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Rod Gelatt gave radio conversations life

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:38 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

That dark chocolate Barry White voice and journalistic integrity will be missed with heartfelt sorrow.

There was a retirement party for Rod Gelatt, professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism. His soothing baritone voice that quietly led the conversation on KBIA/93.1 FM's "Views of the News" on Wednesday evenings for at least a dozen years has retired.

Rod told me that with more than 100 past commentators, his home is just too small to accommodate more than 200 possible guests along with spouses and partners. More importantly, there would be too many people for everyone to be involved in the conversations of the evening. So there was a party on Saturday and on Sunday.

The second gathering was a small yet wonderfully lively bunch. The Gelatt living room was filled with journalists and writers — and the partners of journalists and writers — voicing opinions and emotions. And we talked.

We talked about the election, the financial crisis, education. We talked about the School of Journalism and the future of the printed paper. We talked of the new methods of reporting the news via Web sites, blogs and twitters while defining the terms for those new at that game. We talked about when a "journalist" is a journalist, and when does a reporter's blog site become a news reporting site instead of a place for the reporter to "blow off steam?" All the while Rod, with that wonderful voice, sat just outside the circle of friends and colleagues and listened, occasionally directing the conversation as he did on air.  

I talked too much. I can still learn from Rod.

Working through his last retirement, Rod made sure "Views" was produced with a level of professionalism that would be heard in the big city, and rightly so. Many MU School of Journalism alumni, who were former Gelatt students, are working in big cities across this country and planet. Rod has taught them what "journalistic professionalism" truly means.

Rod's research before the Wednesday morning recording sessions was precise and focused. His selection of "guest commentators" made for a lively discussion on Wednesday evenings. Yet it was Rod's personality that made "Views" much bigger and better than the sum of the of its parts — a synergy of ideas and people.  

I am one of the few commentators who does not work for the J-School or the university. I am a citizen journalist, a commentator for the paper, an "outsider." Rod respected my opinion and invited me to join the club. I truly felt honored.

Meeting the "voice" of "Views" is at first something of a disappointment. Rod is shorter than his wonderful voice would lead you to picture. You learn soon that he is a giant in the world of journalism. In the top floor studio of Jesse Hall, he brought light to the "cave." There are no windows, just some sound proofing and a double door to the hall. No sound booths, just an old small conference table with four chairs facing four microphones. No fancy clocks on the wall to count down the 28 minutes, 30seconds of recording time, just fingers waving in the air as we were getting close to the end. Most important, no "re-dos" of opinions or positions. You heard the show as it was recorded. We had a conversation with each other and you, the audience. Rod brought those conversations alive.

Audiences are a strange entity. They listen and laugh; they cry and argue with the radio or television. Occasionally, they will write complaining or correcting but rarely do they write good wishes or praise. Yet I know one thing:Rod Gelatt, we all — audience, guests and students — will miss you and your voice and we all wish you the best as you entertain your next venture. 

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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