Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Peter Meade, class act. Apparently it took an old pro from a different, better era of talk radio finally to knock some sense into the management at WEEI Radio (AM 850).

Both the Globe and the Herald report today that the station suspended John Dennis and Gerry Callahan for two weeks without pay on the same day that Peter Meade, the executive vice-president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, was yanking $27,000 worth of advertising off the air.

If you've just tuned in, this all arose last week, when the morning-drive-time hosts yukked it up over Little Joe, the gorilla who escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.

Observing that Joe had hung out for a while at a bus stop, Dennis referred to him as "a Metco gorilla"; Callahan chimed in that he was "heading out to Lexington."

Though both papers mention Meade's action, neither points out that Meade was a talk-show host at WBZ Radio (AM 1030) during the 1980s. (He continues to do political analysis for the station from time to time.)

A moderate liberal, Meade hosted a show that directly preceded conservative David Brudnoy's. More often than not, they would kick issues around together during the crossover. It was a model of enlightened, civil talk radio of the sort that's almost impossible to find these days.

As for Dennis and Callahan, two weeks sounds about right -- provided the station is serious about changing its gay-bashing, misogynistic, and (in at least this one instance) racist tone.

Then again, we're living in an era when the likes of Michael Savage trash gays and lesbians on the air, and when even a reasonably intelligent host like Jay Severin refers to illegal Latino immigrants as "wetbacks" and Muslims as "towelheads."

No doubt that Dennis and Callahan crossed way, way over the line. But the line itself needs some heavy-duty recalibrating.

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