Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Town Ain't Big Enough

Brian Wilson and Toledo's 1370 WSPD very quietly announced this week that they have parted company.  Nobody at the station is saying much, and Brian has remained almost surprisingly silent on the subject.  Brian was not only doing a three hour show in the afternoon, but was also the Program Director and News Director (a post that his wife Cassie formerly held), which leaves some rather large gaps on the station's personnel roster.

Now I would like to consider Brian a friend, though I'm sure that there are many across the country who would like to make a similar claim; and most of whom are of far greater stature and importance that this humble scribbler.  To present a bit of unimportant history ...

My own introduction came not long after moving to the Glass City, finding the show, and calling in a time or two.  I met Brian (along with his producer at the time, Phil McGeehan) soon after when he spoke at one of the first gatherings of an attempt to start a Lucas County Libertarian Party.  He spoke passionately and intelligently about his own 'small l' Libertarian values and beliefs, helping me to reconcile my own principles with a political system that I long felt had long since abandoned me.

We spoke briefly that evening, and occasionally continued to exchange information during the show, even while I was traveling around the US pursuing my own career.  As time passed, Brian, Phil and I even managed to get together once in a while for an adult beverage and additional conversation on the issues of the day when I made it home.  (I was even fortunate enough to meet his wife Cassie a couple of times.)  His recommended reading list, both off the show and on, proved a tremendous source of education to me not only on basic principles, but on being able to argue them from a logical and consistent perspective.  I was even allowed me to serve as the guest host of the one hour "Eye on Toledo" show with his permission a couple of times when Maggie Thurber (whose show it was at the time) took some well-deserved time away.  

I have to stop briefly here and acknowledge that I would probably not survived these experiences without the incredible amount of assistance provided at the time by Dr Phil McGeehan and 'Shaggy' Matt Culbreath, nor of the encouragement of Maggie Thurber to take on the opportunity.               

Even after leaving Toledo some years back, I continued to listen to WSPD for Brian's show most days, as well as that of Fred Lefebvre (which I still do) when I can get the webcasts to work.  I found myself keeping up with my former home through them, writing them, and occasionally calling in to make my two cents known; which is what talk radio is all about.  I likewise shared emails with Brian from time to time, continuing what I hoped was a friendship, even though it had become a long distance one.  I had no foreboding on how this situation came to pass; even after it did. 

I have yet to hear any tales of what really happened from him, though I suspect that it has to do with something to the painful budget realities that I experienced with regards to the newspaper industry a few years back, and which now is becoming more common for radio.  More's the pity, for while most of us doing our jobs are literally a dime a dozen, Brian neither was nor is.  Perhaps someday we will get a chance to again lift a glass with him, share that sentiment in person, and learn the story behind the story.  It ought to be a good one.  So while there's nothing that I know about the situation definitively, here's what I 'think' I do know.

1370 WSPD will be significantly diminished in stature and content by Brian's departure, as will the programming of talk radio in Northwest Ohio.  Not only was his a clear voice articulating the message of freedom and personal responsibility in Ohio, as he had in other places; but he was able to bring nationally-known, authoritative guests to a small market radio station in order to enhance that message and reinforce those principles.  I don't know if WSPD will attempt to bring in another host, or fill this show in with some nationally syndicated effort.  Regardless of what they do however, any effort they make is likely to suffer by comparison.

I have little fear for Brian, as with his ability, his credentials, and his industry contacts, I'm feel sure that he will continue to succeed. (Oops sorry.  Brian taught me to think, not feel.  I'm afraid I'm already back-sliding)  It's a shame for Toledo however, whose daily paper suffers from the dearth of leadership of an absentee landlord, a terminal lack of credibility, and editorial bigotry that foretells its ultimate doom.  A city whose only salvation now for something other than the Progressive Party line handed out by the Blade may be the efforts of its competition, a twice-weekly newspaper.  And a city whose other media outlets, though they sometimes consider presenting a less liberal, union authorized point of view; appear unwilling or unable to stand against the history of thuggery perpetrated by these often vindictive and controlling city influences of a decades long, single-party rule.

I will continue to listen to Fred in the morning whenever I can, but even with his valiant efforts continuing, WSPD will never be the same.  I fear that the truth of the matter is that Toledo may never really have been big enough for Brian Wilson in the first place.  With Brian's departure however, its odds of ever becoming so just went down significantly.