The Boston talk radio show VB in the Middle airs midday, and by conservative radio standards, the political perspective of host Doug “VB” Goudie ’91 straddles the middle, too. He points out that his show on WRKO-AM is flanked by shows hosted by “two extremely loud conservatives.” He aims for the quieter center.
Goudie is not enrolled in a political party and thinks of himself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal. As a Hamilton student he was more conservative than many. One semester when he faced a last-minute dilemma of taking either a course taught by visiting Professor Bernie Sanders or a course in Japanese politics, he opted for Japanese politics and is still satisfied about that.
Goudie’s radio roots reach back to College Hill, where he hosted a sports talk show on WHCL. These days he fields an average of five callers an hour, maneuvering to keep the conversation more meaningful and less partisan. He answered some questions for us about his job.
How do you stay on your toes doing this day after day?
It’s more — how do you not break stuff that you're stepping on? I think that would be the way to put it because people are so easily offended and because everything is an end-of-the-world crisis now. The trick is, how do you not, in every sentence that you utter, how are you not alienating some portion of your audience? I’ve been doing talk radio for a long time. I started, really, right when I got out of Hamilton back in the 90’s as a producer, and I’ve been doing it off and on ever since. And the number one change is, whereas it used to be fun to disagree and to spar and say, ‘let's get after it’, now you are on eggshells because you’re nervous that one thing that you say is going to offend somebody to their core.
Did you know at Hamilton what you would go on to do?
Not really… I was a government major, but I figured at some point I would end up in politics in some way. And in a weird way I kind of have. I can still remember Professor [Ted] Eismeier calling on me in class to talk about the Kennedys because I was from Massachusetts, and I always knew that stuff and was up on it, partly because of my mom. You know, it's funny: One of the phrases I use a lot on my show right now — and my producer can't stand it — but every time I say it, I say, ‘What was the phrase that I learned at Hamilton College when I took that Japanese politics class?’ It’s in Japanese, but the phrase is, ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.’ And I use that all the time because if you try and be different, and you do something outside of the lane that people think you are in, they are going to just berate you. If you're a Democrat, and you say, ‘Trump was right about that,’ you'll be in trouble. And if you love Trump, (and) say, ‘You know what? I’ve got to give Biden a thumbs-up,’ the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
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What does it take to be good on air?
What I would tell you is you better be yourself, and you better believe what you're saying. Because while that was true in the early 90’s, it's 100% more true. Now there’s just too many outlets, and there's too many people with opinions, and there's too many people checking you if they don't like what you're saying. If you are BS-ing, they’re going to smell it on you. They’re going to hear it, and they're going to know it. And that second, you lose that credibility.