The Howard Eskin Mess

The Howard Eskin Mess

      A shocking story went viral late July 1 when legendary broadcaster Howard Eskin was banned from Citizens Bank Park for the rest of the Phillies season after an accusation of inappropriate behavior with a female Aramark employee. Wow.

     Audacy, the company that employs Howard at WIP, suggested the punishment after a two-month investigation into the allegation. Double wow.

     According to many reports, Howard attempted to kiss the stadium worker, even after she attempted to back away. It happened in May in the CP Rankin Club, an exclusive area inside the ballpark. There are no more details.

     My contentious history with Howard goes back three decades, and I am fully aware of the glee all of the Eskin-haters are expressing in the aftermath of the report. (I have been inundated with emails and text messages.)  I will not join that chorus. I have no idea what really happened. It would be ridiculous for me to speculate.

     Instead, I would like to address the way Audacy and WIP are handling the situation because I disagree with both major public moves they have made so far. If I were still there, I would have fought hard to take a very different approach.

     First of all, Audacy proposed the punishment, but did not suspend Howard. Huh? If the accusation is true – especially in this cancel-culture climate – there is no way Eskin’s show should continue without at least a significant hiatus. The fact that Audacy proposed the ban suggests the company sees some merit in the accusation.

     You can’t have it both ways. Either he committed a serious ibreach of conduct or he didn’t. The ballpark ban says he did. The lack of a suspension says he didn’t. Which is it?

     An even bigger mistake in judgment is WIP’s current position not to discuss the matter on the air. It violates the basic principles of talk radio, and – even more important – it is disrespectful to the audience.

     I have always believed media organizations do not have the option of saying “no comment” because of the very nature of their work. They depend on everyone to comment, and even more so during crises. If WIP won’t discuss its own scandal, why should the next team or player do so when it’s their turn?

     The entire city is talking about the Eskin mess right now, but not the station where he developed his reputation? It’s a place where people talk, non-stop, 24 hours a day. The dumbest thing a talk station can do is not talk.

     So how would I have handled this situation?

     The same way I did my whole career, including all the way back to the time Howard was involved in another crisis when he sent roses to a woman whose husband reacted by killing her. (To the best of my knowledge, these are the only two issues involving Howard and women in his long career. It is not a trend.)

     Back then, in 1997, I said pretty much what I did earlier in this post. I didn’t know any of the particulars behind the scandal, but I knew that people wanted to talk about it. And talk they did. For days. Because that is the purpose of talk radio.

     When a player is involved in a major off-the-field issue, it fuels days of speculative, animated and sometimes reckless conversation. And then everyone has had his say. People move on to the next crisis.

     By placing Howard’s story outside the bounds of discussion, WIP (and Audacy) are not subscribing to the basic formula that made it a success. You can’t have one set of rules for yourself and an entirely different set for everybody else.

      I had a principle I followed every day of my 33 years at WIP: If in doubt, talk it out. My bosses didn’t always agree with that approach, but I never once regretted being open and honest with the audience.

     At this point, other than the usual corporate-speak, there has been no real response from Audacy, WIP or Howard Eskin. (No apology? No defense? Nothing?)

     Hey, colleagues. You make a living by talking and letting callers talk.

     This is definitely not a good time to clam up..


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