10 Questions with ... Burnie Thompson
January 25, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Former U.S. Air Force Captain and college English Teacher. BA in Political Science from Cal State Fullerton, AA from Riverside Community College, Masterâ€™s degrees in Print Journalism from USC and in English from Penn State. Freelance writer with commentaries in The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Times, Orange County Register, and more than a dozen other publications. Joined WYOO (Talk Radio 101) in 2007.
1. What led you into talk radio? Why radio?
I began listening to talk radio in Los Angeles around 1995. Dennis Prager and Larry Elder talked about current events and enduring issues in entertaining ways that brought me clarity and understanding. I decided that I wanted to do the same thing for others. Radio is compelling because it is spontaneous -- anybody can call and challenge the host with a better argument. The medium can get an honest show closer to the truth.
2. Florida is a state made up of distinct and diverse societies; the Panhandle and Miami are, at least on the surface, wildly different, and the contrasts are all over the place (you don't have to go far out of, say, Tampa to be in a very different rural atmosphere). As a host targeting all of Florida, what things unite the population of the state? What are you finding are the common themes and opinions that transcend the regional differences?
Much like California, the regions and demographics may be different but people share similarities of concerns. Most people who listen to talk radio want to be informed, entertained and provoked. They want to know whatâ€™s going on. They want the opportunity to improve their lives. They want to make a difference. My show is like Florida -- s year-round town hall. Listeners get to know the governor, legislators, and other interesting people; and we get to hold them accountable to do what they said they would do under the Constitution. Listeners all over the state can link arms and get involved in things that are relevant to their lives.
3. Your career has jumped between seemingly very different, not always related pursuits. You've been a college instructor, taught and served as a public affairs officer for the Air Force, written for newspapers, and been a salesman before radio. What, if anything, did those various positions contribute to your radio career -- what lessons or experience did they impart to help you as a radio host today?
What can I say? I like variety! Actually, I like to share interesting things with my friends -- books, movies, ideas, etc. Each of my previous professions allowed me to share. But radio puts me in touch with more people. Working different fields == UPS, sales, the news media, academia, and the military -- gave me a deeper appreciation of American society. I come from a very working-class background and I enjoy connecting with all kinds of people.
4. What was your reaction to the calls for more civility and less "heated rhetoric" in talk radio and public political discourse post-Tucson? Is the discourse too hot, not hot enough, or just right?
First, letâ€™s establish that bad people do bad things regardless of what others are doing or saying; the horrific Tucson massacre had nothing to do with political talk. Second, I believe in free speech. I believe that in the marketplace of ideas, reason and logic win. Thatâ€™s what I try to do: I give reason a chance. My show is not so much about winning arguments as it is about pursuing the truth. And the only way to get to the truth is by inviting dissenting points of view. Itâ€™s important to read and listen to things that antagonize as well as confirm our beliefs. Only confirming our beliefs will cause atrophy; we wonâ€™t build strong intellectual bones unless we open your mind and challenge ourselves.
5. You've lived in California, Utah, and Pennsylvania before coming to Panama City in 2007. What surprised you most about Panama City? Was Northwest Florida what you expected it to be like?
I was surprised at how enlightened and warm the people are here. There are lots of military folks, retirees, tourists, and people who grew up here. This variety makes for a vibrant place to be.
6. Of what are you most proud?
Iâ€™m proud of rising from obscurity and earning the attention of so many listeners. Iâ€™m proud of applying hard work, self-improvement, and good cheer to the American Dream. That combination over time has allowed me to earn a living doing what Iâ€™m most passionate about: advancing freedom, teaching, and entertaining. I hope my little girls grow up seeing that you can live a life of passion while making a difference in America.
7. Who do you consider your mentors and inspirations in radio and in life?
Personally, my mom is the hardest working, most decent person I have ever seen. My father taught me that America is great. Don McCoy is my radio mentor who put me on the air; he has given me the freedom to create this show and the resources to grow. Historically, Iâ€™m amazed by George Washingtonâ€™s virtuous leadership, Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s philosophical writings, and Benjamin Franklinâ€™s wit and wisdom. I admire Winston Churchillâ€™s tenacious leadership, and Ronald Reaganâ€™s bold optimism. Philosophically, I was most influenced by Dennis Prager, Thomas Sowell, William Buckley, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, Frederic Bastiat, and Walter Williams. Finally, I learned how to compete by watching my favorite football player as a kid, Roger Staubach.
8. Look forward ten years -- ideally, what would you like to be doing then? What's your ideal future?
I just want to talk with as many people as I can, and champion the cause of freedom. If the show bursts at the seams in Florida, we can expand from there.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ____________.
...reading. Iâ€™m totally addicted.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: Donâ€™t wish it were easier; wish you were better. Worst: Play it safe.