wo years ago, WMCS-AM 1290 stunned host Eric Von – and ripped a huge void in the city’s media landscape – by firing him and scrapping the station’s black-oriented news/talk format. Owner Milwaukee Radio Alliance renamed the station WZTI and converted its programming to music, surrendering 1290’s niche as the city’s principal voice for and by African-Americans. “The station wasn’t making money the way it should have been; it’s hard to argue with that,” Von says today. He also sympathizes with those who believe the overhaul was a bid to silence black media voices but doesn’t endorse these suspicions – perhaps because he’s joined the talk radio revival at WNOV-AM 860.
It began in 2013 with syndicated programming, then came to include more local, black hosts, including Von, who joined this spring and now fills the morning slot. In a talk radio market dominated by white, right-wing conservatives, the liberal-leaning, African-American Von has always cut across the grain. His even-tempered style couldn’t be more different than that of Mark Belling or Charlie Sykes or even WNOV’s last high-profile host, former Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee. Still, Von doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind: Two days after the massacre of nine black people at a South Carolina church, he called it “the oldest form of terrorism that this country has known: a white supremacist attacking or terrorizing black people.”
‘Local Wit’ appears in the August 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
The August 2015 issue is on newsstands August 3.
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