You can’t spell “devolution” without “D-E-V”

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.

10 thoughts on “You can’t spell “devolution” without “D-E-V”

  1. Eddie Garcia

    “He uses the incorrect adjective “Democrat” instead of “Democratic,” which is something only Republicans do.”

    Oh, there’s WAY more to it than that.

    When I was working at WSAR/Fall River, I was on the board for a new host, interacting on the air with him here and there (that was a fun gig when you weren’t worried about my insane co host snapping out at about 280 pounds and beating someone to death) , and at one point the guy used the “Democrat Party” construction, and I didn’t say anything, but rather flinched theatrically. So he stopped, and was all, “what? what did I say?” So I explained it to him, and he was surprised, said he had no idea it was a slur, and we went back to the phones. The next caller was “Mr. M.”, a regular, who was the chair of the Tiverton DP, and he said, “If Eddie hadn’t called you on that, I would have.”

    This is an interesting article:

  2. Ken Horseman

    So it’s OK for D-E-V to put an admittedly left-wing blogger in the chair but not a right of center columnist? Let’s give Mike a chance and I’ll bet he’s an informed and moderate voice who will be a fair and interesting host. Sour grapes, John?

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Wrong twice. WDEV did let me guest host on occasion, and I tried my very best to be fair to guests and callers alike. (If you asked recent guests Corey Parent or Randy Brock, I think they’d give me good marks.) But that’s not the point. There’s a huge difference between hiring a substitute for a couple of days, and hiring someone to take over the franchise. If you don’t see that, you’re not thinking clearly.

      As for “sour grapes,” as I said in the piece, I did not apply for the job, I made no efforts, I had no conversations. Nothing. Sure, I thought about it; but I decided a daily radio show was an intense grind I didn’t want to commit to. I’ve done it before, and I know how much work it takes to produce a quality program on a daily basis.

  3. Dave Katz

    But think of all the fun we can have, with Open Mike! Just wait ‘n see what happens when many callers repeatedly point out to The Mike-y how his beloved Republican Party has so totally trashed all the notions and mechanisms of self-governance in this country for their own selfish and cynical one-sided political advantage. From fighting civil rights in the 60s, through the crimes of Watergate and Irangate, Clarence Thomas, the Iraq War, Katrina, energy conservation, climate change, smashing the middle class, voter suppression, the rise of the current oligarchy–The Mike-y’s BFF Goppers are batting 1000 on the rotten side of history. Hijinx will ensue, no doubt!

    I, for one, embrace the challenge. If Ken has to end up hee-hawing a little bit over this out-party hack choice, well, I think he’s big enough. Would’ve preferred a rotation of hosts, but I wasn’t asked….

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Rotation rarely works in situations like these. You don’t build an identity. (See: Equal Time Radio, which suffers from the uncertain rotating cast.) What WDEV should have done was find another journalist or radio personality with relevant experience and knowledge. Given the shrinkage of the job pool in both professions, there had to be better options available.

      That’s another problem with the Smith hire. People who’ve done well in other settings THINK they can do radio, but they don’t realize how hard it is and what a unique skill-set it takes to succeed.

  4. Jimmy

    I’m not sure there’s a gaping hole where Mark Johnson used to be. Seems to me his audience was fairly right of center if you’re judging by the callers. The callers are what make me avoid listening….the same ones droning on, day after day. Oh, do tell us what’s on your mind today, Rama. Yay, for openness! And he always seemed so awe-stricken that the authors of books would choose little old HIM to speak with. Hello! They’re selling books! There are plenty of other places to get the news. You’re right, though, Mike Smith is a shill and a fairly lightweight commentator. I’ll bet the won’t be around for long. Now I think I’ll head on down to Shore Acres.

  5. forbesmorrell

    If i can listen to Amy Goodman and lunch with Bernie, i can stand to give Mike Smith a shot at it. The listening audience of WDEV is far from ignorant as Mark Johnson would tell you ! Varied positions are always welcome and we will make the final decisions.. Good luck..

  6. Dave Katz

    Mikey will No Likey–the Evil Sid Blumenthal hath spaketh thus:
    “The Republican Party is being purged of moderates, responsible conservatives, anyone who has a thought they don’t like. It’s divide and conquer. Divide the Republican Party. Divide the nation. Region against region, South against North, West against East, rural America against cities, state governments against the federal government, religion against religion, and soon, before you know it, it won’t look or feel like America. Out of loud declarations of love of country, they will break this country apart,” he argued.

    I see that’s it half-past pinata time for us and the GOP, and maybe it’s also about time we all started having real fun with this. Not sure it was ever a conversation Mark Johnson was ever comfortable having–how one party, of the two we’re allowed to have here in the land of the free, has become destructively insane, and how anybody who wants to be taken Very Serious or as Civil and Polite has run as far and as fast as they can away from this obvious fact. Let’s get whackin’ and Mikey sounds like a real good place to start. Hey, he volunteered….

    1. NanuqFC

      For different reasons, sounds kind of like when the Rs had a lock on every statewide office and the entire legislature in Vermont. NH was like that, too: my parents were Democrats politically, but became registered Republicans because the Democratic Party was virtually non-existent. The choices ranged from paranoid “Love it or leave it” warmonger Republicans (Gov. Meldrim Thomson was one of those: sought to arm the National Guard with “tactical nukes”; tried to site a nuke power plant on a major tidal wetland next to UNH; praised the apartheid government in South Africa; threatened to veto all funding for UNH after its Gay Student Association held a dance and staged a play on campus; busted and incarcerated 1400 protesters at the Seabrook nuclear power plant; personally arrested speeders in his own official car …) to moderate and even somewhat liberal Republicans.

      So much depends on the quality and (ahem) integrity of the candidates.


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