For more than 30 years,
talk radio has been the best friend of center-right activists, here
in Massachusetts, across the nation. While nationally, the
syndicated hosts still have influence, our local version is almost
dead. I mourn; I don’t know what to do without it.
When I moved here in
the ’70s, my Massachusetts-native husband suggested I listen to Avi
Nelson on WHDH to get the lay of the political land. Avi at the time
was helping to fight court-ordered busing in Boston. And now, he is
one of the two great Boston-radio talk hosts still on the air.
I hope some North Shore
readers remember talk host Irv Kaiser; his Lynn studio was on my way
to my new job at Citizens for Limited Taxation, so it was a good
place to start my “career” as a talk show guest. Years later, he
invited me on his new show at Salem’s WESX, as did Al Needham.
My second 1979 CLT
assignment was the David Brudnoy Show. He had filled in when Avi ran
for office, and eventually they were both fixtures on Boston-based
radio. By then, I was CLT’s executive director and doing regular
stints with them, as well as with Pat Whitley and Gene Burns. I even
filled in for Avi once, quickly realized I preferred being a guest
with nothing to do but focus on my issue — which at that time was
the initiative petition Proposition 2½.
While we also had
support for our property tax limit from many newspaper editorial
boards, I don’t think we could have won this intensely fought battle
without talk radio, which encouraged people to help collect
signatures on the petition and become activists during the ballot
Over the years, I drove
to the Moe Lausier and Henry Varreiro shows in Fall River/New
Bedford, to Paul Sullivan in Lowell, regularly went to Worcester and
as far as Springfield and Holyoke. Doing talk radio was a vital part
of my job.
Jerry Williams had been
one of the first Boston talk show hosts; when he returned in 1981, I
was invited on his show to discuss tax limitation in general. I’d
been warned by conservatives that he was a liberal, but in fact he
called himself “classic liberal,” i.e., a libertarian, like most of
the area talk show hosts; we hit it off immediately and I was a
frequent guest on his show for the next 20 years. In 1988, he
created “The Governors” on WRKO: Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr
and I joined him weekly to pretend we were running the commonwealth.
After Howie left for his own show, Bob Katzen of Beacon Hill Roll
Call became the third “governor.”
WRKO had gone all talk
in 1981. During morning drive time, it featured conservative-liberal
teams, Pat Whitley with Marjorie Clapprood, Janet Jeghelian with Ted
O’Brien. Until recently, a similar team, Margery Eagan and Jim
Braude, argued on FM’s WTKK. By then, I was working from home;
instead of being an in-studio guest, I was a call-in guest with them
and with the afternoon’s Michael Graham.
At home, my radio was
tuned to talk radio from the time I woke up until it was time to
watch television talk, Emily Rooney at 7 p.m. By 2012, David, Jerry
and Paul had died, but Howie was still on ’RKO, as was Todd Feinburg,
one of the best in my long experience: great voice, knowledgeable,
good-natured. He was paired with Tom Finneran, who, when autocratic
speaker of the house, gave talk show hosts plenty of fodder in the
“what’s wrong with Beacon Hill” category.
Because of this bad
history, Finneran was hard to hear on state government issues.
Eventually, he was gone, and then, one morning, Todd was gone, too!
Next, Michael Graham disappeared: Then a few weeks ago, Jim &
Margery had their last show as ’TKK became a rap music station!
While I’m still called
by local stations, mostly south of Boston, and Dan Rea is on WBZ at
night, only two hosts are doing good traditional local talk during
the day, on AM 680 ’RKO: Howie from 3 to 7 p.m. and Avi on Saturday
from 3 to 5 p.m. I enjoy Barry Armstrong and June Knight on
midmorning weekdays; their economic show often includes fiscal
politics, for which they generally have good instincts.
I rarely listen to the
early morning Jeff Kuhner show; we need more local center-right talk
radio, but a bad show can do more harm than good. Because of my long
experience, I have standards: a decent voice, a determination to get
the facts right, are these too much to ask?
My partner Chip Ford,
who ran ballot campaigns with Jerry Williams, is trying to help,
sending the Kuhner Report information and links to make him better
informed: good luck, Chip. I called once to gently correct his
misstatement that Scott Brown had voted for higher taxes, but gave
up when he refused to listen, calling me “a Republican hack.”
Oh well; we were lucky
to have talk radio as it was when we did, and some variation may
come along to intelligently support tax limitation and other liberty
issues. The genre is presently moving to the Internet; I can talk
with Todd Feinburg there on Facebook, and isn’t that a brave new