Legislator eager to launch career as radio talk-show host

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By this time next year, state Rep. Jeff Coleman hopes his transformation from local politician to one-man multimedia concern will be complete.

There will be Jeff Coleman mugs. "Coleman Country" golf shirts. "Coleman in the Morning" billboards are almost a certainty.

Jeff Coleman key chains? Jeff Coleman windbreakers? Jeff Coleman bumper stickers?

Anything's possible when you've got your own radio show.

Fresh-faced Coleman, the Apollo Republican who surprised colleagues this month when he announced that he wouldn't run for re-election this year, added another helping of surprise when he further announced that he'd be launching his own Harrisburg-based radio show.

The three-hour morning show, to be called "Coleman Country" or "Coleman in the Morning," will be produced by Coleman's own production network, Generation Next Radio. He's building a studio, and hopes to be on the air by April.

And as Coleman seeks investors and builds relationships with radio executives across the country -- yesterday he was in Virginia attending a conference for broadcasters -- he's learning that careers in politics and radio have more in common than you might expect.

"I don't think there's a big leap from how candidates are packaged to how media personalities market themselves," Coleman said. In both lines of work, he said, you have to sell yourself to finicky consumers who have plenty of other choices.

"You're constantly trying to find new ways to reach new audiences," he said. "It's a highly competitive field. I don't have any illusions about how difficult this will be."

Coleman acknowledges that his decision to pursue radio and skip this year's election offended some GOP peers in Harrisburg who had charted a different course for his promising political career. (At just 28, Coleman's already serving his second House term.)

Some also wonder if he'll be able to juggle the radio show and his responsibilities as a lawmaker -- he'll be pulling double duty through the end of his term, if the show is a hit.

But Coleman doesn't foresee any conflicts.

"It's the right time in my life to do something different," he said, elaborating on his desire to spend more time with his wife and maybe start a family.

Coleman hopes the show will give his listeners a window into the machinations of policy-making, as well as give his soon-to-be former colleagues something to worry about each morning.

"Politicians respond to media," he said. "We have a hypersensitivity to what is said on the radio."

The show, naturally, will focus on government. He'll discuss some Harrisburg issues, but because he's planning to syndicate the show, it will quickly take on a "national feel." He said he wants to pattern his show after those now being done by Don Imus and Sean Hannity.

"This won't be about potholes and PennDOT," he said. Call-in segments will be limited, as will his number of guests.

The show's launch is to coincide with the Republican primary contest between U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and his opponent, Rep. Pat Toomey. He plans to air the show in mid-sized and smaller markets.

As for his replacement in the 60th Legislative District, Coleman said he wants to hand-pick the Republican who will replace him, and will reveal the candidate he's going to endorse sometime in February.

Bill Toland can be reached at btoland@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-2141.


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