Dan Rea’s radio days

I’ve got a profile of Dan Rea in the new issue of CommonWealth Magazine. Rea, a longtime television reporter at WBZ-TV (Channel 4), is now the host of the talk show once helmed by the late David Brudnoy and Paul Sullivan at WBZ Radio (AM 1030). “NightSide with Dan Rea” is an oasis of civility in the talk-radio wars. But can it work in today’s caustic environment?

Rea’s got some tough things to say about the state of local TV news, telling me, “It was very clear to me that there was a direction of television news that was not going to be reversed, and I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to continue doing television news as I was doing it.” He added:

Local television news is one of the great purveyors of racism of our time. They don’t understand that. But if you are somebody who lives out in one of the 128 or 495 suburbs, and never have a reason to really interact with people of color, the only time you’re going to see young black males is when they’re being arraigned, they’re being arrested, or they’re dying in the street. We ignore the 99 percent of the kids in that community who are trying to do the right thing, trying to go to school, trying to participate in community programs and athletics.

Rea is probably best known for his years-long efforts on behalf of Joseph Salvati, wrongly convicted of murder because of the false testimony of a government-protected witness.

Dan Rea replaces Paul Sullivan

No surprise, but it’s good news that veteran journalist Dan Rea has been named to replace the late Paul Sullivan as the evening talk-show host on WBZ Radio (AM 1030). Rea will continue in the tradition of Sullivan and his predecessor, the late David Brudnoy — that is, he’ll host a show where the conversation is civil, and where news and interviews take precedence over ideology.

Now, as Brudnoy always said, if we can only get the Bruins off WBZ, we’ll be all set.

(Via Universal Hub and the Herald’s Messenger Blog.)

Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan has died. I heard it on the way to work this morning on WBZ Radio (AM 1030), where he had hosted a talk show until his illness forced him to step down in June. Sullivan was also political editor of the Lowell Sun. Here’s a rundown of the coverage:

— “The Sullivan Family and the WBZ family lost a real treasure,” says the station’s news director, Peter Casey. “Paul Sullivan brightened up every room he ever entered and every life he ever touched. Right now, our thoughts are with Paul’s wife and their five children and Paul’s extended family.” (WBZ Radio)

— “Paul Sullivan, the irrepressible veteran Sun columnist, popular radio talk show host and educator who turned his battle with cancer into an example of the bravery and grace with which such epics can be fought, has died.” (Lowell Sun)

— “His handling of his illness was a classic insight into the man,” says WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and radio political analyst Jon Keller. “He refused to make a spectacle of it and downplayed it with self-effacing humor.” (Boston Globe)

— “God gave us in eight years what most don’t have in 80,” says Sullivan’s wife, Mary Jo Griffin. “Paul came into my life and taught my girls by example how they should be loved by a man. I’m most grateful for that. I think he is at peace.” (Boston Herald)

I did not know Sully well, but his demeanor was such that you would think you’d known him your entire life. Every so often he’d call me out of the blue and ask whether I could come on his show to talk about a media topic. It was always a welcome invitation. Sully’s style — like that of the late David Brudnoy, whom he replaced in 2004 — was to let you have your say, but at the same time to challenge you if he thought you were laying it on a little thick.

Ironically, and tragically, Sully attained his greatest professional success just as he was beginning what would prove to be a long battle with melanoma. Sullivan learned he had cancer in late 2004, just before Brudnoy himself died of cancer. Sullivan, who’d been a late-night host and frequent Brudnoy fill-in, got the coveted 8 p.m.-to-midnight slot — as Brudnoy had wished — and filled it with distinction during the short time he had left.

Media Nation’s thoughts go out to the Sullivan family and to his professional families, WBZ and the Sun.

The latest on Paul Sullivan

Earlier today local media folks received the following statement from Peter Casey, news director at WBZ Radio (AM 1030):

Statement on behalf of the family of Paul Sullivan:

We all want you to know how much Paul has appreciated the cards and calls during the last few months since giving his evening talk show on WBZ Radio. They have been very comforting during these summer months. We also want to express how grateful we are to the terrific medical team at Massachusetts General Hospital for their amazing care and treatment of Paul during the past 33 months.

At this point we have decided to end medical treatments for Paul’s cancer and focus on his comfort and quality of life. He will be in the hospital for the foreseeable future receiving hospice care. We feel he will be most comfortable here at Saint’s Memorial Medical Center in Lowell, the city where he spent so much of his life. Paul is surrounded by his family and friends and would like everyone to know how important all the thoughts and prayers have been to him.

Very sad news. Sully stepped down in June, but at the time he and the station held out some hope that his health would improve to the point where he could do some radio commentary. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

Best wishes to Paul and his family at this difficult time.

Tribute to Sully

Because I was on duty in Maine last night, I missed Paul Sullivan’s final show on WBZ Radio (AM 1030). So I really enjoyed Jon Keller’s tribute on Channel 4. For some reason, I’m unable to generate a direct link, but it’s easily found here.

You can also find Sullivan’s last show in two parts on the WBZ home page, and I’m going to give it a listen.

Best wishes to Sully.

Best wishes to Paul Sullivan

WBZ Radio (AM 1030) program director Peter Casey has sent along this letter from talk-show host Paul Sullivan:

To my friends and colleagues at WBZ News Radio 1030:

After a two and one half year personal battle against cancer, including four brain surgeries, it’s become clear to me that it’s unfair of me to ask my support group, my wife Mary-Jo, my family, my friends, my WBZ colleagues, to continue to bear this burden. The toll my surgeries and treatments have taken on me makes it unlikely that I will ever have the energy to return to a four-hour daily talk radio program. This decision is not based on any one medical fact or the latest update of my condition. The fact is that WBZ deserves the best team on the field and as of this moment with my condition I would not be the best teammate to take the field. However, I’d like to contribute to WBZ in some fashion with either commentaries, or writing for the station’s web site, or take part in the station’s political coverage.

I will always remain a part of the WBZ family and am honored to have followed David Brudnoy doing a night time talk show on WBZ. But for the time being my health is going to be my focus, my full time job. I will still be keeping any eye on politics, on Beacon Hill, the fifth congressional district in Lowell, and elsewhere.

On a day to day basis I feel fine. I am up and alert and going out for lunches and walks when I can. I don’t need constant care but what my illness and treatments have taken from me is the energy needed to do my show five nights a week. I’m not sure if I can let local or national events pass by without some commentary from me. So with that in mind I look forward to doing one last regular show on WBZ next week to get a chance to remark on the world that has been uncommented on by me during the last seven weeks.

My best regards,
Paul H. Sullivan

Casey adds that Sullivan’s final program will be broadcast on Thursday, June 28, at 8 p.m., and that the station is not ready to announce its plans for Sullivan’s 8 p.m.-to-midnight time slot.

Sullivan’s other professional home, the Lowell Sun, reports on his departure here. You can also listen to Sullivan talking about his decision here.

The 50-year-old Sullivan is a class act and a rare voice of civility in Boston talk radio. It would be wonderful if he recovers to the point where he can resume a regular shift. But, regardless, Media Nation sends along its best wishes.