DuMont’s ‘Beyond the Beltway’ sets agenda for 35 years

Bruce DuMont

Bruce DuMont

It’s had two titles, three local radio outlets and countless guests since it began in 1980. But in all that time, “Beyond the Beltway” has had one host — and a singular mission.

This week Bruce DuMont marks his 35th anniversary as host of the celebrated two-hour weekly talk show that “takes America's political pulse, and provides a fresh and balanced perspective of national politics.”

Key to the show’s longevity, according to its loyal fans, is DuMont himself.

“ ‘Beyond the Beltway’ has flourished for 35 years because Bruce is an excellent interviewer — not just with newsmaker guests, but with the talking heads as well,” said veteran Chicago journalist Dan Miller, who’s been a frequent guest and substitute host on the show.

“Like most journalists, Bruce prepares for an interview or a roundtable with a list of prepared questions to cover. But Bruce seldom gets past No. 1, because the answer to that question sets the agenda for the rest of the interview, which immediately turns into a conversation. He begins a conversation, and we in the audience have been so fortunate to be part of the talk,” Miller said.

“Inside Politics” launched as a 13-week experiment on Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5 on June 26, 1980. DuMont’s first guests were corporate lobbyist Tom Roeser, political consultant Phil Krone and radio newsman Bill Cameron. The experiment became a weekly fixture that expanded to national syndication in 1991.

In 1992 it began a 23-year run on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS AM 890, where it was renamed “Beyond the Beltway.” Earlier this year it moved to WCGO AM 1590, the north suburban news/talk station owned by Kovas Communications, where it still airs live from 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays.

In addition to its syndication on stations across the country, “Beyond the Beltway” continues to be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s POTUS Channel 124, and online at beyondthebeltway.com and on YouTube. A video version of the show, originating from the Museum of Broadcast Communications, airs on WYCC-Channel 20, the public station owned by City Colleges of Chicago, and on Comcast Channel 100.

A special 35th anniversary edition will air Sunday.

From the beginning, the philosophy of the show has been to keep the conversation relevant to real people in the world outside of Washington.

“I have felt since young adulthood that too much of the national political debate was dictated by a small group of ‘inside the Beltway-types’ who gathered on the banks of the Potomac River to decide political policy — with little regard for those living beyond the Beltway in real America,” DuMont said in a statement.

“The insular nature of television media analysis is predictable and not very forward thinking – with some conservative commentators like their liberal counterparts content with dishing out the party line with little regard for fresh ideas or outside input.”