Let's pretend I wrote the most amazing "to be sure" paragraph in journalism about WLRN (mostly because it's how I feel): I listen to it all the time, it's my default station, I am a solid financial supporter, I love the weekend programming (even Michael Stock's loopy Sunday afternoon interviews), and in general I am very thankful WLRN is on the air in South Florida.
I can even tolerate Joseph Cooper's halting, excessively tentative passive-aggressive Tropical Currents program if I am in the car at lunch time, not because of his finely-tuned parody of a public station radio host, but because he often books good guests and he covers interesting topics.
That's why his weaselly explanation for cancelling on an author who has a controversial opinion about the Cuban Five is so irritating:
Cooper told El Nuevo Herald Tuesday that Kimber “was presupposing the innocence of the Cuban Five” in his book, which was published last month.Come on!
“In my fiduciary capacity I have a responsibility to the community and [WLRN] and I made the decision after very careful consideration,” he said. “For this community, it just seemed a little too much.”
First of all -- you didn't know this when your producer booked the guest?
Second -- I've been around in this town long enough to remember with great fondness Alan Burke, who after he retired to South Florida from New York in the 1970s used to host the most outrageous guests imaginable -- often on the same program.
Here's an example from Alan's NYT obit:
Among his guests were a nun turned go-go dancer, a transvestite and a Jewish anti-Semite.That's a mild example!
I remember Alan frequently with guests like a lesbian Rabbi paired with an ardent Nazi, often throwing in someone like Madelyn Murray O'Hair or that crazy blonde psychic from Boca just to keep things interesting -- btw does anyone remember her name?
Note to Cooper -- tackling controversial topics is supposed to be part of the job.
Huge kudos to WLRN General Manager John Labonia, who publicly called Cooper on the rug for his lame-brained decision, re-invited the author back in a rejiggered show that will offer some balance and context, and (rare for South Florida) immediately did the right thing:
“We want to apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview” with author Stephen Kimber, said a statement issued by General Manager John Labonia.Somewhere above (or perhaps below) Big Alan is smiling.
An initial email sent by a WLRN staffer to Kimber’s publicist said Cooper had decided that the book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, was “incendiary” and canceled an interview scheduled for Tuesday.
That was “a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with,” Labonia said. “Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge, and it in no way reflects — in fact, it blatantly contradicts — who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion.”