The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 August 2005

CBS Radio Reporter Fired After Report Spiked

CBS Yanks Report(er)

Boston Reporter Fired, Terror Story Quashed


Was a veteran CBS radio reporter sacked after complaining about her spiked terrorism reporting?

That's what Flo Jonic, now fired from WBZ-AM Boston, claims. Among the allegations: that her report on weak security at Boston's One Center Plaza was pulled, after FBI complaints.

When Jonic sent a scathing newsroom memo, objecting to the censorship, she was immediately fired by local CBS/Infinity Broadcasting management.

Industry trade publication All Access and reporter Perry Simon broke the story:

ALL ACCESS hears that JONIC uncovered serious security flaws at the ONE CENTER PLAZA building, including being able to enter the building without significant security screening and the presence of a car rental agency on the ground floor, but that the FBI told station and INFINITY management that the story would be dangerous and an aid to terrorists by identifying weaknesses in security, and the story was not aired.

Radio industry insiders and listeners are debating the termination's impact. Some claim WBZ's evening talk hosts have been prohibited from discussing the matter, but offer no evidence.

Newsroom morale is said to have plunged at the station and a decent level of industry outrage is beginning to develop.

Blute and Scotto, hosts at rival WRKO, a conservative Rush Limbaugh affiliate, skewered WBZ during Thursday's show. They expressed disbelief that the FBI could be allowed to program WBZ and wondered what was wrong with exposing anti-terrorism weaknesses.

WBZ, like some of CBS's other news/talk stations nationwide, exists in radio time warp where the boat is never rocked, in news coverage, or talk programming.

Is it really that dangerous to report our country's need to plug its many security holes, for the sake of fighting terrorism? Or do we pretend we're safer than is really the case?

Something else: do you really think terrorists don't have a pretty good idea where to find the easy hits? For years, they've been looking around for the next targets. Might as well alert the public, don't you think?

WBZ's evening talk shows avoid controversial topics, or drawing attention to themselves. Other than the occasional fawning Boston Globe coverage, WBZ's personalities don't generate much publicity.

On the news end, though, WBZ features Boston's only remaining large radio newsroom. Jonic's termination and their resulting credibility loss threatens WBZ's major asset: the Bay State's strongest radio news image.

Can CBS afford another major news flap, when its image is still badly damaged after last year's Rathergate fiasco? If WBZ has any sense, they'll give Jonic her job back, in short order.

Update: The Boston Herald is really playing up the troublemaker reporter aspect, which is annoying. This is high-pressure, big city journalism and things get heated in these settings. Reports of Jonic's occasional outbursts don't seem to reflect terribly unusual behavior for the news business.

Also, I don't buy this theory, expressed in the Herald story:

Some WBZ insiders are wondering whether the radio station did indeed cave, or whether higher-ups actually liked the story and opted to hold it until a period when ratings would be higher – perhaps September.

It's not typical in radio to put investigative pieces in the bank, to be used months later, that's somebody with a TV news mindset, speculating.

If they liked it, they would use it now, then follow up in September if needed, as to whether building security improvements were indeed made.

Firing one of the city's best broadcast journalists because of an email memo is a sure sign of an overreaction. There aren't many good radio reporters anymore and someone with Jonic's expertise isn't likely to be found, given this industry's ever-shrinking talent pool.

Update: welcome Instapundit readers.

Seen the Radio Equalizer's Air America Scandal coverage? Click here for the main page and scroll down a bit.

Fair disclosure: I was fired from a Seattle CBS radio affiliate, owned by a different company, in 2004.

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25 Comments:

  • I know I'm somewhat a babe in the woods and this makes that fact obvious, but: Good God, why were you fired?

    By Blogger Josef, at 04 August, 2005 20:17  

  • More Air America numbers in. In red state small market Ashville, NC, Air America jumps to 2.2 from the 1.4 Fall numbers. In the same market, wingnut radio drops from 6.3 to 5.3.

    Columbia, SC has a 50% in Air America numbers.

    It looks like Brian's campaign isn't working.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 04 August, 2005 21:27  

  • Exposing security gaps is bad only if the gaps are left unplugged.

    I guess the FBI has a twisted version of that old leaky roof syndrome -- can't tell anyone about the gap, because then they'd have to close them. Much easier to just leave the hole in place, and not tell anyone about it...

    By Anonymous Stoo, at 04 August, 2005 22:21  

  • We are all very grateful for the numbers for the 162nd biggest market in America, but what exactly does that have to do with this story?

    Next thing you know, the big Youngstown ratings will be in.

    By Anonymous purple raider, at 04 August, 2005 23:13  

  • Maybe if a few more stories got spiked and a few more reporters got fired people would begin to understand that we are at war and that this is deadly serious --- not some damn game of gotcha.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 04 August, 2005 23:30  

  • [Purple Raider] Next thing you know, the big Youngstown ratings will be in.

    Ah, but it's the key to the Cleveland and Pittsburgh markets... :) and from there, who knows? The world?

    By Blogger RD, at 05 August, 2005 00:41  

  • Sounds to me like a radio station finally doing something sensible.

    There's not much point in claiming that the FBI should be sharper. Of course they should be. But until that great day arrives, I think we can do without the press trumpeting plans for attacking a public building.

    Is this reporter really something hot? I've lived in the Boston area since the 1970s and I've never heard of her.

    By Blogger BigDirigible, at 05 August, 2005 02:07  

  • >>We are all very grateful for the numbers for the 162nd biggest market in America

    Yes, I'm glad to know Opie and "Ain't Bee" are listening to Air America in
    Mayberry :)--Bob Nelson

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2005 03:21  

  • And Dick Tuck is still posting off-topic. Must be desperate, especially using 12+ numbers without including the daypart breakdown, ad revenue for said dayparts, and demographics by daypart breakdown.

    12+ to the radio community as a whole, pretty much means jack shi'ite.

    Back onto the point of WBZ and it's issues...WBZ has been having issues for a while now, but has normally been solid. This is just another rung on the Infinity/CBS ladder. She'll probably end up at WRKO.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 05 August, 2005 03:31  

  • Her story should have been buried, and if she didn't understand why then she shouldn't be reporting the news.

    Anyone with half a brain can go to any big city in this country and discover weaknesses in building security... or powerplant security... or refinery security. We live in a free country, and unless we're willing to give up our freedoms there will ALWAYS be security weaknesses. So... where's the story?

    This story sounds less like information that we all need, and more like an anti-Establishment screed that blames the government for not doing enough, from the same type of people who blame the govermnent for doing too much (the Patriot Act).

    This wasn't a great story. It was a LAZY story that took little imagination and endangered the public. What was she going to do next? Tell her readers where they could search on the Internet for bomb-making plans?

    Good riddance. Maybe her next job will allow her to help her fellow citizens rather than needlessly endangering them.

    By Blogger John Clifford, at 05 August, 2005 04:04  

  • If you're a member of the TSM (Terrorist Supporting Media) like WBZ, why would you want security holes in the infrastructure plugged? Nothing inconsistent here. Heh.

    By Blogger Vulgorilla, at 05 August, 2005 07:28  

  • John Clifford, you are being extremely foolish.

    Security by Obscurity is NOT security at all. It is burying your head in the sand.

    The "security" being provided in this country is expensive, intrusive, and useless. Prince Potemkin is alive and well, and a senior staffer at HSA. And that's from a "wingnut".

    Without the overseas efforts, most of which we can't see, no security at all would actually exist.

    There is every reason to applaud people who point out the Emperor's new clothes. If the reality of the story cited here matches the current perception, WBZ has committed a serious error.

    Regards,
    Ric Locke

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2005 07:46  

  • This question might be moot if you live in the Boston area but why is 'One Center Plaza' being centered out for it's lack of security? Or would you have to kill me after you told me?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2005 08:09  

  • Why she had to report this weakness to the public where terroists live in?

    If you do want to report, why not just to the FBI or some security authority?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2005 08:18  

  • "Blute and Scotto, hosts at rival WRKO, a conservative Rush Limbaugh affiliate..."

    What, pray tell, is a conservative Rush Limbaugh affiliate? As far as I know Rush Limbaugh doesn't have his own radio network and doesn't have affiliates. This might be shorthand but it's a lazy, way to characterize an entire station.

    By Blogger kcom, at 05 August, 2005 08:33  

  • What, pray tell, is a conservative Rush Limbaugh affiliate?

    Wouldn't that be the opposite of a balanced Rush Limbaugh affiliate? Say like WJNO in West Palm Beach which balances Rush and Beck with Schultz and Rhodes?

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 05 August, 2005 09:04  

  • Sailor Republica said...
    And Dick Tuck is still posting off-topic. Must be desperate, especially using 12+ numbers without including the daypart breakdown, ad revenue for said dayparts, and demographics by daypart breakdown.

    12+ to the radio community as a whole, pretty much means jack shi'ite.


    Those are the only numbers Brian uses, but you seem to be reading his screeds on a daily basis.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 05 August, 2005 09:06  

  • Dick Tuck, are you that moronic? I'm in the business, I have contacts in different areas and can read the dayparts, the ad revenue, etc.

    I know the real scoop that goes on.

    You don't.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 05 August, 2005 10:21  

  • Dick Tuck, are you that moronic? I'm in the business, I have contacts in different areas and can read the dayparts, the ad revenue, etc.

    Answer the question. Why do you rag on me for using the same numbers Maloney uses. When I called Maloney for using the freebie numbers with no demographic/timeslot breakdowns, asshats like you defended him.

    Since you have access to the entire book, you know that Air America is doing much better with the key demographics in every major market.

    Take a look at the breakdown of the latest Denver numbers. That should convince all you wingnuts, who claimed Air America would die withing six months that you have your heads up your ass.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 05 August, 2005 10:44  

  • "More Air America numbers in. In red state small market Ashville, NC, Air America jumps to 2.2 from the 1.4 Fall numbers. In the same market, wingnut radio drops from 6.3 to 5.3.

    Columbia, SC has a 50% in Air America numbers."

    Gee, that probably means that in the Carolinas the Republicans will only win in 2008 by 15 percentage points.

    By Blogger Pat, at 05 August, 2005 10:53  

  • Ahhh Dick, Dick, Dick...
    Let me as a 20 year, major market and network radio pro give you a little advice. While there is no doubt that this blog is from a conservative point of view, that is not why so many in radio dislike AAR. Most everyone thinks AAR is just poorly done radio. Formatically, technically and personel wise. That being said. the problem with AAR's numbers are that outside of a good book in Portland and Denver, the 25-54 numbers are terrible. In almost every other AAR market, the numbers are flat or dropping. No amount of your name calling or wishful thinking changes the fact that AAR is a failure by all standards to evaluate broadcast media after a period of time that no other network or large market entity has ever enjoyed. Your blind allegiance to AAR and progressive talk radio is laughable to all radio professionals who read this blog and yet another reason why AAR's qualitive demographics and psychographics are so bad that major national ad buys continue to not include AAR.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 August, 2005 11:17  

  • "Do you really think terrorists don't have a pretty good idea where to find the easy hits? For years, they've been looking around for the next targets."

    How can you know that? Taking photos of a potential target can get you arrested, so why couldn't a terrorist just take advantage of some reporter's research for her ratings-driven story? I fear we'll see the day when one such story results in an attack on the target that the reporter so helpfully drew attention to.

    It'll be a little late then for 'mea culpas,' but hey, it'll give the pundits a lot to discuss.

    Just because something _can_ be reported doesn't automatically mean it _should_ be.

    By Anonymous Paul in NJ, at 05 August, 2005 11:28  

  • That should convince all you wingnuts, who claimed Air America would die withing six months that you have your heads up your ass.

    Maybe the 'wingnuts' would have been right had Stuart Smalley's network not stayed afloat by swiping money from charities to make payroll.

    By Blogger Dave, at 05 August, 2005 12:29  

  • Dick Tuck, you seem to like pointing to specific markets where the majority opinion is out of step with the rest of America.

    Portland is offset by New York's failing numbers. Miami is offset by the loss of Lake Tahoe and the failure of Philadelphia, PA. Denver is offset by the tremendous losses in Seattle and the 25-54 losses in Minneapolis.

    Follow the 20-year radio veteran's (Anonymous at 11:17 AM) words. He knows more than you.

    And, just so you don't think I'm avoiding your question. I don't ignore the fact that Brian uses 12+, that's what is available to him. I just do some extra research to get the rest of the story, and about 96% of the time it matches what Brian has to say.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 05 August, 2005 14:56  

  • John Clifford had it right - it is not possible to achieve any real security by fencing in all our sensitive points, so the obvious choice is to fence out the threats and burn out their nests. It should be terminaly fatal to advocate the destruction of the U.S.
    Incidentally, are you Dick Tuck the trickster?

    By Blogger Walter E. Wallis, at 07 August, 2005 10:04  

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