Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't blame me, blame Jerry Williams.

> Don't blame me, blame Jerry Williams.
> by Kevin John Sowyrda
> Did Jerry Williams have any idea what he was doing when he gave birth
> to the Hub's media version of Frankenstein? Do you think he's rolling
> over in his grave right now? I suspect the answer to both questions
> is a definitive affirmative.
> Williams was the radio giant of Boston during the Dukakis era of
> politics, and had the temerity to organize a successful repeal of the
> seatbelt law about twenty years ago; proof of his media muscle. In
> 1989 he decided to start a segment on his highly rated afternoon radio
> show on WRKO. He called it 'The Governors,' which was a rather
> sardonic group-commentary on the day's political issues. The round
> robin on 680 AM featured Williams, some anti-government lady from out
> of state whose name never mattered, and Boston Herald Columnist Howie
> Carr, known in the print media as a conservative yuckster
> who delighted in "gotcha" political commentary.
> Carr and Williams had nothing in common. Speaking even as someone who
> once appeared on Jerry's show only to be eaten for breakfast by the
> host, I can tell you that Jerry Williams was probably the most
> honorable and socially progressive radio voice Boston ever heard,
> second only to the great Gene Burns. His issues of concern were taxes
> and government waste, not who consenting adults were spending their
> time with. Were Jerry still alive today I'd bet the farm that he'd
> have put the same energy into supporting Gay marriage as he had
> successfully committed to killing that seat belt law, which simply
> went against his civil libertarian credentials. Those were the days
> when Boston talk radio had something to say, but those days were
> ending.
> It didn't take long for Carr to learn the ins and outs of Boston
> radio. He had a superb teacher and mentor, and like many students he
> finally became the teacher. Williams was unceremoniously booted out
> the door by WRKO in favor of Carr, who became a grating voice of
> socially conservative diatribes, to such an extent that Carr's
> missives frequently made anything Don Imus may have said, pale in
> comparison.
> Imus is now in exile in Arizona, and Carr has decided to jump the S.S.
> RKO and take over the morning show at Boston's FM talk station 96.9,
> which had carried the Imus syndicated program until the shock jock was
> fired by CBS Radio in April. Tongues are wagging, and here's why.
> First, 96.9 will now solidify its reputation as a place on the
> dial with few progressive oasis. There will be two bookends, both
> leaning about as far to the right as Attila the Hun. You'll Howie in
> the morning, hardly a Socrates of the airwaves who has previously
> stated that the best reason for killing Gay marriage is because it
> will trigger a Gay Community appetite for legalizing bestiality. And
> then there's Jay Severin in the afternoon. Severin, most infamous
> for having been exposed by the Boston Globe for falsely claming to be
> a Pulitzer Prize winner, is basically a carbon copy of Carr; but
> perhaps with better pronunciation and dictum and a greater tendency to
> lisp, which has created all manner of rumor. Squished in the middle
> of this jihad of nationalistic, misogynistic and homophobic talk will
> be progressive commentator Jim Braude who co hosts a midday shift with
> another Herald columnist who writes about things no one cares about.
> But she lives in Brookline, so she can't be all that bad.
> On the other end of town is the now hemoraging WRKO AM, which just
> lost their best rated, premadona Gay Basher (they had no qualms with
> the Gay Bashing) while already suffering an identity crisis as it
> tries a plethora of co-hosts to stabilize the sinking ship called
> Finneran's Forum, the station's morning drive time show.
> The 'Forum' is perhaps the last hurrah of former Massachusetts House
> Speaker Tom Finneran, who came hat in hand to the station for work
> after he was fired from his $416,000 a year job as head of the
> Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. The council's board of directors
> apparently wasn't too overjoyed by Finneran's guilty plea to
> obstruction of justice charges. Finneran is presently serving his
> eighteen months of unsupervised probation, which means he can make it
> to the RKO Brighton studios where station management actually thought
> it was a smart move to give this guy a job.
> Carr felt other wise. The two conservatives - both have showered the
> Gay Community with insults too numerous to catalogue - have shared
> little in common beyond their parochial views of modern life. They've
> been ardent foes for years and their recent on air war was no
> publicity stunt, despite what some in town have suggested. One
> insider at RKO told me that Carr took Finneran's hiring as, "the last
> straw," at a station he, Carr, was no longer comfortable at.
> The lack of comfort could stem from the fact that, like it or not, the
> bombastic conservative of Boston talk has become a player (the
> Arbitron Ratings sadly prove it) and outgrown what is seen by many as
> a failing media outlet. RKO's signal is basically inaudible at night
> time in much of New England, and the station's only real profitable
> programming has been Carr's three to seven o'clock drive home shift.
> Further, Carr's book on all things Whitie Bulger, a New York Times
> best seller, has made the scrappy commentator a tidy pocket of change
> as much as it's elevated his status on national media outlets like Fox
> News. RKO no longer has the stage to support the weight of such
> ambitious "talent," which hardly appreciated his nemesis being made a
> colleague; or his afternoon show being frequently shortened by the
> Boston Red Sox games, now being aired on the station.
> What to look for and what to do? First, Finneran and Carr are now
> going head to head for the morning drive time advertising dollars.
> Bet another farm, but this time on Carr. Finneran's ratings are
> already at the bottom of Boston Harbor, and this is the death knell.
> Second, send all the Excedrin you can muster to commentator Jim
> Braude.
> Sadly for Boston, he's about to feel very out of place both at the
> office, and in a local radio industry that continues to lean more and
> more to the right.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Camp Romney

Boston and Beyond (available in copies of the SOUTH END NEWS at Boston news stands through July 5, 2007.)

Kevin John Sowyrda

The media has shown a fancy of late for a staffing problem at Team Romney, where everybody is presumed to be as straight as they are straight shooters; with at least one exception that is. It appears that coatholder-in-chief Jay Garrity may have been a Mall Cop in another life; which is to say that he’s obsessed with pretending be to a real and bonafide member of the constabulary. To that end, Garrity has been caught with his badge off — or on — as various law enforcement officials investigate him for pretending to be them. Garrity is also charged with flashing in public — his blue lights, that is. Mr. Garrity is now on leave from Camp Romney, which translated from politic speak means his next job in the Byzantine world of campaigning will be licking envelopes for the Mississippi State Republican Party.
But there are bigger staffing skeletons in the multi-million dollar operation which is the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Just as the media made quite the fuss about contender John Edwards hiring two staffers who in another life had written allegedly anti-Catholic commentaries as bloggers, the press should be quite interested in two of Romney’s top advisors who were the de facto managers of the Massachusetts state treasury when it suffered a $10 million embezzlement scandal, the worst in state history.

Eric Fehrnstrom and Beth Myers were hardly shrinking violets at Treasurer Joe Malone’s office when nearly $10 million was heisted from the taxpayers. Fehrnstrom, recently identified by the Washington Post as “always at Romney’s side,” was deputy state treasurer and Myers was chief of staff when the office they ran was pilfered of enough cash to buy a sweet pad near Romney’s grotesquely opulent manse at Lake Winnipesaukee.

Though the Edwards camp was excoriated in the mainstream media for retaining two bloggers who dared to differ with arcane Catholic dogma, there’s been no article I can find in the mainstream media, blogosphere or any other sphere regarding the fact that Romney’s two campaign chieftains had day-to-day control of a public agency where cash was quite literally carried out the front door by political loyalists appointed by them, and the elected treasurer, Joe Malone.

When it was revealed that the cronies of Malone, Myers and Fehrnstrom had been siphoning cash over an extended, six year period, the three quickly became objects of derision in the press. Although none were charged with any crimes, in the court of public opinion, they were seen as guilty of a comical level of mismanagement.

When asked by the Associated Press if he and his top managers were “guilty” of not keeping a proper eye on the store, Malone, a life long Republican, said that he did not have a preference for “micro managing” and that he trusted those working under his chain of command. So much for Reagan’s famous advice, “trust but verify.”

When all was said in done, prison sentences were handed out and the only thing we can say regarding Malone, Fehrnstrom and Myers is that their careers were suddenly in cryogenics. When you manage an office so well that a cool $10 million is slipped by your nose, it tends not to endear you to the employers browsing your Monster.Com resume posting.

But then came Mr. Ethics, Mitt Romney. His Excellency’s first move as governor was to resurrect Fehrnstrom and Myers to run the executive suite on . Myers would become an alter ego to Romney as his thoroughly loyal chief of staff. (It was Myers who was widely reported to have played an instrumental role in advising Romney to abolish the advisory commission on LGBT youth, which had been a meritorious invention of one of Romney’s Republican predecessors, William F. Weld.)

As for Fehrnstrom, he became the highest paid communications director in the history of the governor’s office, and was sometimes making news more than giving the governor’s reaction to it. On one occasion at the offices of New England Cable News, Fehrnstrom was accused by one of the station’s producers of attempting to assault another on-air guest, longtime North Adams Mayor John Barrett. Not much came of the incident, except to reinforce Fehrnstrom’s reputation as a petty, political scrapper.

But today, the petty political scrapper and the ultra conservative chief of staff to a state treasurer, and then a governor, are quite literally running the day-to-day operations of a presidential campaign. They do so with humble people like me still wondering if they were merely guilty of an abysmal level of managerial ignorance.

Either way, the press has a bigger story in Fehrnstrom and Myers than they’ll ever have in the coat holder who likes to play cop.