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

Banned in Boston

Clea Simon reports in today’s Globe that local radio executives are excited about four Boston talk-show hosts’ being named to the Talkers magazine “2007 Heavy Hundred.”

Well, now. Boston is the ninth-largest radio market in the country. Yet the local “Heavy Hundred” winners are essentially also-rans, with Howie Carr (WRKO, AM 680) coming in at #50, Jay Severin (WTKK, 96.9 FM) at #66 and John Dennis and Gerry Callahan (WEEI, AM 850) at #93. Granted, most of the top 50 hosts are nationally syndicated, but this doesn’t strike me as much to get excited about.

And here’s something to ponder. Though the majority of the top-ranked hosts are conservatives, with Rush Limbaugh coming in at #1, there are some liberal and left-wing hosts near the top, too. Ed Schultz is ranked fifth. Randi Rhodes is #13. Alan Colmes is #16. Stephanie Miller is #36.

What do they have in common? With the exception of Colmes, they could all be heard in Boston on Clear Channel’s weak-signaled “Progressive Talk” stations until December, when the stations were converted to Spanish-language programming.

You think they might do well in liberal Massachusetts if they were put on a station where you could actually hear them? Yeah, I think so, too. Here are the folks who are trying to make that happen.

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  1. Brighton Boris

    Maybe the Talkers also ranks the hosts by weight…that explains why Rush is still #1.FYI, as of few months ago, Boston radio market is now ranked 11th, not 9th.

  2. Anonymous

    Stephanie Miller is the most entertaining show on talk radio–we get her on Sirius. Entertainment is what it is about–right? The rest of them are little more than rants. We used to like Ed Schultz, but his rants have gotten to be more than a bit boring. The others? No. Rants. After a while, rants get to be boring. Except possibly to the shotgun/black helicopter crowd.–raj

  3. man who's an npr fan

    Wow, I feel like I was just put in my place…The sole NPR rep in the list, and all the way down at 91 no less, is Diane Rehm??Diane Rehm?!?!?!?!sigh

  4. Anonymous

    raj, I’m sick of this obsession over whether a helicopter is black or white.

  5. Anonymous

    EB3 here.How about Finneran’s show. More info in 15 minutes than an entire week of Howie, or Eagan and Braude.His show is defining ‘informed and inteeligent talk radio’.(except for Wendy Murphy)Is it entaining enough for ratings? I don’t know. But I hope so.

  6. J.V. Walt

    Progressive talk has a number of hurdles to overcome. First of all, it’s an unproven format, although it’s gaining some credibility in spite of Air America’s troubles. Second, the presumed political leanings of Clear Channel and their ilk; although their primary goal is to make money, and they’d put Hugo Chavez on the air if he generated profits, they are certainly more comfortable with right-wing talk. And third, advertisers are less likely to buy time on progressive talk because it’s not necessarily a “friendly editorial environment.” I know of one local progressive talker who had decent numbers but auto dealers wouldn’t advertise on her show because of her pro-environment and anti-gas-guzzler stances.

  7. Peter Porcupine

    Give Howie a little credit – he outranks Hugh Hewitt, who’s in 70 markets!As far as profitable liberal radio goes – other than Diane Rehm, the only NPR hosts to crack the top 250 are Terry Gross and Click and Clack. Doesn’t look good for listenership.EB3 – I agree – I’ve been listening to Finneran pretty much every day, and once you get used to that laugh, he’s highly substantive. Bet he’s in the Top 250 next year – maybe ahead of Terry Gross!

  8. Anonymous

    As long as progressives know better than I do what’s good for me, I will give them the attention they deserve…

  9. man who's an npr fan

    Peter – you missed a few in the 101-250 category:Neal Conan – Host of Talk of the NationDavid Gardner – NPR/Financial Analyst & Reporter(this really should be Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace, although admittedly Kai’s only been host for a few years…if it were still David Brancaccio it’d be no question)And when Finneran’s maintains this level consistently for 20+ years, then he can say he’s better than Terry Gross. I actually don’t care much for Fresh Air, but Terry has consistently brought an intelligent style to her show for decades. That’s not to be sneezed at.And even trying to account for my liberal bias 🙂 I’m kind of surprised Chris Lydon isn’t in here. I see names that are on the air only in Boston with smaller ratings than Chris, even factoring that Radio Open Source has barely been around a year.Speaking of Chris, anyone notice that Guess they can a little. 😉

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Something I should have pointed out in my original post: the “Heavy Hundred” rankings are completely subjective, with ratings only a small part of it. In Boston, at least, I would guess that Tom Ashbrook’s audience is as large as any talk-show host’s around, and I’m sure Robin Young does well, too. Christopher Lydon’s ratings should be high, but I don’t know that they are — it doesn’t seem that enough people have discovered his second incarnation.

  11. Anonymous

    Teri Gross is an excellent interviewer. It’s the interviewees who oftentimes aren’t. I’m referring to her Bill O’Reilly interview, of course.Last night, we watched an interview by Stephen Colbert of Larry King. I had long denigrated Larry King, but the Colbert interview fleshed out what King believed his roll in the interview was: let the interviewee talk. He believed that it wasn’t his place to insert himself substantially into the discussion. Just let the interviewee talk. (We could get into various editorial issues, such as who should be selected as being the interviewees, but that’s another topic.) I found that to be a not unreasaonable approach.And I was reminded of what was probably the best Nova program ever: the interview with Richard Feynman. In the program, they edited out all of the questions. All of them. And they just had Feynman’s comments (the subject matter of the questions was obvious from the responses, but they still did the editing). The interviewer did not insert him- or her-self into the dialog–not at all.–raj

  12. Anonymous

    Regarding Chris Lydon, he shot himself in the butt when he chose to go against Jane Christo over overship of The Connection. He’s an excellent interviewer, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of advertisement based radio (sorry, “public” tv and radio really is advertisement based) and he apparently wanted a higher share in the profits of the show than Christo was willing to give, for obvious reasons (viz, CarTalk).One other problem is that ‘BUR was producing two programs–The Connection and On Point–that had no obvious brand differentiation. ‘BUR settled on the On Point brand identification, and canned The Connection, which had been Lydon’s program.Tom Ashbrook is OK at On Point, but he isn’t as good as Lydon was. Quite frankly, I found Judy Swallow of the BBC, who substituted for someone (I believe it was Lydon) during their various transitions to be the best of them all. (No, I’m not an anglophile)NB: Robin Young’s show is quite good, but it’s a different kind of show than the others being discussed. It’s more of an news show than an opinion show.–raj

  13. Tony

    Subjective is the correct wording to use about the Heavy Hundred [Or now the Talkers 250]. This has also been discussed over at As I noted there, look at the chart comparing the ratings at stations which carry left-wing AAR and stations which carry right-wing Salem. AAR beat the Salem numbers and yet their hosts don’t make the Talkers 250 but Salem’s do. Very interesting. I once talked to Michael Harrison about the list, back in 1996, I think, and he said it was based on ratings and the opinion of some of the Talkers Magazine folks. They are now posting a disclaimer that the list isn’t based on ratings or surveys but a reflective look by staff on the industry. That says a lot.

  14. Anonymous

    It’s an open secret in the radio industry that Talkers Magazine publisher Michael Harrison fills the top Heavy Hundred slots rankings almost exclusively with hosts whose syndicators advertise heavily in his magazine. It’s his way to throw a bone to the companies that keep him in business.A good example is Mancow, #11. He is on only 5 of the top 50 radio markets but the company that syndicates his show (Talk Radio Network) spends a ton of money pushing his show and others to programmers who read Talkers Magazine. On the other hand, Bill O’Reilly has far more influence, generates far more revenue dollars, and has far more listeners than Mancow does. His show is on major stations in most the top 50 largest markets. Don Imus is on in many large markets and is simulcast on MSNBC. But Westwood One, their syndicator, doesn’t spend as much advertising money in Talkers as TRN does so O’Reilly, Imus, and all the other Westwood One hosts rank behind Mancow. Salem Radio Networks buys more ads in Talkers than Air America Radio and its hosts fared better overall in the rankings. It’s not a coincidence.There were more Boston hosts in the Heavy Hundred when John DePetro, Peter Blute and Scott Allen Miller had shows in this market. Clea “Did I Get the Call Letters Right This Time?” Simon somehow must have overlooked that.

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