The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

04 April 2006

New York Times Profile, Sheldon Drobny, Phoenix, Air America


Air America Radio, New York Times Still In Bed

For a newspaper that couldn't bother to cover Air America Radio's stinky Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club taxpayer funds transfer scandal, the New York Times sure continues to pump up the ailing liberal radio network.

Thought the senile Grey Lady could be reformed? Guess again.

The latest: an uncritical puff piece on eccentric Air America co-founders Sheldon and Anita Drobny. With all of the investigative depth one would expect from a chamber of commerce newsletter, the Times gives our friends free advertising, in a major paper.

Even more unbelievable: by seven months, Michelle Malkin and your friendly Radio Equalizer scooped the Times on the Drobny/ Nova M Radio political venture!

With this company, the LaRouchian Democrat Party donors and activists intend to buy stations for liberal talk radio.

When $875,000 in government grants for a Bronx-based community charity were instead diverted to Al Franken's employer, the Times was so notably absent that even Public Editor Byron Calame conceded the issue in an August 2005 column:

The Times's first article on the investigations finally appeared last Friday [Aug. 12, 2005] after weeks of articles by other newspapers in New York and elsewhere.

The Times's recent slowness stands in contrast to its flurry of articles about Air America in the spring of 2004, when the network was launched ...

Yet The Times was silent as other publications reported that city and state investigators were looking into whether the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx had made improper loans of as much as $875,000 to Air America ...

'We were slow in the first place and need to do more,' Rick Berke, an associate managing editor at The Times, told me Monday.

With so many flaws in this new piece, it may again be time to contact Mr. Calame:

The couple has announced plans to begin buying or leasing radio stations across the United States through their new company, Nova M Radio. The Drobnys, who own a venture capital firm called the Paradigm Group based near Chicago, started the new company with Dr. Michael Newcomb, and a handful of investors.

Mrs. Drobny said she and her husband were motivated in part by events that began in October in Phoenix, where a Christian broadcasting company called Communicom Broadcasting bought the station that broadcast Air America programming and subsequently changed the format to religious programming.

"Shelly and I decided that we would start Nova M Radio and that we would work hand-in-hand with Air America delivering content and put it in the areas that we would move into," Mrs. Drobny said.

Gary Krantz, the president of Air America, said listeners were "very vocal and very passionate" when the network went off the air in Phoenix in early March. He said the Drobnys subsequently leased radio station KPHX-AM in Phoenix, where Air America returns today.

Air America programming is broadcast on 89 stations around the country. Sheldon Drobny said Nova M planned to acquire control of 20 to 25 stations in its first year and he said he thought the number could grow to more than 100 stations in three years.

He said that while content was required to establish a network, "you also have to have distribution — that is one of the biggest risks we had as a network because all of the major frequencies were owned by the big three, Clear Channel, Infinity and ABC."


Since we exposed the Nova M plan in August, how could it have been cooked up in October? And there's that kooky "Christians are out to get us" conspiracy theory again!

Why no mention of their notorious weirdness, including strong Lyndon LaRouche sympathies first uncovered by the National Review's Byron York?

Since the Drobnys are political animals, why not look into their strange and fairly recent emergence into Democrat Party circles? We know they make Franken and some in the party nervous. Why not ask them about it?

Even counting the stations listed at Air America's site, it doesn't have 89. Our recent analysis concluded the real number was somewhere in the low seventies.

While Drobny complains about Clear Channel, he fails to point out that by placing its programming on several dozen company stations, it saved Air America's neck last year.

Because the Drobnys represent one of the ongoing Air America saga's weirdest chapters, they're ripe for in-depth investigative reporting. Too bad the New York Times yet again took a pass.

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In Bed: David A Lunde. Check out his website today!


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