June Smith spoke to my Media Criticism class this morning, April 4, 2012, and she made 70 minutes seem like 20 with her memories of husband Ron Smith’s brilliance and general ethosduring nearly 40 years of work on Baltimore news media, including WBAL-TV and WBAL-Radio.He was, of course, the pre-eminent talk show presence in Maryland.
The following was my introduction of Mrs. Smith:
When June Smith was a guest on husband Ron Smith’s show, the show would crackle even more than usual.I say even more than usual because The Ron Smith Show on WBAL Radio was, as everyone who listened to talk radio knew, the talk show of record in Maryland. Ron averaged, it is said, over 150,000 listeners per week.By comparison, a college professor reaches about 150 – not 150,000, but 150!As a frequent guest on that show, I would marvel at host Ron Smith’s, 38-year veteran of Baltimore major media and 26-year veteran of WBAL Radio,conversance with endless serious topics.How does he know so much about so much, I wondered?No guest could ever keep up with him on more than one or two topics.
Then I would listen to him and June together, and I thought, “Man – the could be a college course: 45 Hours with Ron and June.”Not even June could match him on substance, but her quick wit would give her a winning joust here and a thrust followed by a winning parry there – just great conversation that they must have had at home as well.
Since Ron’s passing, June has dedicated herself to raising $1 million to combat pancreatic cancer, a complement to the fundraising work of Team Reason, composed of Ron’s friends.This is to honor Ron and to defeat a disease that felled Ron, but never broke him.June, one of Ron’s sonsand many of his friends have been working tirelessly to create a source of funding for this critical medical effort.
The Smiths were what an earlier era would have called the “It” couple: everyone wanted their company; everyone wanted to claim they knew them or were close to them.
They were celebrated by the most important Maryland potentates giving homage to Ron after his death, Democrats, Republicans, Independents…all because Ron was the best advocate anywhere, always relying on reason – hence his moniker, “The Voice of Reason” – and evidence.Everyone respected that, and June and Ron were a couple celebrating reason and evidence.
I should add that one of Ron and June’s best qualities is their sense of humor.Ron was often hilarious and sometimes subtle…he lovedthe other title for which he was known, “The Talk Show Man,” a label given to him by a jealous columnist who, parenthetically, was fired from the Sun for plagiarism.
I wrote an appreciation of Ron in which I said there was no luck in his success
save for his marrying the exceptional June Smith.
Today, June Smith is going to speak to you about Ron and radio hosting, and there will be great stories, I am sure, with which only she is familiar.
Without further ado, may I have a great Towson Welcome for June Smith.
And June Smith wowed the students who, I can tell you authoritatively, yawned not once during her captivating presentation.
What a thrill to have June recount her and Ron’s media life along with his/her perspective on media bias, media criticism and the personal side of their experiences in Maryland as “The Voice of Reason” and “Mrs. Reason.”
Professor Vatz teaches Media Criticism at Towson University