Media Tonys, Y not aid 'em?

from the December 2002 edition of The Valley Scene

by Tony Palmeri

As a fan of palindromes (words, numbers, phrases that read the same backwards and forwards), I had high hopes for 2002. Then it occurred to me that the last palindromic year (1991) featured a bellicose Bush and a lapdog press leading the nation into an Iraqi war. History might repeat itself, but at least there's a perfect palindrome for Dubya: "Ya, signor, war is, sir, a wrong," I say.

Being the last Media Rant of 2002, what better to do than give out Tony (Palmeri) Awards to deserving Northeast Wisconsin media? Award categories are in palindrome form (the palindromes in quotes), and lest I get accused of being a palindrome plagiarist I must admit that all the palindromes come from And now for the Tonys:

The "Sprawl Warps" Award for best environmental writing: Curt Andersen, Green Bay News-Chronicle.
Few write as passionately about the environment. Polluters, sold-out politicians, and paper industry propagandists must shudder each time a Curt Andersen piece reaches print. Here's a taste of Andersen on Wisconsin's great northwoods: "There is little industrial development in that area, and thank God for that, or it would look and smell like the Fox Valley instead of heaven."

The "No-no is: I've let a television on" Award to recognize a retiring TV anchor: Chuck Ramsay of WBAY, retiring after more than 40 years in broadcasting.
I guess we can forgive Chuck's opinion of local TV news: "I believe it's hard for the networks to have a soul. I really believe that, because it comes down to money. Big money, bigger money than you can ever believe. I hate to say it but I believe it's true. Local television is a different story, we have souls." That last line calls for another palindrome: HUH!?

The "Let O'Malley yell, 'A Motel!" Award of Distinction for columnist Lou O'Malley: Lou and Katrina O'Malley operated a Green Bay homeless shelter from 1990 until this year. Lou's weekly column in the Green Bay Press-Gazette is a repository of odes to democracy, decency, courage, and compassion.

The "Rise To Vote, Sir" Award for the most courageous campaign season op-ed: Tom Perry, Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Two weeks before the November elections, Tom Perry wrote the following:

"Really, there's only one solution ... vote for anyone other than an incumbent for state office. It is true that no state lawmaker from Northeastern Wisconsin who is up for re-election has been implicated in the scandal down in Madison. It is also true that these local representatives are for the most part good and decent people. But this isn't personal. It's strictly business -- democracy's business."

If more statewide editorial page editors had Perry's courage, we might have seen some real changes in Madison on election day rather than the return of an overwhelming majority of tainted incumbents.

The "Dumbo, lob mud" Award for the stupidest and most frightening editorial of the year: On June 23, the Oshkosh Northwestern carried an unsigned editorial praising the use of tax incremental finance districts in Oshkosh. In a manner that would make Joe McCarthy proud, the writer attacked unnamed TIF critics, whose criticisms were compared to "something like what Fidel Castro might be spouting on a parade espousing the value of communism in Cuba." The heirs of Tail Gunner Joe on the Northwestern editorial board, in their zeal to serve as an organ for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, didn't say that the major TIF critic in the Legislature is Republican Mike Lehman, not exactly a Castro clone.

The "Draw Award" for best editorial cartoons: Lyle Lahey of the Green Bay News-Chronicle and Brown County Chronicle.
Environmentalist Alice McCombs says of "Lyle Lahey's Viewpoint": "Prepare to be entertained. After all, when the corporations are working so hard to avoid taking any responsibility for poisoning you with PCBs, why not laugh at them?" Lahey pesters Fox River polluters and corporate criminals with the same vigor with which Thomas Nast took on Tammany Hall.

An archive of Lahey's cartoons can be found here:

The "Tons O'Snot" Award for the most freewheeling Fox Valley publication: The new Valley Soapbox ( is a literal "marketplace of ideas." All viewpoints from lunatic left to reactionary right are welcomed. The publication includes insights from local writers on the issues of our day, but to get to them you have to wade through the "tons o'snot" that the marketplace model forces those insights to compete with. Hey, that's better than the brown stuff we have to wade through in the Gannett press.

The "O! I dare not tone radio" award to the Valley's rising radio star: WRST-FM student news director Bob Knudsen. WRST 90.3 FM is the student-run radio station at UW Oshkosh. Bob hosts Wild Eyed Radio from 5 6 p.m. on Thursday and Localized Radio from 5-6 on Friday. He interviews politicians, peace activists, college administrators and others with a refreshing professionalism and sense of humor. It's going to take a long time for concerned citizens to reverse the corporate destruction of radio, but with young people like Bob around I feel much better about our possibilities.

There you have it: 2002 Tony Awards for Northeast Wisconsin media. Our next palindrome year falls in 2112. Let us close with an optimistic palindrome of hope to lead us there: "Are we not drawn onward to new era?"

Happy Holidays from Media Rants!

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