I’m all for “pushing the edge”, but stepping over the proverbial line is an entirely different thing.
I’ve said some pretty offensive things in my career. Some of which you might have found funny, others might have seriously enraged you. I have my opinions – and before I open my mouth I research and fact find to develop those opinions. If you’ve listened, you’ll know I’ve got a pretty crude sense of humor and I’m not easily offended. I don’t believe my sense of humor is too “typical” in society’s terms. What I might find funny, you might not and vice versa.
That opinion thing – everyone is entitled to theirs. People make crude, racist, sexist, and defamatory statements about one another all the time… but when the person making these statements is sitting behind a microphone its a different story.
I grew up on the radio – literally. I took my fulltime job at Q92 when I was just 21 years old after being hired at age 20. In the beginning I was unpolished, unprofessional, uneducated and uninformed. There was a definite learning curve that I had to overcome and yet a whole new set of challenges presented when I was given morning drive in 2006. I still continue to grow as a person and a broadcaster. Someone told me a long time ago that no matter how good your show was, your next one should be better. That’s what makes someone “professional”. Once you cease the constant honing of your talents you’ll begin to lose them.
It took me a few years, but I learned how to still be myself while not alienating the “base” or causing massive social protest. Sure, some people don’t like my opinions, but I invite you to argue them with me – just bring your facts. That’s where former co-worker and current afternoon personality Mo and I differ.
I was alerted – over a week ago – about former co-worker and current WDJQ afternoon jock Mo’s on-air banter with a disabled girl:
I just wanted to tell you that I applaud you in leaving a peice of shit radio station like Q92. Today Mo made fun of a young lady who has Down Syndrom. She dialed the station by mistake and he actually made her cry. I think that he is wrong for degrading people like he does and think that something should be done to stop his form of bullying. I know that the original post on his page as been deleted cuz he got a lot of shit for what he did. I as well as other have been blocked from his page on FB as well as Q92′s. I have always liked your show even when you were on nights. I dont understand why he thinks that he has a better show than you had or even comes close. I thank you for taking the time to read my rant and to let you know that when you and the morning show left I stopped listening to that station all together. Cant stand to hear it now, and after what happened tonight I think that they will lose a few more of the T-County listeners.
The reaction was immediate. I shook my head.
“I can’t believe he would single out someone with a disability to use for fodder.”
I found it offensive, crass, and sloppy. When you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for material and content you are the true definition of a hack.
The greater Canton, Ohio, radio market is an interesting beast. You’ve got the cool, fun, hip people living alongside a very conservative, biblical, moral base. It’s an oxymoronic kind of environment. There are just simply things you cannot get away with when you’re working in its’ media. You can “lead the horse to water” but you cannot make it drink.
While working at the same station Mo and I would go rounds about his views.
One prime example is that I used to get mega-pissed when he’d invite the Westboro Baptist Church on his night show. These funeral-protesting, anti-gay nutbags will do anything to further their agenda – even going as far as threatening funeral protests via press release when they had absolutely NO intention of actually protesting. Why? So dumbass media personalities would pick up the story and run with it to give them press.
I wouldn’t even mention the WBC on my show. My email and Facebook would flood with the “[soldier name] passed away and WBC is coming to protest. Please do something”. I would do nothing. I did not and would not dignify the Phelps’ church-cult organization with air time nor would I waste my audience’.
One story in particular about a young soldier from New Philadelphia really touched off a firestorm. I had the family of the hero emailing me asking to keep Mo from spreading rumor about the supposed protests. I asked Mo to refrain, that night I heard a 3 hour discussion about it.
One day I got into it with him over this insanity. My question was, “why do you give them airtime?? That’s all they want!”
His response, “hey, whatever gets me ratings”.
No ratings point is worth alienating your base. No phone call hangup or crude remark is worth piles of negative publicity for yourself or the station.
I love this business, and it comes with a great power and with that power comes great responsibility. You have to understand you’ve got a huge reach and your words – while only words – have effects on the people that are hearing them. Good or bad, you have a lot of power behind that microphone and a duty to your audience to look out for their collective best interest.
Its long been my opinion that Mo is reckless and would dig his own grave with his own words. I think it has happened.
You don’t talk about the mentally disabled negatively. Whichever way you feel about the issue, the public will raise the pitchforks at you if you even so much as allude to an insensitive joke at the expense of people who cannot defend themselves (and rightfully so).
Are Mo’s comments protected under his First Amendment right? Technically not really. As told to me by a renown attorney earlier in my career, “you do have the right to free speech. You have the right to stand on a soapbox in front of city hall and gripe – within reason.” However, that right as actually written in the text of that amendment is “Congress shall make no law”. That doesn’t mean the court of public opinion can’t make a “law” prohibiting that type of speech, and they clearly have. As the lawyer pointed out to me, you can say it but that doesn’t mean it won’t have consequence.
You do have a right to free speech within limits. You can’t scream “fire” in a movie theater without being arrested.
But, all that said, I don’t just blame Mo.
Station manager Don Peterson shares -in my opinion- the majority of the responsibility. He – as GM and VP of Operations – is the top of the chain. With PD John Stewart tendering his resignation to move to WHBC three weeks ago, Nikolina was named interim program director. My guess is that Donnie is calling ALL the shots, as his interference was always something John would buffer.
The environment within that building is toxic at best. I’m sure moral is at an all time low – along with their abysmal ratings.
The jocks are continually pushed to “generate discussion” within the community. I’m sure now, more than ever, they’re looking to re-generate some of that buzz that has dulled in the past year.
Poking fun at the disabled certainly will generate “discussion” rather quickly. It is not, however, the type of positive discussion I as a broadcaster would want to generate.
The sister of the woman in question from the story above has reached out to me. I asked her if she’d talked with Mr. Peterson. To that she replied:
I contacted him personally right after this happened. He called me “extreme” because I called in both developmental disabilities boards! He then told me she was “fair game” because she called them. When I asked him about how they screen their calls he said it was an “unreasonable expectation to expect us to change our business model to prevent accidental calls. Should we start answering our phones Q92 did you mean to call?” He’s an arrogant ass with no intention of taking responsibility or apologizing. So I decided to define “extreme” for him and we are putting this story into the hands of as much media and as many people as we can. It’s not alright to treat people this way…disabled or not!
That’s a typical response from Donnie. I know the man well. He treats his employees no better.
But, wait a few days, his tune will change completely. He’ll issue a statement apologizing for Mo’s behavior that will distance Q92 from the incident. Phrases like “Q92 does not share these views” and “Q92 would like to apologize for the conduct of Mo” will be issued. It’s Don’s policy to deny until he can’t anymore, then throw anyone under the bus he can..
From the father of the victim:
DeLuca, Kellie is my daughter and I want to thank you for the support, many are saying this was an accident on Mo’s part, My youngest daughter Courtney, and my niece both called in and told Mo that she was a Down Syndrome child within 15 minutes of the original call ending! He hung up on both of them! and continued to humiliate Kellie for hours after knowing the truth! Don Peterson is beside himself at this moment and has his attorneys emailing all of us trying to cover this whole deal up! Fox news is at our house interviewing Kellie and my wife as I am typing this to you! Again thank you so much for all of your help and support!
***UPDATE 11:13 PM*** The father reached out to me tonight:
Don called me tonight and he said whatever he has to do to make this go away let him know what we want!! Believe me when I say its not about wanting anything. Our family and friends are hurt by this. It is just simply mean and exasperating to anyone! Kellie has Down Syndrome -a mild case at that- if there is such a thing. She operates a cell phone, does dishes, works every day, has a boyfriend, and maintains her life at home with us because lets face it she is not capable of making the 100% correct decisions at all times which is why we are here! People like Mo and Don that want to make fun of individuals like Kellie should live 1 day in her shoes, and not have the freedom to make fun of people, drive a car, have a spouse, own a house, pay taxes, eat at whatever restaurant she wants at any given time, go shopping whenever she wants, etc. and then have someone like Q92 belittle her in front of thousands of listeners. DeLuca is this fair in any shape or form? Sad part is before this all happened Kellie would listen to Mo and Q92 Now she feels not so good about the guy that made fun of her.
The “damage control” has begun, however this is now bigger than Canton. I don’t think it can be contained.
I feel horrible for the family. They’ve reached out to me because they honestly don’t want anyone else to have to endure what they’ve recently had.
As a broadcaster I am ashamed at the effect Mo’s words have had on these individuals involved. As a human being I’m disgusted that Don Peterson treated these people so badly when they initially reached out to resolve the problem.
I have opinions – right or wrong – but I stand by them. From morning drive all the way until midnight, Q92 as a station is nothing but a sensationalized mess of “high drama” radio without any substance. It makes me sick to see how far one of the greatest stations in the country has fallen.
The audience deserves better.
Disgusting. Especially from the radio station that took such an interest in “bullying” back in October.