Silence may be golden: I wouldn't know. Talk radio is
always on in the background, from the time I wake up until I switch to
talk TV at 7 p.m.
I'm not necessarily paying attention to the radio, but my subconscious
usually tells me when a subject I need to hear comes up; or someone
calls to say, Quick, turn on whoever.
If "whoever" is on WRKO, I used to be there already; now I go back and
forth between WRKO and WTKK, the AM and FM leaders of public discussion.
TKK's Michael Graham created a new motto for his station as it competes
for title of Boston's number one talk station: "We don't fire people for
telling the truth, and we don't hire liars."
In case you've had your iPod in your ear for the past few months, this
refers to RKO's firing of John DePetro for calling the Green Party
candidate "a fat lesbian" and RKO's recent hiring of former House
speaker Tom Finneran for morning drive-time starting in February.
Finneran -- in case you've been listening to your iPod in a cave -- just
pled guilty to obstruction of justice in return for possibly going to
prison for perjury. The federal prosecutors weren't buying his
insistence to a panel of judges that he didn't know anything about the
decisions on redistricting when he was the autocratic leader of the
House of Representatives.
In my native western Pennsylvania, I could occasionally hear Jerry
Williams on powerful WBZ attacking certain Massachusetts politicians. So
my first impression of talk radio was that its mission was to expose
political malfeasance and give ordinary citizens a voice to protest it.
When I moved here, my intellectual guru was WHDH talk-show host Avi
Nelson, with his precisely-worded opinion and intelligent,
philosophy-based discourse. He, right after the anti-establishment
Williams, was the beginning of the populist medium; will Finneran mark
As a political activist, I was happy to participate as a frequent guest,
even an occasional guest host. So after 30 years' experience "in the
business," as Jerry called it, I feel competent to design the ideal talk
station for 2007. Here is my new WRKO:
Between 6 and 7 a.m., wake up to Scott Allen Miller, known as "Scotto,"
who created a new name for the alleged Massachusetts Taxpayers
Foundation -- the Massachusetts Tax-Hike Foundation (still MTF), whose
spokesman, Michael Widmer, by the way, at this week's state revenue
hearing once again talked about adding a penny to the sales tax.
Do you think Finneran, who is slated to replace Scotto, might note that
this would be a 20-percent sales tax increase, not to mention a bad
idea? His last years in office were spent successfully preventing the
rollback of the income tax rate to 5 percent, mainly because it was the
voters' idea and who are they to tell him what to do? Did I mention that
talk radio is a populist medium, predicated on respect for "the people"?
Finneran is not, as advertised, a fiscal conservative, except to those
who have been snookered to repeat this self-created description, all
evidence to the contrary. Opposition to abortion and gay rights do not a
fiscal conservative make. He voted for tax hikes as a legislator;
attacked Proposition 2½ as Ways and Means chairman; and as speaker of
the House, halted the income-tax rollback, simultaneously ending the
respect previously due initiative petitions on Beacon Hill.
The best five minutes in talk radio today is Scotto's daily crossover
with Todd Feinburg. When two people with my general political philosophy
disagree on some issues, it sounds like I do when I'm arguing with
myself. I'd like to have them on together from 8 to 9 in the morning,
let Todd continue from 9 to noon, and then have a national show 'til
Howie Carr, a vital institution now, arrives at 3 p.m.
I think I could take Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Jay Severin's egos
if they alternated one day each a week, with libertarian economist
Walter Williams in between.
I don't begrudge Finneran a living, since he had to leave the Biotech
Council after his felony conviction. He can take Michael Savage's time
slot and interview new book authors while I watch television.
If RKO insists on putting him on for the morning drive, I'd move Scotto
over to TKK to compete with him; see if listeners prefer a politician or
a political exposé. Say good-bye Imus and Mike Barnicle (the longest
hour on radio).
Continuing the "competition is good" theme, on TKK I'd put Graham on
'til Jim Braude and Marjorie Eagan come on at noon. Then I'd bring back
Nelson, who filled in for Howie recently; it was a joy to catch for
listeners who still have a one- or two-hour attention span on important
At bedtime, I'd indulge with Bob Katzen, who used to do Jerry Williams'
show with me in the early '90s. He'd do wonderful trivia, with a little
quiet politics on the side, for those winding down at the end of the
Now if only talk-show management, along with state government, would
listen to me -- what a wonderful world mine would be.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.