Mississippi Doesn’t Deserve Fresh Air

First, RIP, Dan Schorr. CBS was the poorer for your departure, but NPR gained immeasurably. Anyone who was an enemy of Richard Nixon is a friend of mine. Your thoughtful perspective on the news and your long view of history, much of which you lived, have enlightened many of my days. We will never see your like again.

Given the circumstances under which Mr. Schorr left CBS, it is ironically appropriate that today’s topic has to do with suppression.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting has banned the award-winning and insightful radio program Fresh Air. As nearly as I can reconstruct it events happened this way:

July 7: The raunchy and outrageous Louis CK appears as a guest on Fresh Air. He tells host Terry Gross that he always has sex with his shirt on and goes into a few more not very graphic details. Here is the text of the interview. courtesy of Gawker. I especially like the comment that MPB had to ban the show because no one has sex in Mississippi and there are no unattractive or overweight people there, either.

Same day: A caller to the station, who had heard the comments while on phone hold, reportedly complains.

July 8: The radio director emails a listener saying that the show was cancelled “due to recurring inappropriate content” without further elaboration.

July 12: The MPB executive director issues a statement saying that the decision was reached “after careful consideration” because Fresh Air’s interviews include gratuitous discussions on issue of “an explicitly sexual nature.”

Speculation rises that it was the July 8 interview with Lisa Cholodenko about “The Kids Are Alright,”  which concerns a happy family of two lesbians and two children and the return of the sperm donor who fathered them. (Yes, that’s the way the CD and the movie spell “all right.” Apparently Microsoft Word doesn’t know the difference, either.)

July 15: An MPB reporter leaks a copy of the memo to the Jackson Free Press

July 16: MPB fires the reporter.

From then till now: Listeners in Mississippi express outrage. Many pull their contributions to the station and say they plan to listen to stations in other states.

Earlier: MPB dropped Fresh Air before but reinstated in December 2009 with the following announcement: “Fresh Air” discusses a variety of topics dealing with contemporary arts and issues. It is hosted by Terry Gross, who takes time conducting in-depth interviews with guests ranging from authors, artists, TV writers, historians, musicians, scientists, filmmakers, politicians, actors, and other individuals. Gross is also joined by panels of experts who complement each unique interview. “Fresh Air” boasts more than four million listeners weekly.”

For the record, for every Louis CK who appears on Fresh Air, there are four, five or six insightful interviews with authors, economists, physicians, scientists and so forth. Here’s a sampling over the past two weeks: Wikileaks, a psychiatrist prescribes more talk therapy and fewer drugs, former Poet Laureate Billy Collins discussing Emily Dickinson, preceded by Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, an analysis of the financial reform bill, the endurance of malaria.

Mississippi listeners need more Fresh Air, not less. But with the closed minds that run MPB have sucked the oxygen out of the atmosphere.

Quick P.S.: We’re having one of those weather inversions that cause truly amazing things to happen to radio waves. I was trying to get a news update. My normal AM stations (weather and traffic every 10 minutes) are 1080 in Hartford and 880 in New York, They both have baseball games and so are lying about their updates. But I was able to hear 900 AM from Hamilton, Ontario. where it’s 27 degrees; 1210 out of Philadelphia, where it’s 90. Still looking for the mega-watt WWVA in Wheeling, W. Va. As a little kid I used to be able to hear “Plastic Jesus” almost every night during the summer. But we don’t have metal dashboards anymore, so maybe the station went out of business.


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