So, we'd planned to re-run a show from July about the death of commercial radio tomorrow...not for any reason other than it was a favorite conversation of 2008. The main guest was Alec Foege, a Connecticut writer whose book "Right of the Dial" chronicles the rise and fall of Clear Channel, and the impact corporate ownership has had on local radio.
Then, we got the news that made our choice seem all the more timely. WTIC, the big AM news-talk station in Hartford has cut talk show hosts Colin McEnroe, Diane Smith and Stan Simpson. Diane is well-known as a former TV anchorwoman in Connecticut, who is a member of the CPBN family as host and creator of Positively Connecticut. Ray Dunaway will continue to host the morning show on WTIC - a program that will take a sharply less newsy tone.
The loss of Stan Simpson is huge for the station, too. His column in the Hartford Courant - and his weekend show - explores news, race and urban issues in a way rarely discussed in Connecticut media.
But, for me, the head-scratcher is the station's decision to cut Colin McEnroe's afternoon show. For those who don't know, Colin is a Courant columnist and blogger, frequent contributor to other publications, author and humorist (and, truth be told, a regular listener to Where We Live who periodically makes my day by commenting on the show). He's a sharp, funny host, who has made important, and newsworthy contributions with his program - most notably around the 2006 Lamont/Lieberman race. McEnroe's departure leaves the station overwhelmingly conservative in its talk-show slant, a long-noted trend in the system, which WTIC had neatly balanced for years...until now. Our shared buddy, Susan Campbell put it best: "Another bone-headed idea."
Look, public radio is not immune to cuts in this recession. We recently lost the original (and forever) voice of WNPR, Bill Henry to a layoff. But when stations (or newspapers) that pride themselves on local service drastically cut that service - we all suffer.