Behind every great host

There are two days left now before Gary Eichten calls it a career, and although I’ve written at least two tribute pieces to the man in the last year, I feel compelled to join the (highly appropriate) media tributes to the long-time Midday host. Instead, I’m going to pay tribute to him in a way only Eichten would appreciate — throwing the spotlight on his colleague who can’t stand the spotlight.

One of the pitfalls of radio is the audience only knows the existence of the voices, not the considerable infrastructure behind the scenes. Sara Meyer is part of that infrastructure.

Meyer is the producer of Midday and every deserved tribute that Mr. Eichten is getting as he concludes his career, should live in the shadow cast by Meyer as well. For as larger-than-life a person as Eichten is to the audience, Sara Meyer is to this newsroom, too.

She, like Gary, is the model of professionalism and integrity. She, like Gary, is unflappable in the face of mishaps and breaking news. Every guest you’ve heard on Midday in the last several decades (she fled to Minnesota from her native Massachusetts in 1985 1975), you heard because Sara made the phone calls to potential guests who were smart enough not to say “no.”

There’s nothing easy about producing a two-hour talk show with multiple guests or live coverage at state political conventions, live broadcasts from the Capitol, or election nights that go into the next morning. The smoother it all sounds on the air, and the more it sounds like the host is doing it himself, the harder a producer is working. The reward is often only the tongue lashing from the would-be caller who couldn’t get on the air because he wanted to deliver a speech that had nothing to do with the topic being discussed.

Like Eichten, her passion is politics. She can tell you where most political districts are, and who lost the election in them 20 years ago.

She is not without blemishes; she maintained that Jim Rice belonged in the Baseball Hall of Fame until everyone got so tired of hearing about it, they put him in.

Gary will retire on Friday and the sun will come up by 11:06 on Monday morning. Sara is staying, as far we know. The plans for Midday will not be announced until after Gary’s final show on Friday, presumably because the management (appropriately) doesn’t want to distract from the spotlight on Gary.