AJR  Drop Cap
From AJR,   March 2003

Everyone’s a Critic   

Charlotte mayor joins ranks of politicians who critique the media

By Cheryl Johnston
Cheryl Johnston is a former AJR editorial assistant.     

Watch out Charlotte journalists--there's a new media critic in town. It's the city mayor, Pat McCrory, and he may just be itching to give y'all a taste of your own medicine.

A four-term Republican, McCrory began a two-hour Sunday morning radio show on WBT-AM (1110) in February during which he devotes half an hour to analyzing the week's news. Talk shows, print stories, editorials--all are fair game. McCrory also plans to interview journalists, asking why and how they covered particular stories.

The local media say they could almost see this coming. According to Charlotte Observer columnist Don Hudson, McCrory is "very accessible and photogenic. Television and radio like to have him on." In fact, the mayor has been a frequent on-air guest on WBT shows, even pulling host duties in December so that the regular host could attend the station's Christmas party.

Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson caught one of Hizzoner's radio gigs while driving home. "He was really smooth," Tomlinson recalls. "I remember him saying that his shoes were off, feet were on the desk. He's a natural."

As word of his show hit the media, McCrory found that those who regularly dish it out are somewhat less skilled at taking it. "The media is more sensitive than politicians in getting feedback," he says, adding that a few reporters even "warned" him that they'd be tuning in, though others have requested to be guests on the show.

As both a news consumer and a news topic, the mayor says he's as ready as anyone to criticize. "I'm a target of the media every day," McCrory says. "Very rarely do they have outsiders critiquing them." A few issues he points to right off the bat: First, "They tend to cover the sensational," and second, "They try to simplify very complex issues."

Not unlike Jesse Ventura, the Minnesota governor who, aside from his former wrestling career, has made a name for himself by slapping the media around, McCrory hasn't been shy when he thinks his coverage is lacking. "He likes to respond to criticism of him, which is surprising because he gets very little of it," Hudson says. "I wrote a column about [the possibility of] him running again for mayor and I said, 'He uses the local media like his own private PR agency, is funny and quick on his feet.' I meant it as a compliment, and he took umbrage with it."

That said, McCrory doesn't exactly hit Ventura's press-tirade level. "He's one of those guys who, when he gets angry, he gets angry in private," Tomlinson says.

Plus, McCrory wants the show to be respectful. "This is not going to be a shouting match," he says. "It's going to be a conversation."