Saying farewell to Neal Boortz

To say Neal Boortz has created a bit of controversy over his many years on the radio may be a bit of an understatement, but as he signs off the air, I can't let his departure go by without making clear that it certainly has been fun to be part of his show.

I wasn't exactly the perfect candidate to be a regular with Boortz, but on Nine Eleven, Neal brought me on to detail what was going on in Washington, D.C.

We did an update from D.C. the next day as well. WSB Program Director Pete Spriggs - the "Pig Farmer" - wanted me to do it again the day after that.

And it just kept rolling, sort of like how Nightline started with the Iranian hostage crisis, as the Information Overload Hour was spawned.

We went through the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill, the Sniper Shootings down the street from my house and in the greater Washington, D.C. area, three elections for President, two wars and many more stories over the last eleven-plus years.

While I had been on big radio stations before, being on Neal's show opened me up to a whole new audience, and some new challenges.

For all of his ranting and raving on the air, for all of his bluster, Boortz did something very important - he forced me to be a better reporter on the radio.

My segments with him aren't short - sometimes almost 15 minutes long - so there is a need for detail and specifics if you are going to tangle with the Talkmaster.

Simply put - there was no way to half-ass a segment with Boortz. He would eat you alive.

I had to do my homework. I had to have lots of facts. And that just made our exchanges all the more enjoyable as I could calmly go through what the facts said, while he was ready to reach through the phone line and grab me by the scruff of the neck at times.

One thing about Neal - he asks very good, penetrating questions; there's a reason he has been on the radio for so long.

Some days he blew lots of smoke up my tail pipe for my work. Some days he got the best of me. Some days I got the best of him.

And some days he was just out to screw with me.

"Mommy and Daddy are fighting," is what Belinda and Cristina would say to each other if our segments got a bit heated.

Oh, I know many people can't stand Neal or think he went over the line too often on the air - I've heard from you over the years, demanding to know why I would ever be a regular part of his show.

"I think you are a fairly straight up guy but I could never understand how you allowed yourself to engage with Boortz," wrote Steve Schroeder this week.

But what I always told listeners was that my segment with Neal was a great opportunity to discuss real issues, politics and more for an extended period of time - it didn't matter whether it was with a conservative or liberal host.

And looking back, I think it worked great.

"You're a great counterbalance to Neal Boortz," wrote Mike Menninger, who called Neal, "Atlanta's Old Coot."

"You are an objective Ying to Boortz's Yang," wrote Brandon Ott.

On the other side, I know there are a lot of listeners who can't stand me being on Neal's show in the first place - I've heard from you, too.

"It drives me nuts," said one listener who accused me of being a closet liberal.

"I'm not going to waste my time listening to your exchanges (with Boortz) anymore, as they lack a sense of usefulness," wrote another listener.

Others though took aim at me for even being on the radio with Boortz at all.

"How can you sleep nights," demanded one listener in recent weeks. "You should be ashamed of yourself, and you call yourself a news person."

The back and forth between Neal and I grew over time, and people tuned in. They liked to hear Neal say outrageous things and wondered how I would react.

They loved it when I wouldn't say anything after Neal had gone off on some wild tangent, or how I would just plow ahead into another subject to try to get things back on track.

And they also liked it when I pushed back at times.

The listeners also loved it when we fought over media bias, which probably produced the most sparks during our time together on the air.

But more than anything, our daily chats developed into something that sounded much like two friends getting on the telephone and chatting, even as I pulled back the curtain on the ways of Washington, D.C. and the Congress.

We talked about serious issues, but we also chatted about our golf games, our families, our vacations and more.

We traveled to political primaries and conventions, became pretty good at doing dog and pony show appearances for our stations and exchanged texts and emails on the weekends, which usually consisted of reports from the golf course.

In terms of time over the last 11 years, I have spoken the most to my wife - next would be Boortz.

"His bark is worse than his bite," was what I told many over the years.

"You're going to miss Neal when he's gone," my father has said on numerous occasions.

He is right.

I will miss the Talkmaster.


To wrap things up, I do have to say one more thing about Neal. When I was suffering from some serious medical issues for a few years starting in 2003, Boortz stood by me.

When my voice had gone to hell and I sounded awful on the air, Neal didn't cut me loose.

He could have easily done that. But he didn't.

And when people called up and complained about me on the air, he lit into them.

He didn't have to do that either.

Over the years, I figured out what was wrong with my health, and my voice came back.

Neal - thanks for sticking with me. And thanks for having me on your show.

They definitely broke the mold with you.

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