Radio days

Dianne Wilkerson’s new gig
By ADAM REILLY  |  February 9, 2006

Dianne WilkersonIt’s a Thursday morning, and the AM airwaves are buzzing with talk of State Representative Marie St. Fleur’s abortive bid to become lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. But Dianne Wilkerson has bigger fish to fry. Wilkerson’s focus in this segment of her new drive-time talk show on WILD 1090 AM? The Bush administration’s shoddy handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — and the possibility that the whole Katrina debacle was an excuse for driving blacks from New Orleans. “People say, ‘Don’t go there; don’t go bringing race into it,’” Wilkerson muses. “But how can you not? How can you not bring race into it?”

This gets directly at Wilkerson’s broader rationale for the new radio gig. (The WILD job opened up when Radio One, which owns a multitude of black-oriented stations around the US, made a national push to ramp up local programming.) As the state senator from Boston sees it, she’s rectifying an imbalance in the talk-radio world — one that lets angry white conservatives vent their spleens around the clock, but provides few outlets for people of color.

“There’s so much dialogue on talk radio, even on the right wing, about the community that I live in and that I represent,” says Wilkerson. “We’ve been hearing everyone talking about what we need to do — about crime, for example — and even when you agree with the message, they weren’t the right messenger.

“I’m able to say [what the community needs to do] in a way that Rush Limbaugh can’t, and even in a way that [Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole] can’t.”

As state senator, Wilkerson has long evoked a kind of could-have-been-a-contender wistfulness. Her gifts are considerable: she’s attractive, intelligent, and poised, and it’s easy to imagine her as a congresswoman, say, or as Boston’s first African-American mayor. But her serial missteps — most recently, attorney general Tom Reilly sued her for alleged campaign-finance violations — suggest her political career won’t go beyond the State House.

Now, as Wilkerson plies her new craft, her gifts are on full display: her comments come in fully formed paragraphs, there’s no dead air, and she handles listeners like an old pro (“We’ve got a caller on the line, Bobby from Roxbury. Bobby, what’s on your mind?”). And one can’t help wondering, if this radio thing takes off — if, for instance, a chance to do a nationwide show popped up — would Wilkerson consider a career change? “I would never say never, but I do love what I do in terms of public service,” she answers. “And I can’t imagine that not continuing to be a part of my life and my life calling.”
Related: Incumbency, Will race enter the race?, Obama for president, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Media,  More more >
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