Monday, July 18, 2016

The Next Voice You Hear

As some of you know, I worked for the Chicago branch of Salem Communications from May 2008 to April 2010. As a recent college graduate pursuing a career in the radio industry, I perceived my part-time traffic assistant (i.e. accounts receivable) position as a foot in the door to bigger things. That was ultimately not the case, as I was replaced less than two years on the job. My departure was the first of several moves made after a major management change, and with flagship AM 560 WIND still struggling to get into the top 25 among Chicago radio stations, there is little to indicate things are moving in the right direction.

One of the many changes that occurred these last six years was the addition of former Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) as an on-air personality. Walsh set up an arrangement where he would host a drive-time show from 5 to 7pm on WIND and do the same thing all over again via satellite on a New York, Salem-owned station from 8 to 10pm EST. Walsh was commenting on a whirlwind week in early July: where an unarmed African-American man was killed in Minnesota, followed by a similar incident in Dallas, then a "retaliation" by a lone gunman that killed five Dallas police officers.

I imagine Walsh was a little more tactful on the air, but what he tweeted in the wake of the Dallas shootings was reprehensible: "3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded. This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you." The tweet was deleted within an hour, but once again Walsh was fanning the flames of controversy. It's one thing to criticize the president but another to threaten him. What made it even more appalling was that it was almost certainly staged.

A couple of years, Walsh was (allegedly) removed from the air following a discussion of racial epithets, during which he said the N-word at least once. It was a publicity stunt, and a rather clueless one at that. Whether Walsh was encouraged by my old managers or action on his own is irrelevant; it was very much in bad taste. What transpired nearly weeks ago was cut from the same cloth.

I feel even more embarrassed to have been part of that organization. Given how long it took me to compose my thoughts on this hot mess, the media has moved on the next round of tragedies. The cycle of gun violence in America is spinning faster than ever, and I can't imagine that I'm the only American that is growing numb to the pain. Mercifully, a loose cannon like Walsh was not meant to be a long-timer in Congress, but his mouth and his chutzpah lingers, and his enforcers at WIND-AM couldn't be more pleased.


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