The end of an "AirTalk" era

Last Friday, June 1, was a momentous one for us at "AirTalk,"  Here's the message I sent out my colleagues acknowledging the day:

"As we all know, this is the last day at SCPR for our “AirTalk” Senior Producer, Linda Othenin-Girard.  I’ve been dreading writing this email for nearly three months, as there’s no way to properly pay tribute to someone who has been as important in my life as Linda.

Linda walked into my office back in 1992 and asked if I had a job available working on my program.  At the time, I booked all my own guests.  I certainly wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity of having a smart and talented news junky help me with the show.  Neither of us could have imagined that we would work together for the next two decades.

From the beginning, Linda was dedicated to making the show better.  She pushed to improve the quality of our guests, to refine the topics we chose, and to better address the most important issues in our listening area.  Linda’s excellent judgment, calm presence, and tireless work ethic have stayed consistently high all these years.  Her skill as a producer and manager has only increased with time.

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Remembering Donna Summer and the age of disco

As I've noted several times on "AirTalk," I think disco has been unfairly maligned.  Yes, there are terrible examples of the sound, particularly in its later years.  Nevertheless, the infectiousness of the beat and the inclusiveness of the music's transracial and pansexual messages had a big cultural impact.  I think some of that public backlash was over that cultural wave as much as the music.

My first memory of Donna Summer was in the summer of 1975, when I was 16.  "Love to Love You Baby," Summer's first hit, came on the radio and I was mesmerized.  Sure, there were a lot of sexually-themed songs on pop radio, but nothing this charged.  Hearing it today, the song is clearly of its time and doesn't connect in the same way as it did nearly 40 years ago.  However, then, it was a graphic symbol of unabashed sexual pleasure, right out on public airwaves.

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What is the story behind President Obama's statement supporting same-sex marriage?

Like everyone else, I've been wondering what was behind Vice-President Joe Biden's recently stated support, as well as that of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Was it strategically designed to pave the way for the President's public support?  Did Biden make the comment truly off the cuff and thereby pressure Obama into having to move beyond his "evolving" position on gay marriage?

Some may focus strictly on the President's statement, but I hope we learn more about what's behind it.  Some will see this as a true change of position for Obama, others will see it as him as finally speaking out about what he's believed for a long time.  I think it matters, and I'd sure like to know.

Thursday morning on "AirTalk" we'll hear what you think about this.  We'll also look at what, if any, practical difference this could make in federal policies toward same-sex married couples.

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The collective trauma of the Los Angeles riots

This morning on “AirTalk,” we spoke with contributors to our Public Insight Journalism program about the riots 20 years later. We’ve been hearing a lot from academics and civic leaders, each of whom has an institutional reason for why the city exploded and why rioters and looters behaved as they did. However, I wanted to hear from folks who could offer a more personal way to talk about the toll of the rioting.

What has seemed missing to me in the anniversary coverage is the pain, shame, and embarrassment over our city behaving in the way that it did.The civic institutional and academic narrative has been that the riots were an inevitable outgrowth of a militaristic LAPD and a lack of justice from criminal courts. There’s no doubt that public anger erupted over the acquittals in the Rodney King beating trial, and that it epitomized, for many, the perception that police officers didn’t have to be accountable for their actions. However, there’s also an important group dynamic that came into play.

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When all hell breaks loose behind the scenes on "AirTalk," we ask ourselves if listeners have been harmed

I’m sure it’s true at your work that sometimes everything falls into place -- you have time to grab a cup of coffee and to think a bit more deeply about what you’re doing.  Other days, no such luck.  This morning’s “AirTalk” was clearly the latter.

Things looked straightforward enough when we arrived at the Mohn Broadcast Center shortly after 8:00 a.m.  However, we soon realized big changes would have to be made on our show’s lineup. 

The “Los Angeles Times” had published some details of Mayor Villaraigosa’s budget proposal that would be announced later in the afternoon.  We knew we wanted to hear the labor union response to the mayor’s proposal to cut back pensions and extend retirement age.  We also wanted to hear from a critic who thought the mayor didn’t go far enough.

The union rep was relatively easy, though debate within the unions led to some uncertainty over who would be allowed to represent them.  We struck out in finding a critic from the opposite side.  With less than 15-minutes to go to live, we called on our terrific reporter Frank Stoltze.  As the true pro he is, he stepped in to save us (“you’re calling me 14-minutes before I’m supposed to go on live with you?!”

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