by George Beres
(Swans - May 22, 2006) "I have absolutely no use for Republicans!" Those words, uttered by a significant Oregon public figure, former Congressman Jim Weaver, are what got Progressive Radio in the Northwest rolling.
It was the regular byword of Weaver when he and I shared a Wednesday morning hour on KOPT radio. Few were surprised, as he had been District 40's Democrat representative in Congress for years before being succeeded by incumbent Peter DeFazio. He helped make the program the liveliest radio voice in Oregon, including descriptions of his years of being in the Congress with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld before they became dominant figures in the current administration.
Weaver aptly was described as a "loose cannon" on a program that gave new life and balance to the sound of local radio. I was his mild-mannered partner, intended to provide the change of pace of a calmer approach.
Strong stuff from Weaver? Not at a time when Progressive attitudes in Oregon and nationally are drowned out by well-funded voices of the political Right, which dominate the AM radio band.
Two female hosts, Nancy Stapp and Danuta Pfeiffer, have put up a gallant fight against the radio monopoly that brainwashes most of the nation's listeners. They are politically savvy, and give documented evidence of the nation's slide toward extremism since 2000. Danuta gains credibility from an unusual experience: five years as co-host with Pat Robertson on TV's "700 Club."
Both are considerate when interacting with listeners who call in, including some who disagree with them. There are no abrupt ends to conversations, no slamming down the phone, as Oregon's most notorious broadcaster, Lars Larson, once did to me.
But Weaver and I are no longer on the air. We were victimized by healthy developments -- and increase of commercials and callers to the morning show, plus expanding length of periodic newscasts. This left less time for comments by Weaver, and he finally walked out during a live show, complaining: "We no longer get enough time to talk." Without him, the show lost its punch. Stapp said goodbye to both of us.
KOPT continues to give the audience the liveliest, most aware programming in Oregon radio. But it has a problem not related to decreasing airtime for the former Congressman.
Instead the station's Progressive identity has been diluted by a misguided program shift. Time-consuming guest appearances now feature guests who discuss investment strategies, music in the city, and movies shown at the local arts theatre. In a traditional format, all would have merit. None gives Progressive insight.
To do justice to a point of view virtually absent in the swamp of right-wing talk shows, it is a mistake to allow valuable chunks of time to be squandered on pointless interviews. The judgment error is compounded when it results in time being diminished for a man who could give listeners important perspectives from his many years in the Congress.
Slowly, only slowly, the Progressive sound can diminish the sound of right-wing radio, but only if it stays true to its principles.
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