Patt Morrison for January 13, 2011

Rhode Island’s governor takes on talk radio, challenging the ideas of public discourse

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Renee Johnson/Flickr

How would you feel if your elected officials decided to avoid combative, talk radio shows?

The new governor of Rhode Island, independent Lincoln Chafee, apparently has had a less-than-cordial relationship with many of the state’s conservative-leaning talk radio stations. His answer to those strained relationships was to avoid the medium altogether—earlier this week Chafee said he will not be conducting any interviews on talk radio programs and he intends to ban state employees from spending their state work time talking on talk radio. While he’s backed off that stance somewhat, allowing state employees outside of his office to go on talk radio as they see fit, he is steadfast in his feelings on talk radio. Asked Wednesday if he personally believed that talk radio was corrosive to the political process to the extent that it thrives on divisiveness, Chafee said: “Perhaps, to an extent ... at least that is my opinion.” At the very least, he said, “it’s more entertainment than journalism.” In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona, when American political discourse has been put on trial, Chafee’s stance against “divisive” talk radio carries added symbolism. Should elected officials avoid talk radio program to elevate civil discourse, or is the talk radio medium the last forum for real political debate?


Michael Harrison, publisher of TALKERS magazine

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