Clear Channel Drops Fixture of D.C. Radio

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005

For 35 years, Jerry Phillips has been the voice of the community on the radio in Washington. This week, Clear Channel Communications, which owns eight D.C. stations, shut down its public affairs department and let Phillips go, eliminating what some local charities called their main link to the public.

"We're taking a new direction," said Bennett Zier, Clear Channel's regional vice president. "Jerry is moving on."

Zier said his stations, which currently have no news staff, will add "personality-based news for our morning shows," including some public affairs content.

As WHUR's morning host in the 1970s and '80s, Phillips was a beloved, if sometimes corny, daily reflection of the black Washington of green-and-white awnings and people who regarded anyone whose family had been here less than a century as out-of-towners. For the past 13 years at Clear Channel, Phillips "was the main voice for the downtrodden and for small local organizations, whether it was traffic safety, drug addiction or the homeless," said Lon Anderson, the AAA Potomac spokesman and a frequent guest on Phillips's "Metro Talk" on Big 100 (WBIG) and WTEM.

"For small nonprofits like us, this is how we got our message out," said Diane Charles, director of Stop Child Abuse Now in Alexandria and host of "Raising Children Today," a program Phillips produced on DC101 (WWDC).

A fifth-generation Washingtonian, Phillips, who is black, often criticized outsiders such as Louis Farrakhan or Jesse Jackson for stealing the spotlight on local issues. "Radio's changing," Phillips said. "Local concerns get left out. I studied to be a priest, so I guess this has been my priesthood, trying to help."

Phillips said his last show, a Christmas special he was producing to raise money for the Capital Area Food Bank, will not air.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company