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.

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