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

Finneran begins again

So it’s official. Former Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran, barely a week after pleading guilty to federal obstruction-of-justice charges, is the new morning drive-time host at WRKO Radio (AM 680). But why?

Finneran used to do a lot of fill-in work at WBZ (AM 1030), especially when the legendary David Brudnoy was alive. He struck me as OK as a substitute, but not someone I’d want to listen to every day. He talked too much, throwing out a blizzard of verbiage when a few words would do, and wasn’t particularly funny, either. (Unlike legislators, Mr. Speaker, listeners don’t have to laugh at your jokes.) In fact, he was pretty much like the way he came off at today’s news conference, which you can watch here.

Nor do I think Finneran is much of a marquee name, although Entercom honchos Julie Kahn and Jason Wolfe obviously believe otherwise.

In his press conference, Finneran did sound as though he wants to try something a little more newsy and elevated than WRKO is used to. (Of course, he’ll be doing it without a news department.) Presumably we won’t have to snore through Finneran’s complaining about how mad he gets when the ATM makes him choose between English and Spanish — an actual Todd Feinburg topic yesterday. So I wish Finneran well.

Scott Allen Miller, the man he’ll be replacing, will stay at the helm until the Finneran show makes its debut on Feb. 12. This is unheard-of in radio, but Wolfe said at the news conference that Miller is being considered for another Entercom job outside of Boston. So Miller will be a good boy.

Miller’s not a bad guy (disclosure: I yakked with him on his show a few times, and once did a morning as his substitute co-host), but I don’t think he ever figured out the Boston market. He really could have used a piece of advice I once heard from Brudnoy: In talk radio, the callers are far dumber than the listeners. The trick is to find a way to deal with the callers without alienating the listeners. Unfortunately, Miller’s show all too often sounds like he thinks the callers are his listeners. By this point, maybe they are.

Save WRKO is apoplectic.

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  1. Anonymous

    I might have done an extended comment, but Dan has refused to post some comments of mine that I provided for several posts below. Why should I bother?-raj

  2. Brian Maloney

    Actually, Dan, we’re having a great time at SaveWRKO. WRKO’s managers are making every boneheaded move possible, leaving us with a nearly endless supply of potential fodder. Nonetheless, we will miss WRKO.

  3. neil

    Raj I’ll go you one better. I was going to write an extended comment too. It was going to be profound yet pithy, sparkling in its wit–a masterpiece! But since Dan has either refused to post some of my comments, or may do so in the future, I decided not to write it after all. Because, why bother!

  4. Anonymous

    I dunno. Arrogance and verbosity seem to be working for Braude. Perhaps we get the talk shows we deserve, too?

  5. Anonymous

    EB3 Herehey Brian Maloney, you poor pathetic thing.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Raj: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I almost never reject a comment, and though it’s possible I rejected yours, I doubt it. Maybe I thought it was libelous. But more likely it’s this. I’m now up to three invisible, unapproved comments.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Brian: Pretend I’m Rick Pitino. Now pay attention — Jerry Williams and Gene Burns aren’t walking through that door. Don’t worry, Howie’s safe. Other than that, there’s nothing to save.

  8. Brian Maloney

    Dan, we may very well outgrow the name, but we’ll still be there to chronicle every misstep on the station’s road to oblivion. Where Howie isn’t safe is regarding his syndication deal.

  9. Anonymous

    There is one other possibility. Sometimes the letters in the word verification are not clear (e.g., u or v), depending on the font. The only way you know a comment has not been submitted is if you don’t receive the message about moderator approval. So if you don’t get the message and you don’t check for it, you may think your comment has been submitted when it actually hasn’t been.Also it now appears that you must check the right radio button (e.g., for Anonymous), which I believe was not previously true.

  10. Anonymous

    And by the way, it just happened to me again although I did enter the word correctly and did select Anonymous. I have noticed this before as well, that is having to submit the comment more than once.

  11. Aaron Read

    If you take too long to type a comment, the “word verification” letters will “expire” and you’ll get new ones. USUALLY your comment text is preserved so you need only type the letters of the new word verification…but whenever I submit a comment I always hit CTRL+A to select all and then CTRL+C to copy it. Just in case.As for WRKO. I think something that’s worth mentioning is that AM radio, as a whole, has slid into a shoebox of sorts due to its inferior audio quality. Both in terms of sheer audio fidelity (a telephone call often has more audio bandwidth than an AM broadcast these days) and in terms of signal clarity. Especially at night.This doesn’t mean AM, as a whole, is not a viable medium. Far from it…just look at the dominance of WEEI and WBZ in the ratings. But it does mean that you can’t afford to be anything but the best at a specific niche…preferably a niche unoccupied by anyone else…otherwise you will not attract nor retain listeners.Boston is so sports-happy that somehow we manage to support three separate sports outlets (all on AM, natch) but I just don’t know if there’s enough conservative outrage to support an AM talker when there’s already an FM talker with essentially the same format.By way of example, imagine if a public radio operator tried to start an NPR news/talk outlet on WRKO’s signal. It’d most likely fail (or limp along at low levels), because there’s already plenty of NPR news/talk on two superior FM signals.At this point, one wonders if WRKO could do better by playing the Music of Your Life format that WXKS-AM aired until Air America. Especially since similarly-formatted WJIB (with a TINY signal) rapidly perked up above a 1.0 share when WXKS abandoned MOYL. There’s the ticket – sell WRKO to Bob Bittner! For $277,115!! 🙂

  12. Peter Porcupine

    I use my Blogger identity, and have to submit more than once. Hint: If you still see your text in the box, it didn’t go through.

  13. Anonymous

    Dan,”So Miller will be a good boy”? Could you be more condescending? What’s wrong with you? The guy has a family and kids and he’s losing his job, he’s doing the best he can in a tough situation. You say Miller’s not a bad guy…your post says the opposite about you.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 7:58: Miller chose a business with zero job security, and he did it of his own free will. His numbers were mediocre. Them’s the breaks. Besides, it looks like Entercom is going to find him another job elsewhere in the chain. So don’t cry for Scotto. He’ll be fine.

  15. Steve

    Miller is not my cup of tea, but he seems more intelligent than the average talk show host. If he gets a decent editor, I’m sure he could write a better book than Jackson. (I know that’s not saying much.)But he’s got a good voice and a decent mind, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. (Don’t discount the voice – it’s really amazing how distinctive a good broadcast voice can be.)

  16. raccoonradio

    >>making every boneheaded move possibleAs Brian points out, they made a fairly big gain in the latest 12 +s (see Radio and Ratings)–will the addition of Finneran result in a subtraction in the ratings? I can’t read Julie and Jason’s minds, but it seems like it’ll be The Talk Station (or the Hack Station?) days…The Sox Station, nights–and they figure the Sox will be the real breadwinner.So even if Tom gets lousy ratings, “BIG PAPI STRIKES AGAIN!” will save them. I’m not saying I agree with their choice, I’m just guessing what they may be thinking.

  17. Aaron Read

    Raccoon – I dunno, dude…12+ ratings are essentially meaningless. How else to explain WBOS’s continued fiscal success? Seriously, their 12+ numbers have consistently stunk but I’ve heard their 25-54 women’s numbers are pretty good.Which is telling; certainly the advertisers don’t pay much attention to 12+…they listen to your 25-54 numbers depending on gender. THOSE numbers are guarded like Fort Knox. Cost about as much to get them, too.The only real value, and a weak one at that, to 12+ ratings is looking at long-term trends over at least 4-8 quarters, if not 8-16 quarters. That said, you raise an excellent point. The money from the Sox games alone will easily cover whatever Entercom puts on WRKO the rest of the day. And I imagine WEEI’s sports talk programming is strong enough to get some decent numbers without the games. So in a way, Julie Kahn could put Pip farting on a snare drum on WRKO the rest of the day and Entercom would still come out ahead in this goofy WRKO/WEEI arrangement.

  18. Anonymous

    Entercom hasn’t invested in promoting WRKO in this highly competitive market and the results have been a nightmare. Entercom sinks MILLIONS in promotional money into WAAF, WEEI, and Mike FM. WTKK has also invested heavily in a very effective outdoor and TV ad campaign to reach new potential listeners. WRKO? nothing save for a few taxi tops and bland billboards a few years ago. Management has been trying to hold onto their aging listeners as they die off or retire to Florida. Firing two Gen X hosts and hiring a 56 year old media novice who probably doesn’t know what “The Sims” is won’t exactly help WRKO embrace a new generation of listeners.Ask a random Bostonian under the age of 45 and he or she will probably tell you they haven’t even heard of WRKO or Scott Allen Miller. Boston didn’t reject Miller because he didn’t “get” the market; Boston never even knew he was here. He never had a chance.I work for a competitor and have seen the research on the name recognition for WRKO vs WTKK in the 25-54 demo. It’s like night and day. If Entercom had invested its time and money into WRKO as it does in its other properties in Boston it could have been a contender.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 7:20: I think you may be on to something. Scotto’s got some talent, and he might have been OK if he’d had guidance. I do think he didn’t get the market, but it doesn’t seem that he had anyone helping him, either. And yes, you would think WRKO management would want to try to make things work with someone who could bring in a younger demo.DePetro’s another matter. Not a bad guy personally, but once he decided to reinvent himself as a homophobic ranter, he lost me for good.

  20. Anonymous

    Dan,Do you think there are any Politics at work? The early morning slot has been a dog for WRKO for years – anyone remember Pat Whitly teamed with Marjorie Claprod?Entrecom owners, the Field Family , are big Democratic Donors. Why not use Finneran to support Deval Patrick – the new governor? Clearly Patrick is a Very intelligent guy and knows if he stays Governor until the end of his career – ‘He’ll be at a dead end”?Perhaps a slot on as Democratic VP possibility? The morning slot on Wrko is a loser for the Field Family – why not use it to firm up support for the new Democratic Governor – who has high ambitions.Any thoughts?

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