Limbaugh back, Severin out

I find this less interesting than I would have a few years ago, so just read Jessica Heslam’s report in the Boston Herald. The main takeaways: Rush Limbaugh is coming back to WRKO Radio (AM 680). And Jay Severin is once again looking for work.

Media Nation’s top 10 posts of 2011

Clif Garboden

I’ve seen several bloggers list their most-viewed posts of 2011, which made me curious as to which Media Nation posts were accessed most frequently.

I’m not sure exactly what it says — most Media Nation readers simply look at the home page or read it via RSS or email. By contrast, those who click on a specific entry are led there via another blog or social media, which means they comprise a different sort of audience. For instance, according to Google Analytics, the Media Nation home page received 199,143 page views between Jan. 1 and yesterday, whereas the number-one individual item (on radio talk-show host Jay Severin’s return) was accessed just 6,257 times.

In any event, here is my top 10 for 2011.

1. Jay Severin returns to Boston’s airwaves (Aug. 16). This is one of three Severin-related posts in my top 10, which I find puzzling. I didn’t give him a lot of space, and certainly no support. Yet not only did this item rise to the top, but it attracted 28 comments, many from Severin fans who don’t normally post their thoughts here.

2. A rant for the ages against corporate media (Nov. 18). James Craven of GateHouse Media’s Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin wrote a blog post ripping management for deciding “to cannibalize the paper” after he got word that he’d been laid off. The blog post was removed almost immediately — but not before I posted it.

3. Globe outsources online comment screening (April 12). An item on the Boston Globe’s decision to hire a Winnipeg-based company, ICUC, to screen and remove offensive online comments. The post includes several internal documents, including the paper’s complete online-comments policy.

4. Way out of bounds in New Haven (Jan. 26). The New Haven Register’s website posted an online poll asking readers “Who’s the hottest local female television personality?”, complete with photos available for purchase. The Register, under the direction of a progressive new editor since August, is now trying to reinvent its online presence.

5. Jay Severin is suspended — again (March 31). Like I said.

6. GateHouse Media parts company with Greg Reibman (Nov. 9). The debt-burdened chain’s most recent round of layoffs claimed Greg Reibman, publisher of the company’s Greater Boston papers and a respected, forward-looking executive. Check out his new blog, Village 14, about all things Newton.

7. Indies fight back against Patch (May 13). A number of independent local-news-site operators launched a campaign called Authentically Local. The project included a few of my favorites: the New Haven Independent, the Batavian and Baristanet, whose co-founder and editor, Debbie Galant, was the leader of the effort.

8. Clif Garboden, 1948-2011 (Feb. 12). A tribute to the late, great managing editor, photographer and conscience of the Boston Phoenix. Clif was simultaneously a caustic, profane social critic and an unabashed idealist — two qualities that I think are often found together.

9. WTKK fires Severin (April 6). Go figure. Yes, I understand that Severin has a lot of fans and detractors who are interested in reading about him. I’m just surprised at how many of them flocked to Media Nation.

10. Dialing up outrage in New Haven (Feb. 7). The nonprofit New Haven Independent found itself in the midst of a controversy after a custodian it quoted on turmoil within the police department was fired. The Independent crusaded on her behalf, and she was rehired. Commenters, though, were divided on how the Independent handled the issue.

WEEI gets back in the game

Much as I prefer the Sports Hub to the bitter old men of WEEI, I suspect John Dennis, Gerry Callahan and company are going to make up a lot of ratings ground very quickly once they start simulcasting on WMKK (93.7 FM) this coming Monday (Boston Globe story here; Boston Herald story here).

I don’t think anyone should underestimate how badly ‘EEI has been hurt by its miserable signal (AM 850) in the face of sports-talk competition from the Sports Hub, officially WBZ-FM (98.5). Yes, the programming on the Sports Hub is better, younger and funnier. But ‘EEI has been at a huge disadvantage. And it’s not without assets, principally Michael Holley plus Red Sox and Celtics games.

It’s not just that AM is fading from the scene — no worries, I suspect, at news-and-talk station WBZ (AM 1030), which has a nice, strong signal that can be heard in most places east of the Mississippi River after sundown. It’s that 850, weak and full of static, is almost unlistenable.

As for the simulcast, I give it a few months so that WEEI can promote 93.7. Once everyone has gotten the message, Entercom will probably do something else with 850 — although, frankly, it’s not good for much more than leasing it to a foreign-language religious broadcaster.

Michael Graham and dwarfism: Final thoughts

Earlier this week the Boston Globe asked me to write an op-ed piece on Michael Graham’s demeaning shtick about dwarfism. It’s up this morning, and you will find it here. Barring any unexpected developments, I intend it to be my final word on the subject.

Graham points finger and apologizes

Well, now. A little after 3 p.m., Michael Graham addressed the matter of the dwarfism segment on last Friday’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) and apologized — not for anything he said, but for Karl Zahn’s so-called joke. The full transcript of Graham’s remarks:

If you listen to the show, you know that when I screw up, if I get a fact here wrong or whatever, I like to correct myself personally, and I like to do it right up front in the show. During Friday’s we had a conversation about Starbucks and a decision to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. We were discussing the legitimate topic of a dwarf who had a job at Starbucks for which I feel she was clearly unqualified.

Well, during a roundtable some comments went too far. They weren’t funny. They were hurtful. Doesn’t matter who said them. It doesn’t matter that it was a wide-open conversation. This is my show, and I’m responsible. So I’d like to apologize for those comments. I’m sorry it happened. I wish that I could say nothing stupid will ever be said on this show again, but that is obviously impossible. People make mistakes. What I can promise is that I will take responsibility for mine.

I’m beginning to feel sorry for Karl.

Meanwhile, Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for Greater Media, which owns WTKK, told me in an emailed statement that the station will not be posting the audio. She added:

Please know we have spoken with Michael about his remarks, and made it clear this is not the type of commentary we expect on our airwaves. Michael’s comments do not, in any way, represent the views, opinions or company culture of Greater Media.

Please note the phrase his remarks in Raphael’s statement, which clearly refers to Graham, not Zahn.

Pending any new developments, I’ll be wrapping this up tomorrow. If you’ve been hanging in there to this point, please stay tuned.

Graham to speak

I just got word that Michael Graham is expected to address the offensive remarks he and his guests made about people with dwarfism shortly after 3 p.m. today on his WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) program. I’ll be listening.

Karl from N.H. apologizes; still no audio from WTKK

I hear that Karl Zahn, a.k.a. Karl from New Hampshire, the comedian who told an offensive joke about dwarfs on Michael Graham’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) last Friday, apologized on air earlier this morning. Karl popped up on Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s program on WTKK and reportedly said he was sorry.

Well, good for Karl. That doesn’t absolve Graham for his own offensive commentary about people with dwarfism, an example of which I posted earlier this week. And I still want to see WTKK post the audio of the entire segment from last Friday’s program. Despite calls to do so from this blog and from Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, the station has maintained radio silence.

What Graham said in May about dwarfism case

Thanks to Media Nation commenter John Hall, I realized I could listen to Michael Graham’s earlier segment on Elsa Sallard, the woman with dwarfism who won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks last week. I couldn’t get the audio from the cached version of the page using Chrome, but when I switched to Safari, it came right up. So here’s Graham in a segment posted to iTunes on May 18 of this year:

Here’s the story. There’s a dwarf who wanted to work at the Starbucks in El Paso, Texas. But the dwarf got fired as a barista because, she claims, she’s a dwarf. Starbucks is denying it — quote, We definitely want to make it clear that we take all of these concerns seriously, we have zero tolerance for workplace discrimination — no, no, no! I want workplace discrimination. For example, I want the person who’s getting my coffee to be able to reach the actual coffee.

I am not anti-dwarf. I don’t have any strong feelings about dwarfs. I know there’s some people who are creeped out by dwarfs. Not me. No. Tall, short, big, fat, you’re just a person. If you can do your job, I am happy to pay you to do it. If you give me great service, I’m happy to get the great service. I don’t care if you have tats or not. As a customer, I don’t care if you’re a hulking giant or a dwarf. I just want my damn coffee. That’s all I want, is my damn coffee. And the idea that I’m going to have to stand in line for an extra 20 minutes while you skootch around taking care of the customers on your little ladder or stepstool or bucket or whatever — no, I’m sorry.

How many of you are with me, at 617-822-1969? Screw the PC. If I walk into Starbucks and there’s a line of 15 people deep and a dwarf, I’m out of there. I’m just gone. I’m not — [low voice] You know, we should all be — no! I’m sorry. I’ve got stuff to do. I’m going to go to the coffee shop that sells me coffee when I walk in the door, brought to me by people who can reach the damn coffee. This is not anti-dwarf. It is not bigotry. It is just — common-sensitry. I just want my stuff. That’s it. It’s that simple. So this woman’s suing, in the file of “people can sue for anything.” How can you possibly say that you can force me to hire you to do a job you can’t do because you can’t reach the buttons. OK?

At that point, Graham went off-topic slightly, praising the service at both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, before returning to the matter of Elsa Sallard:

I’ve got to sit there and watch you step over your co-worker. [high, squeaky voice] Help me! Can you please help me? I can’t reach the mugs. You’re a dwarf! I’m not being mean. You’re just a dwarf. That’s all. I’m sorry. It’s not my fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person. I just don’t want to watch you climbing Spider-Man-like up to the fourth shelf to grab the cinnamon stuff for the cinammon coffee.

So that’s me, that’s my message to Dunkin’ Donuts, to Starbucks, to Shaw’s, to every other business out there. If you want me, Michael Graham, to be a customer, you have to hire people who can do the job that you have hired them to do. And if I show up and if I have to wait for the dwarf to pull out the stepladder and climb up? Bye. I’m gone.

After about four minutes, Graham switched to talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I stopped listening. Perhaps he returned to the topic, but that certainly seems like enough, no?

You should be able to listen for yourself here.

Updates on Michael Graham dwarfism segment

A few brief updates on the still-unheard Michael Graham dwarfism segment:

  • Apparently there was a fourth person on the air — a comedian who goes by Karl from New Hampshire, according to Media Nation commenter John Stewart. Although Stewart did not hear the segment, a commenter at Universal Hub says he (or she) did, and claims that it was Karl who made a “nasty joke” about the woman with dwarfism.
  • This is not the first time Graham has talked about the woman. Last May, when her complaint about being fired from Starbucks because of her height first became public, Graham did a segment that later got posted as a podcast on iTunes called “Not Grande Enough for Starbucks.” The description: “Starbucks fires a dwarf.” Kudos to Twitter follower @BEEBALM2010 for digging up the cached version of the page. Unfortunately, only the 30 most recent podcasts are available on iTunes.
  • Still no audio of the segment at WTKK’s website.

Will WTKK post audio of Graham dwarfism segment?

Felix Arroyo

My Saturday began with an email from a friend, who informed me that radio talk-show host Michael Graham of WTKK (96.9 FM) had had a good old time the day before making fun of a woman with dwarfism who’d won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks. (More about that here.) Graham’s guests were Rob Eno, publisher of the conservative website Red Mass Group, and Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo.

My informant added that someone — it’s not clear who — made an alleged joke about serving food off the head of a dwarf waitress.

I hit Twitter and Facebook hard and got some results. Arroyo, about whom I’ve heard good things, said on his public Facebook page that he was the only one of the three to defend the woman, and he accepted my challenge to call on WTKK to post the audio of the segment. Nothing from ’TKK yet. The station posts one segment a day from Graham’s show, and the one from Friday is of something else. I’m guessing this isn’t happening, but we’ll see.

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub picked up the story. Nothing from other media. I’d certainly like to see the Boston Globe cover it, and maybe there will be something tomorrow. Seems to me that both the original story and Arroyo’s statement are newsworthy. It would be nice if the Boston Herald covered it, too, but given that Graham is a Herald columnist, maybe not.

As you may know, Graham has a history of these things. Here is an exchange we had in 2007 over a dwarfism-related topic. I find it interesting that WTKK just promoted Graham to afternoon drive time in order to compete with Jay Severin, whom the station fired last spring for serial incivility, and who has now surfaced at WXKS (AM 1200). I guess the folks at ‘TKK think incivility is OK when it’s delivered in Graham’s high-pitched giggle rather than in Severin’s hateful sneer.