Lyndale resident takes over non-right-wing talk show

Wendy Wilde is offering an alternative to radio trash talk. The Lyndale resident is the new host of "The High Ground," broadcast from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on WMNN-AM 1330. The program discusses Minnesota news, with guests and audience callers.

"We are trying to take a fresh look at the issues," said Wilde, whose off-air name is Wendy Perrine. "Radio is so right-sided in its approach these days. We want to examine the issues without the right-wing rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, Savage Nation and others."

Wilde expressed concern that many independent mom and pop radio stations have fallen into the hands of corporate giants who favor syndicated radio shows.

"Radio stations are being bought up like convenience stores," said Wilde, who has broadcast on WCCO-AM for the past six years. "Some person in some office far away is making decisions about what gets on the air, while local people with issues can't discuss them. I was running a station in Faribault and there was a weather emergency, and we couldn't even get it on the radio because there was no one in the building who could put the information on the air."

"The High Ground" got off to a low start when comedian Jeff Gerbino, its original host, quit after two days over creative differences with creator Janet Robert. Robert, an attorney and DFLer who ran against Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy in 2002, is planning a rematch against the incumbent this fall. She found the investors and bought the radio time from WMNN.

Robert said she chose Wilde as Gerbino's replacement because Wilde is an experienced pro who came highly recommended.

Robert denied that her intent was to put a more liberal spin on the issues. Instead, she said, she is seeking more oratory and less rhetoric. "There is really no talk radio out there that is in the center," Robert said. "Everything is being produced and promoted for a very far right extremist agenda that does not reflect Minnesota values."

Wilde said she does not consider herself a liberal. "I think independently and for myself," she said.

Certainly, Lyndale Neighborhood Association leaders didn't consider Wilde a liberal when they removed her from their executive board for questioning their financial practices after less than two years.

The mother of three is also a founder of The Twin Cities Underground, an urban recreation center for 12-to-21-year olds at 405 W. Lake St. The center has a strict no-drugs, no-smoking, no-alcohol policy that the kids enforce; it is not unusual to have a dozen parents there as well.

Wilde said she scours the news each day for the stories that nobody else is going to talk about and then searches for a knowledgeable guest to discuss them. Every on-air hour requires two hours of preparation. For background, she utilizes the Internet. She said she also relies on friends who communicate with her during the show through her computer's instant messenger window.

The mayors of Woodbury and St. Cloud were recent guests. Topics include the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, which may have a major impact on Minnesota's sugar beet industry, unemployment and the appointment of Dave Anderson, the Minnesotan now heading the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"Radio is such a casual thing," said Wilde. "People listen to it at work, while driving a car and they don't realize what has happened to it. Radio cannot be free when it is only in the hands of a few owners who control its content, and that's what has happened. We are trying to get out both sides of the story to challenge our listeners, ask them hard questions and have some fun, too."