Adios Travis Coffman

Travis Coffman, a notable figure in Marianas media over the past few decades passed away recently. He was best known for his role in talk radio in Guam at K57. And as such, he was someone that I would interact with quite frequently. I went on his show several times to be interviewed about various topics. He was always respectful to me in public, and I would sometimes see him at anime, manga and nerd conventions on the island. But for many Chamorro activists, they saw him as someone who could frequently be anti-Chamorro in his statements on the air. I definitely heard elements of that when he would be on the the radio, and I would sometimes get text messages or emails, telling me to listen to what Travis was saying today. When I say anti-Chamorro, what it usually boiled down to was being dismissing of Chamorro issues and Chamorro concerns, but not necessarily someone who would ever say that Chamorro culture sucks. But someone who would use his position to belittle activists fighting for certain issues or amplify the voices of some, such as Dave Davis, who are very anti-Chamorro in their rhetoric and actions.

This position though wasn't unique to Coffman. It is a very common one that is taken by media figures in Guam, even if they are Chamorro. It is tied to the larger role of media in a society and then how media is supposed to function in a colonial society. The role of the media isn't simply to report stories or investigate, it also has a function of promoting values and promoting ideals and norms. In a colonial situation, this often results in the media, both individually as members of it or institutionally, feeling compelled to defend the colonial status quo, to promote the greatness of the colonizer and promote an identity of unity with the colonizer, which may not really exist.

We see this in the media landscape in Guam today. Guam isn't a state of the United States, yet the media functions in such a way as if Guam is just like any other part of America. You can replace certain words in your average story, and suddenly it'll be in Arkansas or Kansas. This does a disservice to those who read and consume that media, as it promotes a misrecognition or a misreading of their reality. It encourages them not to recognize the truth of our relationship to the United States, but proposes patriotism and pride, as being appropriate responses to living in a contemporary colony. A wishful fantasy becomes the way we see ourselves in relation to the colonizer, nothing even close to the actual relationship.

It was interesting to see in the case of certain media personalities that came from off-island, such as Coffman or even Joe Murphy the former editor and publisher of the Pacific Daily News, how they experienced in small or large ways, a shift in consciousness. How early in his time on Guam, Joe Murphy was very resistant to engaging in discussions on political status or decolonization (like most everyone on Guam). Because for him and for most, the problems with Guam were all local. Slow government, corrupt government, Guam being hot and faraway. Locals not being modern or civilized enough.

But as they became more integrated and informed, they shifted. Murphy himself went from pretty much blaming everything on local people, to later in life, using more critical language when talking about the federal government's treatment of Guam and in some cases Chamorros. He even, in a Washington Post article in 1994 used the term colonialism to describe what the US federal government was doing in terms of Litekyan. I saw traces of a similar shift in my conversations with Travis Coffman as well.

A Q and A from the Guam Daily Post with him is pasted below.


Q and A with Travis Coffman
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Guam Daily Post
February 28, 2016

“It feels like we live and die in the moment every afternoon,” said Travis Coffman, the “King of Afternoon Drive,” who is back on air after a 17-month hiatus.

After his stint as a TV journalist and public relations specialist on Saipan, Coffman was recruited by Jon Anderson to join Newstalk K57. He came to Guam in November 2001 to host The Big Show, which has since become a brand name on local radio.

After more than a year of enjoying domestic life and reading books about the perils of junk food, Coffman is back on the mic.

How does it feel to be back on air?

It's a complete and total rush! Truly there's nothing like it. I feel so fortunate to get another turn at the most enjoyable job I've ever had.

What did you miss most when you were off the air?

The callers, the conversations. News comes and goes but the connections you make with callers stay with you.

What did you do when you were “on leave” from radio? Did you acquire new hobbies?

I worked as news director for PNC for a bit, really only to help the existing crew take charge. I helped a bit with the direction and the look but I think the best thing I could have done was to leave and make what they were paying me available to the company to give everybody else more money. After that I spent some time traveling, getting reacquainted with my kids settled into a new place. I learned a thing or two about housework and how to live a little healthier, too.

What books did you read?

I read a couple of books about food. “The Dorito Effect,” which is about the manipulation of taste by the food industry and one called “How Not to Die,” which is about whole plant nutrition as it relates to the 15 major illnesses. Great books that really helped me start eating better and ultimately feel better.

Are you changing the show’s format?

The show has a format? Since when? Kidding! I feel like the combination of information, conversation comedy and the occasional confrontation works to keep people engaged entertained and informed. I have a good time, too!

What are your most memorable moments on the radio?

I don't know if there is a particular show, but I can tell you that my favorite shows without exception have been the ones where I get to open the microphone for someone who has never been in a studio or on the air. Something magical happens when someone hears their voice over the air for the first time. I love to see what happens next.

The most glorious moments?

Getting answers or satisfaction for someone that can't seem to get the time of day from a business, elected official or government agency. I know what it's like to be ignored and I really get a kick out of chasing down people who feel like they don't need to be accountable.

The most embarrassing?

Screwing up someone's name. I try really hard to remember everyone, but it happens and I always wanna kick myself especially when it happens on the air.

Who is your favorite radio caller?

The ones that teach me something new or make me laugh. My favorite caller of all time is a lady known as "Auntie Pumpkin.” She was my very first caller when I sat in with Jon Anderson the very first day on Newstalk K57. She asked me what I really thought of the Marianas Public Land Commission, and for whatever reason I delivered a blistering scathing review of what I felt its shortcomings. Auntie Pumpkin listened to the entire tirade and said something like, “Okay, I was just wondering, thanks.” I was stunned; she just took what I said at face value. I was hooked instantly.

Least favorite?

The people who express the sentiment that Guam can't do anything right. I don't believe that and I don't have a lot of patience with that line of discussion.

What do you love most about your job?

The living breathing real-time flow of information, the conversation of facts, fiction, fantasy and family. It feels like we live and die in the moment every afternoon. It our very own human drama, where everyone has a say and everyone has a part to play. And what I love most of all is that the people of Guam share their lives with me. It's an honor and a privilege. It's a responsibility that I take very seriously.

What are the changes you’ve seen in the radio/media landscape since you started your broadcast career?

Social media have made people more active in providing information. It also makes it easier to reach viewers and listeners. The desire for reliable info about food, fun, traffic and taxes keep people tuning in.
What are your regrets—if any?

I'm having a pretty good run it’s hard to complain.

Did you do some reflections?

As much as I love my job at Newstalk K-57 and work in general, over the years I finally realized my most important job is taking care of my family. My children, of course, are the ones who help me realize this and have been pretty patient waiting for me to come around. I've also discovered that I think about my coworkers, as well as all the callers and listeners as part of my extended family. So it makes sense that I would have missed them as much as I did and how happy I am to be back home.

Your favorite OOG moments?

Having people I've never met walk over thank me for caring about Guam, for saying something they wanted to say or just making them laugh. That always makes me happy.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Moderation. Never been great with moderation, lol.

If there is a zombie apocalypse, where will you hide?

Nope. I'm not hiding. Bring it.

What did Donald Trump share with you when you had a drink with him last night?

I gotta see the hairline. I just gotta!


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