WTKK takes a step in the right direction

Braude and Eagan
Braude and Eagan

Boston Herald reporter Jay Fitzgerald has some very good news: WTKK (96.9 FM) is moving Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s mid-day talk show to morning drive, where it will now be heard Monday to Friday from 7 to 10 a.m. Aging has-been Don Imus’ syndicated program will be relegated to the decidedly unattractive 5-to-7 a.m. slot.

In making the move, WTKK rectifies a mistake that goes back to its failed attempt to lure Howie Carr from WRKO (AM 680) for morning drive. Carr wanted to come over, but he turned out to have the most restrictive contract since Curt Flood; indeed, he was whining about it as recently as yesterday.

Stuck with no Howie, ‘TKK took back Imus, who was returning to the airwaves following his penance for referring to African-American female basketball players as “nappy-headed hos.”

Naturally, a lot of attention will be focused on the duel between Eagan and Braude’s program and ‘RKO’s morning-drive show hosted by Tom Finneran and Todd Feinburg. That shouldn’t be much of a contest. Braude and Eagan are naturals. Finneran has never gotten comfortable behind the microphone, and Feinburg is all plodding, ultraconservative earnestness.

The far more interesting question is whether this is the first of several shoes to drop at ‘TKK. It’s hard to read the tea leaves, but the station has made a statement: Its signature program is now a morning talk show hosted by a liberal, Braude, and a moderate, Eagan, both of whom bring a light touch to the proceedings and are respectful toward and engaging with callers.

Where does that leave WTKK’s right-wing twins, yipping ninny Michael Graham and hatemongering afternoon host Jay Severin?

For the moment, they appear to be OK. Graham’s actually getting an extra hour. As for Severin, maybe I’m parsing this too finely, but I do find it interesting that he’s losing a drive-time hour (6 to 7 p.m.) and gaining a non-drive hour (2 to 3 p.m.). Michele McPhee is moving up a bit, from 6 to 10 p.m., which could be seen as an attempt to expose her to more listeners.

More than anything, Eagan and Braude’s move up is step toward civility on the airwaves — rare at any time, and something we ought to celebrate.

45 thoughts on “WTKK takes a step in the right direction

  1. Interesting!!!!!

    Who will win the demographics and advertising dollars?

    One comment you made on civility and I would add objectivity on both sides are lacking.

    In the next few months when the ratings are out, we shall know.

  2. Art Ruben

    Finneran and Feinburg are terrific. I’ll be very surprised if Jim & Margery can compete – especially with the late start.

  3. lkcape

    “Where does that leave WTKK’s right-wing twins, yipping ninny Michael Graham and hatemongering afternoon host Jay Severin?”

    Does name calling add to the noise or detract from it, Dan?

    For someone arguing for civility, it might be appropriate to demonstrate that you are capable of it.

  4. Jay

    Personally I am glad that Jim and Margery are moving into the am slot. That is the time of day I cannot listen and it will save me from having to avoid wtkk when they are on. Respectful to callers? Please Jim is the biggest jerk on the airwaves, his condescending attitude and the fact that he wants the government to control everyones life makes me want to vomit.

  5. Al

    As someone who is not a fan of rabid radio, I find this refreshing. Now, if they can only resist the pressure to act like all the drive time screamers, we’ll be in good shape.

  6. Aaron Read

    I think you’re parsing too finely in general, Dan. Imus, for all his general obnoxiousness, was politically pretty liberal.

    The reason why Eagan and Braude are moving has little to do with their politics. It’s because Imus’s ratings have been on a slide for over 10 years, and WTKK believes their show will get better ratings.

    If Mancow farting gets better ratings, he’ll go in morning drive…it’s that simple.

    Now granted, it could be E&B get better ratings BECAUSE they’re more liberal/centrist. Probably it has more to do with the fact that they’re local and thus talking more about local issues and/or talking about national issues with a local perspective.

    Regardless, I don’t think this has any real import for WTKK to be more “liberal talk” in the future.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Aaron: I didn’t make myself as clear as I should have. You’re right about Imus. My point was that ‘TKK was just using him as a placeholder until management figured out what to do with the slot. Now that it’s finally made that decision, I’m pleasantly surprised, given that it’s previous choice was Howie Carr — many steps up from Graham and Severin in terms of intelligence and talent, but still a conservative put-down artist.

      But when you say it’s all about the ratings, my answer is yes, of course: ratings throughout the day. One of the reasons liberal talk has had such a hard time breaking through is that it doesn’t work to have one liberal show amid a sea of conservative talk. Now that ‘TKK has decided that liberal talk will be its signature program, it’s fair to wonder what will happen long-term to Graham and Severin. If Eagan and Braude do well and Graham and Severin don’t, I think we know what the answer will be.

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  8. O-FISH-L

    What lkcape said. Sheesh Dan, the liberals are “naturals” but just about everyone else gets a derogatory putdown. Gosh!

  9. Murf

    I have to agree with Dan’s assessment of Graham and Severin. The former specializes in sophomoric humor and dumbed-down discussion (my “favorite” being his diatribe on how calling our incursion into Iraq an “invasion” was a leftist strategy to portray the US as an imperialist nation – guess he never heard of the invasion of Normandy). As to Severin, I listened for several years while he was still semi-sane and capable of engaging in semi-rational discourse. But since his return from national syndication his lunatic bleatings about socialism, Hillary Clinton’s backside, and “criminaliens” have driven me to purge TKK from my presets. Jim and Margery in AM drive may earn the station a return to the magic status.

  10. mike_b1

    Did I read this right? Fish and lckape are whining about not being able to make illiterate, nasty comments on a blog?

    How badly abused some kids must have been.

  11. lkcape

    No. We’re merely pointing out the inconsistency of advocating civility while at the same time avoiding adhering to the very same thing ones own postings.

    I think the word “hypocritical” and appropriate desciption.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      I do want to remind folks that Graham and I have a history, and that the incivility started with him. And continued.

      As for Severin, referring to him as a hate-monger is essentially like referring to Dustin Pedroia as a second baseman. I’m sure his employer would agree, since Severin was suspended for hate-mongering earlier this year.

  12. lkcape

    Gee, Dan, I guess that means that you have the high ground and that two wrong DO make a right.

    It’s still hypocritical to advocate civility and not adhere to it yourself, no matter what the history is

  13. Aaron Read

    @Dan: Ah, I see now. Yeah that makes sense, I guess.

    I still wonder if WTKK really had any realistic alternative. I mean, sure, Imus was probably serving as a placeholder for a while now. But with the PPM results coming out, maybe his ratings were REALLY plummeting and management felt more drastic action was needed.

    @Mike_B1: man, you said it with a lot more civility than I’m feeling. And on that same note…

    @lkcape: You’re calling **DAN** a hypocrite here? You’re the least civil blog commenter I know, and I read Radio-Info’s boards on a daily basis. Talk about pot calling the kettle black. And really, I don’t think Dan’s really throwing around the hyperbole here; it’s these guys JOBS to be insensitive, ranting, jerks, after all. That’s what they’re paid to do…get the listeners good an’ riled up with their rhetoric. Now it may all just be act, but since they’ve plied it as their public persona, it’s not unfair to refer to them that way in a general sense. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    Put it another way, calling Graham and Severin incivil hatemongers is a lot like calling Lydon and Ashbrook overbearing intellectuals. In terms of their on-air personas, it’s quite accurate…and whether it’s an insult or a compliment depends on the eye of the beholder.

  14. Dunwich

    Imus had one of the best morning shows I ever heard–15 years ago. Lately he’s gone off the rails and it’s time for a change (I’m not referring to his unfortunate illness, and I wish him well!)and the TKK change doesn’t surprise.

    Since I’s on his way to FOX I think it’s time for his most valued and loyal guest, Frank Rich, to bid him adieu.
    If Imus wants to go this route it’s fine. I’ve not been checking into his first hour(which used to be great)for many moons. But Rich needs to get off the train.

  15. mike_b1

    There you go again, lkcape, whining about what the blogger can do on his own blog. Let it go already, man.

  16. O-FISH-L

    There goes mike_b1 again, acting as self-appointed spokesman for this blog. George Regan had better watch out! Mr_b1, do you have someone in your pocket?

    Seriously though, lkcape is absolutely right, the hypocrisy here is startling. Dan, are you the pot or the kettle? My God.

  17. lkcape

    Dan can say anything that he wants on his blog. It is, after all, his blog.

    But when he bleats about the lack civility and then elects to be less than civil in his own offerings on the whiny excuse that “he did it first”, Dan gets to deal with the inconsistency…and the underlying emotional insecurity.

    I did not call Dan a hypocrite. You made that assumption all on your own.

    I DID say, and will say again, Dan’s stance is hypocritical.

    I hope you can understand the difference.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      I DID say, and will say again, Dan’s stance is hypocritical.

      ROFL. You always say it again. And again. And again.

  18. George Williams

    Although I am not a real fan of E&B, since both of them are too liberal for my tastes, I believe that their new slot will be the final nail in the Finneran coffin. Apparently Fineran’s numbers are pretty low now and E&B can only mean lower numbers for him. If that turns out to be true maybe RKO will consider Carr in the AM?

  19. amusedbutinformedobserver

    The problem with liberal talk shows is the liberals stopped being entertaining.

    It’s much easier to do talk by repeating conservative doctrines since in a lot of cases, truth doesn’t matter.

    One listens to Feinberg, for example, and comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t seriously believe everything he says, but is mere staking out the conservative position because of its entertainment value. Same thing with Gerry Callahan’s daily imitation of Floyd R. Turbo.

    Meanwhile, a look at the KGO, San Francisco page reveals that in the recent past, Gene Burns was discussing future US military policy in Afghanistan, a requirement in the California schools that teachers receive diversity training (and challenging a caller who is a teacher to swap jobs for a day); an hour with a book on ” Avoiding the Most Common Errors in Grammar and Punctuation” which included callers mentioning their grammatical pet peeves; whether there is too much information about things like celebrity sex lives (and this was before Letterman); how or why to save the San Jose Mercury-News; pricey bank overdraft fees (he provokes discussion with a contrarian, but intelligently argued, position.)

    Here, we have Feinberg’s self-parody, Graham babbling about his personal adventures with the Registry, Limbaugh and Ingraham and Severin name calling, Carr doing the same radio and the same column day after day after day.

    Imus lost his fastball years ago. Now he doesn’t even have a changeup.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Todd Feinburg has entertainment value? Who knew? I know Todd slightly, and was on the air with him a couple of times several years ago. He’s a good guy, but deadly serious. I certainly didn’t get the impression that he was faking it. If anything, he’d continue the argument off-air.

      The idea that liberals can’t be entertaining is ridiculous. Stephanie Miller is entertaining, and so is Rachel Maddow. Al Franken’s show was actually quite good, in my opinion, and he competed very well with Rush in cities where he had a station with a decent signal. Franken was dragged down by Air America, unfortunately.

  20. lkcape

    The true measure of being “entertaining” in the context of talk radio is the ability to draw ad revenue.

    It would seem that the free market has sided with conservative talk radio rather than liberal, at least on the local level.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      The true measure of being “entertaining” in the context of talk radio is the ability to draw ad revenue.

      Ikcape, I congratulate you. You have stumbled upon an important truth. And it’s why public radio is actually more closely tied to the free market than is commercial radio, at least in the post-1996 environment.

      The commercial formula: more ads + fewer listeners = who cares? Liberal talker Ed Schultz, whom I do not care for, is nevertheless right on the mark when he complains that he can’t get on in certain markets despite very good ratings because the advertisers don’t want to sponsor his show. And let’s not leave out talk-show hosts like Bill O’Reilly. Back when he was doing radio, his syndicate would pay radio stations to play his miserable show. Gee, didn’t we used to call that payola?

      Public radio stations have to appeal to a variety of constituencies, but most of their money comes from listeners. More listeners = more money. It’s not perfect — it’s for that very reason that public stations tend to appeal to affluent listeners, and foundations and underwriters tend to have different agendas. But it comes closer to being a healthy market than commercial radio.

  21. O-FISH-L

    Dan, you are all wet on this one. I almost always disagree with your politics, but rareley do I disagree with your reasoning. Today I do.

    At least the Sox are entering ther playoffs. Maybe we can agree on that. And the Pats won and I was there!

  22. lkcape

    Dan, the more ads + fewer listeners calculus works only as long as the ad revenues satisfies the corporate objectives.

    …Which is, perhaps, at the root of the lineup changes at WTKK.

    I would disagree slightly on your assessment regarding public radio stations in that their offerings happen to appeal to better educated listeners.

    That they are frequently more affluent follows from being more educated.

    The beloved public radio/TV beg-a-thons attest to the fact that the affluent need more than just the content to open their wallets.

  23. mike_b1

    Howard Stern blows them all away. After all, people PAY to listen to him. Which means the free market actually is rejecting the conservative crazies — and pretty soundly and that.

  24. mike_b1

    “I did not call Dan a hypocrite. I DID say, and will say again, Dan’s stance is hypocritical.

    I hope you can understand the difference.

    I did not CALL Obama a negro. I said he was ACTING negro. I hope you can understand the difference.

    *eye roll*

  25. Aaron

    As usual Dan, while being a very smart guy, is out of his depth.

    The PPM ratings systems has proved in major markets that NPR’s ratings were WAY over sampled by Arbitron diaries.

    The success of Fox betrays the other truth that viewers wants partisanship, especially on the Right.

    Saying Al Franken had good radio chops is prima facie evidence of your bias, Dan. No programmer thought Al was good at radio. You did. So did the denizens of Berkeley and Madison, WI. That’s it.

    TKK’s problem is that they don’t have enough bomb throwers. Now, that might sting your delicate sensibilities but what sells, sells.

    I realize you want Christopher Lydon and the days of Brudnoy and Gene back but thos days are gone.

    Just look around and you’ll realize that. Bark at the Moon all you want but it doesn’t change reality.

    TKK’s problem is that they’re boring. Period.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Aaron: Is Tom Ashbrook not doing well? Of course he is. And he appeals to the same audience that Lydon once attracted. Yes, we can both agree that David Brudnoy is no longer with us. But Dan Rea is pulling decent numbers in the same time slot with the same type of show. So don’t tell me that kind of radio is passé.

      As for Franken, I thought he was pretty good, and there’s no question the ratings showed he was giving Limbaugh fits in markets where Franken had a good signal. I don’t think they’ve invented a ratings system yet that would somehow make Franken’s numbers, but not Limbaugh’s, look artificially strong.

      We’re all biased, but bias does not enter into my assessment of Franken. Ed Schultz bores me, Stephanie Miller tries too hard for my tastes and I detest Randi Rhodes. I liked Franken’s show on the rare occasions when I got to hear it because he was low-key and funny. Howie Carr’s show is one of my guilty pleasures for the same reason — he’s low-key and funny. But God help me if I commit the heresy of saying that I liked Franken’s show. It can only be because I’m biased.

      To be told that programmers didn’t think Franken was good at radio is like being told music critics don’t think Bob Dylan can sing: Why do I care what they think?

      I think you can do better than telling me I’m out of my depth simply because you disagree with me. We’re not talking about nuclear fusion. We’re only talking about radio, what’s good and what isn’t. Frankly, the talk stations in Boston are doing so badly that they could do worse than hire me as a consultant. I’ve been saying for years that ‘TKK ought to put Eagan and Braude on in morning drive. Now they’ve done it. I’ll bet it works very well.

  26. Steve Stein

    Thanks for the heads-up on ‘TKK in the morning. I listened to Braude and Eagen this morning and I kinda liked it. Better than ‘RKO. MUCH better than D&C “headlines”.

    I loved Franken’s show. He was definitely on a learning curve as a radio talker, and some of his comedy bits fell flat, but he had great guests from across the political spectrum and his interview skills were excellent. He was the best AA had to offer, because he wasn’t all liberal all the time.

  27. amusedbutinformedobserver

    Ridiculous that liberals are no longer entertaining? Gee, if one detests Randi Rhodes, finds that Stephanie Miller tries too hard and is bored by Ed Shultz while Al Franken is off the air, just what is entertaining among the liberals? I must admit I find Miller entertaining if at times silly, but the days of Alan Berg in Denver, Michael Jackson in Los Angeles, Bob Lassiter in Tampa and, yes, Randi Rhodes in Miami are gone.

    As for Feinburg, perhaps he opts not to wander away from what the pro rasslers call kayfabe when in the presence of a media critic

  28. (as opposed to the new Al who has been posting)…

    Al Franken was terrible on the radio. I do find Stephanie funny. Yes, it’s often childish and silly but you need that sometimes. I don’t mind Ed. I didn’t like him at first but he’s grown on me. He brings quite a bit of passion to the show, enough that I’m willing to overlook his constant deification of Brett Favre 🙂

    If you REALLY want to hear a bomb-thrower, Mike Malloy is the equivalent of some of the right-wing bomb-throwers. His invective is over the top. And, to quote the late, great Jerry Williams, never boring.

  29. Steve Stein

    amused – I’m a liberal, but I like talk radio that is not one-sided, and has a minimum of “true believer” echo sockpuppets on air. This pretty much rules out all talk radio now in Boston (Howie, Rush, Severin, D&C, all of AA), except for the occasional Dan Rea show and some ‘BUR shows.

    Eagan and Braude might be the only show left that presents the “ideas in conflict” format that worked so well for Gene Burns.

  30. Aaron Read

    Oh my. Another Aaron commenting on a radio thread? This could get confusing…

    @Aaron: you’re correct, if a bit oversimplifying, about the PPM vs. Diaries issue for NPR affiliates. It is true that most NPR outlets have taken a big Cume hit, and most have either seen small increases or, more likely, medium decreases in AQH.

    But you can’t just stop there. The reason why NPR affiliates did better under diaries is because diaries do a much better job of tracking station loyalty. In other words, a station that does well in diary-based ratings has done a good job creating a brand identity that listeners affiliate themselves with, and then convince themselves that they listen to it more than they actually did.

    That is not to be discounted out of hand. Not for commercial radio, but ESPECIALLY not for public radio where loyalty is a crucial factor in the success of on-air fundraisers.

    It’s also important for underwriters as well; with pubradio, you can’t “sell” a product on the air. It’s prohibited by the FCC to be promotional or mention price info or sale info…things that are typically used to “sell” a given product or service.

    Instead, with NPR underwriting you’re banking on the inherent trust on (there’s that word again) LOYALTY that listeners have with the station. That trust does the selling for you; all the station has to do is mention the product.

    Granted, you can’t ignore the drops in cume and/or AQH entirely…especially not with underwriters. All the loyalty in the world doesn’t help when your reported audience is cut in half thanks to the PPM. But you can’t ignore the loyalty factor…and how it benefits public radio disproportionately compared to commercial radio.

  31. JACK PATRIOT

    Sounds like your engaging in some ‘hate mongering’ yourself, against Severon. I guess you just be one of those people who claims to be open minded but in reality the only thing your open to is liberal policy.

  32. Ellia Stanton

    “Finneran and Feinburg are terrific. I’ll be very surprised if Jim & Margery can compete – especially with the late start.”

    I agree. Feinburg is funny, Finneran is strange, and takes a lot of ribbing. They cover news a little differently than J&M, who pretend to be liberal. F&F pretend to be conservative. (I think Feinburg is a genuine conservative, but the rest of ’em are empty-headed wallets).

    Braude has a brand of self-regard that’s about as greasy as old mayonnaise, in any case. J&M do banter well. But I can watch reruns of Absolutely Fabulous, if I want to hear from someone as catty as Jim Braude.

  33. Kerry Fitzgerald

    Egan and Braude are a breath of fresh air. I find myself laughing aloud many mornings. It is the ONLY talk show I consistently listen to as it isn’t full of hate.

  34. Bob Brosseau

    IMUS’s act is old. Until recently I had the opportunity to hear him each day between 6 and 7AM as I drove to work, and many days I opted for something, actually anything, else. Silence was better than IMUS.

    In addition to not being very good radio and his cohorts trying much too hard to be funny, he really doesn’t sound very good on the radio any longer. Weak voice, halting delivery, just not very good anymore.

    I like the move for 96.9, though personally while I respect Braude’s opinions (with which I often disagree)and the way he presents them, I don’t want to hear him first thing in the morning. It’s a bit too much Cambridge for me before I’ve had my coffee.

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