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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 01/26/2012

Mark Plotkin is out at WTOP


WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 5, 2011. WTOP's political commentator Mark Plotkin, left, talks to National Security Correspondent J.J. Green, second from left, while Judy Taub discusses today's assignments with anchor and reporter Neal Augenstein, right, inside the newsroom at WTOP. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post) (Astrid Riecken - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
WTOP news honcho Jim Farley confirms today that famed local radio personality Mark Plotkin is done at the local radio powerhouse. “We’ve parted ways,” says Farley. Was the parting at the initiative of WTOP? ”Yes,” says Farley. “He’s no longer with us.”

Plotkin, the spirited defender of D.C. voting rights, has been with WTOP for nearly ten years and has done a weekly show on Fridays that will be cancelled with his departure. Pressed for details on the matter, Farley opted for the manager’s personnel comment-exception clause.

Here’s the staff e-mail at WTOP:

We are cancelling the Friday Politics Program effective immediately.
WTOP and Mark Plotkin are parting ways.
We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Reaction to the news on Twitter ranges from “Whoa” to “wow” to ”WOW.” That’s because no one “parts ways” with Mark Plotkin. The guy has been an institution in this city since he started doing commentaries for local public radio station WAMU in the early 1980s, a move to journalism that followed a failed run for the D.C. Council.

In 1990, Plotkin became a full-timer at WAMU and contributed to the D.C. Politics and Government Hour, a show that later lost “and Government.” It would become required listening among local politicos. Plotkin and his co-hosts (the fair-and-objective Derek McGinty, then silver-tongued Kojo Nnamdi) pulled off a provocative and often news-making interview-cum-talk show. Guests ranging from the councilmembers to regional congressional officials could count on getting patted down by Plotkin on questions relating to D.C. statehood and political autonomy.

Plotkin bolted for WTOP in 2002. His bio page on WTOP.com is now blank.

Joel Oxley, the station’s general manager, said: “I’ve always gotten along with Mark really well and he’s a really talented guy. Mark did excellent work for us.”

That’s a telling comment, because today’s events are reportedly unconnected to the quality of Plotkin’s work. Two WTOP sources say that Plotkin’s behavior in the workplace is at the root of his separation from the station. On repeated occasions, say the sources, Plotkin has lashed out at fellow employees in ways that have disrupted the newsroom. One of the sources termed the explosions “a pattern.”

When asked about the reports of his eruptions, Plotkin declined to comment. As for the separation, he’s sticking to the talking points that WTOP is putting out: “We just parted ways; that’s it; so don’t even ask any other questions. It was a great tens years and there’ll be other things to do,” he says.

Friends of Plotkin’s have grown familiar with his moods. “He’s a volatile, voluble personality,”says Tom Sherwood of NBC4. “He does have strong feelings...Mark has blown up any number of times,” continues Sherwood, who says he has no information on what prompted the radio talent’s departure from WTOP.

In recent years, Plotkin’s ties to others in the D.C. press corps have frayed. When asked whether Plotkin has stopped speaking to him, Sherwood confirms that’s the case, but doesn’t return the treatment:. “I have not stopped speaking to him,” says Sherwood. “He utters a minimum word or two and then just moves on.” Mark Segraves, a WTOP reporter, has also moved to silent interactions with the acclaimed commentator. “I wouldn’t have this job or position that I hold in this town if it weren’t for Plotkin. It’s one of the greatest regrets of my life that our relationship has come to this.” And Harry Jaffe, longtime Washingtonian/Washington Examiner voice, says that he’s on non-speaking terms with Plotkin. “I don’t know how or why, but I must have [angered] him...at some point,” writes Jaffe via e-mail.

By  |  12:10 PM ET, 01/26/2012

 
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