Once upon a time, there was a locally-owned, community-oriented radio station in Vermont. It was owned by a lifelong Republican, but it was remarkably open to all points of view. Its daily schedule included an hour of local conservative talk, an hour of local liberal talk, and two hours of local nonpartisan talk featuring open-minded, inclusive discussion of the issues facing Vermont.
That radio station was WDEV. And it exists no more.
Today, WDEV announced it will hire MIke Smith to replace the great Mark Johnson as host of its daily talk show.
Mike Smith, devoted functionary in the Douglas Administration, and prominent acolyte holding high the beacon of Jim Douglas as the ultimate Vermont politician and leader.
Mike Smith, Republican. Very visibly a Republican. Past cabinet fixture in a Republican administration, now a political commentator and opinionator with a decidedly Republican lean.
As for the rest of the schedule, WDEV’s daily conservative hour is still on the air, but the daily liberal hour has been shrunken down to a couple days a week.
When Mike Smith takes the chair next week, there will be unbroken right-leaning content on WDEV from nine till noon every weekday.
To add insult to injury, Smith’s latest column, posted the same day as WDEV’s announcement, is rife with his pro-Republican, anti-Democratic bias. He asserts that there is no real difference between Governor Shumlin and any of the Democrats who might seek to replace him. He uses the incorrect adjective “Democrat” instead of “Democratic,” which is something only Republicans do.
He then asserts that Vermonters will be looking for “meaningful change” in the 2016 election, and that doesn’t mean anything like Shumlin — or anything to the left of Shumlin.
He couches the 2016 race in starkly Republican terms: voters are focused on “reducing the costs of living in this state and growing the economy.”
David Sunderland couldn’t have said it better himself.
After that, Smith took an inexplicable turn into Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly (whose name he misspelled) and, somehow, Vladimir Putin. An obvious bit of column-padding.
Anyway, the point is, Smith’s latest column shines a bad light on WDEV’s hire. Maybe Smith will be able to leave his many years of partisan baggage behind him, but I’ll be surprised if he does. Especially heading into a campaign that offers his beloved VTGOP its best shot at the governorship in six years.
Smith’s hiring is a nod to the Republican leanings of WDEV’s owner. It is a major, and lamentable, step away from fairness in WDEV’s programming and mission.
Disclosure: I have occasionally served as a guest host for Mark Johnson. I did not apply for the job when it became open.