"When did Radio World become a political commentary magazine?"
Reaction was swift to a column by Skip Pizzi in the Dec. 17 issue.
"Your final chart entry on page 32 is patently offensive," continued Dr. Dave Dzurick of Consult-Ed in Tucson, Ariz. The graphic, a classic end-of-year "Out/In" chart, ended with the entry "W." (as in George W. Bush) under "Out," and "Government we can be proud of" (presumably as in Barack Obama) under "In."
"You assume the new administration is one we can be proud of," Dzurick replied in an e-mail to me. "Can we at least let the guy serve his term before anointing him and his administration as a trusted savior of the country? The bottom line: Keep the political commentary out of your otherwise fine magazine. All conservative talk radio isn't bad and neither is all liberal talk radio good, something you seem to allude to." Dzurick said if he were a conservative sponsor he'd even cancel his RW ads.
"Please, focus on radio, not politics. Keep your beliefs to yourself and we'll do the same."
Another reader, an industry veteran whose name you'd recognize, told me: "I really think the political commentary is out of line — whether it be anti-Democrat or anti-Republican, for or against Bush, or 'Obama will save the world' ... This isn't the place for political views, it's a forum for the issues of radio. If I was the editor, I'd have pulled those remarks because the rest of the story is fine."
These readers raise a valid question though I don't agree with some of the underlying assumptions.
I disagree with the concept that political discussion and views have no place in Radio World. Politics ultimately is about affecting policy; and that topic most definitely is within Radio World's mandate.
However, it's my job to make sure that discussion in these pages is relevant to our industry; on that score, we failed in this instance.
I did discuss this chart with Skip Pizzi when he submitted his article, knowing it would be contentious; I was on the fence but decided to let it pass — because the comment appeared within an author's column, where opinions are a regular part of his content; because "Out/In" charts generally are seen as a way to treat relevant news topics in a shorthand fashion; and because I encourage others who write to and for RW to comment politically from various viewpoints. Guy Wire for instance has written with a conservative political bent.
Again, though, the key is whether a commentary is related to the industry. Skip's particular comment jumps out as an unwarranted poke rather than a reasoned discussion of a radio issue.
I suspect what these readers are telling me is that they don't want Radio World to be a venue for the kind of broad, unreasoning and snarky hollering that is found in so many general media outlets under the guise of "political" discussion.
When this comes up again, with any writer, I'll tell him or her (as I have others in the past) that political commentary is acceptable when focused on how the question at hand relates to radio. For example: "I think the Obama administration is a threat to radio because it is likely to push for content restrictions" or "I feel George Bush was bad for broadcasters because he encouraged lax content enforcement" or whatever. Then others can reply and comment as well.
As to Skip's chart, it would have sufficed to write, "Out: 'W' ... In: 'O.'" That's a statement of palpable election fact and doesn't drift into broad political commentary.
If Skip chose to explain in his column why he thinks one leader is better than the other, that's appropriate, as long as it's clearly labeled as his opinion and as long as I provide a forum for others to state their own views.
Radio World in general does a good job of policing these lines. And we're still a newspaper, so I won't try to protect readers from opinions they might find disagreeable. But I am committed to making sure that when readers do open RW's pages, they'll find discussion relevant to our industry.
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While I'm in ombudsman mode, here's a question about how to share an RW article.
"My Dec. 17 issue was received on Dec. 30," Robert writes. "In attempting to go online to send the fascinating Fessenden article to some folks in the U.K., I was unable to find the Dec. 17 issue, but was able to pull up the Jan. 1 issue. Yet on your Web site, there were feature articles from Dec. 17 on Green Radio and John Bisset's piece on 'Yes, I'm Going Up There,' etc.
"Is there a way to find the Dec. 17 issue online?"
Radio World posts content online in two forms: As HTML on the site (content that can be found via search); and a complete, Flash-based digital edition of each issue, available online to any visitor until the cover date of the next issue.
To find the digital edition, follow the instructions on our Web page. From inside the digital edition you can e-mail any article (click on Tools, then Send).
In this case, however, mail delivery of the reader's print edition was behind schedule. When he went to find the Fessenden story online, our Dec. 17 digital edition had already been replaced by the Jan. 1 (a day or two early because of the holiday).
That doesn't mean he's out of luck. He can use the Search function of our Web page to see if the posted version of the article is still available. Type Fessenden and it will indeed take you to a posted version of that story.
In finding older stories online, the Search function can help you a lot. But while a given digital edition is active, that's the most reliable way to find an electronic copy of a story and the easiest way to e-mail it.
The author is Editor in Chief of Radio World U.S.