The only reason I want to post this is because there have been a number of people on this board who like to disparage what we were trying to do at FMNewsChannel 97.5. It was an experiment. Yes, it sounded like a fraternity party on the air sometimes, but there were times when it was the essence of what news radio -- or radio in general -- should be.
For instance, during the time Hurricane Rita was moving into the Beaumont area, Martha Martinez and the rest of us were on the phone talking to people on the verge of hysteria, people who were stranded on long stretches of road because there was no gas and didn't know who to call for help. We connected them with DPS as the winds began to blow. On the air. When Rita was coming in, I was reporting from the streets. All the guys (including boss Pat Fant) locked themselves in the building, taking phone calls, helping assuage the fears of listeners from Louisiana to Bellaire. A lot of bosses would have hightailed it to a hurricane party in Austin.
We poked a lot of fun at the mighty and did all we could to uplift the downtrodden, if you'll excuse the cliche. But on the morning talk show I did, we talked in a friendly way about racism, crime, gangs, and how marketing in many ways controls our lives, more than we know. There was that great interview with Alex Bennett, the original "in-your-face" talk show host of Houston, who then went to a New York station in 1969 and got to hang with the Beatles a little just before they broke up. And he wasn't very impressed with their brainpower. ("They were simple Liverpool boys, remember. A little dull. Yoko was a pretty powerful intellect. That's why John was fascinated by her." And Bob Dylan? "I think deep down he's a nice guy, but what a pain in the a**! Always promoting himself.")
We took on the usual local talk subjects like immigration and the aftermath of Rita and Katrina, but they were treated as serious subjects. I took the "devil's advocate" point of view and tried to make people explain themselves. Sometimes I'd go along with them to see if they'd talk themselves into a corner. And the station lineup, to me, was a dream team: Jim Carola, Jim Pruett, Martha Martinez, Laurie Kendrick, Brian Shannon, all of them serious about their work, despite the humor. You gotta be serious and careful if you're going to be funny in the PC era.
There were the funniest lunches and bull sessions I've ever heard. And I'm not too proud to drop names: I worked with some pretty talented people at Comedy Workshop in the '80s, including Bill Hicks, Sam Kinnison and Brett Butler (behind the bar, bless her), and the FMNewsChannel team was hilarious. You would have enjoyed being there.
The fact that the Houston Press Club decided to give my little morning talk show a "Best Talk Show" award may not seem like much to you, but going against all the competition it meant a lot to me. A number of people didn't take FMNewsChannel seriously, but we did do some serious work. So what if I took third place? It was a statewide award. I booked it, set it up and hosted. Second place was a Fort Worth talk show. First place was a KTRH show. And this had nothing to do with the corruption of the Dallas Press Club awards.
I mean, you expect KTRH to win journalism awards, they have the advantage of heritage. You can't "stuff the ballot box" when it comes to Press Club awards; it's journalists judging journalists, unlike the Houston Press newspaper awards. You expect KUHF to get Press Club awards (and they did, including one of the posters on this board). But FMNewsChannel? That's why it was such a shock to win and why I wanted to speak up about it.
The Press Club awards may not mean as much as they used to. At the ceremony, the Channel 11 table was empty. That wouldn't have happened ten years ago. One of my bosses called my trophy "your little award." Of course, she's never won one. I wrote the head of Cumulus (who owned the station) about the award. No reply. But it meant a lot to me.
Besides, as a broadcast journalist, if you can't brag about your awards, what can you brag about? People who don't care about recognition of their work -- like awards -- either have never won one or have won too many.
Oh, and one more thing. People don't take news very seriously these days, especially on radio, but I bet a time is coming soon when people won't be able to get enough radio news. Or maybe I've just been hearing too may conspiracy theories lately.
Da Morning Guy