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

Tag: Howie Carr Page 3 of 6

Howie Carr actually finds a new line to cross*

There are certain ethical rules that journalists — even rabidly opinionated columnists — try to follow. You don’t donate money to candidates. You don’t put signs on your lawn. You don’t put bumper stickers on your car.

Then there’s Howie Carr, who’s speaking at a fundraiser on July 31 for the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. Such activities, unfortunately, have long since become acceptable for radio talk-show hosts, and that is Carr’s main job. But he’s still a columnist for the Boston Herald.

The Boston Globe has a great quote from Tom Fielder, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication:

You cannot call yourself a journalist — even as a columnist — and actively support a political party. It strikes me that the Herald should now report Carr’s salary to the Federal Election Commission as a contribution to the GOP.

Is there anyone at One Herald Square who can tell Howie no?

*No, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done this before. But if he did, I didn’t know about it.

Gradations of stupid

See if you can follow the logic here. Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr whacks U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s “breathtaking smugness” for saying that voters are too stupid to understand what President Obama and the Democratic Congress have accomplished. Carr then turns around and criticizes Massachusetts voters for being too stupid to understand they shouldn’t have sent Kerry to the Senate five times.

Is Howie even trying to make sense anymore?

Is there more to Howie’s suspension?

Howie Carr

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So maybe Howie Carr’s suspension from WRKO Radio (AM 680) is just a suspension. But let me inject some uninformed speculation into the matter. The once-great station has been running on fumes for some time. Maybe its corporate owner, Entercom, has decided to force an end game, let Carr out of his contract and turn ‘RKO into an outlet for, oh, let’s say Spanish-language infomercials.

The Boston Globe’s Erin Ailsworth reports that Carr was suspended for a week for badmouthing the station on the air — something he has done continuously since he was forced into staying in 2007. (Apparently it’s gotten worse lately.) Carr is said to be unhappy that Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated show recently moved to Clear Channel’s WXKS (AM 1200), part of a national “Rush Radio” network.

Funny, but I thought one of the reasons the station replaced Rush with Republican political consultant Charley Manning was that Howie and Manning are buddies, and that Charley might keep the petulant star more or less in line. I don’t have any numbers in front of me, but Boston radio observers have long noted that this is one of Limbaugh’s worst markets. The idea of not fighting to keep Limbaugh and going with a local show struck me as pretty smart, even if Manning’s show is a work in progress.

Carr does seem to be wallowing in bitterness lately. For instance, he recently wrote in his Boston Herald column that President Obama wouldn’t have made it through college and law school if he weren’t black:

Of course, no one expects Barack Obama to really know anything. We understand, all too well, exactly how he got through Columbia and Harvard Law. He had certain … intangibles, shall we say.

That’s pretty rancid even by Howie’s standards. No, I’m not leaving anything out — the ellipses are his, not mine.

Back in 2007, Carr tried to jump to WTKK (96.9 FM), which wanted him as its morning guy. Unfortunately for Carr, he turned out to have a contract more restrictive than Curt Flood’s, and he was forced to stay.

What’s not known is whether Greater Media, which owns ‘TKK, still wants him. Morning drive is now ably helmed by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Would ‘TKK move Jay Severin out of afternoon drive to make way for Carr?

Moreover, given the changed economic climate, it certainly seems unlikely that Greater Media would still be willing to pay Carr $7 million over five years.

The other mystery factor is how much Entercom really wants WRKO to succeed. There’s a lot of audience overlap between ‘RKO and another Entercom station, WEEI (AM 850), a sports-talk outlet that also carries the Red Sox. No doubt the company wants WRKO to make money, but not at the expense of its more-valuable sports station.

Carr is a legitimate talent, but it’s been years since he’s showed more than an occasional glimmer. His suspension comes at a time when he probably has little leverage. Maybe he’ll be back on the air in a week as though nothing happened. But you have to wonder if Entercom executives have finally decided it’s time to do something drastic about its faltering talk station.

Photo (cc) by Paul Keleher and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Original at Wikimedia Commons.

The R-word and the M-word (and the F-word!)

Lauren Beckham Falcone has a good column in today’s Boston Herald, criticizing White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel for using the phrase “fucking retarded.” Falcone, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, writes:

Here’s the deal: the R-word is not an innocuous euphemism. It’s as hateful and belittling and bullying as racial slurs and homophobic epithets and sexual harassment.

Now, of course, Falcone is not responsible for her co-workers at the Herald. But it’s long past time for editors there to ban the word “midget,” a demeaning term for people with dwarfism. I realize Howie Carr’s head might explode the next time he tries to describe Bill Bulger as something other than “the Corrupt Midget,” but he’ll get over it.

By the way, it’s nice to see that we’ve evolved to the point at which people are more offended by the R-word and the M-word than they are by the F-word.

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.

So much for the Republican A-team

Andy Card decides not to run for governor senator. Although I find myself agreeing with Howie Carr — it would be better for the future of the Republican Party if Scott Brown can use the Senate race to build his name recognition.

Ed Markey’s not running, either. No surprise there — he’s got too much seniority in the House.

Democracy and the Senate (II)

The notion that the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald represent ideologically opposite editorial positions is overblown. The Herald and its editorial-page editor, Rachelle Cohen, aren’t really all that conservative. And the Globe, whose editorial page recently transitioned from longtime editor Renée Loth to former Washington-bureau chief Peter Canellos, is just contrarian enough on issues like charter schools to keep liberals agitated.

An exception is today. The Globe offers its full-throated endorsement to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s proposal that would allow Gov. Deval Patrick to name an interim senator in the event of a vacancy. The interim would serve until a special election could be held five months later. With Kennedy’s battle against brain cancer apparently entering its final stages, the matter has taken on special urgency.

In supporting Kennedy’s proposal, the Globe criticizes the Legislature for having taken the gubernatorial appointment away five years ago, when it appeared that Sen. John Kerry might be elected president and Democratic leaders at the Statehouse did not want then-governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, to name Kerry’s successor. The Globe calls the 2004 law “a partisan bill.”

Which, of course, it was. And which leads the Herald to invoke that same 2004 action as a reason to reject Kennedy’s current proposal, in an editorial headlined “Hypocrisy factor.”

Howie Carr, working-class hero

I know we’re not supposed to take Howie Carr seriously when he writes about the Boston Globe. But check out his Boston Herald column today. “Danny Donuts” is Dan Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild. Carr writes:

Let’s face it, the Globe is on the ropes because it’s crammed to the rafters with writers who can’t write, reporters who can’t report, and editors who can’t edit, because Danny Donuts and his cohorts couldn’t sell an ad to save their inherited, tastefully weathered summer homes on Nantucket.

Now here is Jason Schwartz, describing Totten’s background in a Boston Magazine profile:

Totten first got active in the union in 2002, and it was a natural fit. His father was a member of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association for more than 35 years, his sister was a union representative for the Boston school system, and his grandmother had been a steward for the hotel and telephone workers union “back in a time,” Totten says, “when it wasn’t very popular or easy for a woman to hold such a position.”

We also learn from Schwartz that Totten is a graduate of the former Boston State College, surely one of the forgotten Ivies, and earned his MBA at Anna Maria College in Paxton, widely regarded as the Wharton School of Central Massachusetts.

Carr, meanwhile, lives in Wellesley and makes some three-quarters of a million dollars from his talk show on WRKO Radio (AM 680), as well as a presumed six-figure income from the Herald. He’s also a graduate of Deerfield Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — a real working-class hero.

For Howie to characterize a self-made man like Totten as overprivileged is laughable, bordering on the offensive.

Did Severin take a pay cut?

From Jessica Heslam’s interview with Jay Severin in the Boston Herald:

Severin referred questions about the conditions of his return — including whether he took a pay cut — to his agent and attorney, George Tobia. Tobia declined to comment on the conditions, saying simply, “Jay is very excited to be back in the fold on his station. He loves working there and he’s excited about doing a great show for WTKK.”

If the answer was “no,” wouldn’t Severin and Tobia just say “no”?

From Eric Moskowitz’s story in the Boston Globe:

As have others who have followed the issue from both sides, [El Planeta managing editor Marcela] García speculated that the suspension had as much to do with Severin’s reported $1 million annual salary and his recent drop to 14th in the ratings as with his particular remarks. A spokeswoman for Greater Media Inc., has confirmed that WTKK’s parent company and Severin are in negotiations.

Negotiating over what?

Keep your eye on the big picture. From the beginning, this has sounded more than anything like the story of a troubled media company — and keep in mind that all media companies are troubled — trying to get out of a contract it agreed to in the midst of an entirely different economic climate.

I don’t think we’re going to see any $1 million-a-year local radio hosts anymore. It must be particularly galling for Greater Media to have to pay Severin that much to come in last in his two-person race with WRKO’s Howie Carr.

No doubt Severin’s ratings on Tuesday will be spectacular. We’ll see if he can sustain it.

A threat or an extension? Or both?

If I’m reading the morning papers correctly, then we learned two new things as the New York Times Co.’s 30-day (32-day?) deadline for the Boston Globe’s unions expired last night. (The Globe’s story is here; the Boston Herald’s here.)

First, the 30-day deadline has become a 90-day deadline. The Times Co. had threatened to shut the Globe today if its demands weren’t met. Instead, it has said it will file the legally required paperwork to close the paper in 60 days. Color this any way you like, but it looks to me as though Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (in photo) and company just tacked on two months, something they had previously indicated they would not do. Howard Kurtz reports in the Washington Post:

The move could amount to a negotiating ploy to extract further concessions from the Globe’s unions, since the notice does not require the Times Co. to close the paper after 60 days. The deadline, however, would put the unions under fierce pressure to produce additional savings, and the Boston Newspaper Guild promptly called the step a “bullying” tactic by the company.

OK, but wasn’t yesterday’s Globe supposed to be the final edition if management didn’t get what it wanted? This looks like more of a retreat than a “bullying” tactic. If the company’s rhetoric was to be believed, then it was going to stop publishing immediately and sort out the legalities later. That didn’t happen. Thus it looks like we get to go through this all over again in late June.

Second, perhaps management didn’t make a new demand, but it certainly clarified one of its demands. We’ve all been reporting that the company was seeking $20 million in union concessions, and that lifetime job guarantees for more than 400 employees somehow figured into that.

Now we know that the company is making two separate demands: $20 million in concessions, and an end to lifetime job guarantees. That presages much deeper cuts — which, unfortunately, makes sense, since the Globe is reportedly on track to lose $85 million this year.

The idea of lifetime job guarantees seems unsustainable at a time when the newspaper business is getting much, much smaller. Yes, I am a junior faculty member working toward tenure, which is often described as a lifetime job guarantee. But my understanding is that it’s easier to get rid of a tenured professor than it is a union member in the Globe’s so-called Book of Life. It could be that the only way to eliminate them is to throw the Globe into bankruptcy and let a judge void those provisions.

The New York Times today runs just a short story on the Globe negotiations, sticking to a pattern of undercovering what’s happening here. We talked about the lack of Times coverage (among other things) on “Beat the Press” last Friday. (The segment also features a wide-ranging interview with Globe editor Marty Baron, who tries makes up for the silence emanating from New York. Baron, in his subtle way, says some surprisingly tough things about Times Co. management.)

The Globe is the largest, most significant paper in the United States to face closure, yet it’s gotten less national attention than the shutdown of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, the number-two paper in a smaller media market. You’ve got to think the Times’ ability to set the news agenda has a lot to do with that.

Finally, a word about Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, the working stiff from Wellesley, who yesterday wrote yet another piece making fun of the Globe. I am a conflicted Howie fan. There are few columnists or talk-show hosts as talented and entertaining as Carr. But his juvenile-delinquent act has gotten tiresome.

For Carr to pretend that the Herald’s relative financial health is somehow evidence that the Herald has “won” is ludicrous. Weekday circulation of the Herald’s print edition is half that of the Globe’s, and the Herald is barely a factor on Sundays. According to, the Globe’s Web site,, drew nearly 5.5 million unique visitors in March, compared to nearly 1.1 million for

Adam Gaffin has further thoughts about Howie.

The Herald’s coverage of the Globe’s troubles has been first-rate. Every morning, I rush to check to see what’s new. Carr’s sneering screeds only detract from that.

Photo of Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (cc) by JD Lasica and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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