Baltimore lost one of its most endearing news personalities last night when WBAL Radio’s Ron Smith succumbed to cancer.
I first heard the name Ron Smith in 2000 while working for then-Congressman Bob Ehrlich in the U.S. House of Representatives. Another congressman had severely mischaracterized Ehrlich’s position on an immigration reform bill. Ehrlich sought to set the record straight in interviews with journalists in his metropolitan Baltimore district.
That Ron Smith was the first news figure he called was no coincidence. Smith possessed a rare combination of strong ratings, right-of-center audience, and credibility in the broader community.
While he and Ehrlich agreed on much, he was no party apologist. As I learned working in the Governor’s Office for 4 years, he had too much respect for his listeners to carry the water of any particular candidate or party. Few conservative commentators spoke out early and regularly against the War in Iraq like Smith did.
As an occasional guest on his show, I learned the hard way that he wouldn’t hesitate to criticize Ehrlich Administration policy when he thought conservative principles were at stake. To this day, I can recall my heart rate rising in the minutes before joining his show, wondering what curve ball might come my way.
At a time when the line between political parties and news personalities is blurring, I will miss the clear bright line drawn in Baltimore by Ron Smith.