Saturday, December 17, 2011

The long-overdue callout of WTMJ and Journal Communications

Read this article on Dem Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski going on WTMJ's Morning show and taking the opportunity to lay the smack down on the station and its right-wing talk hosts. Of course, TMJ responded with rightful indignation, because it realized it made the mistake of having someone who would dare to yank the curtain back on how that place operates. Journal Communications' newspaper has an unintentionally hilarious rundown of the incident.
"People in Wisconsin are taking their state back from jokers like Charlie Sykes and you guys," Zielinski said. "People are standing up for themselves."

As Zielinski attacked Sykes and Walker's record as governor, Mueller pointed out that, "What happens after 8:30 on this station is none of my concern. Let's keep it to the issues here."

Reached for comment, Steve Wexler, executive vice president of the Journal Broadcast Group, sent this email: "I heard the segment this morning and thought it was odd that Mr. Zielinski would use so much of his valuable on-air time to critique our programming instead of making his case regarding the recall, but that was his prerogative. Our listeners are smart enough to understand that our news programs consistently present opposing viewpoints but that our talk programs have a different mission."
There's lots to rip in these 2 statements by Journal Broadcasting employees.

1. To Gene Mueller- C'MON MAN! I grew up listening to you and Reitman 30 years ago. You know as well as anyone that ratings, cross-promotion and corporate bosses drive the radio industry, and what Char-LIE Sykes and Jeff Wagner say after your show affects what gets covered, talked about, and framed for your station. Lots of those topic choices come from the top, or could be shot down from the top.

And Mr. Mueller, if what happens after 8:30 doesn't affect "Wisconsin's Morning News", then why is your station advertised on "Reward Walker" gear? How can you say it's separate when your former morning show partner John Jagler left TMJ to become Scott Fitzgerald's media lackey? Why did your radio, TV, and newspaper entities run with the race-baiting Media Trakkkers story when you knew it was sketchy at best and later proven to be a lie? Why is Sykes given a "public affairs" show on Sunday mornings on your company's TV station when it's documented that he's a right-wing hack, and there's no similar left-wing hosted show?

Seriously, Gene- Don't you admit it would sound pretty stupid if you called your co-worker a one-sided liar when Sykes and Wagner drop one of their numerous unsubstantiated arguments, and then handed the mike over to those same people and "cross-talk" with them? How can you say you're objective and independent of your company when the station you work for is a daily advertisement of union-bashing and promting the interests of WisGOP? That's like saying the bartenders at the Madison bar with "Sign Recall petitions here" posters in the window could be expected to have no opinion or support Walker. Riiiiight. Gene, you may be trying to be quite the organization man, but your comment is a crock of shit.

2. Wexler's cop-out is even worse- He views Zielinski's comments as a "waste of valuable air time"? First off, don't flatter yourself, Steve-o. About 5% of the state at most listens to your station at a given time, and most of those are either too lazy to flip the channel after the Packer game, or they're incapable of getting up from their chairs in the nursing home, or they're wedded to their mother's basements.

Second to Mr. Wexler, maybe Graeme was trying to spark the discussion of whether your station is a slanted pile of garbage in collusion with the Walker camp, and that what Sykes and Wagner and your other hosts have to say is spin and lies. Lots of bystanders in this state think that talk shows and radio stations are somehow "objective" and just "giving the news directly to you", with no ulterior motives. They don't get that it's no coincidence that Scott Walker and other right-wing politicians are given hours of free air time on TMJ to spout their lies and not be challenged by them. Why do you think Zielinski was on the morning show? He'd never be allowed to be on with Sykes, Wagner or Belling- it's why he had to take his shot when he did. Same thing for any Wisconsin Dem politician...if the "largest stick in the state" will ever have them on for 5 minutes.

The average bystander also doesn't understand that opposing callers are usually screened out of shows like Sykes and Belling in favor of those who won't challenge or stray for the hosts' agenda, (or worse, like how Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Gleck Beck's radio syndicator pays actors to call in to the show) , giving a false impression that "average Wisconsinites" are on board with this WisGOP propaganda without dissent. These people just go on living their everyday lives, because they don't have the time to investigate the truth or falsity of Media Trakkkers-based rumors that are portrayed as fact, but the lie is now implanted in their heads, and affects what they know (or think they know) about the way things operate. Comments like Graeme's are going to awaken those same people to the BS that exists in right-wing radio operations and their media manipulation. Once they're alerted to this possibility, it isn't hard to find and expose, and will cause them to question everything a WTMJ or "TV partner" TMJ4 might choose to report, alert them that the Journal-Sentinel's support of Walker last November may have a lot to do with Journal Communications' broadcasting wing, and then the GOP's game will be up.

This callout has been a long time coming. Former TMJ news director Dan Shelley exposed the way Sykes and co. operate in a great expose 3 years ago, (the original article has been moved, somehow) and Sykes' lame responses were subsequently taken apart by Milwaukee Mag's Bruce Murphy. Heck, I called for UW Athletics to disassociate itself with TMJ 20 months ago in no small part because of TMJ's right-wing anti-UW stances and bashing of the residents of the City of Madison. Given that the Walker folks cut the UW System massively in the state budget, then turned around and demanded the UW System take on nearly 40% of the state's lapses while leaving Transportation and other agencies relatively unscathed. Think UW might need to reconsider giving TMJ lots of added listeners if getting screwed over by TMJ's favored politicians is all they get for being on that station?

So I'd like to thank Graeme Zielinski for saying in the most public of forums what most of us have waited to hear from our "mainstream" Wisconsin media. The most prominent radio station in the largest city in the state is one filled with GOP propaganda, and that anything they or the Journal-Sentinel print should be heavily questioned, if not completely disregarded, until they allow something resembling political balance and fairness to be broadcast on 620 TMJ and TMJ-4.

I'd say we're pretty close to Occupying 720 E. Capitol and taking the message right to these corporate puppets...maybe we can do it right around Packer playoff time.

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