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

Jay Severin is suspended — again

I’m writing from New Haven, where I’m on a reporting trip, and I know nothing other than what was in the Boston Globe today. But it seems that WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin has been suspended again.

Severin was suspended two years ago for making racist comments about Mexicans — something he had been doing for years about many ethnic groups and women. The difference was that his ratings had started to fall.

Prediction: This time, he won’t be back. And few will care.

Earlier coverage.

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  1. L.K. Collins

    His problem.

  2. Laurence Glavin

    I’m not sure “few will care”; the Globe’s story is followed by over 500 comments as of Thursday at 7:00 pm…only 100 at the Chicopee Herald, but that number’s sure to grow. Some confusion over the real meaning of “censorship” is evident.

  3. Nial Lynch

    To have a racist comment, don’t you need to start with, like … a race, and not a nationality?

  4. Brad Deltan

    I’m not sure WTKK/Greater Media has any leverage to do so, but the late “Rush Radio” (now “Talk 1200”) has floundered in the ratings. Rush Limbaugh has never been terribly popular in Boston, but he might make a better addition to WTKK – with it’s superior signal (in reach and audio fidelity).

    OTOH, Howie Carr’s contract with WRKO expires next year…although I think it’s through 2012…so WTKK would need to find SOMEONE at least vaguely permanent for the next 18 months.

  5. Stephen Stein

    The Herald explains it all. Apparently he was defending someone against sexual harassment charges by bragging about doing it all the time when he was younger and a boss. But the real reason is this:

    Severin inked a lucrative seven-year deal with WTKK in 2006 — before the economy crashed — that pays him more than a million in salary annually. MediaBiz reported yesterday that WTKK made $6.4 million in gross ad revenues last year.

    Severin’s show regularly ranked among the top 10, even five, in Boston — but that hasn’t been the case since the new electronic ratings system kicked in two years ago.

    During the February ratings period, Severin’s 2 to 6 p.m. program was in 16th place with a 2.3 share among the coveted 25- to 54-year-old listeners.

    $1M for 16th place isn’t what ‘TTK expected, so they’re trying to get out from under the last 2 years of the contract. That bit about the new ratings system is pretty curious, though. I guess when they rated by survey, a bunch of people were lying? The best and brightest, no doubt.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Stephen: The Herald’s reporting is speculative (though right), but from what I’ve heard, WTKK management wanted Severin gone two years ago but couldn’t find a way out of his contract. My working assumption is they wouldn’t have suspended him again unless they were pretty confident they could get rid of him permanently this time.

  6. Stephen Stein

    Well, as far as I’m concerned, they deserve each other. Severin’s crudeness is a feature, not a bug. Now that it’s clear few people care about what goes on in his addled brain, TTK wants to wriggle out of their obligations. Next comes the lawsuit. Ought to be fun.

  7. John Geoghegan

    I stopped listening to him a long time ago. When he first came on the air, he was conservative, but not a Republican lapdog. He lost it appeal to me when he went through his first permutation; in the every three months when I’m back to hear what he’s discussing, I’ve noticed that he’s changed his persona several times — reasonable pundit and swingan’ man to Rush clone to family man discussing banalities. He’s proven to be inauthentic, which is the worst talk-radio crime, in my opinion.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @John: Faking authenticity is hard. Some are better at it than others.

  8. I am of the opinion also that this is it for Severin; I do not believe he can survive this second suspension in less than two years. According to those who know his ratings are down and I believe people are tired of his screed. WTTK had twelve hours of non-stop Obama bashing from the time Graham started his show till McPhee ended her show. MchPhee is gone and now Severin, it gives the PM the opportunity to hopefully open things up for a more balance approach which I believe will bring listeners back.

    I think the folks at WTTK are finally waking up to the fact that this man is a fraud and he has nothing else to offer that will bring in advertisers back. If he was pulled for his comments about sleeping with interns he’s talked about that on a number of his shows, but I think it was more than that but it will be some time before the real story comes out. The issue now for WTTK is how much they will have to pay to get rid of him and how they can change their programming to bring advertisers back to make money. Can any of you say Kenny G?

  9. Bob Gardner

    I almost never heard Jay Severin but I heard his comments today on how he slept with interns. I think what he said just about makes him unemployable. Now that his current employers have been put on notice, neither they nor any potential employer could possibly hire him without leaving themselves wide open to future lawsuits from anyone who works with Severin.

  10. Mike Benedict

    Jessica Heslam is reporting Severin (too early to call him “Severed?”) said on the air that he “slept with virtually everything every young college girl to be an intern or an employee for my firm. … I did it because I could.”

    Which is a little hard to believe, given this litigious society we live in. I’m guessing, like everything else from that blowhard, it’s just “talk.”

  11. Mike Moran

    Many comments, on the Herald site particularly, are missing the point. The Severin defenders are talking about how intolerant his critics are. They need to know what the station owners apparently now understand – that when you say things that may contribute to a sexual harassment hostile environment for other station employees, you are brushing up against legal implications that can be very expensive for the company. Being outrageous on the air is commonplace. If Severin’s attitude toward women is tolerated by management, that can create countless legal problems for the station. He’s simply got to go and his actions cannot be defended.

  12. Aaron Read

    Faking authenticity is hard. Some are better at it than others.

    Faking authenticity is actually impossible. But you can often get a lot of idiots to fake it for you.

  13. arthur king

    Jay Severin sounds like the manager who had a sign on the ceiing over his office couch that said : “You’ve Got The Job.”

  14. Bob Nelson

    If Severin is let go, as Howie would say, “He had to retire due to ill health–the listeners (voters) got sick of him”.
    Interesting that they tried to get rid of him 2 yrs ago.

    While one GM bigwig denied an interest in Howie I’d think they or 1200 might go after him but even RKO, with a lowball offer, could get HC back (despite his distaste for them;
    money talks). Whether he’d pull in ratings or billing, who knows. Aging demo but if he can find new life on
    FM…supp. the RKO deal ends 9/30/12. He wanted morning drive at 96.9 in ’07; they could shift E&B to midday or pm drive and have Severin do a 2 hr shift midday, who knows. (Ex.:
    HC 6-10, Sev 10-noon, Graham 12-3, E&B 3-7 or vice versa) or run Sev early evening till his contract ends in ’13.

  15. Steve Jacobs

    I have a love/hate listening relationship with both Jay Severin and WTTK. The station has made some good choices in programing and picking talent (in the past) that would appeal to a more sophisticated audience that was interested in news and analysis allowing all sides of an issue to be discussed.
    Often you find those people that are most talented, and most interesting to listen to, also have huge egos that sometimes get in the way and take away from the overall experience. This is a management problem that when handled properly stays in house and the dirty laundry doesn’t get a chance to see the light of day.
    Jay Severin is a perfect example of this. He likes to say,”Truth is it’s own defense” in justifying his comments when attacked for having strong opinions on a subject. If he is untruthful in his remarks then he should be punished, or let go. If he gets a little carried away at times you always have the 7 second button at your disposal.
    Your current line up 2pm-6pm is weak and I find myself switching back to 680 AM radio where the signal quality isn’t good, but the talents (Howie Carr, Michele McPhee, etc)offer better programing.
    Bring me back. Bring Jay back.

  16. Bob Nelson

    All Access, the Globe, and the Herald all report WTKK/Greater Media has fired Jay Severin (who was in their initial talk lineup when they premiered in 1999). Mike Bower in there for now till they find someone.

  17. Skip ryan

    I’d love to see Howie Carr get the gig. Got tired of hearing
    about Jay’s sexual adventures long ago.

  18. Glenn Carlton

    Poor WTKK, they want to be NPR now. Civil, boring, left,clueless, etc.

    They got rid of Imas and everyone else of interest. Well, Graham is good, I feel for him. The ship is going down the the captain is AWOL.

    Maybe Imas would come back? Oh, no to be on WTKK one must be civil and boring.

    OH well, It was good while it lasted, glad I have magic radio.

  19. Isaac Showalter

    Liberals, moonbats and other socialists in WTKK’s metro Boston market must be positively giddy with the station’s shift to a politically subdued format. Michael Graham carries on well and is the only one left worth tuning in. Is he the next target of the PC police? Eccentricities and sexual exploits aside, Severin was the strongest, unsweetened media voice in this area for not only the right leaning and libertarian audience, but for those among us who are fed up with confiscatory and wasteful government. His loudly controversial approach in sharing his insider knowledge and experience is required in order to be heard above the lunacy that is the norm here. The programming aired after Graham is anesthesia. Comprised of local and syndicated gabmasters bringing us the safety of banal and irrelevant topics that will surely offend nobody. Its like the stuff inside a twinky. It fills the time but is of no real substance. By canning Severin Greater Media has fired a cannon ball into the hull of their flagship that may ultimately scuttle it.

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