Paul W. Smith interviews Peggy Agar on WJR 760 AM radio:
Smith: See now, Peggy Agar, believe me, is happy to be doing what she’s doing right now. Not that she’s happy that she’s at an explosion at Ten Mile and Hoover and Warren but happy that she’s doing her news. And yet people are bugging her, like us, to ask about “the story”.
Smith: Peggy, good morning. First, uh, uh, let me let you be, as you are, a great newsperson on Channel 7, be a great newsperson here on WJR. We’ll borrow you for a minute. What’s going on there at Ten Mile and Hoover?
Agar: Oh, there’s a transformer explosion, so we went out to Ten Mile and Hoover. We got there, looks like they had everything under control, nobody was hurt. These transformers, you know, I mean they’re pretty powerful stuff, so they wouldn’t even allow the fire department to go in there and try to work on it. They’re just going to handle it themselves. So, in this case it was fine and they worked it all out, but there was an explosion and some damage.
Smtih: I bet the people don’t know how many times you’ve gone running off to stories that turn out to be either over with or not a story at all and then you go…somewhere else.
Agar: Yeah, and that’s okay, I mean, I don’t mind going to stuff where, you know, people aren’t hurt or…
Smith: (crosstalk) Sure…thank goodness, thank goodness…
Agar: (crosstalk) …something good…
Smith: Oh man, you’ve retained your humanity through all of this. You know, people become cynical, you know. all of us do. When you do something over and over and over again and you start to think in terms of what would be a great news story, and sometimes you forget it wouldn’t be such a great person or people story. Meanwhile..
Smaith: Go ahead.
Agar: Oh, I was just going to say it’s time to get out of the business, I think, when you start acting like that… (crosstalk) like I did the first day that I was here. I’m still excited to talk to, you know, any person that, you know, has story to tell and if you lose that edge then I don’t think you have any place being in the business any more.
Smith: And you were very excited to speak with presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama as he was walking through, smiling, shaking hands, moving rather quickly, I think he was with Jim Press from Chrysler, (crosstalk) and you held out your microphone and started to ask a question about I guess what he was going to do for the auto workers in Detroit or in Michigan something like that. What was it going to be?
Agar: Right. Well, I mean, I wanted to ask him what he plans on doing for, you know, auto workers in America, which of course specifically means Detroit. There had…he had gone through the plant, it was really loud, we weren’t able to ask any questions there and his people had said he might take a question when we went into this other room. So when we got into the other room, I mean, he was maybe two feet from me and I figured, you know, it was a good time to ask. I was right there and you know, he’s shaking hands with auto workers, he’s running for president, he hasn’t been here in ten months, you know. That’s the time to say what you’re gonna do for these people, how you’re going to help them keep their jobs and keep their homes. (crosstalk)…I…I just wanted an answer.
Smith: Now people will be able to watch this if they want at WXYX.com. They can see the video and hear the audio, the whole thing. WXYZ.com. I happened to see it ’cause I was watching the eleven o’clock news, Channel 7 last night when you, I didn’t see you, but I kinda saw your microphone, and you were starting to ask the question and he in a friendly dismissively way said, I mean, sound like he got angry but he, he kinda smiled while he kept moving and said uh, hold on one second sweetie, yeah, we’re gonna get to that, we’re gonnna get to that, or whatever….
Agar: That’s almost word for word exactly how, you know, it was and how it went, you have good memory on that and at the time it was dismissive but I’ve been called a lot worse than sweetie out on stories. People try to dismiss me all the time, I mean, it’s our job just to press on and get the interview. So, I figured once he said that, I was thinking, well good, this must mean that he’s going to answer here in a minute…
Smith: See? Do you hear that? She’s a true newsperson, see Ann Thomas is so interested in this because she was a reporter too. So I said I don’t want to make this a big story because I don’t think it should be a big story. It doesn’t sound like you think it should be a big story because the first thing you thought of was, okay, I’m going to get my question answered. It wasn’t how dare he call me a sweetie, he must not think I’m a very important person, or that I’m not as good a newsperson as a man. I don’t think you thought that at all.
Agar: I don’t really care what he thinks of me personally, I mean, that’s, you know, as a reporter I’m just trying to find out an answer from him. I mean this was a person that’s running for president (garbled) states and a state that has a lot of problems and I have an audience with him. I’m two feet from him, and you know, I want to ask him things that he should be able (garbled)…
Smith: And meanwhile, I can hear your phone is being called, you’re probably getting lots of calls, and they try to protect you at Channel 7, I must tell you, but Ann was persistent and we thank them for making it possible for us to talk with you and I know you’re there on a story that seems to be over with, and we’ll wrap this up quickly, but, fact of the matter is you then got the most, I think, incredible phone call later on your voicemail.
Agar: Yeah, I had, you know, I worked that early morning…at three thirty in the morning…and so I was tired after the story, you know, I went home and I took a nap, (laughs) and when I woke up from my nap I had all these phone calls on my, you know, messages and I started going through them and one of them was from Barack Obama himself (crosstalk) and he not only apologized for not answering my question but he apologized for calling me sweetie as well, and so, I mean I thought that was nice. More importantly he promised to make it up to me the next time he’s in Detroit, so I’m looking forward to maybe sitting down with him and, you know, getting to ask the questions I didn’t get a chance to.
Smith: Just think of how valuable this currency will be if he becomes president, Peggy. You will have the first Detroit interview with President Barack Obama, trust me when I tell you that.
Agar: I mean that would be great that’s why we’re here why I’m in this business, so any time I can have an audience with him, I’m going to go for it.
Smith: Good for you, I’m glad you’re handling it this way and I’m glad you spoke with us, and I hope it doesn’t become a big, big story. Like most reporters you don’t want to become the middle or the part of a story, you just want to report it, and I’ll let you go back to doing that on Channel 7, and I thank you for joining us, Peggy.
Agar: Thank you so much.
Smith: Peggy Agar. She’s handling it much better than I handled being shut down by BJ Sing (?phonetic) at the masters several years ago when I went to ask him a question and he just kinda shut me down and walked away. I haven’t like VJ Sing ever since. See, that’s the difference between a sad talk show host, and a strong reporter, isn’t it, yes, it is.