Sam Waltz: WDEL’s Allan Loudell will be missed
By Sam Waltz
“Hail and Farewell” is not what we do in this column, at least usually.
In a microstate that stands out for its smallness and provincialism, Delaware stands out for some real giants of journalism.
We buried one last week, Allan Loudell, who had distinguished himself in radio journalism and built a unique following since his arrival here in 1988. He came from Illinois, the University of Illinois where he graduated in 1977. He spent time in Memphis radio before becoming a fixture in the Delaware news-talk format radio universe at WDEL 2005-2020 and before than at WILM from 1988-2005.
If someone were doing graduate research on Delaware journalists with historic gravitas, based on my nearly half century in the Delaware public affairs arena, I’d likely give them five names on the working side and three names on the business side.
Two of the three on the business side still are alive, Julian “Pete” Booker who piloted Delmarva Broadcasting for just so many years – even decades – and Rob Martinelli, our CEO here in Today Media Inc., son of a former Yonkers mayor who came to Delaware nearly 40 years ago to shepherd the then-fledgling publishing group.
Third on the business side, who passed away just a couple years ago, is Sally Hawkins, who as a widow took over WILM 1450-AM radio from her late husband Ewing Hawkins and navigated it into a prosperous and successful business.
On the working side of Journalism, print and broadcast, four names that would jump out to any of us over the last half century would be Allan Loudell, John Taylor, Bill Frank and Ralph Moyed.
Moyed, more columnist and provocateur than daily reporter, was always full of bombast in his work for the News Journal. Frank, a legendary reporter there, much later in his career a columnist, similarly had an instinct for the journalistic jugular. Each had incredible work ethics, as well as long-studied inside knowledge and sources about Delaware.
Both Moyed and Frank, each of them dead now for a few decades, would have been very comfortable in today’s political environment, bringing a 1930s socialist value system to their work that always included poking at those in authority.
Taylor was a classic idealist-style journalist, bringing a progressive agenda – albeit not socialist – to his influential role at the News Journal. The famed “Saturday night massacre” about 1974 that ended the careers of three top newsroom execs at the News Journal vaulted Taylor into prominence at a youthful 30 years old to lead the newsroom.
Loudell, however, hewed far more closely to a traditional journalism model.
Most listeners would have a tough time – even after knowing him for decades – identifying Allan’s political passions. He could be an artist in a public affairs debate, outlining an issue, “on the one hand…, but then, on the other hand…”, and do so without tipping his hand regarding his own interests.
Given the pandemic-driven gutting of newsrooms this year, in print and in broadcast, the new ownership of WDEL let Loudell go for financial reasons several months ago.
That economic disrespect of Loudell even inspired one notable Delaware political insider, now semi-retired attorney and counselor David Swayze, a Democrat who had been a key staffer for Republican Gov. Pierre S. “Pete” du Pont IV, to assert in a letter to the News Journal memorializing Loudell that he intended to never again listen to any of the WDEL broadcast properties as a result.
At his funeral last week — a rare event in the COVID19 environment — I encountered US Senator Tom Carper and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, as well as dozens of others with roots in politics and journalism. Doubtless, in normal times, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton would have been filled to overflowing.
Rest In Peace, Allan, who died just before his 65th birthday. You done good!