On June 26, 1980, Bruce DuMont launched a new kind of political talk show on Chicago radio.
“Inside Politics,” as it was called, began as a 13-week experiment on Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM. The idea was to bring together political operatives and experts of various persuasions for a free-spirited weekly discussion of the news, politics and public policy.
Forty years later DuMont, 76, is still at it, presiding over “Beyond the Beltway” (as it was retitled in 1994) from 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays on north suburban Evanston Broadcasting news/talk WCGO 1590-AM/95.9-FM.
“When I started to make a list of all the big stories in the political evolution we have covered in four decades, it’s pretty startling — both domestically and internationally,” DuMont told me on the eve of his milestone anniversary.
“I think the need for having a ‘Beyond the Beltway’ perspective of what’s happening in the United States and the world is even greater today than it was four decades ago — even though four decades ago there were just three big network news operations. But I still think there’s a thirst for something beyond the conventional wisdom that comes out of Washington and New York.”
Over the years DuMont has expanded the show to encompass national syndication and multiple other platforms.
“I’m happy we’re still doing it,” he said. “The evolution from public radio to commercial radio to cable television, over-the-air television and now the internet and Facebook and YouTube and satellite radio has been pretty phenomenal.
“We live in an era that between YouTube and podcasting, virtually anybody can have their own show. I think that’s good. I guess if I were starting it all over again I would be stepping into a media world that’s already set up for multiple platforms, which I’ve been able to operate on for four decades.”
With a presidential election less than five months away, DuMont wouldn’t hazard a guess about the outcome. But he’s proud of his prognostication four years ago.
“I am the only national political analyst of any kind that predicted that Donald Trump would win [in 2016]. I did that literally months before the voting because of the experience I have and just talking with people all over the country and sensing how that was evolving.”
But he insists that doesn’t make him pro-Trump.
“I think some people may misconstrue that,” DuMont said. “Virtually everyone in national media is quick to jump on Trump for doing everything. Granted, his own mouth gets him into a lot trouble, but there are sometimes when I think the President of the United States perhaps should be given the benefit of the doubt. If I call that to someone’s attention, I guess people would say that I’m pro-Trump. I try to be fair to him just like I try to be fair to everyone else.
“I consider myself a conservative who will speak out and have spoken out when Trump does something right or that I agree with or disagree with. I will call it out just like I have done for Democrats. He’s far from being a perfect vessel for conservative thought or efficient government.”
DuMont, who stepped down in 2017 as founding president of Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications, said he has no plans to give up the show any time soon.
“Hopefully ‘Beyond the Beltway’ as a program and as an idea will continue long after I’m gone,” he said. “I have no idea who might fill that role when the time comes, but if they have the same philosophy that I have and the same desire to be broad-based in the discussion of issues, that is what I would hope would follow after I’ve invested 40 years in it.”
Wednesday’s comment of the day: Jim Quint Sr.: I hate to say it, but beg Justin [Kaufmann] to come back [to WGN Radio]. I often criticized him, but everyone else beside him has been a snooze fest. Like I said, I often disagreed with him but his talents as a radio host are top notch.