No Pablum With Judy Licht’s Podcast

Gideon Lewin
Judy Licht

What does it take for a veteran news hound — one of the first and most feted females in broadcast journalism, who could easily sit on her laurels — to get back in the game with a podcast?

Well, for the beautiful Judy Licht (far be it from me to break tradition here), it was the dialing-back from real news, the problem distinguishing the real from the unreal, or sometimes surreal — listen to the show about deep fakes — that got Licht thinking.

The result is “The News Broads,” featuring Licht and two other journalist powerhouses, Lynne White and Gina Cirrito. Some titles of past shows, which started last year, include “The Revenge Project,” about Roger Ailes and how Fox News was created, and “Is Journalism Dead As We Know It? Or Does It Just Have A Bad Cold?” featuring news analyst Jeff Greenfield.

There’s even “Patient Zero Of Journalism,” about Licht herself, who admits that she was the first person to put Donald Trump on the air. “It was back in 1978, for a news interview,” reads the podcast’s website. “What she learned about the future President provides us with quite an earful. Her husband claims if there ever was a Nuremberg Trial for Journalism, Judy would be the first accused!”

Licht’s husband, advertising guru Jerry Della Femina, former owner and columnist at The Independent, makes no secret of hating the name “The News Broads.”

“I hate it,” he said.

But, Licht parried, “It has an old-time, newsroom feeling. This represents us. We deal with the hard facts and subjects, but we have fun doing it.”

Licht has appeared on many shows and stations, including co-anchoring “Good Morning, New York” on WABC Channel 7 in the city, and was a familiar face on WNYW, Channel 5 . . . before it became Fox TV.

“One of the producers put Lynne White and I on in a thing called ‘The Power Panel.’ The idea was to take one of the leading news stories of the day — national, local, whatever — and have us debate on it, because she’s extremely liberal, and I’m socially liberal, but the idea was to have me as the more conservative voice.” Both Licht and White were products of “the old days” of Channel 5 news journalism, and they clicked.

“It was a lot of fun,” Licht recalled. The segment eventually made it to the six o’clock news with Chuck Scarborough, but after a few years, with a changeover in management, the segment was viewed as too divisive.

“People really thought Lynne and I hated each other,” Licht said with a laugh, “because we would really go at each other. We didn’t pull any punches. But it was too controversial for them. They wanted pablum. And I didn’t want to be toned down.”

“The News Broads” is anything but bland. “What we saw about journalism and media in general was really distressing to us,” said Licht. “And it was distressing in a profound way, which we thought we had a particular insight into,” she said.

“We’re not the most famous names in journalism, but we know who they are, and they are coming to us.”

“What scares me in this age of post-truth,” she said, “is we’ve gone from Walter Cronkite being the voice of the nation, and you believed what he said, no matter what your politics were, to Kelly Anne Conway saying there were ‘alternative facts.’ Now, with deep fakes, seeing is no longer believing. So how do you educate people who no longer know what’s the truth and what isn’t. We are really tribal, and it’s becoming your tribe against mine. It’s almost like just before the Civil War.”

However, there is a bright side to all of this. “I think as we age, we have more perspective,” Licht mused. “Lynne and I don’t go at it with the same intensity, because we have more perspective than we did when we were younger. We should celebrate what we have in common,” something, Licht said, that local journalism does in spades.

“The local papers, the local stations, they have their share of bad news, but there’s also that sense of celebrating what we have in common; common goals like improving the school system, or how your utilities are delivered to you, no matter what your political beliefs are. When you tune that out, or it’s not available to you, all you watch is national news, and that covers the divisiveness. It creates apathy and a sense of tribalism.”

But, she pointed out, it’s not just politics. “We want to be entertaining, and we have fun with it,” she said. Recent podcasts include an interview with Alec Baldwin, called, appropriately, “The Broads Meet Baldwin.” The podcasts are available where podcasts can be found, or on the website.

“There’s more news than ever out there, but there’s less knowledge,” she said. “Hopefully, we can help people understand what they’re hearing, and be able to make more informed decisions on what is real and what is not.”

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