Memories of Jammin’ 95.5: Detroit radio show goes on anti-bike rant

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Deminski and Doyle

A radio station in Detroit Michigan aired very dangerous and inflammatory remarks against people who ride bikes during a morning talk show yesterday (listen/download mp3 here). The situation reminds me of when a similar incident occurred on a local Portland station back in July 2006.

“How many people have seen a bicyclist and you would just love to lob something at their heads…”
— WCSX radio show host

In Detroit, on the Deminski and Doyle morning show on WCSX, Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle shared their feelings about sharing the road with bike riders. The nearly eight minute segment was shockingly anti-bike. The segment aired as a response to a recent article in USA Today outlining how more and more states across the country have passed laws to protect people who are riding bikes.

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What is a fitting end to radio saga?

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[P.K. on a bike ride.]
Photo: Chris Ryan
Willamette Week

We’re at a crossroads with the Jammin 95.5 situation and the community is choosing to venture down separate paths.

The choices are to either negotiate for a settlement and try to work with the station in good faith or to continue to protest by any means necessary until the tape is released and can be vetted by the authorities.

No matter how you feel, one thing is clear; the community response to this issue has already had an impact on the host and the station.

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Radio host sees other side after ride

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Going South on Broadway in downtown Portland

[A cyclist’s view of Broadway Blvd.]

As I mentioned last week, P.K.—the embattled radio personality for KXJM whose recent on-air comments got him into some hot water—went for a bike ride with a local reporter.

Yesterday, a commenter tipped me off that he talked about this ride on his show last Thursday. I just finished listening to the show via iTunes.

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Bike picnic goes peacefully as planned

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Bike Jammin picnic

When some cyclists got wind of a Jammin 95.5 picnic event at Grant Park on Saturday many in the community urged them not to attend. There was a concern that if any cyclists showed up it would just incite the radio station’s fans and tarnish an already tense situation.

Jasun Wurster disagreed. He thought a public park was the perfect place to peacefully demonstrate the community’s concerns about the situation, so he organized a bike picnic. Wurster set up a website with information and notified the Portland Police Bureau to make sure they were well aware of the situation and his intentions (they were).

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Sam Adams releases letter to the City on radio show comments

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Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams has just released an open letter to everyone in the City of Portland. Here is the text (or download the PDF):

To: The Public of the City of Portland
From: Commissioner Sam Adams
Re: Inflammatory Radio Comments

July 17, 2006

An open Letter to City of Portland:

It has been brought to my attention by several concerned members of the community that the 95.5 radio broadcast of “The Playhouse” on July 13, 2006 and July 16, 2006 included a number of inflammatory statements that could negatively impact the safety of Portland. These statements may have included sentiments that news of people dying is funny. It is not. The discussion included statements to the effect of:

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Program manager responds, wants to make amends

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I just got off the phone with Tim McNamara. Tim is the program manager for The Playhouse radio show and a partial owner of Rose City Radio, which owns KXL-AM and KXJM 95.5.

I assumed Tim had written me off as a rogue, backstabbing blogger (this is what I had heard from other journalists that had spoken with him), but I decided to send him and P.K. one last email to see if we could work things out. I got a call-back within minutes.

Tim admitted that when he heard the comments on Thursday’s broadcast he called the station right away. Tim was absolutely appalled that the show hosts clapped at the story of a cyclist being hit.

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Official response needed to alleviate tensions

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I am growing increasingly concerned that no official organization or agency has made a public statement about this situation.

I have received several emails and many comments about dangerous motorist/cyclist incidents in the past few days. Many cyclists feel they might be targets of drivers who are emboldened by comments made on the radio show and who are upset at the immense response and activism against their show from the bike community.

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Pressure builds as story coverage escalates

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The community response over anti-cyclist comments made on a morning radio show continues to grow. The story has moved far beyond Portland and what the show host called “this little underground website.”

  • Yesterday, my initial post was voted to the front page of Digg.com, one of the most highly-trafficked sites on the web. Since Friday it has been viewed over 9,000 times.
  • The situation has been noted in the KXJM Wikipedia entry.
  • The Willamette Week has chimed in, giving the story top billing in its just-released Murmurs column. We can expect several larger stories from the media in the days to come.
  • I have heard reports that the City of Portland, the City Council, and the Portland Police Bureau are very concerned about this situation will be making their feelings public in the coming days. They will also apply even more pressure to the station to make the broadcast available to the public.
  • Pressure is also building on the show’s advertisers as people are contacting them and asking them to reconsider their relationship with the station. So far, at least two advertisers, The American Red Cross and PGE Park, have responded.

I think the radio station is making things worse for themselves by not releasing the tape. The longer they wait, the more guilty they seem.

Credibility questioned while broadcast remains hidden

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The storm around The Playhouse radio show is gaining strength by the minute. It is simply amazing to see what a concerned and active community can accomplish.

On the other side, employees and supporters of the show question our credibility because most of us have not heard the original broadcast. I also have a feeling that elected and community leaders are waiting for the orginal recording to surface before weighing in.

I disagree. Even without hearing the original broadcast I think we have every right to move forward and continue to put civilized, non-violent pressure on the station, their advertisers, regulatory bodies, our elected officials, and so on.

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What should we do now?

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The situation with Jammin’ 95.5 and their Playhouse morning show continues to escalate. The posts have been linked to from all over the web, I have talked with the head of the League of American Bicyclists, the BTA, PDOT, and the local media. The word is spreading very quickly.

The problem is that I’m not sure where to go from here. This is where being the editor of this site gets tricky because I am both a community advocate and a journalist. While I want to do what’s in the best interest of the community, I also want to keep you informed as much as possible. The trick is to do this without inciting any more anger.

It’s a learning process for sure.

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