Open Mic

Open Mic

"Blogosphere" boom launches Pundit Review hosts into global talk radio

By Gerry Boyle '78 | Photos by Tracy Powell


 
It's approaching nine o'clock on a Sunday night, and in the WRKO radio studios in the New Balance building in industrial Brighton, Mass., talk-show hosts Kevin Whalen '92 and Gregg Jackson '90 are counting down to air time. A producer has an embedded reporter waiting to talk by satellite phone from Baghdad. Callers—from Florida, Massachusetts, Chicago, Nevada—are beginning to stack up, their names and locations listed on a computer monitor.

Whalen and Jackson review notes, divvy up topics for the coming hour. Headphones go on, a lead-in runs (Jackson saying, "The old media is circling the drain. We're doing the flushing.—), and the producer gives the cue.

"He's Kevin and I'm Gregg, and you're listening to Pundit Review, the voice of the new media. Our goal here on this show is to bring you coverage and analysis of the stories and events which those in the elite media routinely relegate to the back pages—or altogether ignore,— Jackson begins, his voice filled with conviction.

Tonight it's the Iraqi charter referendum. Embedded "blogger— Michael Yon, a former Green Beret, has been on the scene. But first Jackson and Whalen excoriate the mainstream media, charging liberal bias and skewed, negative coverage of the Iraq war.

And via radio and live audio streaming on the Internet, across the United States, and beyond, thousands of people are listening.

Eighteen months ago, Jackson, a medical-devices salesman by day, had been a caller to conservative talk shows but never a host. Whalen, an account executive with a Boston PR firm, posted his conservative musings on his own blog (punditreview.com), read by perhaps a few hundred
friends and Web acquaintances.

Now, in testimony to the pair's political passion, marketing savvy, and the sheer force of the Internet and its emerging "citizen journalist— bloggers, Whalen and Jackson sit at the microphones of a 50,000-watt station in Boston's highly competitive talk-radio market. The station's signal reaches from New Hampshire to Rhode Island. More importantly, the Internet streams Pundit Review to thousands of listeners around the world via the spidery threads of the "blogosphere.—

At first glance, it's an unlikely story for the Colby pair, college liberals who never set foot in a radio station until a year ago last summer. Jackson, an administrative science major and economics minor, has taken in more than 100 Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia shows over the years and ran a business at Colby called Buck-a-Dog, selling hot dogs on campus. Whalen was a pony-tailed government major from a Boston family whose father was so Democratic that he described the voting process to his young son this way: "You go into the booth and you look for the 'D' next to their name,—
Whalen said.

Both Whalen and Jackson voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.

Acquaintances at Colby but not close friends, they had their conservative epiphanies on separate coasts.

A self-described political junkie, Whalen left Colby after graduation and headed for Miami. In the wake of Hurricane Andrew, he started a house-painting business, doing one house after another in Cutler Ridge and Homestead. The lifelong Democrat turned small-business owner said he found himself confronted by tax policies and a government that seemed to be trying to make his life harder. "When I was painting, I used to listen to Rush [Limbaugh],— he said. "I thought, this guy isn't the evil moron that everyone I know says he is. He's making a lot of sense to me right now.—
 
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