Photographs by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Mr. American Values
WGMD’s Dan Gaffney admits that what he does results from a personality disorder.
As a kid, he made pals tie him with rope so he could make flashy escapes. “The danger was that you’d be left in a closet tied up forever,” he says. “It was OK. It was entertainment.”
Monday through Saturday, Gaffney wakes listeners across Delmarva at with the national anthem, then follows it with a show that packs more jolt than Starbucks.
Today’s subject: ethanol. “We’re getting ripped off,” Gaffney says. “They mandate this kind of gas, then it destroys our boats and Jet Skis. Who’s responsible?”
Fans eat it up. Local bloggers eat him alive. “I consider those blogs a badge of honor,” Gaffney says. “People can’t understand that you don’t want to wallow in the filth with them. I used to be one of those malicious, nasty, mean guys.”
A self-described traditionalist (read: conservative Independent) whose main theme is the erosion of American culture, Gaffney runs a “populist” show. He has defended religion’s place in the Indian River School District, exposed a local kid’s pro-gun MySpace profile, and was influential in the canning of a Cape Henlopen teacher who, in his remarks during the 2005 commencement, basically congratulated students for their partying.
His moments of righteous indignation are balanced by genuine concern for the community. “For the kids’ sake,” he says, “hang on to the values the World War II generation gave us.”
A native of Akron, Ohio, Gaffney joined WGMD in 1986. To him, talk radio is akin to watching a stunt guy.
“You’re entertained if he makes the jump,” he says, “or if he crashes.”
“The Dan Gaffney Show”
5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays
6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturdays
92.7 WGMD FM
Rebel With a Cause
WDEL show host and car aficionado Rick Jensen is a lot like the 1964 427 Cobra he wishes he owned: hybrid, high performance, misunderstood.
Jensen was always a rebel. He would have been accepted to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism had it not been for his cartoon mocking the school president though he did earn a degree from the university. And he would’ve been a liberal, had a favorite candidate not “pimped the
“I was one of these wild-eyed liberal maniacs who wanted to write for the Village Voice,” Jensen says. “And then as I got older, I learned better.”
Older was about 29, when Jensen became versed in the conservative writings of William F. Buckley Jr., among others. He can quote Benjamin Disraeli verbatim. He considers himself a conservative Republican.
Jensen is part frat boy, part company man. “You’re managing, guiding and directing co-workers but in the process, you yourself are being managed, guided and directed by them,” he says. A minute later he’s hurling balls of paper at his guests.
Jensen is opinionated but rarely resorts to finger wagging. He helped an Elsmere caller expose a drug trafficking problem. He gave much airtime to mechanic Ed Osborne, the poster boy for Wilmington’s eminent domain mess.
Jensen melds his two pet peeves in the chat: cronyism (his take on The Delaware Way) and the legislature’s exemption from the Freedom of Information Act.
For Jensen, justice boils down to the First Amendment.
“You can call in and have thousands of people hear why you think Ruth Ann Minner is the worst governor, and she is not allowed to come in, unplug your phone and turn off the radio station,” he says. “However, she is invited to come on the air and say why you’re wrong.”
“The Rick Jensen Show”
1150 WDEL AM
A female caller is reaming out WILM’s John Watson for defending President Bush.
“Why don’t you just give him a blank check, John?” she says. “Then he can spend all our money.”
Watson pushes the cough button, clears his throat, then shoots back, “What kind of Kool-Aid have you been drinking?”
Watson, a broadcast veteran of three decades who has worked at WILM for 22 years, comes across like a judge. He cuts off callers who make unsubstantiated comments. “I do my research,” says the registered Independent. “Those ad hominem comments don’t go over with me.” And he has no patience for racist jabs.
Watson holds certificates in
announcing and engineering, and
he is proficient in Morse code.
A radio operator for the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he was, like many minorities, denied promotions.
He credits his mother for teaching him compassion, despite the injustices he and other African-American kids endured growing up in Farmville, Virginia.
A student in April 1951, Watson joined a strike that led to Davis v. County School Board, which became part of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Years later Watson returned to Farmville as chief engineer and newsman at WPAK. In 1979 CBS reporters interviewed Watson about the 25th anniversary of Brown. When Lita Cohen of the former WWDB in
Given his experiences, Watson could’ve been our most biased radio personality. He is, instead, our most balanced.
“You’ve got the liberal radio network and the conservative guys,” he says. “I’m just glad I’m neither one.”
“The John Watson Show”
9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. weekdays
1450 WILM AM
Uncle Sam costume and Judge’s robe Courtesy of The Costume Company