Seems We've Been Doing This A Lot Lately
Another week, another good-bye blog.
This time we're saying a hearty fare-thee-well to Jonathan Green who graced the WTMJ airwaves for four decades. That's a ridiculously long time to survive in an industry where often times the ink has yet to dry on one's business cards before your employment status changes. It is a testimony to the man himself and his ability to change with the times, roll with the punches, and adapt to the wishes of various incarnations of Radio City management.
Retirements are like funerals in that we the living often don't get to tell the recently departed how we felt about them until it's too late. Jonathan made his plans known months ago, giving loyal listeners (and even the vitriolic, gutless, anonymous Internet/online cranks) their chances to say what they wanted. A chance to shake a hand and say thanks. An opportunity to say, "You'll be missed."
Jonathan and his crew brought Milwaukee home each workday afternoon from Nixon to Obama, from Watergate to Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell. They were working during blizzards and tornado warnings, amid droughts and this past summer's flood. He was holding his afternoon court when disaster struck--the crash of a Midwest Airlines jet in September of 1985, the Big Blue crane collapse outside Miller Park in July of 1999--seamlessly shifting from the usual p.m. fare to crisis coverage.
I seldom got to see Jon, what with the two of us working opposite ends of the radio clock, but just the thought of being in the same building with he, Gordon Hinkley, Jim Irwin and Frank Richardson was enough to give me a full month of jitters when I first punched in at Radio City in the fall of '82. I'd be a star-struck fan when I'd pass any of them in the hallway, and downright giddy if any of them engaged me in conversation. The walls eventually wore down, though, and professional relationships even blossomed into friendships outside of the building.
What I'll remember most about Jonathan was the way he blended his show with the community--the effortless combination of fun, information, service and charity. He taught listeners and co-workers alike that having a laugh and doing a good thing weren't mutually exclusive. May those of us still on the job remember his example. As radio faces new digital competition, Green's style shows the power of local engagement in holding an audience and calling large numbers of strangers to a common cause.
Jon's gone, and with his departure we say goodbye to an unmatched era in Milwaukee radio. Could anyone last as long again? Sure, anything can happen, but I doubt they'll do it with the color, the personality, the local touches and the community connection Jonathan was able to generate during his time behind the mike.