News pieces on talk radio hosts are always interesting to read since there is usually an abundance of material with which to work. These people talk for a living, usually three or four hours a day, and thousands of people listen to them. Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times had an interesting and potentially compelling piece on Iowa's Jan Mickelson. As you can see in this YouTube clip, Mickelson and the presidential candidate had a bit of a dustup over Romney's church early last month. One might think that Mickelson has some significant things to say about his own beliefs.
Over the course of the 2,000-word piece, Barabak hints at this religious angle to Mickelson, who used to sort pig carcasses for a living, but he never fully explores the matter:
It was a few years later, while living in Minnesota, that Mickelson first thought of a radio career. By then he was married; Mickelson met his wife in speech class at a small Baptist college in Wisconsin. (The couple celebrated their 37th anniversary in June.) One day, while Mickelson was working at a gas station in St. Paul, a customer mentioned he was going to broadcasting school in Minneapolis. "The light bulb went on," Mickelson said.
When the "small Baptist college in Wisconsin" wasn't named, I didn't get my hopes up about this piece's attention to religious issues. When did it become a journalist's job to provide less information to the reader? I don't care how small the place was or that this is an L.A. paper. Why can't we be given the name instead of a lame description? A quick Google search gives us a possible choice in Maranatha Baptist Bible College, but we can't know for sure.
If you watch the YouTube video, you will see that Mickelson has a few things to say about religion. Check out the portion around the 12-minute mark. And here's more about the self-described Christian libertarian:
Most Iowans live in cities. However, there is plenty of space in between -- long stretches of interstate, endless acres of corn and soybeans -- where the radio offers a welcome companion. From his perch here in the studios of WHO-AM (1040), Mickelson reaches about 350,000 Iowans a week, twice the audience of his closest competition. That may be a pittance by big-city standards. But for a Republican campaigning in Iowa, which traditionally holds the first vote of the presidential race, the program is a must-stop -- and a pathway strewed with hidden perils.
"I wouldn't suggest that Jan is a kingmaker," said Steve Grubbs, a pollster and former chairman of the state GOP, who found nearly two-thirds of Iowa Republicans listen to talk radio. "But I would suggest he has the avenue you need to become king."
There is no mistaking the program's rightward tilt: Christianity, small government, free markets and sealed borders are good. Islam, teachers unions, the welfare state and the gay-rights movement are bad. But the host, a registered independent and self-described "Christian libertarian," is just as apt to fault President Bush ("very disappointing") and criticize former Massachusetts Gov. Romney for changing sides on abortion ("He's taken a pro-life position, but he's not a pro-lifer") as he is to lampoon liberals ("I emote, therefore I am").
Mickelson's style includes opposing abortion, criticizing homosexuals ("A few years ago there was talk of a boycott -- which fizzled -- when he called the gay support group at a local high school a 'sodomy club'") and urging governors and presidents to disregard, in the spirit of Andrew Jackson, Supreme Court decisions they don't like. I would really like to know more about Mickelson's religious beliefs because they matter in giving an accurate depiction of a person who spouts his views for a living.
Photo by Paul Morse, The White House.