By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Talk preservation societies

You wouldn’t think anyone would want to preserve WRKO Radio (AM 680) as we know it, but three conservative bloggers — Brian Maloney of the Radio Equalizer and Matt and Aaron Margolis of Hub Politics — have started a Web site called Save WRKO.

They write: “Without any apparent business-related reason, … WRKO as we know it is now facing sudden extinction.” Uh, boys. The “business reason” would be that no one listens to WRKO anymore. But don’t worry — Howie Carr’s almost certainly safe. And possible new morning guy Tom Finneran’s a lot more conservative than you seem to think. (Via the Herald’s Messenger Blog.)

Meanwhile, some liberal bloggers have banded together to bring back “Boston’s Progressive Talk.” Never mind that Clear Channel has already changed the programming at AM 1200 and 1430 to Spanish-language shows. This would appear to be a case of the horse long since having exited the barn.

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Too funny


Comment reconsideration


  1. o-fish-l

    DanOnce again I ask, could you kindly list the Boston radio and TV ratings as they are announced (ala Drudge & the cable news race), or at least tell us where non-industry folks can find them without subscription fees? It’s fine to say that nobody listens to WRKO anymore, but it would be even better to show us the stats.Gratefully,o-fish-l

  2. Brian Maloney

    Dan, even if Finneran is “conservative” (by your standards, anyway), the problem is that he’s an insider with a lot of cronies to protect on Beacon Hill. That’s the opposite of what is needed in talk radio: a person who can go after all of the sacred cows in state government. Finneran has far too much baggage.The other issue is one of constituency: there’s simply no ready audience clamoring for a Tom Finneran talk show. This is entirely the work of one manager who wants to reward a convicted felon.The response to our new site has already been overwhelming. Obviously, there are a lot of longtime WRKO fans wondering what has happened to their station. The answer: Hurricane Julie has smashed into the building. Better lace up those New Balance shoes and evacuate Guest Street.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Brian: WRKO has been going downhill since Gene Burns left and Jerry Williams got the axe. And Howie Carr is the only real talent the station has hired in the last 20 years. You can’t disagree with either of those statements. So what is there to “save”?

  4. man who's a wbur fan

    Fishie fishie fishie fish (sorry, can’t resist a good Monty Python joke)Anyways, posting Arbitron numbers is the sort of thing that gets people in serious hot water. Those numbers routinely sell for thousands and thousands of dollars for a reason; they’re (where slander means never having to say you’re sorry!) has an oft-repeated policy that if you post ANY Arbitron numbers; even the free (but useless) 12+ numbers, you’re immediately banished for an indeterminate time. It’s not something the guys who run R-I want to get sued over, and I don’t think Mr. Kennedy does either.Ratings don’t really tell the story much, either. WBOS has consistently had lousy 12+ ratings (around 1.0) for many years…yet it’s usually THE top-billing station for Greater Media’s advertising exec’s. Conversely, WCRB routinely posted a 3.5 to 4.0 12+ rating but struggled financially for years before they were finally sold.That said, I still think WCRB was fiscally viable (at the very least) but hey, if the owner wants to sell…who’s to stop him? After all, Clear Channel makes MONEY. “Capital-M-O-N-E-Y money” as my mom likes to say. Even though some of their stations are in the ratings toliet, and some are in the top (like Kiss108). But what it hasn’t done in a quite a while is GROWTH…which is bad news to Wall Street and why they’re getting out of the game.All this said, I do think WRKO has a pretty severe identity crisis at the moment, but not so severe that Entercom can’t find a way to make it profitable somehow. After all, you don’t hear any talk of Entercom selling a pretty powerful signal like 680AM yet…until you hear that, there’ll be some form of conservative talk on both WEEI and WRKO; even if it’s heavily laced with sports. And if that’s not enough for you, stop whining and go listen to WTKK. Us liberal talk fans only have WBUR to turn to these days.As for “saving” progressive talk on Boston’s airwaves…a goal of questionable need considering WBUR…they should forget that horrible signal combo of 1200 and 1430 and instead work to get other alternative outlets to air it. Would it mean dealing with non-commercial signals and therefore a severe restriction in what you can sell? Yes, it would. But WBUR’s found a way to clear over $1 million in underwriting last year…that’s an extreme case, but damned if it can’t be done!

  5. Anonymous

    o-fish-IYou can access 12+ Arbitron ratings minus non-comm ratings at http://www.radioandrecords.comand follow the links.You can NOT quote the ratings because of copywrite laws.

  6. Donna L. Halper

    Oh ye of little faith. We are far more than “liberal bloggers”. We are doctors, teachers, radio consultants, union activists, people who hate the war in Iraq, and people who miss hearing the other side of the issues in a world where conservatives dominate. The WKOX/WXKS train may indeed have left the station, but it ain’t the only train, and we WILL find a way to get progressive talk back on the air. So far, over 300 people have joined our group, and over 1280 have signed our petition. Stay tuned, because we don’t plan to give up.

  7. Citizen Charles Foster Kane

    I find Brian Maloney’s assertions interesting, rife as they are with supposed knowledge of the inner workings of WRKO. Hiring Finneran is simply the work of Julie Kahn? What, she gets to operate in a vacuum?Who is he to say that WRKO needs “a person who can go after all of the sacred cows in state government.” A more accurate statement might be “The Margolis brothers and I want someone on the radio who is willing to promote our own personal agenda.” The Margolis brothers have a strong interest in the maintenance of faux conservative outrage in this state, teetering as they are on irrelevance.Maloney claims, “there’s simply no ready audience clamoring for a Tom Finneran talk show” So what? Is that his problem? And how does he know anyway? Finally, and this really kills me, Maloney writes, “there are a lot of longtime WRKO fans wondering what has happened to their station.””Their station?” Bwah hah hah. Welcome to free market capitalism kid. Don’t let the invisible hand smack you on your way out.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Donna: WRKO could do worse (is doing worse) than to go with an all-liberal line-up, but that’s not going to happen. The Clear Channel stations were weak and, after sunset, virtually unlistenable. Tell me you’re going to come up with a better signal than what Clear Channel was offering.

  9. man who's a wbur fan

    I just realized I was implying that WCRB was owned by Clear Channel. That’s a heinous accusation indeed. My apologies, those were two separate thoughts.If Donna’s got 300 really dedicated volunteers, what they ought to do is something I’ve suggested for years; stage a “bloodless coup” of a few of the small/medium college FM’s around Boston. Just get a bunch of volunteers willing to fill airtime during the summer; when student DJ’s are scarce and warm bodies are desparately sought after to sit in the DJ chair to keep the transmitter on. Once your foot is in the door, and you show up on time for each shift over the summer, you’re not all that likely to get booted when September rolls around.Rinse, lather, repeat for about two years and you could completely control WMFO, WMWM and WBRS at the very least. Quite possibly at WRBB, WMLN, WBMT and WBIM. None of these signals are good by themselves, but combined they’re no worse than WKOX/WXKS are.For better signals, you MIGHT be able to do it at WZBC or WMBR as well, but I concede it’d be tougher since they already have a strong non-student community DJ contingent.It’s not fast, or easy, but it is pretty much free and has a better business plan than Air America (as a company) apparently did.Alternatively, you could rent time on WUNR 1600AM, whose signal isn’t too bad.

  10. Radio Vet

    If you look at Brian Maloney’s site and his “background”….I don’t see anything that qualifies him to be an expert on anything in radio.His commentary is basically his own political agenda.He is a prime example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

  11. Steve

    ‘RKO used to have talkers who weren’t Republican stooges. Gene Burns was the most thought-provoking talk host I’ve ever heard. After Gene left, there were a couple of people in his slot who weren’t right-wing: Tom Leykis(?) had a go, and then some woman with a British accent (Victoria? Jones?). I wouldn’t claim them as Liberals – mostly I thought they were just loony, though the woman had her moments.Then they went all Republican all the time when Jerry left. (Was he forced out or did he leave? He didn’t seem to be doing all that well mentally or physically at the end of his run.)I think they’d do well with someone local and smart, and it doesn’t have to be someone right-wing. Rachel Maddow is intelligent and almost local (she’s out in western Mass, I think), and she has a very entertaining show, but I don’t think she takes calls. Come to think of it, none of the Air America/Jones Radio crowd is very good with calls except for maybe Ed Schultz, but he’s not local.Has Jimmy Fallon given up on a movie career? He’d be wicked awesome.

  12. Steve

    Hey – I just logged into Washington Post radio to hear the John Solomon Post Politics hour, and who is doing the 10-11 show? Victoria Jones!

  13. Anonymous

    Tommy just got the WRKO gig. Come on Dan, did you hear him when he filled in on local radio a few years back? What a crap host he was. My theory on why they hired him is that he obviously still is friends with people of much governmental influence and Entercom is looking for some “favorable” legislation.

  14. o-fish-l

    anon 11:39Thanks!

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