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July 1, 2008

Blaine Young Rumors

Roy Meachum

Saturday mornings around my house normally are rest times. The three newspapers stuck through my door receive careful perusal. There are mornings when Pushkin receives pushing onto the patio and we both pile back in the sack. I listened to Blaine Young's Frederick’s Forum only now and then.


Last Saturday I listened very carefully. (Before proceeding, let me state that I appear Fridays on WFMD's Bob Miller's Morning News Express. Bob and I usually talk about movies and shows. Other topics have popped up now and then.)


The day before I heard unimaginable tales about how Blaine was on his way out of the radio station that "brung" him up. Because his father was Frederick's long-time mayor, I met the county's "youngest good ol' boy" when he was 12 and sitting on a Winchester Hall bench waiting for election results. Because of the years and his personally warm personality, Blaine shares a special place in my affections. (At this point I wish to say since the ruckus began I have talked to neither principal in the dispute. I count both sides among my friends; both parties have been guests in my home.)


Politically Blaine and I sit on separate sides of the moon, well, mostly; that is to say when our positions coincide we are somewhat surprised. With no prompting on my part, he decided to submit my name for consideration as a member of the Frederick Good Ol' Boys association; the submission involved several weeks on his Saturday show and included audio tapes. Nothing that deserved a charge of "unfair" from me. Presumably his audience enjoyed "seeing" my feet put to the fire.


When all was said and done, my "submission" was rejected. Of course. I am old and possessed of the proper plumbing. But my views were judged as much too liberal. In an unexpected display of sportsmanship, membership was awarded to Pushkin. My English pointer best friend, though altered, belongs to the right gender. In 10 days, he reaches 10, which shoves him clearly over middle-age.


In several appearances on Frederick’s Forum, I had little reason to complain. Agreement has never been required of friends; on that point Blaine Young and I agreed, a long time back. Of course, I suspect he's walked away from political discussions shaking his head, wondering how someone superficially intelligent – at least – gets such wrong headed notions. Way past my proselytizing youth, I long ago learned nothing I said, or wrote, was capable of converting friends and acquaintances into agreeing with me. How dull that would be!


In any event, in Sunday's Frederick News-Post, Blaine's show was described as running away from the competition. WFMD Program Director Frank Mitchell told the paper Frederick’s Forum was Number One among adults 35 and older. In marketing this is considered demographics, what advertisers really buy. Frederick’s Forum is limited to only the older part of the buyers' ideal 18-49 demographics. On the other hand, most Saturdays the program seems pretty well sold-out, primarily for the other reason advertisers put down their cold-hard cash – the personality.


In Blaine Young's case, many – if not most – people turn on WFMD those two weekend hours because they're loathe to miss whatever's said by the host; especially when he provokes "guests" into indiscretions or arguments. Both have happened aplenty the seven years Forum has been on-the-air. The lack of younger listeners can only be ignored if you're willing to take into consideration the 18-35 year-olds rarely listen to talk radio. That's a fact.


My years as a radio-TV performer and executive make me very sympathetic to statements by Station Manager Doug Hilliard and Program Director Mitchell. Based on what they've said, they both want the audience base expanded, made more "inclusive." If they didn't at least try to lure more and more listeners to WFMD, they wouldn't be doing their job. It's that simple and that complicated.


Sunday's News-Post reported Blaine Young walked out of the studio the day before, leaving Frank Mitchell to finish the 10 minutes remaining in the program. Blaine subsequently apologized. He owed his colleagues and his audience that much. Listening at home, I was shocked at the lack of professionalism.


Blaine later said he was frustrated and angry over Doug Hilliard's remarks, taped as a phone message during the show. The host confessed when the message was broadcast Saturday: he had not heard it first, which he regretted. Since it was from the station manager, presumably there was never a worry that FCC rules and regulations may have been broken.


The consensus among people talked to that day was Blaine's walk-out was another tactic in the down-to-the-wire bargaining over his new contract: the old one expired midnight Monday.


Please allow me to make a suggestion that was not asked for: Instead of insisting Blaine Young accommodate other points of view, he should be joined – on Frederick’s Forum or a separate program by someone – News-Post Katherine Heerbrandt's name comes to mind – that approaches this complex world, especially its politics, from a very different direction.


WFMD's weekday talk radio format targets conservatives that also make up the bulk of Blaine Young's local following. Why throw away the present listeners that have made Saturday's mid-morning hours Number One in its demographics? And make no mistake: they'll flee given a more inclusive host who does not specifically express their opinions.




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