WBZ NewsRadio host Dan Rea reflects on four decades in Boston news

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By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor 

Dan Rea

Medford – Talk radio, especially in this day and age, can bring to mind the image of the typical “shock jock,” trying to incite listeners into an inflammatory conversation. 

As host of WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s show NightSide, which is on every weeknight from 8 p.m. to midnight, Dan Rea tries to stay away from that model as much as possible. It’s not that he does not want to hear opinions other than his, rather, he invites them. 

“As long as they are respectful, I will listen,” he said. “In fact I want to hear opposing views.” 

And for the past 13 years, thousands of listeners, from all over New England and further, including the Canadian Maritime provinces, have felt the exact same way. The show, which Rea touts as “North America’s Virtual Back Porch,” is broadcast from a modern glassed-in studio at the iHeartRadio building in Medford.  

Rea brings to the show an impressive news pedigree. For nearly four decades he was a general assignment, investigative and political news reporter for WBZ-TV, covering major news stories and asking the hard questions to the leaders of the day including every president since Gerald Ford, (with the exception of the current one, Donald Trump). It was a career that was also filled with accolades and awards, including two Regional Emmys, nine Regional Emmy Nominations, and induction into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall Of Fame. 

A native Bostonian, Rea is a graduate of Boston State College and Boston University School of Law, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1974. He and his wife Jeanne live in Newton and have two children, Daniel III, and Catherine Florence.  

Now as the host of NightSide, he still covers hard news stories but readily admits that it is “definitely a changing newscape. It used to be that watching the news was ‘appointment viewing’ – it is so splintered now. The whole game has changed.”

“From a news point of view it used to be like going into a diner 60 years ago, now it’s like an endless buffet,” he added. 

“It’s great to have different options (as to where you get your news) – being exposed to just one view contributes to polarization,” he added. “When you choose to only listen to one side, it isolates you. Like dining at the buffet but only eating the same one thing.” 

And on the topic that is the bane of many a creditable reporter, he too must be wary of the issue of “fake news.”

“Just as it is for everyone, I try to use only trusted sources when I am doing background work,” he said. 

Many times he is working out a gym after his show finishes, catching up on different news programs. 

Dan Rea with producer Nancy Shack

Each afternoon, several hours before the start of each show, Rea, along with his producer Nancy Shack, do a “Pregame” on his Facebook page where they have an informal chat about the stories that will be discussed on the show that night. Sometimes listeners are invited into the studio audience as well. His shows can also be listened to as podcasts via the website https://wbznewsradio.iheart.com/featured/nightside-with-dan-rea.  

Rea is known to have a conservative bent but is just as eager to hear opposite opinions. 

“I want more people to call me who disagree with me,” he stressed. “I don’t care what you are thinking – I just want you to think and be willing to engage in conversation.”

He gets about 150-180 calls a week and most are “reasonable,” he said.   

“I actually hate to end conversations but sometimes I have to – I give them 30 seconds to make their point and if it’s not given in a respectful way, I end it,” he added. 

Guests on the show have included Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, U.S. representatives Joe Kennedy III and Stephen Lynch, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, to name just a few.   

“Sometimes we disagree more than we agree but they are always forthcoming and I appreciate that,” Rea said.  

Photos/Andy Weigl, Weigl Photography