talkmeister John DePetro’s Providence radio show tanked yesterday after a whiff of scandal forced Arbitron to reissue its spring survey of listener-dial habits.

In the 6 to 10 a.m. weekday slot occupied by the self-proclaimed “Independent Man” on WPRO-AM (630), “the reissue ranked WPRO at number nine” among valued 25- to 54-year-old listeners, “down from the number four rank in the original release,” program manager Paul Giammarco and station market manager Barbara Haynes announced in a joint statement.

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Candidate Name-Calling

DePetro was fired from Boston radio station WRKO in 2006 for calling then-gubernatorial Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross a "fat lesbian." 

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Office Scuffle

The Providence Journal's Mike Stanton reported on an altercation in 2009 between DePetro and radio host Ron St. Pierre.

DePetro said he was hit -- and scratched -- in the eye with a balled up paper with a staple thrown at him by St. Pierre.  

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Buddy's Return - to Radio


After five years in prison for racketeering conspiracy from 2002 to 2007, former Mayor of Providence Buddy Cianci returned to the public eye with a radio show on WPRO.  

While controversial, Cianci's continued popularity has people wondering if Buddy might just make another run for Mayor in 2014.  

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Chafee's Talk Radio Ban

Upon taking office in 2011, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee announced that he would not appear on talk radio shows and barred state employees in agencies and departments that report to him from doing the same during work hours.  

Governor Chafee is among the elected officials who have signed the "For Our Daughters" pledge.  

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Dennis and Callahan

WEEI sports radio hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were suspended in 2003 when they referred to an escaped gorilla as a "Metco gorilla" waiting for a bus to Lexington -- with Metco being bus program that buses inner-city students to suburban schools.

Boston's" target="_blank">WCVB reported that advertisers Dunkin' Donuts and Blue Cross pulled back station support in light of the incident.  

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Severin Suspended

WTKK's Jay Severin was fired for making comments about sleeping with female employees over the years.  

Radio Ink reported on Greater Media's reaction to the incident.  

"Greater Media today ended its relationship with Jay Severin. Our company has always encouraged a free and open dialogue on a variety of issues and topics, and we will continue to be guided by that principle. But we also demand that our on-air talent maintain an appropriate level of civility, and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large.

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Imus' Racial Remarks

in 2007, nationally syndicated talk show host Don Imus called Rutgers women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos."  Imus was suspended -- then fired -- by CBS Radio.  

Five years later, Imus was back on the national radio circuit, as reported by New

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Rush Limbaugh

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is no stranger to controversy; his latest remarks prompted the Democratic National Committee to call on Republican leaders to boycott the Daily Caller, which defended Limbaugh's remarks in an article entitled, "Liberals want to stop men from checking out women." 


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