- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Live from the Holiday Inn: Undaunted by wall-to-wall TV presence, talk-radio broadcasters from around the nation will cover the presidential inaugural with nothing more than a live microphone and chutzpah.

“No big lights, no big script. When it’s just you and a guest, that guest is going to open up on radio way more than they do on television,” said Atlanta-based radio host Neal Boortz yesterday.

“Think about it. They’re not worrying what they look like. They’re worrying about what they’re saying,” Mr. Boortz said.

He is one of 22 personalities set to people “Radio Row,” an enclave of talkers who will broadcast from a banquet room at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill. But they’ll reach 850 radio stations and an audience “of many millions,” said organizer Michael Harrison of Talkers Magazine, a New York-based publication that monitors radio personalities.

“Radio works on more than sound bites. There’s spontaneity; there’s substance. Nothing is canned, it just happens off the cuff,” Mr. Harrison said.

From a historical perspective, radio actually has the upper hand here: Americans heard Calvin Coolidge deliver the first inaugural address on radio in 1925 but had to wait until 1949 to witness Harry S. Truman take the oath of office on TV.

“Some of that heritage comes into play here,” Mr. Harrison said. “Listeners get a candor from live radio that just doesn’t exist in a studio or in front of a camera. And it’s deep. This is electronic media with the depth of print journalism.”

With the help of the District-based syndicate Talk Radio News Service, Mr. Harrison has assembled a formidable cast for “Radio Row,” including Mr. Boortz, Mike Gallagher, Doug Stephan, Blanquita Cullum, Carole Marks, Janet Parshall and Chris Markowski, among others.

“As the political world goes, this is the event to cover,” said Scott Hennen of WDAY, an AM-station in Fargo, N.D., and one of 15 regional hosts who will attend.

“Every one of us has a very personal relationship with our listeners. We want to bring this inaugural back to them. Who did we see? What did we witness? We’ll share it all,” Mr. Hennen said.

But the group has some competition.

National Public Radio (NPR) will begin its inauguration coverage at 8 a.m. with correspondents stationed throughout the city, said spokesman Chad Campbell yesterday. In addition, NPR will offer a live special with Linda Wertheimer and Neal Conan beginning at 11:30 a.m.

New York-based Westwood One — which oversees radio broadcasts from CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC and such high-profile hosts as Bill O’Reilly, G. Gordon Liddy and Larry King — also is planning a panoply of coverage.

“They’re all covering the inaugural in one way or another. The plans are in the works,” noted spokesman Peter Sessa yesterday.

New York-based Air America Radio — home to 15 liberal-leaning hosts including Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo — does not plan to send any of its personalities to Washington for the inauguration.

“But we will certainly have snippets from it all day,” said a spokeswoman yesterday.

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