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Wednesday, May 4

"The devils look the same, no matter the era"

May 4:
Osama Bin Laden's killing caused WABC evening host John Batchelor to cut World War II coverage short
BY David Hinckley
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

WABC evening host John Batchelor was in rural Poland, covering commemorative events at the site of the World War II Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps, when word came late Sunday evening that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

This was particularly significant to Batchelor because he started his career at WABC (770 AM) on Sept. 12, 2001, pledging to stay on the station until Bin Laden was captured or killed.

So Bin Laden too, Batchelor says from Poland, is his story - and in many ways, he sees Bin Laden as the same story he is covering in the stark, crumbling remains of Auschwitz.

"The stories of Auschwitz and the Hitlerite SS and 9/11 and the jihadists join together for me," he says. "Hitler living in the F├╝hrer bunker under the Reichsministry in 1945 and cursing 'International Jewry' in his last will on April 29, 1945. Bin Laden living in a bunker-built compound near a golf course and cursing the Jews and Crusaders with his last videos.

"Two murder cult figures self-poisoned by hatred of Judaism."

Batchelor had traveled to Poland to do two nights of his WABC show from the Auschwitz-Birkenau site. He was covering the annual March of the Living, launched a quarter-century ago as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1.

But when the Bin Laden news hit, says WABC program director Laurie Cantillo, modern technology enabled him to quickly integrate Bin Laden news, analysis and response into his program. By the time WABC had carried President Obama's Sunday night speech, Batchelor had lined up response at home and abroad.

When his show ended, he joined WABC "Red-Eye Radio" host Doug McIntyre for further analysis.

WABC wasn't the only radio station to carry the speech and analysis. News stations WCBS-AM, WINS and WNYC were there, along with WRKS and others.

It shows, Cantillo says, that even at this most "off" of off-hours, news can happen. It shows that even in the age of 24-hour TV news, Twitter, Facebook and e-blasts, good radio stations can pull it all together with unique immediacy.

Batchelor says good radio, like with covering the Bin Laden raid, is simply a product of working hard and being ready.

"This show staff works together perfectly," says Batchelor, "even on Tieline remote from the banks of the Vistula in medieval Krakow."

Batchelor admits he wasn't sure Bin Laden would ever be apprehended. But now that he has been, Batchelor and Cantillo say he will be extending his WABC stay - because just as the death of Hitler didn't eradicate evil, neither will the death of Bin Laden.

"The devils look the same, no matter the era," Batchelor says. "Now there are other new devils to capture or kill. ... One devil down, many to go, so little time."

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