Chris Plante on the interactivity of radio talk shows ~
“We are the original interactive media. We invented interactive.”
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town. This is Andy Ockershausen. Our guest today, unlike most of Our Town have been, are native but he’s not a native. He’s a relative newcomer, but he’s not really a newcomer. He’s been around. He started out on WMAL here in Our Town with a local broadcast, and now he’s being heard all over America. He’s on Westwood One, he’s a regular on Fox News, but he’s not a baby when it comes to Washington politics or holding his own in a room full of liberals.
He’s had a lot of experience growing up in a media family in Chicago, a family of Democrats so I hear. His mother and grandfather were on radio and television, and his stepfather is still in the news business. He’s been 20 years at CNN and they’ve been preparing him for his daily talk show, and the most popular radio show probably on WMAL radio is The Chris Plante Show, and welcome to you, Chris Plante.
Chris Plante: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
A Ockershausen: Our Town.
Chris Plante: Yes.
A Ockershausen: You’re a big part of Our Town. You, let’s say, copted Our Town because not many people do what you do on radio.
Chris Plante: I never wanted to be part of this town, but here I am anyway. [Laughter] I got stuck here somehow.
A Ockershausen: You wanted to go back to Chicago where your family was so prominent, correct?
Family Legacy – Following in Their Footsteps “On Air” Radio and Television
Chris Plante: We moved around a lot truthfully. I spent most of my years, my formative years … I’m still in my formative years, in Chicago growing up, Glenview and Winnetka on the north shore of Chicago.
A Ockershausen: The gold coast.
Santa Barbara, California – College Years
Chris Plante: The Winnetka part certainly anyway. It’s very nice. I’ve been here for the majority of my life now though. I fled Chicago when I was 18 years old and went to Santa Barbara where the sun shines and a whole of lot of other things.
A Ockershausen: You went to school in Santa Barbara?
Chris Plante: I went to school for a very long time. I never finished, but I went to school for a very long time.
A Ockershausen: UC of course?
Chris Plante: I went to Santa Barbara City College forever, and then I started at UC Santa Barbara. I was busy and I was married and I had a job and I lost interest, and I figured I already knew it all, so they didn’t have much to teach me, so I moved on from there. That’s when I went into the news business.
Winnetka, Illinois – New Trier Schools
A Ockershausen: In high school you were in Chicago, and then you moved west …
Chris Plante: I did. New Trier West High School and …
A Ockershausen: Wasn’t Jack Benny from Winnetka, Illinois? Didn’t I hear that name?
Chris Plante: There are a lot of people from Winnetka. Donald Rumsfeld …
A Ockershausen: Famous name.
Chris Plante: The New Trier school system, Charlton Heston and Ann Margret and Rumsfeld …
A Ockershausen: Northwestern.
Chris Plante: All kinds of people. My mother went to college at Northwestern. One of my younger brothers went to college at Northwestern.
Chris Plante’s Mother and Grandfather “On-Air”
A Ockershausen: Your mother was in the broadcast business when you were growing up, when you were in school?
Chris Plante: My mother’s father Pat Barnes who was not a liberal, he was a good conservative, but I didn’t realize that. I didn’t learn that until I started doing the radio show here at WMAL. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was in the radio business from the time that he came home from World War I. He fought in the army in World War I and France, and when he came home he got into the radio business.
When my mother was seven years old, she was already doing radio shows in New York, National Broadcasts. I have a recording of one of them from Christmas Day 1937 from the New Amsterdam theater in New York, New York with my grandfather playing two roles in sort of a dramatic radio staged play sort of thing and my mother playing the daughter of the Irish fugitive and the police were on the hunt for the fugitive. I do have a recording …
A Ockershausen: It was drama.
Chris Plante: It was …
A Ockershausen: Radio was great because that’s what you could imagine that’s what it was about.
Chris Plante: It really was theater of the mind, before television and movies were silent. In 1937, they had sound by then, but my grandfather certainly was doing radio before movies had sound and my mother was doing it … She worked in the radio business growing up. She worked in the television business when I was a child. Long and tortured story, but my mother married Jules Orteig, had four sons. I was the fourth, and my father died when I was five months old, so my mother was a 30 year old widow …
A Ockershausen: You never knew your father.
Chris Plante: … With four boys. That’s correct. We all moved to where her parents were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My grandfather Pat Barnes was kind of at his retirement job at WISN there, and he was I guess the general manager or the public affairs manager at WISN. My mother got a show at the station. It was in the early 1960’s, one of these shows where her set was a kitchen. She sat there in an apron with a cup of coffee with the CBS eye on it and had guests and talked about household things because that was the era.
A Ockershausen: She prominent then? Was that show in Milwaukee or in Chicago?
Chris Plante: It was in Milwaukee.
A Ockershausen: The family, did they work in radio in Chicago also during the …
Chris Plante: They did.
WGN Chicago Radio
A Ockershausen: Chicago had so many great programs that we listen to in the East.
Chris Plante: You bet. My grandfather was on WGN in Chicago. He was on a variety of stations in New York. I guess it was all New York and Chicago, a lot of national broadcasts. He was the voice of the Dempsey Tunney fight out of Solider Field in Chicago, the national broadcast, so he did a lot of different things.
A Ockershausen: 100,000 people within the stadium.
Chris Plante: Just in the stadium, and it was the national broadcast.
A Ockershausen: It was all over the world.
Chris Plante: He was the voice of the national broadcast. He had a great career in radio and later in television. My mother from the time she was a small child until long after she had children, she still kept one foot in television throughout my childhood and my teen years.
A Ockershausen: Is your mother still alive?
Chris Plante: No, she …
A Ockershausen: She could not appreciate you now because she’s not here know how prominent you’ve become. I’m sure she’d be very proud of you.
Chris Plante: I’m really sad actually that she didn’t get to see my going into radio, her father’s business.
A Ockershausen: Oh my god.
Chris Plante: I really enjoy radio. I worked for CNN for 17 years. I had a great time, and I did good solid work, but the business was going south. CNN was going south.
A Ockershausen: Things change.
Chris Plante: I had to jump off that train before it went off the cliff. Then I found myself in radio. I’ve been having a riot. I just have a great time doing radio.
A Ockershausen: I recall Chicago radio, listening to stations, and I couldn’t believe what I’m hearing, the prices of hog and the prices of wheat. They were broadcasting that live to everybody in the Midwest who would listen to WGN, or WLS.
Chris Plante: Pork bellies … Hey, it’s the Midwest.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely. I’m not talking about a long time ago. I’m talking about in the 50’s. I listened to Chicago radio, couldn’t believe it.
Chris Plante: The commodities exchange is there, and it’s where all the hogs and the corn come from, generally speaking.
A Ockershausen: We copied the helicopter reports. The WGN did it with a policeman flying, and we did it at WMAL. Upset the market went crazy. One policemen flying in a helicopter with our traffic report. We copied WGN. That ain’t no bad place to copy.
Chris Plante: Did you have a helicopter, or did you sit here and slap your chest and go …
A Ockershausen: No, no … We had a helicopter.
Chris Plante: “Today over 270 we got a backup near the …”
Chris Plante – CNN
A Ockershausen: So many great things came out of Chicago and not least is which Chris Plante, but in all these years of your work with CNN, you have covered the Pentagon. I did not know that. I thought that was new to you, but you were a Pentagon correspondent for the network?
Chris Plante: I was.
A Ockershausen: A standup where you give the report …
Chris Plante: I did only at the end, my last year or so with the Iraq invasion in 2003. Again, I spent 17 years there, all of it based in the Washington bureau.
A Ockershausen: Is that North Capital Street? Is that where they were?
Pentagon Assignment and World Travel
Chris Plante: They’re off of North Capital where 111 Mass at 3rd and Mass when I started there, and then they moved over to 820 1st Street NE just behind Union Station, so I was always basically down on Capitol Hill. I was a general assignment utility guy, started as a researcher. I became an assignment editor, a field producer, then a beat producer assigned to the Pentagon. I spent 10 years about assigned to the Pentagon. My office was actually in the Pentagon and covered with Jamie McIntyre who was the on-air guy. I was the producer, but I was breaking all the news.
A Ockershausen: Right.
Chris Plante: Just kidding. Jamie and I were a great team and we worked together and we were very successful there. Our office was in the Pentagon for 10 years. I didn’t report to the bureau in the morning. I always went to the Pentagon. We covered the military and the intelligence communities.
A Ockershausen: You traveled a lot for the network?
Chris Plante: Yeah, I traveled a good deal. I spent a few months in Saudi Arabia in 1990 after the great Saddam Hussein invaded the 19th province of Kuwait. I was the director of the network pool operation in Dhahran which was where the whole network operation was based. Then when I was assigned to the Pentagon and I did some other travel political and disasters and plane crashes and things like that, but most of the good travel came with the Pentagon. When you say good travel, they never send you to Paris. They send you to Tuzla in Bosnia. You go to Hanoi and you go to Albania and places like that, Severodvinsk on the White Sea in Northern Russia.
A Ockershausen: It opened the world to you.
Chris Plante: Look, it was great. We got to Rome a couple of times, a little of this, a little of that, but a lot of travel, a lot of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, pretty thorough globe trotting thing.
A Ockershausen: That enlightened you in so many ways obviously to the world. You’ve brought back that to CNN, but you also brought it to your radio audience now, correct? You can talk on a lot of things, a lot of subjects. You’ve seen some of it.
The Pentagon on 9/11
Chris Plante: I certainly have got a good background in journalism for what I do now. Picking apart the abomination that is journalism so often today is one of my great pleasures. Also, I do bring the national security background, the intelligence, the military things. I know one of the things that was brought up was the September 11th attack. I was actually assigned to the Pentagon September 11th and watching the planes hit the buildings in New York at home while brushing my teeth, and then calling Jamie McIntyre on the phone who was driving in with his top down listening to country music on the GW Parkway
A Ockershausen: It was a beautiful day.
Chris Plante: Beautiful, beautiful day. I told him, “Hey, a plane just hit one of the towers in New York. You see it?” He said, “No, no. I’m listening to country music. If anything else happens, let me know.” I said, “Okay.” A couple of minutes later I called him back and I said, “Something else has happened. A second plane hit” This one was clearly an airliner, and we agreed. He turned his music down and we agreed that it was Al-Qaeda, that it was Bin Laden, that it was a terrorist attack and that it was on.
We had seen this coming some fashion or another for a long time. It was on as of that moment. I hopped in my Lincoln Town car and raced to the Pentagon. As I was pulling into the parking lot in North parking, the plane hit the Pentagon. It was on the far side of the building from where I was pulling in, but the explosion shook my car. The fireball that rose out of the Pentagon
A Ockershausen: The black smoke.
Chris Plante: Black and red fire ball that rose up. You were in the neighborhood that day too as I understand.
A Ockershausen: I was there.
Chris Plante: I made my way around. I got on my cell phone.
A Ockershausen: You were very close.
Chris Plante: I was, and I called into the CNN bureau and I said, “Hey, there was just a massive explosion at the Pentagon. Huge fire ball.” I couldn’t say that I saw the airplane because I hadn’t seen the airplane, but I had a pretty good idea what it was. I started making my way around the building, was nearly shot to death by a Pentagon police officer who had me get out and do a Kabuki dance and play Simon says and things for a while.
A Ockershausen: You look very suspicious.
Chris Plante: I’m a little swarthy.
A Ockershausen: Your Lincoln Town car.
Chris Plante: And my Lincoln townhouse. I had my headset on with my folding Motorola phone on my waistband. I got out of the car and who knows. I looked like I was wired for something. I get stopped at TSA all the time too, so I guess I just have that look. I need a little extra security, but I did get on the phone and call into the CNN bureau.
I said there was this explosion and the supervising producer there who I got on the phone said, “Are you kidding me? Do you know what’s happening in New York?” I said, “I do actually know what’s going on and what I’m trying to convey to you is that it’s also happening here, you see.” He said, “Oh, okay. That’s a good point.” Then they put me on the air by cell phone. As far as I know, and certainly on television and nationally, I was the first person to report that the Pentagon had been hit. I made my way around to the other side and saw Donald Rumsfeld coming out with a corner of a stretcher and …
A Ockershausen: He was trying to help.
Chris Plante: Was there when the wall collapsed, when the side of the building collapsed. He’s a great guy. I always liked Donald Rumsfeld very much. They say he’s another Winnetka boy and a New Trier boy.
A Ockershausen: You mentioned that.
Chris Plante: We have that connection.
A Ockershausen: The amazing thing about that plane, and I happened to see that Pentagon every time going … I was at Army Navy Country Club. The airplane, American Airlines, came right on top of us. We knew what it was. They had reinforced that side of the building. Thank God. If it had hit somewhere else, there would’ve been a much more of a disaster.
Chris Plante: It could’ve been much worse. They were in the midst of the renovation and 10 year, whatever it was, renovation of the Pentagon. That wedge had just been completed for the most part … The wedge next to it is where it collapsed.
A Ockershausen: Is that right? I didn’t know that. What did it do on the inside? Did it get to the inside ring at all?
Chris Plante: There are five rings. It made it through two and a half of the …
A Ockershausen: Didn’t get into the middle.
Chris Plante: Not all the way into the courtyard, but that’s a long walk.
A Ockershausen: That’s a lot of concrete. Chris, great story. Chris Plante is telling us about his career at CNN. We’re going to come back after a break and talk about his career as a prominent WMAL radio voice. This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town. Andy Ockershausen and I’m talking with Chris Plante, a man who needs no introduction but needs a lot of introduction actually. He is part of Our Town. For his reporting, and we were talking about the Pentagon and what happened with 9/11, he won an award, Edward R. Murrow Award, from the radio and television news directors, a very prestigious award. He won on the terrorists’ attacks on 9/11 and in 2015, he received the Reed Irvine Award for excellence in journalism.
9/11 Attack in the Pipeline
Chris, one of the things about in your coverage, I wonder if it was ever follow through. How can so many people be involved in this tragic day and not one word got out that they were going to do this? There were 20 people actually involved with airplanes. One of them got sick or something and couldn’t get on board. Did any research ever done … How can he have that thing quiet? It’s amazing.
American News Reporting – Satellite Phone
Chris Plante: They were very cautious in the way that they communicated. They operated out of very obscure locations. They communicated by courier because they found out, thanks to American news reporting, that we were listening to their satellite phone. Osama Bin Laden had a satellite phone and he used it to …
A Ockershausen: You could tap it.
Chris Plante: … Communicate liberally and we were tapped into it and we were listening to … Taken off the satellite, we were listening to all of his communications until there were a couple of reports in the United States that exposed the fact that US intelligence had the ability and was actively listening to his satellite phone. Guess what happened? They stopped using the satellite phone, so the American news media helped in terms of establishing good operational security practices for Al-Qaeda on the lead up to the attacks of September 11th. It was in the pipeline. That attack was in the pipeline for between five and six years from concept to execution.
A Ockershausen: Because the first attack was in ’93, correct?
1993 World Trade Center Attack
Chris Plante: At the World Trade Center with the truck bomb in the basement and six people murdered in that one. That plan was … It wasn’t a terrible plan, the truck bomb. Remember the truck? It was placed in a specific corner of a specific tower, and the idea was it would collapse that corner of the tower. That tower would fall over into the second tower killing 20,000 to 40,000 people. That was the big idea of that truck bomb. Didn’t work out on that occasion, but gosh, they just keep trying, don’t they? By the way …
A Ockershausen: They didn’t give up.
“They Are Not Done.”
Chris Plante: They’re not done.
A Ockershausen: That’s exactly where we’ve come to now. I’m sure you know that from all your acquaintances that still at the Pentagon that everybody’s on very alert. Anybody with any sense in the military got to be on alert.
Chris Plante: I know people in the intelligence community and CIA people. This is all very real. It’s very serious. It’s proceeding on a number of different tracks, but they’re playing the long game. You can expect more of this sort of thing and think nuclear in the long term and look at Iran and their nuclear weapons program which is still on course.
A Ockershausen: They’re making a bomb.
Chris Plante: They’re still working toward that goal, and these are not good guys, and they call us the great Satan and we’re the head of the snake, and they’re on a mission from Allah. Things don’t usually go well when you put those pieces together.
A Ockershausen: It’s a problem. It’s a lot of people. Then you got our friends in North Korea that can’t make automobiles, but they can make nuclear weapons. They let the southerners make the automobile.
Chris Plante: And the Iranians are in bed with them too. You find Iranian scientists present for the North Korean nuclear test and ballistic missile tests. Really the pieces are all out there. You don’t have to be a genius to put the pieces together.
A Ockershausen: That one is really, really evident that you got a major problem because those people are committed to do it.
FBI and CIA Communications “Stove-Piped”
Chris Plante: You say why were these 20 people and a bunch of cave dwelling troglodytes living in a prehistoric hell able to pull this off without our detecting it. We know that all of the pieces … We knew that there were a lot of the pieces in place back then, and there are long explanations associated with it. There’s Jamie Gorelick and the Justice Department and the Clinton administration, stove piped communication between the FBI and the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community, so domestic and international intelligence couldn’t share information.
A lot of the CIA and international collectors, intelligence collectors, had information on these individuals, but they couldn’t share it with the FBI in large part because, one, Jamie Gorelick, a woman working in the Justice Department, a key position, decided that it would be unholy. It was a separation of church and state thing according to her that intelligence at CIA couldn’t talk to intelligence at FBI and that the 9/11 commission fund was one of the great problems that we could have … short circuited . . . Bureaucracy is the one word answer.
A Ockershausen: Correct. I don’t think that that’s going to be that way anymore. I hope they’ve learned, and I hope and pray we do.
“Bureaucracy is the Bureaucracy.”
Chris Plante: Expect that it will continue to be that way. Honestly, expect that it will continue. Bureaucracy is the bureaucracy.
A Ockershausen: If you keep doing this same thing you get the same result, correct? Nothing new about that. In all your travels and all the things you’ve done, Chris, is anything … Because I know you spoke about it. Compared to what you have achieved and where you stand now in your career as a communicator, this has got to be an eye opener for you. People listening to you all over the country. They might have known you before CNN, but believe me, radio is more personal.
On Leaving CNN
Chris Plante: It is, and I have three hours, and CNN never had a show called The Chris Plante Show that went for three hours. I never wanted to be on camera. I never wanted to have a microphone. I never had a desire or a lust to do …
A Ockershausen: You were a producer.
Chris Plante: I was producer and I was great at breaking news. I was a great news guy. I just didn’t want to be in front of the camera. When the 2003 Iraq invasion came along, CNN came to me and asked me if I would go on the air in front of the camera because I was plugged in. I had all the connections in the Pentagon and elsewhere. I was knowledgeable. I know one airplane from another and one ship from another.
A Ockershausen: You knew the crews too, did you not? Did you work with the CNN crew?
Chris Plante: Sure. You bet.
A Ockershausen: That’s important.
Chris Plante: I was a good person to put in front of the camera. I just never liked being in front of the camera. When I left CNN and I left CNN voluntarily with a great buy-out, thank you very much, I was going to do a dozen other things. I had actually taken a job working for a Beltway bandit organization that was going to do information operations in Iraq. I had taken that job, I’d be working with the special operations commanded Tampa, in Tampa at MacDill Air Force Base, had already bought a condo in Tampa.
I had taken the job, and I was ready to go in. I wanted to jump in and do something for my country. Friends of mine who were former Green Berets were ramping up with an operation with a company. I’ll leave the company’s name out of it. We were going to be doing IO, information operations, in Iraq and perhaps beyond. There was a scandal, believe it or not …
A Ockershausen: What?
The Chris Plante Show – New Beginnings
Chris Plante: … With one of the Beltway bandit companies that was, god forbid, paying people in Iraq to write positive editorials in the Baghdad newspapers about the United States military and the United States of America. When Congress found out about that, they had to put an end to it. They put an end to anything positive being said about the United States or the United States military in Iraq. In the process, they put the kibosh on the operation that I had joined. Then I was once again without a job, a man without a future. I ran into Chris Berry at a party. Chris Berry was at the time the general manager of WMAL, but I didn’t know him.
A Ockershausen: Really?
On Meeting Chris Berry
Chris Plante: No, I didn’t know him. No, my best girl was talking to his best girl at a party. I was standing around with a drink in my hand looking around the room …
A Ockershausen: I thought maybe your stepfather had played a role in your …
Chris Plante: Oh God, no. Getting me here?
A Ockershausen: Yeah, the WMAL connection, but that’s not true. You told us that. That’s great. Chris Berry met you for the first time.
Chris Plante: Yeah, we spoke for five minutes, I kid you not, Chris Berry and I. We had never met. We spoke for five minutes. I still didn’t know what he did for a living. He said to me, tapped me on the shoulder and he said with his index finger, poke, poke, poke, and he said, “You need to come in and do a radio show.” I said, “Who are you, and what are you talking about a radio show?”
He said, “We’re going to have lunch tomorrow.” I said, “We’re going to have lunch tomorrow, are we? Okay, we’re going to have lunch tomorrow.” He gave me his card. I figure classic Washington blow off. We’re not going to have lunch tomorrow. In fact, he called the next day and he said, “Noon.” He named the restaurant. I went and had lunch with him. That was a Thursday I think. That Sunday I came in and did a radio show for three hours.
A Ockershausen: A call in show?
Chris Plante’s First Show on WMAL Radio
Chris Plante: Nobody told me it was a call in show. I didn’t know anything about call ins.
A Ockershausen: Three hours is a long time.
Chris Plante: Let me tell you something. I got a lot to say. Let me … honestly I didn’t know you were supposed to take calls. I don’t think I did take any calls on the first … I didn’t come in prepared to take calls because I went home after my lunch and I said to my best girl, I said, “You know that guy I met at the party the other night? Chris Berry?” She said, “Yeah.”
I said, “Turns out he’s the General Manager of a radio station up the street, and it’s the Rush Limbaugh station. He wants me to come in and do a radio show.” She said, “Are you going to do it?” I said, “I have nothing else to do on Sunday, so I guess I’ll go do a radio show. See what that’s about.” I said to her, I said, “I guess I better listen to some talk radio to find out what it is they do.”
A Ockershausen: Right. Good idea.
Chris Plante: As those words came out of my mouth I said, “You know what? That’s exactly what I should not do. I shouldn’t listen to anybody.” I didn’t listen to talk radio. Truthfully, I didn’t know what station Rush Limbaugh was on. I had a job. I was at work …not throwing cards into a hat.
A Ockershausen: It’s amazing.
Chris Plante: Just as those words came out of my mouth I said, “That’s exactly what I shouldn’t do because then I would either consciously or unconsciously mimic someone, and I didn’t want to do that. I’ll go in and I’ll do it and if it works then great. If it doesn’t then I’ll go sell arms in Africa or something. I went in and I did the show on Sunday and then Monday, Chris Berry called, asked if I come into the …
I’m holding my hand up like I’ve got a phone in my hand. Why am I doing that? It’s radio. He said, “Would you come into the station please?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” I hung up and I said to my best girl, I said, “I guess that was the shortest radio career in history.” Three hours on radio, and that was 11 or 12 years ago.
A Ockershausen: Chris discovered … How could he discover … He must have known you from CNN. He’s a very bright guy. Chris got around. He knew what was going on in town.
Chris Plante: It was like I was sitting on a stool at Schwabs or something. Obscure reference at this poin,t isn’t it?
A Ockershausen: How many people in the Washington area that we both know … Let’s have lunch sometimes which means BS.
Chris Plante: That’s right.
A Ockershausen: They say that to you, but it ain’t going to happen. I hear that all the time, and I know when people are giving me the … Therefore I don’t do that. I never say, “We’ll have lunch sometime.”
Chris Plante: Neither do I. I never have lunch anyway. I’ve never had lunch.
A Ockershausen: You work too hard. You’re exhausted at noon.
Chris Plante: When I worked at CNN, you lived on candy bars and cokes out of machines or you went down to the cafeteria in the Pentagon and had some mac and cheese military style …
A Ockershausen: Government issued.
Chris Plante: It was nothing good about that. I’m just not a lunch guy.
The Chris Plante Show WMAL Sea Cruises
A Ockershausen: When you travel with your number one girl who’s obviously responsible for most of your success …
Chris Plante: Clearly.
A Ockershausen: What are your plans? Are you traveling this year? Are you going to stay close to home?
Chris Plante: We have an annual sea cruise that we go on with listeners. I’m not sure this is number nine or 10 coming up this year.
A Ockershausen: Is that right?
Chris Plante: Yeah. We’ve really found a way to make it great.
A Ockershausen: You must’ve made a lot of good friends too.
Chris Plante: We have made a lot of good friends. We have a couple coming in town this weekend as a matter of fact. We’re going to …
A Ockershausen: You sail with them.
Chris Plante: We’re going to go to the Trump. We’re going to the Trump where I went last night as well just coincidentally.
A Ockershausen: Fabulous place.
Chris Plante: This year we’re doing Copenhagen to Stockholm with lots of great stops. Last summer we did the Galapagos Islands. We do a lot of Mediterranean cruises and Scandinavia.
A Ockershausen: Nine or 10 of them. You’ve seen the world then? All thanks to WMAL radio and CNN.
Chris Plante: No, they just send you to hellholes. They try not to get you killed and, by the way, we don’t have any body armor or gas masks for you.
A Ockershausen: We’re out.
Chris Plante: But have a good time.
A Ockershausen: Your travel has been an important part of your show because you see things and bring your unique perspective to your radio show which Janice and I happen to like very much. One of my problems is listening at nine o’clock is not a good hour for me because we have an office and that’s where we do some work.
Chris Plante: You got a job?
A Ockershausen: I got a job.
Chris Plante: People with jobs.
A Ockershausen: We better take a break here, Chris, because I’m getting unwound. This is Andy Ockershausen with Chris Plante.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
A Ockershausen: Talking with the star of WMAL radio Chris Plante. To me you’re a star, Chris.
Chris Plante: Thanks.
The Chris Plante Show Today
A Ockershausen: The thing that’s fabulous to me is the reach that you have achieved in a short period of time. I think 10 years is a short period to me from my years and what I’ve been through. I’m so please with you and your WMAL broadcast and your listeners. That’s how important you are. You are important to some people who depend on you and they listen.
Chris Plante: Look, WMAL and talk radio in general have very loyal listeners. We have great listeners. We have very smart listeners. We have listeners that are the envy. This is I’m not just blowing smoke, better the envy of talk show hosts all over the country. We have a . . . you name a subject area. National defense of intelligence and politics have been big things lately, but talk about meteorology, talk about quantum mechanics. There are people in our listening area who are experts in whatever the area is which could be daunting if you … I don’t find myself stepping in it because I admit what I don’t know.
A Ockershausen: Right, and you’re not challenged by it. You’re not afraid.
Chris Plante: No, I’m really kind of settled. I’m not worried about … My ego, believe it or not, is very much under control, and I don’t feel like I need to know the answers to all the questions. I open up the lines and the … I never do guests. I almost never do guests. I’ve done, in 10 years, you could count the guests that I have lined up and done on one hand. My guests are listeners.
A Ockershausen: They’ll respond to you.
Great, Smart, Funny, Clever, Thoughtful Listeners
Chris Plante: We have great, smart, funny, clever, thoughtful listeners who contribute to the show in ways that other hosts I guess rely on guests to do. I don’t think three hours is a lot of time every day. Some people might think that’s a lot of time. I …
A Ockershausen: You don’t have any trouble filling it.
Chris Plante: I run out of time every day before I run out of stuff.
A Ockershausen: I can understand that.
Chris Plante: That’s a fact, but our listeners … We have listeners from all over the world. We have … I’ve had calls from Germany and Italy and Russia and from Brazil and China because people listen on the internet having spent some time in Washington …
A Ockershausen: In or out of Washington, right.
Listeners All Over the World
Chris Plante: Three years in the military or some time in government or with a company, and WMAL becomes their station when they live here. When they leave, thanks to Al Gore and his amazing internet, peace be upon him, they’re able to listen to WMAL from anywhere in the world, and people do. I’ve got great listeners in Stockholm, Sweden that I visited with when we had dinner with them. We bought champagne. They recommended the hotel, the little boutique hotel.
A Ockershausen: Did you meet them on one of your cruises?
Chris Plante: We did. We always …
A Ockershausen: That’s enlightened you to the world too, the cruises.
Chris Plante: They’ve been great, and we build in our own travel around it. If we’re going to end up in Stockholm, we’ll spend another four or five days in Stockholm because we’re already there, and Copenhagen and Rome and Athens. Last year, we also had travel on our own. We went to Israel last year for a week before our sea cruise set out from Athens because it’s just … You’re in the neighborhood, right? We …
A Ockershausen: That helps you with your show to have the knowledge, and when you’re talking about Cairo you’ve been there. You’ve seen it. You know what you’re talking about.
Chris Plante: I’ve smelled it.
A Ockershausen: It’s in the news now. You felt it too, didn’t you?
Chris Plante: And Jakarta and Manila and …
A Ockershausen: Indonesia, oh my God. But you’re not intimidated by these bright people who call you up and disagree with you if they do, or agree. You can handle both, correct?
Producer: Michael Piercey
Chris Plante: I don’t know why anyone would disagree with me, but people do surprisingly enough from time to time. If you disagree with me and have a cogent point to make, Michael Piercey, producer of our humble show and call screener, he puts them to the front of the line. I go to the caller that Michael Piercey tells me to go to. I don’t pick randomly.
A Ockershausen: You let him do that. He’s got a good sense of what you are and what you’re doing.
Chris Plante: He’s great. He’s outstanding. He really is just great.
Disagreement v Disagreeable
A Ockershausen: I like the fact that you have disagreement but also the people aren’t disagreeable.
Chris Plante: Right.
A Ockershausen: Now you also have praises.
Chris Plante: The truth is when I started in talk radio I was probably more aggressive in the way that I approached it. Now quite honestly … I’m happy to let people that disagree with me voice their concerns, vent, whatever they want to do, on the air. That’s who we are. We’re talk radio.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Talk Radio: The Original Interactive Media
Chris Plante: We are the original interactive media. We invented interactive.
A Ockershausen: No question.
Chris Plante: Forget about the internet and everybody’s like … but it’s interactive. We’ve been doing that for so long on talk radio before it was cool, before anybody called it interactive. If CNN or ABC news had George Stephanopoulos took calls from viewers who said, “You’re so full of it and here’s why,” they’d have a very different Sunday show. They’d be checked all the time. We offer ourselves up to be checked by our listeners. It’s a beautiful thing.
A Ockershausen: Great relationships with your people.
Chris Plante: It’s so democratic. It’s just a wonderful …
A Ockershausen: I’m glad to hear you say that because I think the ultimate democratic form of radio is by play …
Chris Plante: Of all media.
A Ockershausen: Disagreements.
Chris Plante: Forget about radio. Of all media.
A Ockershausen: You’re right.
Chris Plante: They have these chat things online on some websites, but it’s not like talk radio where actually, you get the microphone. You’re in charge of the show. You get to say what you want to say. I let people talk … Some talk show hosts let somebody a sentence or two and …
A Ockershausen: Cut them off.
Chris Plante: Some people assume that their listeners are stupid. I assume that my listeners are smart, and I assume that my listeners have something to contribute, something worthwhile. You know what? They pretty much always do.
A Ockershausen: They make your show.
Chris Plante: They do. I agree. Also, another thing on the aggressive and yelling at people and all the stuff … I think it’s more fun to have fun. I think people enjoy a show where you have fun.
Talk Radio: Entertainment
A Ockershausen: It’s called entertainment.
Chris Plante: It’s called entertainment, that’s right. I used to be a journalist. I know the difference. I still use journalistic standards when it comes to news and information. I’ve very strict. I’m more strict than they are at NBC. I can tell you that much when it comes to news and …
A Ockershausen: We had a young man I worked with at Comcast Sportsnet and he said, “I’m a journalist.” I said, “You’re going to be out of work as a journalist. If you’re an entertainer, you’ll always be wanted, but as a journalist, you’re history.” I was right. He was gone.
Chris Plante: My favorite thing to hear from listeners is that they laugh when they listen to the show.
A Ockershausen: Have some fun. Rush Limbaugh, he’s fun.
Chris Plante: Why do people watch Johnny Carson and Stephen Colbert and John Stewart? Why is Bob Hope a household name? Because people like funny. People like to laugh. If you’re talking about mayhem and 20 trillion dollar debts and serious stuff, you need to laugh.
Chris Plante: My parents were World War II generation people. They came out of the Depression …
A Ockershausen: That was a big fight, you might know that.
Chris Plante: It was. It was pretty big. You look at my favorite movies from the 30’s, from the Depression, from World War II, are movies that make you laugh. Hollywood got that in the 30’s and 40’s when people were suffering the most to make people laugh.
A Ockershausen: Entertainment. Chris, you are just delightful. We are so glad that you’re in Our Town, but we’re double glad you’re on WMAL. You know how much that means to Janice and I, but it also means a lot to the audience. Those call letters still mean something. It always will. I’m so glad for you and for the city that the Redskins are going to at least have an audience now. People are going to be able to hear him. What a wonderful thing…
Chris Plante: And there’s never a game between 9 AM and Noon, so it’s …
A Ockershausen: That’s right. It’s the real Chris Plante Show. Chris, you’re wonderful. We thank you so much for being here. Chris Plante with Andy Ockershausen. This has been Our Town, and be listening to WMAL 630 on your radio dial.
Chris Plante: And 1059 FM.
A Ockershausen: I beg your pardon. That’s new to me.
Chris Plante: And on Al Gore’s amazing internet.
A Ockershausen: Thank you, Chris Plante. I love it.
Chris Plante: Thank you.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season Two, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook or visit our website at OurTownDC.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL radio in Washington DC for hosting our podcast, and thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.