By Tom Holmes
On Oct. 25, The Doris Davenport Show aired for the first time on WPNA, 1490 on the AM dial, on the top floor of the Oak Park Arms.
Davenport, who co-hosts with Doug Wyman and does just about everything to get the show on the air every Sunday at 7 p.m., described it as "a weekly radio program that meets the community where you are. Maybe you heard or read about a topic, a person or a performance and want to know more. We provide that 'more' and introduce you to the people you read about, the people who run our villages and townships, artists, activists, those who own the stores where we shop, who guide our faith, keep us safe, young people making the news in sports, the arts and academics. And yes, we also introduce people who are just getting by, day by day, making it happen. We are all local all the time!"
The program that aired on Nov. 15, for example, included an extensive conversation with David Boulanger, John Williams and Desiree Scully-Simpkins from the Oak Park Township in which Davenport and Wyman gave their guests the chance to explain their programs to the radio audience but also probed a bit, asking them to talk about issues like the firing of Stephen Jackson and substance abuse among at-risk youth.
What listeners hear is more of a conversation than objective reporting, with the co-hosts feeling free to interject editorial comments. The show also included a newsbreak and a sports segment, both focused on local news. The program ended with a conversation with Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar.
There's a synergistic chemistry between the co-hosts. Wyman, who is 87, has lived in Oak Park for 42 years. He is past president of the VMA and served in 12 election campaigns. He is a longtime member of Ascension Parish and has volunteered for years with Housing Forward and the CROP Walk. "I think I bring a sense of history and some wisdom to the program," he said.
Davenport, who is half her co-host's age, likewise brings to the show an impressive resume, including district manager of marketing and public relations for former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown in the Minority Enterprise Growth Assistance (MEGA) Program; director of international trade for Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Trade Bureau; deputy campaign manager for Governor Pat Quinn; and lobbying work as a liaison to the Illinois Senate.
When asked if she is making any money from the show, Davenport replied, "The program is truly a labor of love. We are actively seeking advertisers, sponsors and partners to help us grow." When asked if she has a day job, she replied, "I work on projects that speak to my heart, and right now this project is speaking louder than the others."
Regarding his experience in broadcasting, Wyman said he had actually been on radio and TV years ago and had studied under Johi Todd, "the one and only Tonto on the Lone Ranger radio show." Wyman does an excellent impersonation of Tonto, as well as his Irish uncle.
Davenport's interest in radio goes back to her family.
"My sisters and I grew up in a family that emphasized civic responsibility," she explained, "and so my volunteer activities can sometimes read like a career within itself, but I firmly believe that as citizens, if we want and expect change, we can make it happen."
As her resume reveals, her life has often been very busy, so a radical change of pace gave her the opportunity to do some reflecting.
"I was primary caregiver for my Aunt Ruby the last three years of her life, God rest her soul," she said. "I do not know who was more blessed, her for having me as her primary caregiver or me for having the opportunity to anoint her journey to the other side. The time spent and reflective period following her passing was surely the most informative of my life thus far. I found myself intentionally examining my passions, dreams and desires. That reflective journey took me back to my college days when I majored in radio, TV and film."
Part of what seems to make the Doris Davenport Show work is that the two co-hosts bring their own personalities, passions and even biases to the table around which they and their guests sit.
"I look around our town, our country, and the world and see things changing rapidly," said Davenport, "and not always for the good. People seem to be growing further apart rather than getting closer. I feel I have a skill, an opportunity and the passion to help bridge that gap."
"I am 87 and feel better than I did at 70," said Wyman. "I changed my eating habits, exercise every day, laugh a lot and don't take too many things too seriously. I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world. We have nine children, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. I love life."
The Doris Davenport Show also has an educational component, an internship program in which students can gain exposure to, and training in, broadcasting. A Fenwick student is currently involved in the program.
Davenport uses a mixture of sports metaphors to describe where her project is at and where she expects it to go.
"We have a game plan," she said, "and believe we are in a winning position. We want to do more than just put some points on the board. We may not always knock the ball out of the park initially, but with your help, we know we can get the ball over the goal line. Let us hear your feedback. Drop me a note at Doris Davenport, 159 N. Marion St., No. 251, Oak Park 60301. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you."
Answer Book 2019
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