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

Finneran embraces the dark side — again

You would have thought that WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Tom Finneran had learned from his last go-round. Less than three months ago, Finneran was lambasted for signing up to be a lobbyist for the state troopers union. He quickly backed off.

Now, though, Finneran, a former Massachusetts House speaker, has officially registered as a lobbyist, according to the Herald’s Jessica Heslam, and has taken on the Liquor Liability Joint Underwriting Association of Massachusetts as a client. If that sounds a little too obscure to worry about, just consider that Finneran’s new best friends will be very interested whenever there’s talk of new laws regarding underage drinking, drunken driving, liability insurance and the like. According to the organization’s Web site:

LLJUA is a liquor liability insurer of last-resort. To be eligible for coverage from LLJUA, the business owner has to be turned down for coverage in the voluntary market. LLJUA’s liquor liability insurance is available for owners of taverns, hotels, restaurants, social clubs, package stores, caterers and other businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.

So, let’s see. A man staggers out of a bar, wraps his car around a telephone pole and is seriously injured. His family sues the bar, claiming the bartender should have known he was drunk and refused to serve him. Finneran the talk-show host rails against the suit, claiming that the driver should take responsibility for his actions and that tort reform is needed to prevent such frivolous lawsuits. And Finneran the lobbyist pockets another check from the organization that stands to benefit from such “reform.” Got it.

My Northeastern colleague Steve Burgard is rightly appalled (I’m thinking of renaming this blog “Husky Nation”), telling the Globe’s Carolyn Johnson, “For a serious news organization, it would be unthinkable.” Hosting a talk show may not be journalism, but it’s an activity with many resemblances to journalism. Finneran doesn’t owe his tiny band of listeners much, but he does owe them his independence.

You’d like to think that when Finneran’s expressing his opinion in his tortured, rococo syntax that his opinion isn’t bought and paid for. But it is. He should be gone. And perhaps he will be — the Herald account suggests that WRKO management is none too happy about this.

More: The Outraged Liberal has further thoughts.

Photo (cc) by Brosner, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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Still dissecting


  1. Anonymous

    EB3 Here Dan,Now don’t get me going.He has a lobbying business and whenever a subject having any affect on any of his clients he will tell the audience of his conflict. Your example is so outrageous and so far from the obvious. It would be simpler if Finneran just poured gasoline on himself and lit a match? In the real world if Finneran did such a thing he would be outed before the show is over, rightfully assassinated by you and others, receive an earful from management and sponsors, and be in serious danger of losing his job because of this breach in his contract., What Finneran is doing by representing this quasi insurance company is lobbying for a comma here or a word there in legislation that helps this client and the industry it is in. None of this stuff is ever a topic for talk radio, never mind the Boston Globe or the Herald. And if for some strange reason Finneran finds he has to talk about it, then he will disclose to his audience his conflict of interest clouding his opinion.Otherwise ‘RKO would be denying this guy the right to earn other income if the not allow.With that said, RKO should be allowed to forbid Finneran from representing any client (like state police union) whose ordinary course of business results in typical topics for discussion on the entertainment show. They should have veto power but not be allowed to use it unreasonably. Not for any journalistic standards by the way. Just for everyone’s self interest.I think you posted on state police lobbying issue Dan. I didn’t respond because I agreed with RKO on that one. They have to preserve credibility, a necessary factor for an entertainment show such as Mr. Finneran’s and others’. Two things More Things1. What I described above is what the lawyers do. They follow the logical line of reasoning based on a solid knowledge of the facts and a foundation in constitutional, contractual, tort and property law. Not on some willy nilly thing called journalism. 2. Based on my knowledge of the law and experience in reading journalism for many years I have concluded that without a foundation in law, that less than what a first year law student would receive, I am forced to give “journalists” little credibility. Unless of course their journalism school, in conjunction with their law school, prepares their student’s with some legal education. Also are journalist student’s sacrificing much needed core liberal arts courses? Joan Venocchi is a lawyer. She does not practice. But she is in my opinion the best by far local political commentator. Also are journalist student’s sacrificing much needed core liberal arts courses?As far as journalism graduate schools go; what are journalists students taught? I sincerely don’t get it. Just because people call this a “profession” doesn’t make everyone init professional. You have your orders Dan. Now get out there and see to it that graduate schools for journalism requires first year courses in some basic law courses taught by law professors. P.S.I knew as soon as I saw the story in the paper today that Dan and the journalism’s protectors of the flame would fall for this hook, line and sinker.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Yeah, EB, we’re suckers for trivial issues like credibility and independence. Thank God we’ve got the lawyers to set us straight.You will never catch me saying that journalism is a profession, by the way. It’s a craft. Some of us take it seriously.

  3. Anonymous

    EB3 HereYes Dan. Independence and Credibility.I am looking for some of that from you right now.I argued against your point and gave precise reasons. In addition I agreed with some of what you said by distinguishing the State Police as a client from this small little quasi-public agency.You just responded with a flippant personal attack and repeated your mantra of credibility and independence. That tells me nothing.

  4. Anonymous

    Finneran probably knows his days are numbered over at RKO, and is looking for the next chapter in his career. Entercom has a thing for putting disgraced pols (and other pseudo-celebrities) into their once highly visibile morning slot, hoping that their name alone will get them ratings. Remember Peter Blute held down that slot before Finneran. RKO put Blute into their morning chair as soon as he got off the gangplank from that famous Massport Booze Cruise. I’m sure over at Entercom they’re wishing Elliot Spitzer lived closer!

  5. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: I attacked you personally??? You’ve got to be kidding.There are no specifics I need to get into. When you’re working as a journalist, or, in Finneran’s case, as someone who performs some journalistic duties, you don’t become a paid advocate for anyone. Period. This isn’t difficult. If the gig from WRKO doesn’t pay Finneran enough, he should find a new job.One of the best lawyers in Boston sent me an e-mail a little while ago. It says in full: “What’s wrong with the ethical compasses on these guys. First, the governor gets over a million bucks for his memoir that is going to count on bulk sales to groups and associations with which he’ll have to be dealing, at arm’s length, while governor. Then Finneran takes on another lobbying client.”

  6. Anonymous

    EB3I took the “thank God we’ve got the lawyers to set us straight” line personally. And are smug crack at lawyers. And of course the obvious anti-intellectual tone and nature of the line.Remember why Shakespeare said to kill all the lawyers? If we want anarchy, that’s why.Now Dan, what do u call sponsors, commercials, live reads? These people pay for the announcers to say the product is great and they personally love it. C’mon. You gotta be kidding me? Credibility for talk show hosts. Finneran blows the rest away, regardless of who he lobbies for. Puleeze. I am an adult and can form my own opinions when presented with correct information. If Finneran doesn’t lie to me than I have no problem.Cut the crap. Your profession talks the sanctimonious game when it benefits them or hurts someone they do not like.Small minded people refuse to distinguish fact patterns.John Maynard Keynes upon being told he was being a hypocrite he responded, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do Sir?”That sums up my feeling towards the media.Thanks for ignoring the legal foundation journalism students suggestion.Comparing a governor to a talk show host? But your lawyer friend would be great to talk about the nuances and get to the meat of this. I am sure he would be open to listening to the argument and argueing back with facts and logic. Nothing of which I see you do. I have made distinquishing facts. As opposed to the obtuse media “that’s my story and I sticking to it” Get over yourselves.

  7. Anonymous

    Still, not as outrageous as the idea of WBUR hiring Mike Barnicle. WRKO isn’t presumed to have any integrity in the first place.

  8. Anonymous

    Dan, Allow me to attack EB3 personally, then. It’s fine for EB to pontificate on the way journalists do our job because he’s “read journalism” yet no one but a trained lawyer can give a cogent analysis of law? Give me a break. Journalism, law, medicine, they are all occupations of art and as such are open to interpretation. Ask anyone who sat through the Reggie Lewis trial, including the attorneys on both sides.As a reporter, I’ve read as many if not more legal briefs than most lawyers with less than 10 years in the bar. Could I write a brief with citations? No but I feel very confident in opining on the application of law and in my opinion, while what Finneran is doing is not illegal, it is surely in conflict with accepted best practices of our trade. And no lawyer can spin that any other way.

  9. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Anon. 10:30 has it dead-on.Finneran’s cooked. The frequent pairing of him with knee-jerk vigilante Wendy Murphy has been a flop. The only thing that might work is to pair him with a flippant but relatable liberal — but Barney Frank already has a job, Ted O’Brien is off to parts unknown, and Bob Lassiter is dead. Braude is boring and Clapprood would be a disaster exacerbating the biggest problem with the Finneran show — pols who call him Mr. Speaker.What is remarkable is that Entercom has not developed a single new talk show host in nearly a decade of trying. Ozone, Scotto, Blute, Moes, DePetro, McCarthy, Vigneau, Tai, Kramer, Gold, and Katz were all dismal failures. (yeah, OK, some may have been under prior ownership; it’s been a while.) The only thing approaching a success at WRKO since the late 1980s has been Carr and he was a flop at ‘RKO when paired with Victoria Jones under American Radio. Carr only came back from the radio dead when an GM who had run the station during its heyday put Carr on the air when he ran then-competitor WHDH. Instead of innovation we get Finneran’s mutual-ass-kissing and admiration society with every state rep under the sun and a midday guy whose unintelligible jibberish seems little more than a juvenile effort to mask fundamental lack of knowledge about what he’s talking about. The amusing part of this is that when General Tire owned RKO and its FM sister, they used a consultant for the music station who has since reinvented talk radio, starting by turning a sleepy Trenton FM station into a ratings and revenue monster. His mantra: the only people who listen to political talk are “talk-show hosts, newspaper writers, politicians and retired guys. They are all talking to each other. It is an unbelievably closed loop” that excludes “that person who has to pick up their dry cleaning or collect or deliver their kids.”The right-wingers who WRKO management thought would be winners in the conservative world of talk radio had one thing in common. They took themselves and the issues too seriously and saw themselves as crusaders for a political cause. Compare this, believe it or nor, to Michael Savage. His show isn’t about his obnoxious politics; he does a LOT of relating to people about things that relate to people. As a result, he takes a surprising chunk of sdult listeners at night. Look at co-owned WEEI in the afternoon. Same thing; it comes down to relating and not just runs, hits and errors. It is clear that Finneran is lowering the lifeboat. He wasn’t the answer. But his preparation for another career does focus attention on the question: How long will Entercom shareholders put up with the squandering of a once-prestigious property by management both locally and in Bala Cynwyd that plainly has no idea what to do with a 50,000 watt talk radio station?

  10. Anonymous

    EB3’s comments here and at BMG aren’t even worth reading. I’m amazed at the attention he receives on the basis of inherited wealth and a big car dealership.My advice – don’t engage him.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 2:37: You think he really is Ernie Boch’s grandson? Evidence? I just thought it was an unusually creative handle.

  12. Anonymous

    Dan, well, he identifies as both “EB3” and “Ernie Boch, III” at BMG. I guess that doesn’t have to mean it’s the same guy, but I assumed it was.

  13. Anonymous

    EB3Great banter girls and guys. I will give some thought to anaon 1;30along with other related matters and post on BMG in the near future. In a nut shell, a journalaists’ job is to facts that allow the readers to form intelligent opinions. To do so, ajournalists must always look for facts that are distinguishable to readers so that a reasonable intelligent person can rely on facts were presented to form an intelligent opinion on the facts being reported.Commentary on these facts is not the journalists job. However, his biases can come through with the selective reporting of small but important facts of the quotes used in the story. I also will do a little research, very very little, as to the term “craft” rather than profession. Craft? isn’t that more artistic? creative? made-up?Reporting of facts in an unbias manner is an artform?Not a profession? The more I hear and see about journaism the more I think do not like. Making sausage as they say,I have many questions about this world called journalism.

  14. Anonymous

    EB3 againAnon 1:30You may have read the legal briefs but generally speaking from my perspective journailsts like you are reading the briefs and not reporting or reading and not understanding. Or you are an exception and I just haven’t read your stuff.A legal foundation for journalists is much more than helping them report trials. A foundation in the knowledge comes into play in so many things that can only help a journalist. If you disagree, could you tell me why?And what is your trade? I see Tom Finnerans trade, talk show host, not the same as a journalist. What are you? newspaper reporter? Talk show host? Performance artist? Stand -up comic.Factual distinctions cannot be ignored in life. So why do lousy journailsts get to mail it in and ignore factual distinctions? Because they don’t get called on it. That’s why? Inother words, because they can.Also anon, as for reading more legal briefs that a ten year out lawyer: Singing “MY Way” every Tuesday night at the Kareoke Bar doesn’t make you Frank Sinatra

  15. amusedbutinformedobserver

    Am I the only one to remember Jim Dooley’s “come on down” line in the National Airlines advertisements?Ernie Boch Jr., indeed.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 3:29: I know, I just assumed he wasn’t actually Ernie Boch III.

  17. Anonymous

    Hey Dan, no response to Ernie? Although a jerk he makes some points.Isn’t journalism about reporting facts in an unbias manner?

  18. Anonymous

    I don’t view WRKO as a “serious news orgainzation” like the professor. It is talk radio. Isn’t there a difference? You mean Rush Limbaughh doesn’t have any conflicts.

  19. Larz

    Northeast Airlines — Yellowbirds

  20. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 6:09: I’ve responded to him twice. A lot of what he wrote I really don’t have time to process and respond to. I’m not being disrespectful, but I really can’t be in constant dialogue with commenters. He’s had a l-o-t to say recently.

  21. neil

    Finneran still has his law license. Lawyers understand the meaning of representation, conflict of interest and apparent conflict of interest. The first they endeavor to do well, and the second two they affirmatively act to avoid as a matter of professional obligation. Why doesn’t Finneran recognize those principles as operative in broadcast media?Lobbying and broadcast media are at best an apparent conflict of interest. I wish Finneran all the best in finding gainful employment. It’s not clear why he continues to step in it, repeatedly. Must be a common peril when you seek income in the $400,000 range.

  22. Anonymous

    EB3 hereDan, This is your best way to respond to my questions re: journalism a “craft” rather ‘profession that evenhandedly reports facts’?Your responses ignore my questions and repeat your mantra. “NO CONFLICTS FOR JOURNALISTS”. Then yon you say you already answered the questions but I’m moving to fast for you to argue with. Or something like that.I asked about differnces between talk show host and newspaper reporter. Talk show hosts do on air endorsements for products? I asked about that distinction.Huh.You are the main man in local media on media. Yet you have no ability to have an intelligent arguement on the media outside of your limited and all encomppassing code of ethics. The more I see dan the less impressed I am. You should be defending your ‘craft” against my legitamate questions. I would want you to if I was a “journalist” that read your blog everyday so as to stay up to date on local media stuff.You started this blog. You use it as teching aide with your students, I am sure.So what do usay? Talk show hosts journaists? Howard Stern is more or less a talk show host. Is he a journalist? I need to know so I can play this big boy game too.

  23. Dan Kennedy

    EB: I’ve written about all this stuff before, going back years. Why don’t you try looking for it rather than demanding that I write the same thing over and over again for your benefit?Briefly — a talk-show host does some things resembling journalism, just like many bloggers do. News, information and commentary. Labels for people are not useful. Finneran’s not a journalist, but he does some journalism — more than most, in fact, but less than, say, Dan Rea or Tom Ashbrook. The ethical standards are different — talk-show hosts aren’t just allowed to endorse products, they’re required to. Journalists would be forbidden at almost any news org. But without independence, there’s no credibility.Is journalism a profession? I’m not sure you’ll find this in any dictionary, but I don’t think something is a profession unless it requires a specific body of knowledge and is subject to regulation by one’s peers and, in some cases, the government. Physicians and lawyers are professionals, and they can lose their right to practice if they don’t adhere to the standards of their profession. But no one who wishes to practice journalism can be stopped, no matter how badly he does it. The First Amendment wouldn’t allow for it.Occasionally I will call my students’ attention to a particular post I’ve written if it touches on a subject matter with which we’re dealing. But I do not force my students to read Media Nation. I’m not that much of an egomaniac.

  24. Anonymous

    EB3 heredan, you give me too many openings. But I don’t like the fact that you decide what a journaist is. I just want good even handed fact reporting. A solid liberal arts education with a foundation in some basic law (torts, evidence, contracts, constitutional law) and lastly some “oh, By the Way” courses which would be helpful in understanding the industry. Last semester last year elective courses.A whole school for journaism?What the hell is taught there?I just don’t get what you people see in yourselves.Please report the facts. Evenhandidly. You have editorial pages for uneven-handedness.

  25. Anonymous

    EB3 here.Sorry Dan, you seem to be far from an egomaniac. And a good guy. It is your profession I have problems with and you are the only one I can vent at.Real quick here.I grew up always reading and hearing from the local journalists about the Red Sox being racists. Having racist hiring practices, etc. New ownership said they would address it.Now with popular ownership, nytimes ownership, and sycophant media, I have never read or heard anywhere the disgusting fact that I have raised the past two years:There are only two African Americans in the red sox front office and staff which comprises about 80+ people. When ownership bought the team seven years ago there 40 or so such employees. Including the same two African Americans who were hired years ago by the ole racist ownership.Do you see why I am such a dick head Dan. It is the media I observe. And in this town, especially with NYT owing Bosotn Globe now (how about casino endorsement) I don’t trust most of it.Which is sad, because all I want is an evenhanded reporting of facts so I can form my own intelligent opinions using critical thinking.

  26. Anonymous

    “Do you see why I am such a dick head Dan.(sic)” No mas. We’re begging you. Get your own blog. Dan (and the rest of us)have done nothing to deserve this.

  27. Anonymous

    EB3:Last month, you stated your support on this blog for Paul LaCamera’s intent to hire Mike Barnicle.Do you trust Barnicle to ‘report the facts, evenhandedly?’

  28. Anonymous

    “Critical thinking.” Uh, yeah.

  29. Anonymous

    EB3 Here,Barnacle made mistakes. Years ago. On opinion peiueces. Not factual reporting. Paul laCamera did a nice job in pleading his case.Getting back to critical thinking anon. 10:43.Like the differnce between a reporter of facts and a columnist.Why can’t a reporter report facts in an even handed and vetted way so the reader can rely on those facts and use intelligence and critical thinking to form an opinion. AS opposed to Mike Barnicle relying on credible facts to author his opinions. In fact, i don’t care that Barnicle copies some one eleses column. I do care that the facts he relies on in basing the opinion are truthful. And he doesn’t select facts which prove his opinion but only in an anti-intellectual way.Such as saying the new red soxownership is on top of historical claims of rascism yet ignore the facts of zero african american hirings. That pretty much how are local press covers that now. See what critical thinking does to you anon 10;43Totally different. Let’s talk about straight factual reporting. In my opinion, very generally speaking, and quoting Rick Pitino. “In this town it Sucks!”

  30. Anonymous

    In the 50’s and 60’s when the Lefties took over most Newspapers(and evening news)they decided not to report the facts Evenhandidly.They decided to push an agenda.Thankfully, the Internet is putting a dent to that Monopoly.

  31. Anonymous

    EB3:Bullshit. Barnicle fabricated the ‘facts’ in his columns, as has been proven time and time again. It goes beyond ‘borrowing’ and the fine line you continue to blur between opinion and reporter pieces.I am glad to learn that you, Barnicle and LaCamera are of the same ilk.

  32. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: Surely you know that Barnicle never played the pure opinion-monger. He played the reporter who went out and interviewed people, then wrote up what they said interspersed with his opinions. Sometimes he actually did that.

  33. Anonymous

    EB3 here.. and Barnicle was presented as a columnist. I knew that going into it. It is straight reporting that is my problem because I, as reader, come into the story seeing it as a straight news story as opposed to opinion piece. Same as movies given a person a good idea of what they will see. Documentary, kids movie, animation, porn.. You know what you are getting into. No deception.Perfect Case in Point is in today’s Phoenix. David Bernstein’s piece on Sal DiMasi the question of whether he is abusing his power. Fair enough piece. fair enough issue to investigate and report on.In it, however, Bernstein writes the following:”And members will frequently tell you that DiMasi never personally leans on them for votes. But, some say, that’s because he keeps his hands clean while letting subordinates do the dirty dealing. “On this past year’s gay-marriage debate, for instance, it’s true that DiMasi made no deals for votes. But he dispatched nine “handlers” with directives to win over a member assigned to them — and another nine to oversee the handlers. DiMasi was kept at arm’s length from details of how the vote-flippers were persuaded.”What Bernstein failed to mention, or did not but should have known, is that “handlers” are called “whips” and have been around since Rome. This is how the legislative process works. Bernstein wants to come along and redefine the vocabulary to support..?(I have know idea. He should be impartial)Depending on the importance of the legislation and the vote numbers whips are told to ramp it up or don’t worry about it. They all have a list of member s assigned to them. Like an organization trying to accomplish a legitimate purpose. Whips can also be anyone else (rep only) who is trusted with an “assignment”. Which in this case is to count the votes and argue them onto his side. Just like in the debates in the Federalists Papers.But reporter of facts Bernstein uses rhetorical devices in suggesting to the reader, who is unaware and looking to him for an even handed reporting of the facts so they can form there own opinions, that Sal DiMasi created a heavy handed force of handlers never the likes before seen in the House and ordered to go out and use unethical tactics in winning people over to his side.It is like a person describing baseball game to a blind person and describing a third base coach in a tone and manner that strongly suggests that the other team is not allowed the same and this is so unfair.Bernstein does report Arlene Issacson saw it differently, but that does not excuse presenting the highly organized effort to defeat the bill.

  34. Anonymous

    EB3 hereDan, fictional people made-up to stand in for random person in the street o random home owner or taxpayer, or voter in opinion column is far far differnt, and in my honest opinion much more serious, than inferring and misreporting about real people and events directly effecting real news stories.Capiche?

  35. Anonymous


  36. Anonymous

    EB3 sorry, i mispoke. It came up backwards in last post I don’t care about columnists credibility because I know part of their job calls for biases. As a reader a columnist developes a reputation with me for fairness.As for straight news stories the reader should be able to rely on non biased reporting of facts allowing reader to form own opinions.Yesterdays story by David Bernstein mislead the reader on a point, but it made the speaker look very sinister in what was otherwise a factually true but almost benign story.So how does media nation deal with Ernie.”he’s a crackpot” (ok. wrong choice of words, I am)”clueless crackpot”better. that’s what I am here.

  37. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: There’s an old saying about column-writing that you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. A columnist has all of the obligations of a straight-news reporter in terms of getting right. Being allowed to express your opinion doesn’t mean you get to make things up or plagiarize the work of other people.I haven’t read David Bernstein’s story yet (love the art!), but surely you’re not suggesting that anything in the Phoenix is a straight-news story, are you? The Phoenix is a newspaper of liberal opinion journalism. The goal of the news coverage is to be fair and accurate, and to express that within the context of a point of view.Perhaps because it’s so difficult to do that well, a lot of critics think the two missions are mutually exclusive. I don’t think they are at all.

  38. Anonymous

    EB3 hereWe are on the same page here Da.It is just the Buyer Beware part. I take it from the readers pount of is the straight news story that has to report facts acurately. Bernstein’s was an example handed to me by him when I needed it. He described, in my opinion, a routine evryday, yes exciting and important, procedure used by all legislative bodies in way a reasonable person would believe it was possibly corrupt. He used the word “handlers”. Came from a quuote from someone inside. But that was in converasation. THe speaker knew what they were doing and using hyperbole to make a point. Bernstein does not give background or facts or paint picture show reader has valid credible understanding of the facts. In fact he misleads rather than nnot mentioning at all.Political agenda does not have to effect goor reporting.OKI have to stopped this banter. This is like gambleing or video games or some addiction.I am losing controlHELP ME!I need my higher power.But if some comments with a wise crack like “thank God” or something, then I will just post on evrything aand go on and go and on and on…

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