Roger Ebert’s letter to Radio … sort of


Last week on his website the famous Chicago Sun-Times movie guru gave former colleague Jay Mariotti a few turns on the barbeque spit.

You may know Mariotti as one of the court jesters from ESPN’s ‘Around the Horn.’ He is also the sports writer at whom White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tossed a verbal spitball earlier this year.

Briefly, the reason for Ebert’s ill temper – Mariotti returned from the Olympics, resigned abruptly from the Sun-Times, and pronounced Newspapers dead. Now, THAT is a busy week.

Ebert is a brilliant writer. So, as a not so a brilliant writer myself, I borrowed Roger’s sentiments on newspapers and substituted the word, Radio. A touch-up here and there became…

Radio is not dead. Job-hunting tip: It is imprudent to go on TV and predict the collapse of a business you might hope would hire you. Times are hard in the Radio business, and for the economy as a whole. Did you only sign on for the luxury cruise? There’s an old saying that you might have come across once or twice on the sports beat: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Radio is not dead because there are still listeners who want more than pre-packaged slop and pay-per-yawn programming. If you only work on television, viewers may get a little weary of you shouting at them. You were a great shouter in print, that’s for sure, stomping your feet when owners, coaches, players and fans didn’t agree with you. It was an entertaining show. Good luck getting one of your 1,000-word rants on the air.

The rest of us are still at work, still putting out the best Radio we can. We believe in our profession, and in the future. And we believe in our Internet site, which you also whacked as you slithered out the door.

After a recent blog entry I wrote about the Beijing Olympics, I woke up at 5 a.m. one morning, when North America was asleep, and found that 40 percent of my 100 most recent visitors had been from China. I don’t have any complaints about our Web site. So far this month my Web page has been visited from virtually every country on earth, including one visit from the Vatican City. The Pope, no doubt. Hope you were doing as well.

You have left us, Jay, at a time when Radio is in its dark days. Stations are losing millions. Thousands are losing their jobs.

I started here when Marshall Field and Jim Hoge were running the place. I stayed through the Rupert Murdoch regime. I was asked, ‘How can you work for Murdoch?’ My reply was: ‘It’s not his Radio station. It’s my station. He only owns it.’

That’s the way I’ve always felt, and I still do.

On your way out, don’t let the door bang you on the ass."

Thanks, Roger. We needed that.

Bob Harper