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John “Sly” Sylvester Madison’s Worst Radio Personality

January 20, 2011

I am shocked and saddened that once again the radio antics of  John “Sly” Sylvester are making news.  WTDY can not be a proud place to work this week.

I am upset about the actual antics that took place this week, and also about the larger issue of what passes for radio entertainment these days.  The latter point is one that often gets talked about on this blog.

I worked in radio too, and can confirm I never once crossed the line of decency.    I provoked with news stories many issues that needed to be highlighted, but never did I make people want to throw a radio across the room.  Guns, teen suicide, AIDS and other topics were ones I researched, reported, and produced while working in radio in the mid-1980’s.  While the station had feedback from the audience none wanted me to apologize. 

If only radio could be like that again.

That Sly has made so many outlandish and unprofessional on-air comments over the years and continues to hold a broadcasting job is most remarkable. That says far more about WTDY than the folks who live in Madison.

But I must add at the end of the day it is the listening public that needs to be held accountable for the likes of Sly who continue to broadcast on the nation’s airwaves.  Too few citizens step up and demand the public airwaves be better used.  Too few listeners demand that a more common-sense tone be attached to the list of responsibilities that station owners need to abide by. 

What took place this week was totally unprofessional in every sense of the word.

Sly’s recent comments about Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch performing sexual acts to win favors, or his out-of-the ballpark words about her colon cancer, were just God-awful.

To me they were unforgivable.  Period.

On September 30th, when Rebecca Kleefisch and Ed Thompson were making news about their separate fights with cancer I wrote, in part, the following.

We know that both  Kleefisch and Thompson are trying their best with the political battles currently underway.  Now they also have to fight a more personal battle with a far more aggressive opponent that never plays fair.  Worse yet they have to do part of that in front of the public at election time.    If ever there was a time for some ‘space’ to be granted, these would be two perfect examples of when it should be offered with no explanations needed.  I think the human needs for both of these people far exceeds any political requirements.  Period.

I wish that Sly had come to the same conclusion.  There are times when we all pitch a hardball, but there have to be times when we step back and show some class and common sense.    I tried to do that regarding Kleefisch and Thompson last fall.  

Sly seems to think that all of us in radio land are nothing more than a point in a ratings book so to get more ad revenue for WTDY.  However, I find in my conversations over the months that more and more listeners are turning off the garbage of AM Radio and moving to other listening alternatives.  The latest outrage from Sly can only add to the exodus from WTDY. 

I will say the same thing I have stated before when writing about John “Sly” Sylvester.

I expect radio personalities to be like my guests in the house.   I like good talk, humor, and spirited conversation with ideas that conflict with mine.  But I do not want, and will not tolerate, the most base of shock jock type rancid talk just because some radio station has an itch for a rating.  I wish to be thought of as a listener that deserves respect, rather than just a notation in a ratings book.

  1. author5555 permalink
    January 27, 2011 8:49 PM

    John Sylvester is a cancerous parasite.

  2. Tony permalink
    January 27, 2011 8:49 PM

    This guy is the lowest of low dirtbags Human Waste for saying what he did about this woman! Now I know why I love Howard so much, because Stern would NEVER stoop soooooooo low Why hasen’t he been fired yet? You don’t say these things about a woman like that and not pay for it

  3. John B permalink
    January 27, 2011 8:38 PM

    (Editors Note: I had to trim the comment as it did not meet the standards for this blog.)

    Just learned of Sly Sylvester”s Wisconsin Lt. Gov comments.

    Doesn’t say much for his listeners, program ad sponsors and radio managment! Fire HIM!!!

    Sylvester take your senseless comments public on Fox, CNN, MSNBC—you garbage mouth.

  4. Brad permalink
    January 26, 2011 8:24 AM

    If you keep on targeting your rating, you will probably go nowhere. Just focus on the job you do and do not be like “sly”.:)

  5. January 22, 2011 10:47 AM

    I give you credit for calling Sly out on this, I am aware of no other liberal that has.

  6. January 21, 2011 9:28 AM

    As a progressive who listens to sly everyday, i actually disagree. I think, like sly, that he crossed the line when he accused her of performing sex for endorsements of the right wing radio cabal in Milwaukee was over the line. However the greater point of his topic was to show the ridiculousness of Kleefisch “cold calling” businesses to get them to move to WI. It is ridiculous and amateurish, and if that is the best we have we might as well change the signs to Wisissippi right now.

  7. January 20, 2011 9:10 PM


    It is fair to have a policy debate. I welcome those on radio. I suspect you do too.

    But there was a line that was crossed by a mile with Sly when it came to this matter. He was not trying to light the path with facts or insight but was being rude, insensitive, boorish, and over-the-top. He thought he was being cute and funny and folks would eat it up and return for more of the same to be delivered on another topic on another day. That is his style, and those like him in radio.

    That we have come to expect this type of behavior on radio is as much as why I write this post as the actual personalities involved.

    The Slys of the radio dial are why many turn to NPR or WPR.

  8. Alex permalink
    January 20, 2011 6:58 PM

    Obviously Sly did it the wrong way, but isn’t it completely fair to point out that Kleefisch survived cancer because she has the best government-funded health care, yet she and her husband are attacking the generosity of the state employee health care benefits and don’t want to reform the system so that everyone can have the same quality health care that state employees get?

  9. Stuart permalink
    January 20, 2011 4:31 PM

    I need to write and tell you that I often disagree with you and think on many issues you are way too liberal. Today however confirms why I keep coming back to your blog. I think you are the real deal. You call them as you see them and when you feel that someone who is also left of center needs to be taken to the woodshed you step up and do it. I do not need to agree with everything I read here or elsewhere on other blogs. But I do like to respect the writers of the various blogs I read. You have my respect.

  10. rail_pro permalink
    January 20, 2011 4:15 PM

    he is right up there with HOWARD STERN and MANKOW when it comes to non-sense radio broadcasting

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