A bonehead move inspires true integrity

bmorem@thetribunenews.comOctober 24, 2012 

Jack Smith is really one of the good guys. As an example of his character, he’s skateboarded across the country on several occasions to raise money and awareness for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Lowe syndrome, a rare disease that claimed the life of his son, Jack.

I’ve known Smith for perhaps 25 years. At 55, he’s a hard-working guy who started publishing The Skateboarder’s Journal a year ago, in addition to overseeing marketing and e-commerce for VS Athletics, a track and field supply business. And for good measure, he’s opened a skateboard museum on Morro Bay’s Embarcadero.

With those qualities in mind, it taxes the imagination that he recently experienced what can only be described as a boneheaded stunt by a local radio station.

Now, I fully understand that radio rewards its personalities for having, well, a personality, but let me allow Smith to tell his story.

“As many of you know, my dad passed away last week. Today (Oct. 18) his obituary appeared in the local paper (The Tribune).

“I was listening to Q104.5 (the local oldies station) while driving into San Luis Obispo this morning.

The DJs start chattering about what it would be like if obituaries were read on the radio like commercials using a cutesy radio voice. The next thing I know they begin reading my dad’s obituary.

At first I thought I was imagining it. I actually had to pull over to make sure I was hearing this correctly. After they got their laughs, they offered up a lame apology, saying something like, ‘no offense intended, we’re sure Jack was a good guy.’

“This is what entertainment has become, using people’s sadness and suffering to get a laugh. I am so glad my mom did not hear them using her husband of 56 years’ death in a comedy skit. Absolutely tasteless.”

He called the station and learned that the “offending DJs (were) a clown who goes by the name of Adam Montiel and his sidekick Cheeba.”

Now, really, didn’t it ever enter the minds of these two on-air personalities what kind of emotional devastation their prank would create? Would they have laughed had they had a death in their own families and someone made fun of that person? On the radio?

To the station’s credit, management apologized on air and visited Smith on Wednesday afternoon. The results of that meeting, which included the station’s general manager and the CEO of American General Media, which owns Q104, has somewhat of a silver lining.

Jack and son Dylan will ride skateboards across the country next summer. The theme of the trek is “Push to Remember,” to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicted Smith’s father.

The station is making a financial contribution in Smith’s father’s name to help underwrite the trip, as well as using airtime to publicize the project.

“I never wanted (Montiel) to lose his job,” Smith said after the meeting. “It was a stupid, unthinking moment.”

Monteil didn’t lose his job, but he was suspended without pay last Friday and will be back on the air today.

“Hopefully,” Smith said, “people will maybe stop and think twice before they say something hurtful.”

That’s the kind of character that Jack Smith embodies.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or at 781-7852.

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