Friday, April 02, 2010

2 APR 10: Drug-Free, Not Cheap

The woman used dramatic tones, as she talked about her descent into drug abuse. It started with cigarettes, then alcohol, then experiments with speed at age 19. And this was years ago -- before Speed became acceptable as a cable TV channel.

Janice Johnson's dramatic testimony of abuse and recovery was part of Thursday's program at the "Drug Free, You and Me Conference" at the Trade Center. The three-day program for sixth-graders concluded its 20th year. Should the first group have a 20-year reunion next year - at an alcohol-free restaurant, of course?

The Drug Free Conference has become a familiar event in Columbus. Sixth-graders go to the Trade Center to hear about the dangers of addiction - while they're given T-shirts with giant McDonald's logos, as if Big Macs and fries are not addictive.

But you may not realize the discussion topics go beyond saying no to illegal drugs. A Muscogee County School District news release shows this year's program also included a session on "exposure to sexually transmitted diseases." So speakers also don't want sixth-graders becoming dependent on Gardasil.

As they might say at Fort Benning, the price of a Drug Free Conference isn't free. WTVM reported Thursday the event is funded with $40,000 in federal grant money -- but that money could disappear next year. This is when you learn a dirty little secret: how much organizers of anti-addiction programs are addicted to money.

Federal grant money for events such as the Drug Free Conference will be handed out on a competitive basis next year. Critics who call President Obama a closet Communist need to explain that to me. Isn't classic Communism against competition -- unless you're trying to embarrass the U.S. track team or Canadian hockey players?

Suppose Columbus loses that $40,000 federal grant. I still suspect the Drug Free Conference would continue - and the evidence is on the T-shirts sixth-graders are given. McDonald's probably could be persuaded to, uhhhh, you know.... super-size its advertising.

I'd think the Drug Free Conference is also something the new Crime Prevention Director would want to support. Of course, that assumes the conference actually has been successful in steering teenagers away from illegal drugs -- and I've noticed most of the weird methamphetamine cases do come from Lee and Chambers Counties.

Which reminds me: what do you think of the new anti-meth billboards across Columbus? Some of them illustrate the effects of the drug with pictures of bathroom stools. Really now -- drinking too much sweet tea during the summer can put you there, too.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: When we found out WRCG was changing from talk radio to "True Oldies," one man came to mind right away. We wanted to know what a long-time host of "TalkLine" thought of this switch, and how historic the switch is. He replied with a two-part e-mail Thursday:

Hey..Are you kidding me? this isn't an April fool's joke?....

My first thought is how stupid to put a failed music format you took off one station and put on another. And then change the format of another in the group to Lite 103.7 when the Lite format was the biggest failure probbably in Columbus radio history when 107Q changed to Lite 107.3 in the early 90 .... are some WRCG facts..

Ed Wilson first began Talkline in 1981 when he came over to the McClure broadcasting from WDAK. It was a re-creation of his popular "What's your answer program" on WDAK.

Ed Wilson left WRCG and Talkline to go to (WPNX) and the station known as 'Info Radio." That didn't last very long. Richard Hyatt then hosted talkline from early 1989 til early 1991 and I took over Talkine permanently from June 1991-September 2001. After that Doug Graham, my old Talkline producer who I called Jerry Garcia, and then Robbie Watson.

The station is one of the oldest stations in Georgia. I believe went on the air in 1928.

Scott Miller first joined WRCG, I believe, in 1981. I came in January 1987. I worked with Scott on the morning show until he left for WDAK in 1999.

As for when WRCG went full-time talk that is a little harder to describe. We were what they called full-service station back then. A mixture of news, talk, sports and music. It was an older format (Frank Sinatra and a lot of 50s, 60s music.) We gradualy faded out of the music over years and I think the last music played was in 1992.

It is my belief that terrible decisions since the sale by the McClure"s which caused a problem with the transmitter brought WRCG down. The format should have evolved to the FM dial (95.3) a long time back. I guess it is appropriate such a foolish move would be made on April 1.

With satellite radio, ipods, Internet music stations, there is really little reason to listen to music radio. Especially when local radio isn't very LOCAL.

To do the format of news/talk/sports correctly, you must have people working there who believe in the format and know something about it. It is currently the most listened too nationwide and the biggest revenue producer.

Doug Kellett

Doug may be a fill-in talk show host in Dallas and Louisville these days, but he clearly remembers a lot about Columbus radio. In fact, he may be the only person who still remembers the old Lite 107.3.

Doug Kellett clearly is unimpressed by the switch to oldies music on WRCG. He seems to think once a "Boomer" has gone bust, it shouldn't boom again.

True confession: when PMB Broadcasting bought WRCG and rumors started flying about the station's future, I secretly hoped the managers would restart TalkLine - and approach me about hosting it. I had big ideas for a local radio talk show. Why, I'd even be willing to have guests on both sides of an issue.

Doug Kellett makes an excellent point when it comes to a trend in broadcast radio -- relying on nationally syndicated shows or satellite channels to save money. In contrast, newspapers are trying to become "hyper-local" to remain relevant in an era of Internet updates. Even if it means auditions for stage plays are posted as "breaking news"....

WRCG didn't remove news completely Thursday. I was pleased to hear the WTVM afternoon news still on at 5:00 p.m. I can listen to it on headphones while I'm running - although looking around the sky for Kurt Schmitz's weather maps probably looks a little strange.

-> You can't win 'em all at the poker table. Find out what happened to us Thursday night at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Thursday InBox also had a comment about the hottest video clip in Washington....

He needs help.

About one minute into this clip from a House hearing last week, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson expresses concern additional Marines on Guam might cause the small island to "capsize and tip over." Some people remembered Johnson unseated Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and wondered if sitting in that seat effects brain capacity....

Rep. Hank Johnson responded to the online buzz Thursday with a statement on his House web site. He says the comment about Guam was "obviously metaphorical" and reflected "subtle humor." In other words, Johnson wants me to invite him to become a fill-in vacation blogger.

I'm going to give Rep. Hank Johnson the benefit of the doubt here, and presume he was joking about Guam. After all, journalists sometimes talk about world hot spots and issues reaching a "tipping point" - and in my case, the tipping point is usually around 18 percent.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland visited Columbus Thursday to speak out against health care reform. He held a news conference at a tanning salon, because the new law imposes a ten-percent "tan tax." If ever an industry wanted a law with a "sunset clause," it would be businesses promoting indoor tanning.

Let's try some subtle humor of our own, on other Thursday news items....

+ Columbus had its warmest day since late October, with a high temperature of 82 degrees F. Trouble is, I celebrated the arrival of spring several days ago - by throwing one of the snowballs stashed in my freezer into the front yard.

+ The Georgia Department of Labor reported Columbus's unemployment rate went up in February to 10.4 percent. Didn't Mike Gaymon at the Chamber of Commerce say we'd come out of the recession before the rest of the country? Maybe we're heading into the "double-dip" of a recession earlier, too....

+ Raytheon unveiled its new "Warrior Integration Center" at Fort Benning. I'm a bit surprised Fred Phelps's protesters didn't show up at this event - because they oppose homosexual integration in the Army.

+ Radio talk show host Steve Harvey appeared at the Fort Benning PX, promoting a line of dress suits for young men. Harvey told WXTX boys should begin "dressing up" at an early age - especially since so many of them don't seem to know how to wear belts.

+ The Teresa Tomlinson for Mayor campaign bragged announced it already has $111,000 in donations. Some of that money probably is paying for her campaign headquarters in Midtown Columbus -- while some is held in reserve, for conversion into a new mayor's office.

+ Comedian Jerry Seinfeld performed at the RiverCenter - but unlike his last Columbus appearance, there was only one show. Seinfeld ought to appear more often on that "Marriage Ref" show he created, so people won't forget who he is.

+ The Georgia House voted to require driver's license exams be given in English only. Supporters say this will improve public safety - not to mention reinforcing the mispronunciation of Buena Vista Road.

+ Instant Message to whomever organized "Bloggers' Day" Thursday at the Georgia State Capitol: Ahem. Uhhhh, errrr - where was my invitation? Did you mistakenly assume every blogger carries an iPhone or a Blackberry, so you sent the notices by text message?

SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK: Mark Shelnutt wins an unusual award....

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