The end of a two-part era

Readers know that for years I have made occasional appearances on Wisconsin Public Radio’s morning show Friday 8 a.m. Week in Review segment against someone on the opposite side of the ideological aisle.

Given that I for some reason kept appearing on holiday weekends, my drive for self-promotion included, in the blog posts announcing my imminent presence on the state’s public radio airwaves and at wpr.org, a listing of the holidays of the weekend, including, this weekend, National Donut Day today, National Bubba Day Saturday (insert rude comment about Bill Clinton here), and, on Sunday, my birthday, and my oldest son’s graduation from high school. (An anecdote about him follows.)

I have been on WPR since, I believe, 2008, when I returned to the media world after seven years in private-college public relations. (In that world, you’re not supposed to have publicly expressed opinions separate from your employer’s. Faculty can express themselves; staff cannot. Also, though that was my favorite employer, I was a political minority, and so those of us of similar political worldviews kept that quiet.) Before that, I was occasionally on Wisconsin Public Television’s WeekEnd show and its pundit panel before WeekEnd ended in 2001. My role was to be the non-liberal non-Madisonian, usually from WPT’s studios at UW–Green Bay. (There were two exceptions, one of which I’ll get to presently.)

WPR is getting a new morning host, replacing retiree Joy Cardin and her short-time replacement Kate Archer Kent, and, I’m told, discontinuing the Week in Review segment. I may be appearing on the new morning show on days other than Fridays (as I have on occasion). Those who have a burning desire to hear my previous work dating back to 2011 can find me on WPR’s archive.

My connection with public broadcasting is probably my longest non-paid media association, given that it goes back to my first term at Marketplace Magazine. Nothing lasts forever, particularly in the media, and particularly today.

My favorite opponents probably were four from the news media. Matt Rothschild and I as debaters date back to the WeekEnd show, so you can guess how old that makes us.

(Matt wasn’t on one of my two Madison WeekEnd appearances. I was asked the Friday of Memorial Day weekend 2000 to appear, but I was heading to the in-laws in Southwest Wisconsin that weekend. So instead of going to Green Bay, we stopped in Madison, and while Mrs. Presteblog and our four-week-old son watched, and the latter got oohs and ahs from guests and crew, I debated, among others, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, the same communist now running for governor. The subject was campaign finance reform, and the last thing I said was that the best way to reduce campaign spending was to reduce the stakes in elections by reducing the size of government. That made Soglin literally sputter. I felt that was one of my best closes of all time.)

Bill Lueders popped in and out of the media; he’s now the managing editor of The Progressive magazine. He and I may have had the most fractious Week in Review segment of all time during the Act 10 drama, and it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t there. We were, however, able to laugh about it when I finally met him in person a year later.

Louis Fortis is the publisher of the Shepherd Express and a former state legislator. Though he’s not anywhere close to me ideologically, he seems to have the proper cynical view politics, so we were able to probably find more agreement than disagreement in what we were discussing.

John Nichols is the national affairs correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison. He has a left-libertarian bent, so we have that in common, and unlike many, many liberals, he allows someone to have a different point of view from his.

In fact, all four respect debate. That cannot be said about many liberals and many conservatives. I appeared on the show when requested because (1) as Charlie Sykes and a former coworker correctly observed, I’m a media “ho” (and in other shocking news the sun will rise in the east tomorrow), and (2) I don’t believe you present your side of the story very well if you’re only preaching to the ideological choir. The echo chamber exists even among people who vote Republican most of the time, with Trump-worshippers and reflexive Trump-haters.

I’m pretty certain I didn’t change anyone’s mind during my appearances. Most WPR listeners are — surprise! — on the left side of the political aisle. During one appearance I talked on the phone while watching the morning show Facebook page, and I learned to not do that thereafter. In addition to the echo chamber, a growing number of people appear to harden their points of view instead of being able or willing to refute counterarguments. There are probably multiple reasons for that. On my wall at work I wrote a piece of advice from Andrew Breitbart, “Question the premise.” A lot of people don’t like when you do that.

As I said, nothing lasts forever, but it is kind of sad that something I’ve been involved with for this long is going away.

 

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