If you really want to know what keeping WAMC alive is all about, you have to look no farther than at the WAMC news division. It is no secret that we invest what you give us into the people who gather the news. It really is some operation.
The bureau chiefs check in every morning around 8:25 with our leader, Ian Pickus. They have great ideas about what they want to work on every day and there are times when they decide to do a series on an issue that affects the entire WAMC listening area. From coverage of crime to the environment, our news division has won so many broadcasting awards that the walls around WAMC do not have any more room for certificates.
Recently, WAMC did a story on the District Attorney’s race in Berkshire County. It appears that the wives of the outgoing District Attorney and his handpicked successor decided to enter the political fray on behalf of their husbands. It seemed like a big mistake. There was an interesting background to the story. In what looked like a carefully plotted scheme to insert the assistant DA into the top spot, the outgoing DA resigned early. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was convinced and appointed the acting DA to the job. That raised a lot of hackles since the outgoing DA had been in office for years and several people had lined up, waiting to run. Perhaps that’s why the whole thing was arranged the way it was. Well, anyway, it got real interesting when the wives of the outgoing DA and the incoming guy decided that they would use their clout to get critics of their husbands to shut up. WAMC did a story on the whole thing, and the results — along with that engendered by a compelling story in the Berkshire Eagle — created what might be described as a tidal wave of protest.
As we enter the political season, the various candidates for election will line up for interviews and debates on the station. The way it typically works is that whoever is ahead in the polls eschews debates on one pretense or another. For example, if Andrew Cuomo is ahead in all the polling, it is doubtful he will agree to a debate with Cynthia Nixon. As much as I loved his father, with whom I had a long running radio conversation, I should report that Mario did the same thing. On the other hand, when he was behind Ed Koch, he said yes to a debate and it was historic.
When Andrew Cuomo was running for governor in 2010, throwing open the race for Attorney General, WAMC sponsored a debate. The now disgraced Eric Schneiderman was ahead in the polls and he was the only one who didn’t attend. He won big time but that isn’t really the way a democracy should work. When John Faso was running for Congress he agreed to a debate with Zephyr Teachout at WAMC and despite the fact that so many partisans were for Teachout, any debate coach would have scored the win for Faso.
Andrew Cuomo is now way ahead in the polls against all his opponents but he has to be somewhat nervous considering the huge win in the 14th Congressional District by newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was way behind in the polls. In fact, the polls were so wrong that there was an incredible 50% difference between what the pollsters said would happen in that race and what actually happened. We are at a point in history where anything can happen. That’s why it is crucial that we do this right and that’s why we spend so much of our resources collecting and analyzing the news. Our recent event with Malcolm Nance at the Linda, WAMC’s performing arts studio, was standing room only. That goes to show how concerned people are about national, local and world affairs.
What may have looked like a done deal on so many levels isn’t necessarily the case. The conviction of Cuomo’s top aides seems to have knocked him out of serious contention in the 2020 presidential sweepstakes but you never know. In the meantime, as our Pete might have said, we’ll keep on keepin’ on.