Something in the Air

Air America Minnesota struggles to get off the ground

Schultz's comments echo those voiced by Coleman when he quit the station a year ago. The Star Tribune columnist complained that gays, guns, and abortion were verboten and that he was chastised for criticizing DFL candidates such as Sen. Mark Dayton. "If I'm going to be put on a leash, I'm leaving," Coleman told City Pages at the time.

Other people who have been associated with Air American Minnesota voice similar concerns. Carla Kjellberg, a local attorney who hosted a weekend show called It Takes a Village until earlier this year, says that some of her segments seemed to offend Robert. "I certainly knew that there were some shows that I did that might have ruffled some feathers," Kjellberg says, citing in particular a program that dealt with gay marriage. "I never heard this directly from Janet Robert," she notes, however. "She never said a word to me. It was just the feeling I got."

Robert insists that there's no prohibition on flashpoint topics such as abortion and gun control. "It's not that we don't talk about them," she notes. "That's just false. Anybody who listens regularly knows we do." She says that the only guideline is not to continuously dwell on these controversial topics and to treat all opinions with respect. "I don't want to hear people ridiculing people at Planned Parenthood," she says. "I don't want people ridiculing the pro-life movement. That's our policy."

Air America host Mark Heaney: "Absolutely there are not limits on what people can say" on the air
Paul Demko
Air America host Mark Heaney: "Absolutely there are not limits on what people can say" on the air

Furthermore, Robert notes that she's far too tied up with the business side of things to micromanage content. "I don't know what's going to be on today," she says. "I never know what's going to be on. I'm focusing on sales."

Minnesota Matters co-host Mark Heaney, who is Bill Luther's nephew, strongly backs up Robert's assertions. "Absolutely there are not limits on what people can say," he insists. "I wouldn't be on a show where I thought there were limits. I'm not that good at controlling what I say."

He believes Robert is simply misunderstood. "Janet is a very passionate person and argumentative," he notes. "I think people mistake Janet's passion for limits on the show."

Ultimately, Robert would like to create additional local programming, but right now she's focused on bolstering the sales side of the equation. "Our long-term goal is to try to develop progressive voices and to expand that," she says. Perhaps pitying herself for a moment, she adds, "We have not been able to do what we wanted to do just because of lack of resources. Some people with my kind of money they have several homes in Switzerland and Vale, and I have a radio station. I have to tell you it's put a complete crimp in my life."

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