Thursday, December 20, 2012

So long Uncle Milt

After this evening, another bastion of intelligent discourse will be gone from commercial radio as Extension 720, the two hour talk program on Chicago's WGN Radio will sign off for good. The show's host, Milton Rosenberg, whose day job was professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, has been on the air for the past 39 years. I've listened off and on for the past 30 or so.

The topics of his programs ranged from history and the fine arts, to esoteric branches of science, to politics, and to more popular subjects such as sports, cinema and food. Regardless of the topic, the level of conversation was maintained at a very high level and his guests ranged from the high and mighty to the mere brilliant. Divergent points of view were presented as well, however in recent years as Rosenberg grew more and more politically conservative, ("a liberal mugged on the way to reality" he was fond of saying about himself), his shows reflected that bias.

In 2008 Rosenberg had a well publicized feud with the Obama campaign when he planned to interview conservative writer Stanley Kurtz about Obama's alleged connection to Weather Underground terrorist and fellow Hyde Parker William Ayers. Obama has always claimed to have had only a peripheral connection to Ayers and the campaign felt the interview was part of a smear campaign against their man. They waged a call in campaign trying to halt the interview which Rosenberg and his supporters viewed as a blatant attack on their freedom of speech. To this day Rosenberg makes no attempt to disguise his contempt for the president.

In a way that only made him more endearing to his listeners, myself included, as like your kind but cantankerous old uncle, you'd love him despite his ramblings. I often found myself so infuriated with his program that I'd shut it off ( as I did just this week) only to tune in the next night, hoping the subject would not be politics.

Besides the loss of a brilliant radio host who brought a welcome relief to the dregs of typical radio conversation, I will miss the voice of a respected elder. As a person who is older than our current president (not by much mind you), it's becoming more and more difficult for me to find that voice, the airwaves being filled to the brim with gen-Xers and younger folks these days. When Milt Rosenberg talks about seminal subjects such as World War II, the Depression, and the urban scene of the past century, he speaks from the first person point of view.

I will deeply miss that.

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