By GEORGE AUSTIN, Editor
April 01, 2009 6:00 AM
Leslie Marshall wanted to get into television. She wanted to be like news anchorwoman Natalie Jacobson on Channel 5. But she left Boston because everyone with communications degrees, like her, were trying to get into the TV market, with many of them only getting secretary’s jobs. So she moved to Miami and there the owner of a radio station asked her to fill in for the host of a talk radio show when someone was sick and the rest is history as she found her talents were perhaps best fit for that type of program.
“Anybody that knows me, knows I’m a talker,” Ms. Marshall, a 1980 graduate of Somerset High School, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles where her nationally syndicated talk radio show is based. “I did it and I love it and that’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years.”
On her talk radio show, which is called The Leslie Marshall Show, the hot topics of discussion recently have been health care reform, the economy, “the octomom” who has 14 children and the AIG controversy. To be successful in talk radio, Ms. Marshall said hosts have to be themselves and honest, “like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.”
“You have to be very informed on politics, on social issues, on current affairs, which means reading a lot of newspapers and watching a lot of television, being up on current issues and being a good eavesdropper, believe it or not,” Ms. Marshall said of what it is like to be a talk radio show host.
Ms. Marshall is known as a liberal democrat talk show host. While the media has been labeled as liberal, Ms. Marshall said 80 percent of what American watch on TV, hear on the radio and in newspapers comes from the conservative right, at least during the last 10 years.
“That makes it harder for someone like me, because I get pigeon holed,” Ms. Marshall said.
Ms. Marshall said she has a brother who is extremely conservative and another who is independent. She said her values are what has influenced her political positions the most. Ms. Marshall said wanting to help people is a value that pushed her toward the liberal democratic side of politics. She said her life experiences are what have shaped her political positions.
When she was filling in for a radio talk show host at WHDH in Boston one day, she said the program director told her he thought she was very passionate about what she was doing, but asked her where she stood politically, and she said independent. She said that program director told her that to be successful in talk radio, you have to pick a side. While she leans toward liberal democrat, Ms. Marshall said all of her positions, such as supporting drug testing for welfare recipients and the death penalty for hard core crimes, are not on the liberal side.
“I have some very conservative positions,” Ms. Marshall said. “I think women should get married and then have children.”
But Mr. Marshall said she hopes people look at talk show hosts as more than just being left or right.
“We’re real people,” she said.
Ms. Marshall said a brilliant program director should have every position represented on a radio station so that all audiences can be reached. She said the best talk radio is when there are disagreements.
Ms. Marshall said over a quarter of Americans get their news from talk radio. She said talk radio informs and entertains and offers an outlet for people to express their opinions and exercise First Amendment Rights.
Ms. Marshall said she does not have a problem getting calls coming into her show. There are the regular callers, like Scott from the Cape, “who is anti-semitic and hates everyone,” but respects Ms. Marshall who is part Jewish.
“They’re characters and they add to the flavor of the program, almost like the eccentric aunt in the family,” Ms. Marshall said of some of her regular callers.
This is the second time Ms. Marshall’s show has become nationally syndicated. The first was in 1992 when she replaced Tom Snyder and became the youngest person to be syndicated on radio.
When she lived in the area, Ms. Marshall did a brief internshiip at WSAR Radio in Fall River and then her first on-air job was at WBSM in New Bedford. WSAR carried her shows in the early 1990s, but does not today.
At Somerset High School, Ms. Marshall said the teacher who influenced her the most was English teacher Alberta Perry. Ms. Marshall was involved with drama programs at SHS and in college. She has put those talents to use in Hollywood where she has been on such shows as General Hospital, Port Charles, Passions, NYPD Blue, Seventh Heaven and Philly. She is also featured in the horror film The Mexican Werewolf and has appeared in a handful of independent films.
Also at SHS, Ms. Marshall was on the boys’ junior varsity soccer team. There was not a girls’ varsity team at the high school during that time, so Ms. Marshall said boys’ soccer coach Whitney Horton helped her and four other girls to play on the JV team. She said her time at Somerset High School helped form and shape who she is and gave her an education that assisted her in getting into something that she loves to do. She did her undergrad education at Northeastern University and graduate work at Emerson College. When she was leaving Somerset High School, Ms. Marshall said she wanted a career that was different. She had her eyes on working in a big city.
While she may not have made that career in television she originally wanted, Ms. Marshall is a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News Channel, CNBC or MSNBC. She has been seen on such shows as The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto and Headline News Showbiz Tonight.
“Talk radio is my passion,” Ms. Marshall said. “I feel talk radio is my calling. That’s what they can put on my gravestone.”