Exclusive: Former New York Governor Paterson ‘Drawn To’ Work in Radio

Since leaving office on January 1, New York Governor David Paterson has been keeping busy. But not as you might think. The former governor has quietly been forging a new career, which incorporates his previous one.

He has become a radio go-to guy, and surprisingly, not as a guest to discuss politics, but as host of his own show. He brings a knowledge and passion to the subject. Paterson can focus on politics and current events while filling in for John Gambling mornings on WOR. At WABC, there is the Religion on the Line show, which to date he’s done once.  

Arguably, Paterson’s most relaxed at WFAN. Just prior to leaving Albany, Paterson spent the entire afternoon with Mike Francesa. If that was an audition for future on-air work at the sports station—he passed. Recently, Paterson hosted his own ‘FAN show. It was there that FishbowlNY was granted exclusive access to the governor to talk about his new love—radio. Paterson says it may seem new to listeners, but he and radio actually have a long history together.

“When I was a child, I used the radio in place of the fact that I couldn’t read the newspapers,” Paterson says. “That’s how I heard the news.”

As a nine-year-old, hearing the news of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 grabbed his interest in broadcasting (and politics). He would listen “minute to minute” for the latest details of the tragedy.

An early radio follower for Paterson was the legendary Barry Gray, who had a show on WMCA for 39 years. The governor also remembers Larry King fondly from his Mutual Radio overnight show.

As a youngster, Paterson began his lifelong connection with sports, especially baseball.

“In those days, they didn’t televise all the games. They would televise probably all but five or six of the home games of the Mets and the Yankees, and maybe half of the road games,” Paterson recalls. “You got used to listening to sports on the radio.”

Perhaps, as someone visually impaired, it’s an easy transition for Paterson to have a strong interest in radio to this day.

“It probably does help me because in many respects when you can’t see, you have a theater of the mind,” Paterson tells FishbowlNY.

Inevitability, the governor will get asked at an appearance about his ability to enjoy sports even though he’s unable to see the action.

“You can imagine what’s going on, and the drama of, maybe, a team down 10 points in a basketball game, then it’s 8, then it’s 6, then it’s back to 8, then a three-pointer—it’s 5, then it’s 3,”  Paterson says. “You can get that.”

Another factor to visualizing sports, Paterson, who has limited sight, would play basketball when he was younger.

Helped by the radio play-by-play, Paterson says many sports fans are blind.

“One of them who used to call WNBC when I was a kid and talk to Bill Mazer, and who I think wanted to be a sportscaster—Aaron Talbert,” Paterson remembers. “I wound up going to Columbia [University] with him … When he talked about a game he heard, you’d believe he saw it.”

Mazer is one of Paterson’s sports radio disciples that he looked to emulate. 

“Then I grew up and got interviewed on some of these shows, [which] were done by heroes of mine,” Paterson says. “That was pretty exciting for me.” 

Exploring some of his broadcasting “contemporaries,” Paterson calls WABC host John Batchelor the “most prepared talk show host I have ever heard. I am stunned by the effort he puts into his shows.”

Gambling, who Paterson is the occasional back-up for at WOR, brings an “overall fairness about him.”