Newt Gingrich is ready to become the latest celebrity to get a radio gig.
The former speaker of the House and Republican revolutionary is scheduled to launch five-day-a-week, 90-second taped radio messages on July 26 on topics ranging from health to high-tech. And, yes, there will be some talk of politics.
"I'll be the same kind of direct, uncensored, unedited guy, with the same style that occasionally got me into trouble," said Gingrich yesterday, adding that he will not use the show as a platform for any future runs for office. "I'll try to take on things in a kind of fearless way."
Called "Newt's Age of Possibilities," the show will be sold by Premiere Radio Networks, one of the industry's largest syndicators, which carries heavyweight clients such as Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Art Bell. The show hopes to debut on 10 as-yet-undetermined stations around the country, said Premiere President Kraig Kitchen, adding that he hopes a Washington station will be among the first 10. None of the likely local candidates to air Gingrich--all-news WTOP (1500 AM), business WWRC (570 AM), talk WJFK (106.7) or news-talk WMAL (630 AM)--have been contacted by Premiere, station representatives report.
Gingrich promises an eclectic mix.
"I'll do something on health every week, something on the Internet and computers, something on government and politics and on a citizen who's doing something really good who is a role model," Gingrich said, adding that he's modeling his show after Paul Harvey's long-running affirming broadcasts. "I'm not going to be a 90-second version of Rush. On the other hand, I reserve the right to delve into a particularly interesting headline."
Gingrich declined to say how much he is being paid for the show. He said he is not receiving a percentage of the show's advertising revenue--a standard radio practice for an unproven talent. His agent said a contract with Premiere will be signed within a week.
Since resigning from Congress after the November election, Gingrich has traveled the country making speeches, as well as working with think tanks and attending classes at Georgia Tech and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He said he sought a venue where he could share what he's seen and learned. He talked to his "old friend" Limbaugh, who put Gingrich in touch with Premiere.
Several radio hosts do condensed versions of their talk shows--Limbaugh and Schlessinger each do short morning updates before their daily shows. Few radio personalities, however, practice only short-form commentary. Veteran CBS newsman Charles Osgood files daily 90-second essays for "The Osgood File," which focuses on the news. Gingrich will adopt that first-person style and expand on it, said Sandy Montag, vice president of broadcasting at IMG, the New York talent agency representing Gingrich.
A few pols and celebrities--such as G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North--have successfully made the transition to radio. In between his stints as California governor and president, Ronald Reagan did radio commentaries. But many of the rest who tried are fading memories: Ross Perot, Mario Cuomo, Douglas Wilder, Joycelyn Elders and Gary Hart, to name a few.
Nevertheless, Gingrich could be a good gamble. A 90-second show will have little impact, positively or negatively, on a station's ratings, says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, which covers talk radio. And, if the show works, it adds another star to the station's lineup.
"He is very, very articulate talking about theories and abstracts and some of the concepts that conservative talk radio listeners are interested in," Harrison said. "What he wasn't good at was playing his own public relations properly. That, he blew. One can be arrogant and successful in the media."
CAPTION: NEWT GINGRICH
CAPTION: Gingrich: "I'm not going to be a 90-second version of Rush."