Why Doug Wright was so good — and advice to his successors

Over 40 years, Doug Wright carved out a remarkable niche as a radio broadcaster, focusing on politics more than anything else. He became known to almost all Utahns and will certainly be missed by his large radio audience.

But he will also be greatly missed by the more insular Utah political community — by political insiders, state legislators, other elected officials, and advocates of various causes.

I’ve been involved in hundreds of political strategy meetings where the topic was, “How do we get our message out?” Almost always, part of the answer has been, “We need to get on Doug Wright.”

And Wright has almost always been accommodating, in a fair and proper way. The genius of Wright’s show was his intelligent focus on the hot issues of the day and, particularly, his ability to get articulate guests on his show that had interesting insights and understood the issues they were talking about. That, and he was an artful questioner – harder than it seems.

Over the decades, Wright developed a deep understanding of politics and had a good grasp on most of the issues he discussed. But he didn’t rely exclusively on his own knowledge. No one, even Wright, is good enough to just talk for three hours. Some radio broadcasters try it (including some currently at KSL Radio), and it simply doesn’t work. When I hear a radio personality launch off on a long monologue, I quickly change the station out of boredom.

Wright’s show worked masterfully because he hit numerous topics in three hours and usually had guests who knew what they were talking about. He also wasn’t afraid to have guests on live, or talk to random callers, who disagreed with him. Those discussions involving opposing viewpoints were almost always cordial and different perspectives were aired.  

Wright could get almost anyone his show because guests knew they would be treated fairly, would enjoy a large audience, and would engage in an intelligent discussion. Elected officials and advocates worked to get on the show.

In fact, the show became so important in Utah politics, that Wright frequently broke important stories. When a politician or advocacy group had a big announcement to make, they almost always discussed whether to issue a press release, hold a press conference, blast it out on social media (especially Twitter) – or break it on the Doug Wright Show. It is quite remarkable for a radio show to have that kind of clout.

The show made news so frequently that snippets of Wright’s conversations with guests were often aired as parts of newscasts for the rest of the day. 

Wright left a big void and it will be interesting to see if his replacements and other KSL hosts can fill his shoes.

I recall advice William F. Buckley half-jokingly gave to new columnists: skip the first six months. His point was that it takes at least six months for readers to get used to a new voice and decide if they like him or her. That advice applies to radio broadcasters as well. It takes a while to break in and develop a following.

But, please, don’t just talk. You’re not knowledgeable or good enough to do that. No one is. Don’t just rely on text and voice messages for feedback and discussion points. Get good guests on who have interesting insights and then have an intelligent discussion. Ask perceptive questions. Get people on who disagree with you. Don’t beat one topic to death (you sound like you’re killing time). Follow the news of the day.

In other words, be like Doug Wright.