When Dick Kay called it quits in 2006 after 38 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, the veteran political editor and reporter had no particular plans for his retirement.
A brief stint working to promote then-Governor Rod Blagojevich’s health care plan seemed to signal the end of Kay’s long and illustrious career in broadcasting. But in March 2008 an opportunity beckoned to do radio any way he wanted.
Next week marks Kay’s 10th anniversary as host of “Back on the Beat,” a weekly talk show on local and national politics (and whatever else catches his attention), airing from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays on Newsweb Radio progressive talk WCPT AM 820.
At 81, Kay is as sharp and feisty as ever. Not a bad run for Richard Snodgrass (his real name), a Bradley University G.I. Bill graduate who was born in a log cabin in rural Tennessee and went on to become a Peabody Award-winning newsman.
“Doogie,” as Kay is known to friends, reflected on his latest media milestone:
Q. Wow, has it really been 10 years for you on WCPT?
A. Yes. Hard to believe, huh? . . . I’m really enjoying it. Back in radio where I started. Imagine three hours of air time to talk politics. Progressive politics is a nice fit for me. Best of all no one tells me what to say or how to say it. I just use common sense. Gotta admit there’s a lot of freedom there.
Q. It’s like you’ve had a surprise second act.
A. Not many people get a second career in the world of broadcasting. I’m grateful. It’s only once a week, which is not all that significant, but it sure helps keep me from being bored in my retirement. Since it’s a call-in show you have be conversant on a broad range of topics. TV viewers don’t talk back. I never know what to expect. It’s been a learning curve. I especially had to learn how to deal with the occasional haters who call.
Q. How do you prepare for the show?
A. I try to stay current on the issues of the day, which forces me to read the newspapers, use the Internet and other means of research to allow me to have reasonably intelligent conversations with listeners. Institutional memory from my years in TV is a blessing.
Q. Still having fun?
A. I get out of the house on Saturdays, and the small stipend keeps me in cigars. And once in a while I get to invite friends to join me on the show. What could be better?
Q. Anything special for your 10th anniversary show next week?
A. Nope. I have nothing special planned. I’m just having fun. Don’t know how much longer our listeners will put up with me, but when a majority tire of me I’ll quit doing it. I’m not obligated in any way. I do it because I love it.
Q. Here’s to 10 more years, Doogie!
A. Thanks. Don’t wish that fate on me. I can’t do another 10 years. No one wants to hear from an old fart that old!
Tuesday’s best comment: John O’Loughlin: The folksy fake personality [Allison] Rosati plays is beyond irritating.