David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, September 25, 1999

Don’t dilute the news
with wasted talk

MY radio listening needs are simple: I want to hear the news. No music, no talk radio, no shock jocks. Just the news.

I was in audio ecstasy a few years ago when KHNR (AM 650) started playing the sound portion from TV's CNN Headline News. It's a little awkward when they talk about pictures you can't see but, still, it's all news, all day, updated every half-hour. I can always keep up with what's going on while I'm out of the office.

Unfortunately, they've started getting cute with it. First they introduced Ken and Barbie drive-time teams in the morning and afternoon, resulting in more pointless chatter and less news.

That didn't seem to work out, so the station mercifully went back to mostly straight CNN. But there are still maddening deviations. They often insert Charles Osgood into the spot where the business and sports usually go. Instead of finding out how Microsoft and the Yankees did, you get Osgood rendering the day's events into doggerel -- in between his insipid insurance commercials.

Then the station replaced the evening drive-time news with an infomercial hawking vitamins and "natural" health aids. You're driving over the Pali, unwinding from a long day, thinking about dinner and you have to listen to a guy talk about how his bowel movements are two- to five-feet long and yours can be too. Good grief. How would you get one of those suckers down the commode? You'd probably have to give it a decent burial in the back yard.

Lately, they've filled the evening drive time with a talk show featuring Mayor Jeremy Harris and his eager sidekick Courtney Harrington. The mayor interviews guests, takes calls, quibbles with newspaper editorials and keeps improving on his personal best for how many times he can say "uhhh" in one minute. I counted to 40 once but lost track when he threw me off with an "ummm."

I've got to admit the show is occasionally informative and always entertaining -- for its amateurish production if nothing else.

Harrington: "Gee, Mr. Mayor, you sure move your hands a lot when you talk. Are you Italian?"

Harris: "Let's, uhhh, go to, uhhh, the, uhhh, next caller."

Harrington: "That would be John from Hawaii Kai. John, are you there? John? John? Oops."

THEY had Nanci Kreidman of the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse on the other night in what certainly would have been a lively interview if her microphone had been turned on. Instead, Harris would ask her a question and the response would be 45 seconds of dead air.

They finally got her mike on as the mayor was asking her to identify the best single way to stop domestic violence.

Kreidman said it was a complex problem without a single solution. When Harris pressed her for a "silver bullet" for domestic violence, Kreidman shot back, "The first thing would be to get rid of the bullets." Touche!

After five years as mayor, Harris still gets his biggest charge from techno-babbling about engineering.

That's where it gets tough. Listening to Jeremy Harris drone on about a "mixed array of transportation options," especially at the end of a long day, could cause you to doze off and run the transportation option you're driving off his well-engineered highway.

Watch where you step in the bushes as you get out of your crumpled car. You might accidentally find where the Vitamin Man stopped on his way home to evacuate his intestine.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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