Nick Coleman: Off the leash!

class=img_thumbleft>Regular listeners to Air America Minnesota (AM 950) may have wondered these past few days if morning-show host and Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is taking a President Bush-sized vacation. It has now become clear, however, that Coleman's recent parental leave has become permanent. The program schedule listed on the radio station's website touts the

Wendy Wilde Show

as filling the 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. time block that belonged in part to Coleman.

In a brief e-mail exchange, Air America Minnesota's general manager Janet Robert said she was "very excited to be offering the full three hours of Morning Sedition"--a national program--"followed by three hours of the Wendy Wilde Show." She seemed less excited to talk about Coleman's departure, and declined to discuss personnel matters. Coleman, however, befitting a man who is paid to mouth off in print, showed no inclination to hold his tongue.

In a telephone conversation with City Pages, Nick Coleman cited "ongoing management interference" as his main reason for leaving the left-leaning talk station after only six months. Coleman describes a work environment where Robert regularly imposed content restrictions. "Gays, guns, and abortion" were off-limits, Coleman says. And he says he was expected to minimize the airtime he devoted to the war in Iraq, which he claims Robert supports. Coleman claims he was also chided for criticizing Democrats, including Sen. Mark Dayton and tycoon Vance Opperman, instead of reciting the prepared Democratic talking points.

Coleman says conditions worsened when Robert fired his producer, local radio veteran Joe Palan, without discussing the matter with the radio host.

Janet Robert strenuously denies most of Coleman's claims. She did not interfere with Coleman's choice of topics, she says, including any criticism of the war in Iraq. (She states that she, too, opposes it.) "We do not censor anybody on this radio station," Robert says. On the Joe Palan matter, Roberts says simply, "He quit." She repeats, too, "I don't discuss personnel matters."

Even so, personnel matters seem to be what led to Coleman's departure, with the final straw coming on the day Coleman's wife gave birth to their third son. Coleman describes an e-mail from the station manager, which he says sought to modify a verbal agreement for a six-month contract that was to start July 1. What Robert demanded instead, Coleman maintains, was a more restrictive contract that would include monthly evaluations, a seven-day versus 30-day dismissal clause, and immediate compliance with management directives concerning topics, tone, guests, and guest hosts.

For his tenure as weekday morning-show host, Coleman received "embarrassingly low pay," in the low five-figure range--lower, he says, than union wages at a station he described as "pro-union." Modest paychecks aside, Coleman bristled against a boss "micromanaging with a political agenda in mind.

"If I'm going to be put on a leash, I'm leaving," Coleman says. Is there a slot for a man with strong opinions to talk about gays, gun, and abortion on The Patriot?

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