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Military Matters

Last week, Lightbody reacted with irritation to inquiries about the Times article, which he characterized as being wrong from top to bottom: "The whole thing was a slam. I never said any of those things, and I don't know why I was the subject of that attack." He points out that he wrote to the Times after the April 1 offering; in the excerpts of his letter published in Pinsky's April 10 effort, he refuted only the contention that he was making $10,000 a month in speaking fees (a figure provided to Pinsky by Lightbody's agent). He said he considered taking Pinsky and the Times to court, "but I checked with an attorney, and he told me trying to sue somebody like that would take years, and even if I won, I might get damages of a dollar. So I dropped it." To the question of why a reporter at the Times, one of the country's most respected newspapers, would want to libel him, Lightbody said, "You'd have to ask him that."

Tracking down Pinsky turns out to be a fairly simple matter. A veteran journalist once on the staff of the Times's Orange County edition, he became the religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel in 1995 and subsequently earned acclaim for authoring 2001's The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family, which recently received a plug from Simpsons cast members appearing on an episode of Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio. When told via e-mail about Lightbody's accusations, Pinsky refused to rise to the bait. "The piece began as a column item," he writes, "and became a news story. It was accurate. No retraction, correction or legal action followed."

After being dumped by KNX, Lightbody quickly lined up another radio gig in Los Angeles; he was chosen to serve as an aviation analyst at KBLA, which specialized in business news. John Darin, who hired Lightbody at KBLA and is now a semi-retired radio consultant living in Utah, wasn't put off by the Times article, which he calls a "hatchet job. Andy never represented himself to me as anyone other than who he was. He never portrayed himself as an expert, just a journalist with a lot of good contacts."

Mark Andresen

Darin says Lightbody did first-rate reporting at KBLA, but the station's format changed about a year later, putting the analyst out of a job. Lightbody relocated to Colorado, where he formed his own television production company, Rocky Mountain Television Network. He also continued to share his military know-how on radio stations such as WMAL-AM, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. When he offered to do the same for KNRC as the latest conflict with Iraq loomed, program director Eisenson checked with WMAL staffers and received a strong recommendation of the sort offered by Chris Berry, the outlet's president and general manager.

"There are a lot of people out there who claim to be experts on things," Berry says, "but over the years, consistency is what separates the wheat from the chaff, and Andy is very consistent. He knows what he's talking about. I wouldn't hesitate to put him on the air anytime, anyplace."

Eisenson soon felt the same way. "Andy offered himself as a guest on various talk shows to prove himself. It was a trial run," he says. "He did really well, and that, plus the endorsement from the folks at ABC, convinced us to make it permanent."

That listeners of KNRC responded well to Lightbody makes sense: He's a radio natural with a very accessible style. Whereas Bob Newman, the military analyst for Clear Channel, who's parlayed his newfound celebrity into a co-hosting role alongside Scott Redmond on KHOW's afternoon-drive program, effortlessly rattles off model numbers, obscure regulations and other military minutiae, Lightbody often speaks in generalities, which implies to some observers that he's less knowledgeable than his better-known competitor. Not so, insists Dobbs, who says Lightbody has been specifically asked to focus on the big picture, not every tiny detail.

"I don't think that makes good radio," Dobbs says. "Who gives a damn about the designator on the tail of the aircraft? What people want to know about are its capabilities." As for Newman, Dobbs feels he's "a military cheerleader who doesn't appear to discriminate about the information he delivers. He's strictly there to wave the pompoms and is downright rude and unwilling to listen to any callers with a different point of view. That's why I much prefer Andy, who's an analyst, not an advocate, and provides information based on his contacts and education."

During Dobbs's April 7 program, in response to an e-mailer asking about his qualifications, Lightbody said he'd previously served as an editor for assorted military magazines and is the author of numerous books and publications that focus on defense issues and equipment. "I don't consider myself to be an expert," he added. "The experts are the people I talk to." As it turns out, all of these statements are accurate. On top of his work for Armed Forces Journal International and other periodicals aimed at similar audiences, he also wrote or co-wrote books such as The Complete Guide to Top Gun: America's Flying Aces and Helicopter Fighters: Warbirds of Battle. (Many of his titles are out of print, but he's currently represented in bookstores and on Web sites by 2002's Winter Trails Colorado, 2nd Edition: The Best Cross-Country and Snowshoe Trails, one of several outdoors-related titles to his credit.) Likewise, his comments about expertise in no way exaggerate his experience.

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