Aaron Ochs is the author of “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It,” a nonfiction uncovering the defamatory, deceptive and criminal practices of online tabloid CalCoastNews.
920 KVEC and “Hometown Radio” host Dave Congalton is celebrating his 28th anniversary on the air. This factoid was shared extensively on San Luis Obispo County social media this week. Locals have talked about his love for animals, his jovial nature and the diverse guests he’s allowed on his show. He’s primarily known for giving a lot of people access to a microphone — sometimes people who don’t deserve the luxury of broadcast.
It’s easy to forget that Congalton was a stakeholder of CalCoastNews and served for a time as Contributing Editor. And even after he stepped aside from that position, he brought on their writers as guests. For nearly a decade, Congalton would promote the website’s reporting, their “reporters,” contributors and their unsubstantiated allegations, despite their growing controversy. Years before the #MeToo became a national phenomenon for women to candidly discuss their stories of sexual and physical abuse, Congalton and his guests would regularly shame women who were the targets of CalCoastNews’ ire, mocking their physical appearance and alleged promiscuity — at one point glorifying a domestic violence suspect and making light of his abuse against the former director of homeless services for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo. In another instance, he mocked the former Managing Editor of the New Times, reiterating promiscuity allegations that CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie made.
Given Congalton’s history, you wouldn’t think organizers for Women’s March San Luis Obispo would appear on his show. But they did. And so has San Luis Obispo mayor Heidi Harmon, who repeatedly calls out sexism against women in leadership roles.
“Congalton is a shock jock,” Ron Roy, regional vice president for station owner El Dorado Broadcasters and former general manager of KVEC, told me in 2014. “He knows a lot of what he puts on the air is ‘shuck and jive.’”
The problem is that Congalton’s “shuck and jive” landed him in the hot seat with the San Luis Obispo Police Department. In 2013, Velie was arrested for…