Tag Archives: radio

Offensive Speech: Politicians and “Shock Jocks”



“Offensive speech” was once one of my specialties. I was paid to listen to it.

In my lawyering days I represented radio companies who employed what we called “shock jocks” – male DJ’s who hosted programs known for (and popular with certain audiences because of ) their provocative, borderline-if-not-racist, ugly language.

If a radio personality made a particularly egregious statement on air, station management might receive complaints from community groups and/or advertisers. Corporate would then involve lawyers (like me and my colleagues).  The DJ’s would be disciplined – usually a reprimand or a suspension  – and told to immediately stop using such despicable language.

Some of them resisted the corporate dictate – in the name of freedom of speech.

I came up with the bright idea that radio on-air talent and their programming staff would benefit from training – surely, I thought naively, the DJ’s who said such awful stuff simply didn’t understand why their on-air remarks were so offensive.

After all, when I was first dating my (then non-Jewish) husband-to-be, one of his relatives used the word “Jew” as a verb in a family conversation. I was shocked; I’d never heard the phrase he uttered. I rationalized that this relative didn’t intend it in an offensive way towards me, who he hardly knew; he just didn’t understand why it was so offensive.

I optimistically hoped that the radio “shock jocks” might change their ways if they understood why the terms and phrases they sometimes used to describe people of different ethnicities, genders, religions or race were so offensive.

After doing some fascinating (what can I say? I love language.) research on the history of how ethnic, gender, racial and religious slurs and stereotypes develop, I drafted a how-and-why-you-should-avoid-saying-them-on-air manual called “Words Hurt and Harm.” The radio company approved this manual – it was actually more of a booklet – and distributed it for training purposes.

“Words Hurt and Harm” was received, as I recall, with nice praise from corporate – – and with great merriment by some of the DJ’s on the receiving end.

Some of the most clever talent made fun – on air, of course – of our (“the lawyers’) attempt to get them to clean up their on-air acts. They described the booklet – and us – as:


“political correctness run amok”


“lawyering the hell out of radio”

And my favorite –  “When is the last time a lawyer handed you something to help you be funny?”


The other day I unearthed a decade-old podcast of a radio talk show where two popular DJ’s  had a great time picking apart the “Words Hurt and Harm” booklet. (Feel free to google it and take a listen.) You can hear them explaining why we, “the lawyers”, had it all wrong.

The talk show hosts defended their comments by explaining that they were intended to be entertainment. To make listeners laugh, which they did. And the offensive comments made by the DJ’s were, they claimed, based on real life experiences –  not rooted in prejudice or racism. They maintained they were only saying on-air what their listeners really thought, but didn’t say out loud.

How quaint this discussion from 2006 sounded to my nearly 2016 ears.

Look where we are now. It has become acceptable, part of the anticipated norm, even, for some politicians and commentators (no names here!) to make the most outrageous of public comments – coming very close, if not head on, to ethnic, gender, religious and racial stereotyping and slurs – yet their audiences do not protest, they cheer. They are not disciplined for their offensive speech, hardly; they are applauded!

Maybe the radio “shock jocks” had it right. They were simply saying out loud what their listeners were really thinking.

And perhaps these politicians and commentators have become today’s “shock jocks”.

They make provocative comments designed to offend and get them attention. And attention they get. The media publicize their remarks. People then bemoan the comments on social media, how awful, can you believe he or she really said that. But talk moves on.

Fortified by current horrific national and world events that play right into inner biases and beliefs, we seem to be tolerating language we wouldn’t have thought acceptable only a decade ago.

Which is the most terrifying part. Because these politicians and commentators are not entertainers. They do not report to corporate management who will issue them diversity and sensitivity training manuals and tell them to change their language or risk being fired.

Words may still “hurt and harm.” But to some speakers and their listeners, what we once thought of “offensive” speech no longer is.
























Filed under Communications, Law firm life, Lawyers, Social Media, Talking

10 Minutes of Media Fame Before The Boot


In one of those rare cosmic coincidences I was granted my fondest wish – to appear on TV and Radio – on the same day.

This Monday morning I was on TV. And on the Radio three hours later.

Thrilling! Truly.

I am one of those rare (?) people who loves public speaking. I enjoy having an audience. In another life, perhaps, I would have been a stand-up comic or a morning talk show host on the newsy first hour of the Today show rather than a lawyer.

And have I mentioned my own, yet unfulfilled, second career idea for a radio talk show aimed at an all-women-of-a-certain-age demographic – tentatively titled “The Post-Menopause Hour”?

Where I plan to offer my own insightfully entertaining thoughts on getting older but better, and have guests on to talk about such fun topics as women’s health and caring for elderly parents while at the same time parenting our adult kids.

(If any radio or online show programmers are reading this post and think this is an excellent idea, please get in touch. My tentative show title – the “Post-Menopause Hour” is entirely negotiable.)

Radio station KPCC, the NPR station in Los Angeles, asked me if I wanted to be interviewed as a guest on “The Brood” segment of their “Take Two” show this Tuesday to talk about my recent blog-post-turned-Washington-Post article asking whether the lessons of failure should apply to our adult kids too.


Why yes, I said, very calmly as if being interviewed on the radio was a regular gig for me, I’d be delighted.

The good thing about radio is that it is just that – radio. No visual element. No one to see that I was overdue by a week for my regular gray-be-gone hair coloring process.

Note: I practiced communications law for 33 plus years, talking daily to radio general managers, on-air talent and producers at stations all over the country. I often felt I was on the wrong side of these phone calls – that I should be the one doing the creative part, appearing on air rather than giving legal advice.

Just as I was getting excited to be on the radio for the first time…

I was asked, at the last-minute, to appear on a local CBS affiliate WUSA TV talk show –  “Great Day Washington” – to talk about Mental Health Awareness Week on behalf of my NAMI chapter where I am on the board of directors. I jumped (literally) at the chance.

As soon as I hung up the phone after agreeing to show up at the TV studio early the next morning, I thought, my hair! Radio may not be a visual medium but TV certainly is.

Luckily, my handy aerosol can of an extremely useful product that sprays dark brown temporary color onto those pesky gray/white/whatever roots came to my rescue.

I showed up at the TV studio on time. I wore a TV-friendly solid blue shirt and black pants that were mostly clean. The co-hosts introduced themselves to me, they were irrepressibly bubbly.

Who wouldn’t want to talk about the myths of mental illness (how common it is, 1 in 5 adults, treatable) with two hyper-cheerful talk show hosts??

I had my talking points prepared. Confident, ready to go. Until I saw the stairs.

The new-ish TV studio for Great Day Washington was constructed to resemble a living room, with the requisite talk show white couches, coffee table, bookcases and color-coordinated plants.

And stairs.

I was told I would be introduced by the hosts, and then would have to enter the set through an opening at the rear, walk across the floor – then down three stairs to take my place on the white couch#2 while the two show hosts sat at a right angle from me on white couch #1.

Stairs. What if I tripped? I am rather clumsy, not wild about stairs in the best of times. Having to walk down them on live TV?  Scary. But at least my hair looked good.

Here is the link: You can see from the short video that I DID NOT FALL. I walked down the stairs with ease and joined the hosts for my 3 minutes of sound bites on a complicated subject that cannot be easily covered even in 3 hours.

Interview on WUSA Channel 9 CBS TV for Mental Health Awareness Week

After my TV stint, like any media person (so I imagine), I took a short break to re-caffeinate and drove to the NPR radio studio on the other side of DC where I donned headphones, followed the producer’s instructions (“hot” mike?) and talked for a full 7 minutes with a gracious host in Los Angeles (NPR hosts are gracious, not bubbly) about parenting adult kids through their own life crises.

Phew, came home, pretty darn pleased with myself, ready to settle in for a lovely fall afternoon on our small deck with our dog, my laptop and the newspapers when –

I FELL. Yes, I tripped on a 4-inch step from the door of our house, landed flat out, splat onto the wood deck, feeling as I went down my left ankle twisting at an odd angle.

Let me spare you the anticipation. X-rays. Broken ankle. Fibula bone to be exact. (“Really, broken?” I asked the ortho doc. “Are you sure? Not just a sprain?”. Ortho doc not amused. How they hate to be questioned by lawyers.)

Now sporting a large, unlovely gray air-cast “boot” up to my knee. Told not to put any weight on my left foot at all. Have never broken a bone; many things to do and places to go but now Totally Immobilized.

Was it hubris that caused me to fall? So overly pleased with my brief brushes with the media on the same day that I did not look where I was going in my own house on a step I have safely taken a million times?

Irony that it is fall – and I fell when no one was there to see it happen? My 2x media day was going so well until it wasn’t.

A life lesson on not getting ahead of yourself from me where I sit with my left foot elevated on my non-white couch in my own family room where I remain available 24/7 for all media interviews. Gray hair, gray boot and all. Call me.





Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, Blogging, Communications, Law firm life, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Midlife, Parenting, Second Careers, Women, Women's Health

It May be Easy for You but It Isn’t for Me!

itssoeasyPlease allow me a short but important rant.

I hate it when people tell me that something is easy to do – when it may be easy for them, but isn’t for me.

I dislike having to ask my math-savvy husband for help with percentages. How to calculate a percentage was apparently taught in 4th grade arithmetic and I like to think I was out sick all that year, but I wasn’t.

JP, what is 18% of 2,000?”

And he responds, “That’s easy.

Aaaaargh, for you maybe, but not for me.

I also have difficulty with anything remotely mechanical. When I ask my 20-something son, “Remind me again, how do I send a video from my iPhone?”

He will sigh and say, “Mom, that’s so easy.”

Maybe for him but never for me.

In my law firm days I had a mental block when it came to drafting insurance provisions in radio station event agreements (that sounds boring even as I write it but things can go awry among the overly-creative.)

So I would walk down the hall to a colleague, “Mark, can you give me that model insurance language again?”

Inevitably he would reply, “Sure, but that’s so easy.”

If it was so easy, then why was I asking him?

Of course, there many things that do come easily to me. I’m well read and have a huge vocabulary.  I’m a champion google researcher and a natural at twitter. I’m known for my ability to find a typo on a menu within 20 seconds (“gilled” shrimp, anyone?). I type fast and think even more quickly. I am also very modest.

Perhaps I am more sensitive as I get older to having my ability gaps pointed out? Or do all of us, at any age, get a tad prickly when it comes to things we just can’t master?

I do try to be patient with others who have these same kinds of ability gaps.

Someone in my family (no names here) wasn’t sure if when you boil water for pasta, you should start with cold or hot water. Sigh. I didn’t say a word.

And while it is easy for me start up Roku, get to Netflix and find a movie to watch, someone else in my family continues to remain confounded by that process, no matter how many times it is explained.

There is also someone I see regularly (say every night when he comes home from work) who is still unclear as to how to make a comment on a Facebook post.

Remind me, where do I post the comment?” this person regularly asks me. This is someone who has a very high intellect, is proficient in several languages, and a whiz at car repairs but even he doesn’t find everything so easy.

So the next time you spot me struggling to use that stupid self-check out scanner at the CVS, feel free to offer to help.

But please don’t tell me – It’s so easy” – or I might write about you in my Blog. That’s so easy for me to do.

















Filed under Adult Kids, Blogging, Communications, Family, Law firm life, Reading, Relationships, Social Media, Women