This article first appeared in the Blog of the Washington Policy Center.
In a tragic loss for his family and for Seattle, Dori Monson, host of the highest-rated talk radio program in Seattle, died of heart failure at age 61 on the last day of 2022. He was loved and appreciated for his humor, his wit, his irreverence, and his deep skepticism of authority. Dori’s show, “The Big Lead,” was full of his biting intelligence and personality, featuring stories about quirky people and events in the media, often skewering public officials for their hypocrisy and incompetence.
Seattle likes to think of itself as a mild-mannered place. Dori Monson grew up in Seattle, but he was not afraid of controversy. Dori and his brother and sister grew up poor, raised by a single mother. His heritage was Icelandic. He grew up on “the mean streets of Ballard,” as he liked to joke.
Dori wasn’t afraid to criticize Seattle’s mayor, the governors of Washington state, and their powerful backers in the teachers union. Dori understood the role of the media in a democracy is critically important for maintaining that democracy, as a necessary check on government corruption and incompetence.
I got to know Dori because he often invited me to speak on his show to share my research on the public schools. Recently Dori covered the union strategy of going on strike to force Seattle Public Schools to approve a three-year contract tacking on an additional $228 million to the district’s $1.14 billion budget. Dori courageously exposed this cozy union-district arrangement and how it will take more money from state coffers to give to the wealthiest district in the state. In 2012 The Seattle Weekly wrote about Dori’s life and background, which you can read here.
Dori understood the value of a good education. He benefited from taking accelerated programs at Whittier Elementary, James Monroe Junior High, and Ballard High, from where he graduated at age 15. When he was 17 years old, he enrolled in a one-year program at the Ron Bailie School of Broadcasting, where he met the renowned Bill O’Mara, a radio and sports broadcaster. O’Mara helped Dori go back to school at the University of Washington, and helped him cover the costs of college. Dori always expressed gratitude to O’Mara and all those who helped him out early in life.
Dori Monson was sincere and true, and deeply thankful for the blessings of this life. He was big-hearted, generous, happy, and optimistic. His close friends are clearly stricken by the untimely death of a man who had the courage and tenacity to speak and write the truth and to boldly challenge powerful interests and their collaborators in government, all to serve his listeners and keep the public informed.
Sorry, but he was also a rightish blowhard. I liked his show when he started out, but his acceleration of conservative viewpoints lost me.
Even though Post Alley is generally left of the Center, I think that this commentator is viewing the world from the Right.
Bad assumption. I am way left of center, and was simply noting what I saw as Monson’s drift to the strident right.
Ralph, I’m sorry, by commentator, I meant the writer of this article on Monson. My wording lead to the misunderstanding.
Apology accepted. Thanks.
If the comment threads are always so civil, Post Alley might no longer be recognizable as “Social Media”.
(OK, call the sarcasm police on me)
I always tuned him in. And he is missed. Hope there is “another Dori” waiting to expose back room dealings. If that’s conservative, count me a conservative.
Controversy stirs people up to the point that even mild-mannered Pacific Northwesterners will call up and vent (or simply upload their frustrations to the heavens), and Dori was a master of getting under people’s skin. Too often I thought his complaints were whiny arguments about things that just weren’t perfect enough in his opinion (as if they ever could be). I rarely ever agreed with his political viewpoint, but have to admit that his criticisms of government decisions were often justified by over-spending, under-delivering politicians and gov’t bureaucracy. And I agreed most often with his scathing critiques of our Seattle City Council decisions of recent years. That said, I think Dori’s takes on the news were very much those of “the guy on the street” rather than something fabricated by a Rush Limbaugh or Steve Bannon. I’d rather hear Dori Monson talking than some idiotic right-wing nut job. RIP Dori.
Well said, Rick; I usually disagreed with Dori Manson’s views but I couldn’t help laughing at his “they’re all bonkers” criticisms of the City Council. Unlike, Steve Bannon and other right-wing commentators, Manson never struck me as an unpleasant person. I liked that he seemed to identify with the “common” man and woman. I will miss him. Seattle won’t be the same without him.
Yikes…my typo there, it’s Monson, of course, not Manson. Sorry, Dori.
I always wondered how Ballard High School would have been any different if Dori had attended vs. graduating from home at the ripe ol age of 15. Being the same age I would have enjoyed having at BHS. Regardless Dori was a voice of the NW that represented in part our roots as an independent and conservative past which I know hurts many here. He did a great job exposing much of the corruption we see from the city council that has done a great job destroying this once beautiful city. I doubt there will be anyone to replace him due to the politics that have become so engulfing here. Dori you will be missed by many of us that came from the “mean streets of Ballard” UffDa