Ryan objects to lawmaker as talk show fill-in
The talk show host says his station is giving the congressman a 'free ride.'
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Radio talk show host Dan Ryan strongly disagrees with his station's decision to allow indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. serve as the substitute host of his show in a few weeks.
"I don't think he should get a free ride for 31/2 hours with nobody in the news media on any level getting to ask him any questions," Ryan of WKBN-AM radio told The Vindicator today. "He gets a bully pulpit here for 31/2 hours in which to mesmerize the audience and solidify support. I don't think that's the right thing for a radio station to do."
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, will fill in for Ryan, the dean of local talk show hosts, for four days beginning May 29. Traficant filled in for Ryan in December. But the situation is different this time, Ryan said, because Traficant has been indicted.
Told management: Ryan said he told WKBN management before his return to the airwaves today after a vacation that he disagreed with the decision.
Ryan said he was told by management, "There isn't a radio station in the country who wouldn't do this because it's going to attract a lot of attention to the station. It's going to be good for ratings."
Bill Kelly, vice president and marketing manager for Clear Channel Communications in this area, including WKBN-AM, said he respects Ryan's right to differ with management. "But it is ultimately our decision as to who goes on the air. There will be no further statements about this issue coming from Clear Channel in any way."
Kelly said it was inappropriate for Ryan to discuss the issue with the newspaper because Clear Channel employees have been instructed that he serves as company spokesman.
Since his indictment last week, Traficant has said he would wait to discuss his 10-count indictment on charges including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion until his guest-host stint on Ryan's show.
Ryan said his station is not practicing good journalism by permitting Traficant to be host of the show.
"Would your newspaper just go ahead and print a statement he typed up and sent to you that ran two pages?" Ryan said. "Would you print it or a one-page or a half-page statement? That's the same thing, isn't it?" Ryan said he is not anti-Traficant, but added, "I'm against a policy of letting a politician off the hook and letting him say what he wants to say without taking reporters' questions."