- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In theory, a radio show like “Batchelor & Alexander” shouldn’t work. John Batchelor is a novelist. Paul Alexander is a biographer and magazine writer. Until recently, neither man had much experience behind a microphone.

Both hosts love politics, the backbone of talk radio, but they tend to favor international topics, the kind that send most listeners fleeing.

Then there are their voices.

Mr. Alexander’s is a bit wobbly. Mr. Batchelor’s is clear but nasal.

Yet the duo creates pure radio magic every night.

“I don’t know how they do it. Their show is not like anything I’ve heard before on commercial or public radio,” said Brian P. Lamb, C-SPAN’s chairman and chief executive and a regular “Batchelor & Alexander” listener.

Mr. Lamb will have to adjust his schedule if he wants to keep tuning in.

WMAL-AM (630), ABC’s news-and-talk station in the Washington area, moved “Batchelor & Alexander” from the middle of the night to late evenings last week.

The hosts, who are based in New York, now produce a one-hour show weeknights at 9 for Washington area listeners, then begin their regular three-hour syndicated program at 10 p.m.

WMAL canned longtime late-evening host Charlie Warren to make way for the earlier, expanded “Batchelor & Alexander.”

“We are both storytellers. And the story we are telling every night, it’s a [great] story,” Mr. Batchelor said.

The “story” is terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the topics discussed most often on the show. The hosts devote most of their airtime to dramatic reports from “correspondents” such as Uzbeki broadcaster Timur Shakirov, one of their more obscure regulars.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of “Batchelor & Alexander,” though, is the moody music that plays in between segments. Heading into a discussion on Iraq, for example, listeners might hear the theme from “Black Hawk Down” or some other war film.

“I choose Hollywood music because that is what we are living in these days, a movie,” Mr. Batchelor said.

The subjects are heavy and the hosts are of different political persuasions, but Mr. Alexander said the program “isn’t an opinion show. We don’t do the left-right thing. We don’t attack each other.”

Mr. Batchelor, a liberal Republican, and Mr. Alexander, a conservative Democrat, became friends in New York in the late 1980s. Shortly before the September 11 terrorist attacks, ABC’s New York station paired them as political commentators.

On Sept. 12, 2001, the station took Laura Schlessinger’s show off the air and asked Mr. Batchelor and Mr. Alexander to fill in temporarily. The program caught on, and today ABC syndicates it to several cities.

No one is more surprised by its success than Mr. Alexander. “My word, we’re going to be on the air now more than Rush [Limbaugh.] How crazy is that?”

This just in …

• WJLA-TV (Channel 7) managers said yesterday they are not wooing Tracey Neale, who is in contract renegotiations with WTTG-TV (Channel 5). A report Monday on the Web site dcrtv.com suggested Ms. Neale, a WTTG fixture since 1994, was jumping ship. Her agent declined comment.

Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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