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Tuesday, December 6

John Batchelor and the sleepless era of news

"I sleep with my Blackberry under my pillow so I can take a call from China at 3 a.m."

I am not sure John Batchelor would describe himself as a conservative and I've not heard a Batchelor show that is not erudite but aside from those quibbles, David Hinckley's article for the New York Daily News does a good job of conveying that John Batchelor is a newscaster for the present era. That means Batchelor's show is in a category all by itself.

By DAVID HINCKLEY
New York Daily News
December 5
"Batchelor's eager to conduct mideast talks

Beyond saying he plans to spend this evening in the Gaza Strip, John Batchelor declines to specify exactly where he will be and with whom he will be speaking.

Even listeners on WABC (770 AM), where Batchelor has carved a 10 p.m.- 1 a.m. nightly niche with his internationally minded and often erudite programs, won't hear all the details.

"The people I'm talking with," Batchelor said late last week before he left, "are, I think the phrase is,'high-value targets.' Discretion seems appropriate."

These guests also aren't necessarily the group one might expect to talk with Batchelor, who makes no secret that his horse in the Middle East is Israel. But that's exactly the kind of thing he's been doing since WABC hired him in the wake of Sept. 11: tooling around the world building an international network of experts and contacts who he feels can present a truer picture of what goes on out there.

He doesn't hide his own view, which is conservative. He does, however, regularly talk with guests who disagree.

"I don't have or want only Republicans listening to me," he says. "I have Democrats and others as well, because we're providing information."

In fact, he says, it is the breadth of his audience and the subsequent power of his microphone that enables him to make trips like this week's, which will also take him to several other spots in the Middle East.

"The people I'll be seeing have the biggest bodyguards with the biggest guns," he says, "and they won't let anything happen to me because they know that through me they can talk directly to America.

"I have a large audience of well-connected people in New York and Washington. When they talk to me on ABC, they can reach those people in ways they cannot through any other means, including TV."

He stresses, however, that doesn't mean he is giving his subjects an open forum for spreading disinformation.

"My audience is very intelligent," he says. "They know no guest will take over a WABC microphone. They know that whatever is said, I will bring the discussion back to the point. The story is what I say it is."

It's a story he says he tries to see through a broad international and historical lens. On the Iraq war, for instance, he says its current unpopularity means nothing.

"Of course, this war is unpopular," he says. "All wars are unpopular. Americans hate war. Until we win. And after we win this one, George W. Bush will be seen as having done a superb job for seeing it through."

Backing these assessments with a Princeton degree, theological studies and a passionate interest in history, Batchelor says he never worries about talking over his audience's head.

"They know so much," he says. "And they're enormously curious to know more."

Having come to talk radio at 52, Batchelor says radio isn't where he does his studying.

"I don't listen to talk radio," he says. "I don't have time. My show is a 24-hour operation. I sleep with my Blackberry under my pillow so I can take a call from China at 3 a.m." [...]"
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