Thom Hartmann booted off in Madison for Dave Ramsey


Joker! Joker! Joker!
Oct 11, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI
The Mic actually has great ratings for a progressive talker. It's too bad that once again, Clear Channel has to screw around with that station.

news: Program changes at The Mic 92.1 rankle listeners

Program changes at The Mic 92.1 rankle listeners

Samara Kalk Derby — 1/12/2009 9:32 am

When Tim White tuned in to one of his favorite radio shows, "The Thom Hartmann Program," last week, he heard a different host talking about financial issues. White, who lives in the town of Springdale outside of Mount Horeb, checked his radio, thinking he had the wrong station.

Later he learned that Hartmann's Portland, Ore.-based program, which aired from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays on The Mic 92.1, had been replaced by "The Dave Ramsey Show," a nationally syndicated financial program that detractors call worthless.

"I'm a little bit distraught that he was taken from us," White said. "I thought Thom had a wide format of different things he did very well."

White and other fans of Hartmann's say the show host had a unique ability to bring together people with opposing viewpoints for interesting, insightful conversations.

Hartmann, who replaced Al Franken on the Air America network in 2007, often invokes the U.S. Constitution and points out how far the country has gotten away from it, said White, who has also read two of Hartmann's books.

"He goes back to the Constitution a lot," White said. "I thought he was the smartest voice on the radio dial."

A Friends of Progressive Talk meeting to rally around the Hartmann show will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dardanelles restaurant, 1851 Monroe St.

Clear Channel operations manager Mike Ferris, who brought the progressive talk format to WXXM (92.1) more than four years ago, will speak about the decision behind the format switch. Calls to Ferris on Sunday were not returned.

Another recent programming change is that the station's local morning drive-time host, Lee Rayburn, abruptly quit, according to his post on Facebook Friday afternoon. His status update merely reads, "Lee Rayburn has quit his job."

There have been no official announcements about his resignation, and attempts to contact Rayburn were unsuccessful. On Saturday, his name was removed from the station's Web site hosts list.

Rayburn had at times commanded a national audience, filling in for Air America's Rachel Maddow and former Air America personality Randi Rhodes.

One of the organizers of the effort to reclaim "The Thom Hartmann Program" said he is merely "providing information to the faithful" and does not want his name mentioned because after helping to lead a movement to save The Mic 92.1 two years ago, he was targeted by right-wing ideologues.

The organizer calls Ramsey a "Fox News media regular"; others call him a Bible thumper.

Ramsey, whose program airs on more than 350 radio stations throughout the United States, also runs Financial Peace University, a 13-week video course he "preaches" through a biblical lens. According to Ramey's Web site, "the university" teaches congregations "to handle God's money God's way."

Steve Ohlson, who has been listening to The Mic 92.1 since its first day of broadcasting in 2004, refers to Ramsey as a "theocrat."

Ohlson said he spent about 20 minutes listening to Ramsey, then fired off an angry e-mail to Brian Turany, program director at The Mic, in which he called the show unacceptable.

"It was obvious after just a few minutes that this was just a heap of trailer-trash, low-life nonsense," Ohlson wrote. "A station that advertises itself as 'progressive talk' cannot subject its supporters to this vile fluff.

"Surely the decision to replace Thom Hartmann with this crap was made by some upper-level theocrats that have no real connection to the actual Madison, Wis., listenership of The Mic," he wrote.

Ohlson said he listened to Hartmann because he found him knowledgeable.

"It wasn't just that he was opinionated or had opinions, but his opinions on political issues seemed to be based on a lot of knowledge" of economic and historical fact, said Ohlson, who served three years on the WORT-FM 89.9 Board of Directors in the 1980s.

Hartmann had the ability to take a current topic and work it back into a historical context, Ohlson added. "I always enjoyed that as opposed to somebody saying 'well, that's stupid' or 'I hate it,' which is pretty easy to come by. I felt that I learned a little something listening to Hartmann."

Jacque Pokorney of Monona plans to attend the Tuesday meeting in an attempt to find out Clear Channel's motive behind the move. Most people she's talked to believe the reason is financial, she said.

"The word on the street is that it's to give a more balanced approach," Pokorney said. Her comeback is this: Why doesn't Clear Channel diversify WIBA or WTSO, two of its other local stations, by giving Hartmann a slot there?

The point of The Mic was to give the left a venue for progressive points of view, she said.

Pokorney admits she's skeptical about the meeting with Ferris, the Clear Channel executive. What she has discovered in dealing with Clear Channel and other for-profit media groups, she said, is that listeners never get a straight answer.