The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

05 November 2007

New York Times, Boston Globe On Talk Radio Content


Should Dying Papers Lecture Talk Radio On Content?

At a time when paid newspaper circulation has taken yet another major nosedive, why do our mainstream media friends feel the need to lecture talk radio regarding its content? Ours is a competing, yet thriving medium.

Perhaps the unsolicited advice should be flowing in the other direction.

Over the weekend, we had two particularly obnoxious examples of this, coming from the New York Times and its even more troubled sibling, the Boston Globe.

First, in what ought to alarm talk radio fans everywhere, the Times is apparently pleased as punch to see establishment suck-up Don Imus return in his new, largely- neutered form. More than that, Imus: The Resurrection is actually seen as a return to the "good old days" of radio!

Here are two excerpts from Peter Applebome's somewhat qualified (he doesn't claim to personally enjoy the show) praise piece:

Perhaps a Boor (or a Bore), but Imus Makes It Work

ON THE SAW MILL RIVER PARKWAY -- Forget, for a moment, the Rutgers women’s basketball team and all that. Here’s one drive-time driver’s opinion about Don Imus’s old morning show. It wasn’t very good.

You switched the station whenever his wife, Deirdre, came on to expound on green cleaning products or he began sputtering yet again that thimerosal causes autism. You turned off Bo Dietl’s completely unfunny mangled English, half the celebrity journalists back to hawk their books and the annoying cackling of his posse of middle-aged homeboys, celebrating one another’s bon mots.

And here’s another opinion. It was much better than almost anything else on the radio. Depending on your mood and tastes, on New York radio there are the blissfully literate and informed grown-ups like Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate on WNYC, the hyper-tasteful music wonks at WFUV, the standing army of the all-news nation on WINS and WCBS.

Wherever you are, the NPR station is one of America’s wonders.

Don't miss the kicker, here:

But anyone who listens to the show knows he insults everyone, though this time he did it entirely inappropriately on the cultural third rail. Even the “shock jock” label seems a little tired (given what’s out there, how shocking can radio be?), but if, as rumored, he’ll return with a black co-host, maybe he’ll get the contemporary ground rules right next time.

We could do better, but in the prefab world of commercial radio, we usually do worse. For all his flaws, Imus is closer to the spirit of what radio used to be than almost anyone out there.

In other words (translated from MSM- speak), while Imus may be a boor and a racist, he's our nasty jerk. Consider this: if the I-Man hadn't endorsed John Kerry and carried on such a legacy of sucking- up to such a long list of elitist media darlings, would the NYT be singing his praises today?

In the end, they like having one of their own planted inside the walls of a major news- talk operation. But talk radio exists largely to counter this very group, that's why Imus has been ratings- challenged for so long.

Not to be outdone, long- suffering sister paper the Boston Globe had its own version of how talk radio Ought To Sound in a column by Joan Vennochi. Even though she gets it half- right in the piece, her tone still reeks of the usual snooty elitism.

Meant to excoriate former WRKO talk host Howie Carr for his past on- air antics, Vennochi presents her own vision of "civil" talk radio for Boston:

In a way, I've been rooting for Carr to get the morning show at WTKK - as long as (Tom) Finneran is going to keep the morning show at WRKO.

Other than the late Boston city councilor Jimmy Kelly and the ailing former city councilor Dapper O'Neil, I can't remember anything nice Carr has ever said or written about anyone.

His critiques go far beyond differences over ideology. His commentary is often rude and personal and he takes adolescent delight in mocking physical characteristics. His unflinching meanness undercuts an admirable willingness to take on the powerbrokers. But from a marketing perspective, Carr obviously knows what he's doing, as proven by the bidding war for his services.

At the same time, Finneran's long-winded odes to every establishment figure and cause in town cry out for an antidote. Finneran has the pol gene, which makes him congenitally unable to find fault with one of his own. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, the Boston firefighters or the Boston police - they are all heroes no matter what.

A destination for intelligent and civil radio conversation is a welcome concept in Boston. But even civil debate benefits from a little edge, not to mention a little honesty.

Carr at WTKK. Finneran at WRKO. The listener could switch from a host who thinks politicians can do no good to a host who thinks they can do no bad.

Devils on parade at WTKK, saints at WRKO.

Vennochi's trick is easy to spot here: she gives a mild rebuke to convicted felon Tom Finneran, a former Massachusetts Speaker of the House who has turned his WRKO morning show into brown- nose central. Of course she's right here, but the point is too obvious.

Beyond that, her own MSM- speak is easy to translate as well: she wants "civil" talk radio, meaning discourse that doesn't threaten her clique's iron grip on the local media-political establishment.

On a day when new circulation figures show a 4.5% drop in readership at The Grey Lady, in addition to an even more ominious, even devilish 6.66% decline at the snooty Globe, should talk radio follow the advice of these journalistic geezers? Let's hope it won't.

FOR Boston- area talk radio updates, see our other site. CLAIM: Humiliated Howie Carr poised for WRKO return!


NEWSBUSTERS: Newspapers are dying

NYT calls Iraq contractors "mercenaries"

MAINERS not happy about any of the prez candidates

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Imus image: NY Post


  • I found it amusing and typical on how the media tried to spin their decline.

    "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Circulation fell at many U.S. newspapers in the six months to September, according to statistics released on Monday that for the first time include Internet readership in a bid by publishers to boost their attractiveness to advertisers."

    "For The New York Times, daily circulation fell 4.51% to 1,037,828 and Sunday plunged 7.59% to 1,500,394, at least partly due to a price increase though executives with the paper say the decline from the hike was less than anticipated. "

    "Some papers, particularly in California and Florida, are dealing with the weak housing market, while others face their own regional trends, such as in Michigan where papers have cut jobs as they serve markets hurt by the slumping auto industry.

    So, they try to boost their numbers by adding in the internet readers. And their audience still declined.

    They blamed the drop on a price increase, weak housing markets, and job cuts in Michigan due to auto problems.

    But nowhere do they mention the decline is due to their never-ending biased reporting. The public no longer has any trust or confidence in what is printed in the newspapers.

    I guess when the next decline is reported, they will blame Dick Cheney, Haliburton, Karl Rove and the vast right-wing conspiracy.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 05 November, 2007 22:40  

  • Brian,

    It's true that Times/Globe print circ is down. But it's also true that their online readership is up. Why didn't you mention that fact?

    The content is still being read, just in a different format.

    By Blogger Justin, at 06 November, 2007 06:45  

  • Wing nuts have to alter reality to prove a point

    they are genuine liars, fascists and sociopaths.

    they all deserve deportment

    By Blogger Unknown, at 06 November, 2007 09:48  

  • Justin said:
    It's true that Times/Globe print circ is down. But it's also true that their online readership is up. Why didn't you mention that fact?

    "CHICAGO Audience-FAX, a new measurement that combines newspaper circulation, readership and online audience, is not an attempt to paper over the bad news about circulation, newspaper industry figures argued Monday."

    If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

    "Because this is a first-time measurement, it is impossible to say whether it shows that newspaper's audience is growing, or as circulation numbers have suggested for the better part of a decade -- the industry is in an on-going decline."

    Can you say Free-Fall?

    The 538 daily US newspapers had an average decline of 2.5%.

    But The Boston Globe's decline was far, far worse. Daily circulation at The Boston Globe tumbled 6.6% to 360,695 (from 386,417) and Sunday fell about the same, 6.5% to 548,906 (from 587,289).

    These left leaning newspapers are reaping their just rewards from their own bone-headed decisions to tilt the news toward their liberal viewpoint.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 06 November, 2007 11:39  

  • Ahh Benson.

    Your partisanship and lack of practical knowledge knows no limits.

    The political slant of print media has nothing to do with the decline in circulation. It has everything to do with the advent of new media... i.e. websites, text mail, i-phone, etc. The younger demographics don't read the paper because it doesn't suit their lifestyle. Not only are the Times and Globe down.... so is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and every other paper in America . It's just the nature of an archaic medium like print to eventually reach a point of obsolescence.

    The same can be said for radio. Look at the revenue reports for radio in Septemeber. Not just talk... all radio. It's down. Radio has been down for a long time. The lower demos are not tuning in because they prefer the vast selection available with satellite radio the I-pod. It would be as facetious to blame the decline of radio on the overwhelmingly right wing nature of talk as it would be to blame the decidedly left wing slant of opinion pages for the decline of print. Younger people, as a rule, don't feel drawn to anachronisiitc forms of media.

    Try to have a little perspective, Benson.

    By Blogger Dave Carroll, at 06 November, 2007 14:34  

  • "Try to have a little perspective, Benson."

    That would require a higher voltage level, Dave...

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 06 November, 2007 17:28  

  • "The political slant of print media has nothing to do with the decline in circulation."


    What an insane comment! The liberal newspapers are ridiculed every day for their biases.

    Every year, more and more people complained to the deaf editors. The feckless publishers refused to report facts honestly, so the audience gave these rags the one-finger salute and took a hike.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 07 November, 2007 10:44  

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