Entercom Still Sinking

After a brief rally attempt last week failed, Entercom shares are now poised to finish out the year at the lowest level ever. The WRKO / WEEI owner has been on a slow and steady slide for a long time, with no bottom seemingly in sight.

Closing on Friday down 44 cents at $13.71, it represents a further loss of $13.5m in market capitalization for the company. Year-to-date, ETM shares are down more than 50 percent. It once traded as high as $70 per share.

Overall, it was a brutal year for radio stocks, as Wall Street largely gave up on the medium’s future. But Entercom stands out as one of the industry’s worst performers.

Boston’s Shoddy Talk Product

If you thought Boston-area talk radio couldn’t possibly become more unlistenable, guess again. This week’s programming proved beyond any doubt that local stations really don’t mind driving you away for good. Load up that iPod!

Though the problem wasn’t confined to Boston, our local stations certainly led the way when it came to embarrassing moments.

As has been the case so many times before during holiday periods, major world news broke out, leaving WRKO and WTKK talkers scratching their heads. Neither station had a clue how to proceed.

Despite the fact that many TV anchors were brought back from their distant retreats to cover Bhutto’s assassination, Howie Carr and Vay-Cay Jay, eternally in Vay-Cay mode, couldn’t be bothered to return to their respective programs.

Bhutto Benazir.jpg

Someone at WTKK actually booked shameless, washed-up Mike Siegel to cover Vay-Cay’s show for the entire week, broadcasting from Seattle. Trying to out-crusty WRKO’s fill-ins, are we?

Though unknown to Hub listeners, Siegel has more baggage than a TSA worker could stuff in a warehouse. In 1996, he was fired for spreading false rumors about former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, claiming he’d had an affair with a male aide. Though Rice was certainly no angel, there was nothing to the story.

Almost as infamously, Siegel is known to change his political ideology to fit the station that has booked him. Need a liberal? Mike’s your guy. You say your station’s conservative? No problem. Libertarian? I can do that!

At least Siegel tried to cover the Bhutto assassination. Over at WRKO, new guy Reese Hopkins, perhaps the only one who didn’t get the week off, called the topic “boring” and stuck to stale snow-removal chatter.

Obviously, the subject went right over his head and Hopkins didn’t know how to wing it, the true mark of an inexperienced host. With hip-hop sickos Star & Buc Wild returning to NYC’s airwaves soon (on a TV frequency, no less), perhaps he will go back to playing their sidekick.

And topping them all, WTKK’s Michele “I Gave Up My Day Job” McPhee spent part of today doing Spoiled Milk Talk, part of an exciting new format set to debut on the station in January. Yes, it’s an OUTRAGE!!! that bad milk was sold by a dairy in Central Mass. What a captivating topic, wake me up when it’s over.

There’s a big difference between stories fit for the print media and what works on talk radio. McPhee is a newspaper reporter, not a talk host.

The bottom line, however, is this: a good host knows how to move with the news cycle and has the intelligence to cover a topic of global significance on the fly. The death of Pakistan’s best hope for democratic reform, one expected to win next month’s election handily, has a major impact on the US for a number of reasons. The biggest: THEY HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS! Anybody home?


Have your own tale
of bad radio heard this week? Leave a comment below.

Here We Go Again

Once again, a major global event with a huge potential impact for America has hit during a holiday period and talk radio is asleep at the switch. It’s a whole week of fill-ins and reruns.

Even worse, one of the few regular hosts actually in town this week had no idea how to address the subject and made a fool out of himself on the air.

Any major host worth his salt should get a clue and return to air today before the situation escalates any further.

Over To You

It’s been one wacky year for Boston talk radio, with the medium’s meltdown turning into frequent fodder for area newspapers, television news and blogs.

With that, let’s turn it over to you: what do you find yourself still listening to? Have you stuck with local talk stations, or moved on to something else?

Finally, between local and syndicated hosts, which do you still make a point of hearing? Feel free to leave your comments below.

You Can Leave Your Hat On

What does Entercom’s management team have in common with Mickey Rourke’s character in 1986’s twisted and sadistic 9 1/2 Weeks? More than you’d think.

Though I can just about guarantee you’ve never previously made this cinematic connection to the real world, the parallels are striking, since the psychological manipulation theme is common to both situations.

9 1-2 Weeks.jpg

Because he can, Rourke’s character, a circa-1980s Wall Street speculator, spends nine and one-half weeks demeaning and degrading Kim Basinger in every conceivable way. As the film (which, for whatever twisted reason, every girl I knew in college loved) continues, tension builds as the audience wonders when she will finally reach her limit and walk away from the whole mess.

In one particularly notorious scene, Rourke’s John character convinces Basinger’s Liz to crawl on the floor to pick up $100 bills he’s scattered about his flat. A profitable activity, but demeaning nonetheless.

This comes back to a criticism that has been leveled against this site by a few people: if WRKO’s hosts ultimately sign deals that appear to be generous (even if they are pumped up with theoretical and unlikely ratings bonuses), then how have they been demeaned?

That’s where Entercom and Rourke become one: they aren’t about to hand out C-Notes for nothing, you first have to get down on your hands and knees and face humiliation. Only with our corporate friends, the degradation campaign lasts for weeks, or even months.

Think about the stunts they’ve pulled with Dennis and Callahan, Howie Carr, Todd Feinburg and many others: regardless of the end result financially, do they now have more dignity, or do they feel a bit like Liz?

Entercom Boston managers also treat people this way because they can, as there are seemingly no corporate checks and balances. As David Field seems to have been raised without any real sense of right and wrong, he sees no problem with what they are doing. In fact, the more out-of-control their behavior, the more Field digs in his heels.

That’s also his history nationwide, which is why Entercom is constantly embroiled in controversial and frankly bizarre flaps of the company’s own making. Here’s but a sampling of some of their more recent greatest hits.

I’m not saying that Entercom’s competitors are angels, as radio is a sleazy and dirty business, but look at it this way: if Greater Media, Clear Channel (!!), CBS or any of the other Boston-area station owners want to hire or re-sign somebody, they make an offer.

If they’re through with a person, they let them know and employment ends. Sometimes it isn’t pleasant. But do they play sadistic mind games and engage in ongoing public humiliation campaigns against them? That’s the difference.

What we’ve learned from watching Entercom’s psychological warfare campaign is that it can happen to anybody when they are at their most vulnerable. And that’s precisely why Liz fell into John’s trap in 9 1/2 Weeks.

Think it couldn’t happen to you? Guess again.

Time For A Mental Health Evaluation

Can we agree on this? It’s time to send The Empress, Coffee Boy and PR flakmeister George Regan to Bridgewater for a quick evaluation.

For a week, the one right before Christmas by the way, Team Entercom has played mind games with listeners, our readers and the local media over the status of Todd Feinburg.

Bridgewater State Hospital.gif

While they claim he’s been let go, Feinburg has been spotted at the office “Christmas” party, in the halls many times during the week and now reports have him signing a three-year deal to return. Even today, we’re hearing we should expect to hear him on Monday morning.

But when the Herald reports on Feinburg’s deal, Regan calls it “silly season” (one of his favorite terms), referring back to the previous press release subtitled “Todd is Toast”.

At this point, the only thing that makes sense is that Entercommies are using these circumstances to lash out against their growing number of local critics. Keep changing the story in order to make the local papers, SaveWRKO and other bloggers look like they’re all getting it wrong.

At the same time, they’re maintaining the twisted psychological warfare campaign against Feinburg himself, determined to strip away any remaining shreds of personal dignity.

Clearly, we’re dealing with some very unhinged people. We’ve chartered a Fung Wah bus, it’s on its way to Guest Street now. Enjoy your visit to Bridgewater and be sure to sample their amazing selection of happy pills.

Regan Denies Feinburg Deal

I’m hearing from confused readers this morning and I don’t blame them one bit. Keeping track of this soap opera / sadistic reality show requires a score card.

Here’s where we stand: WRKO spokesman George Regan now denies Todd Feinburg is returning to the station, citing the press release the station sent earlier this week saying he’d left.

As a result, the Herald’s coverage has been updated and amended:

WRKO station spokesman George Regan said: “This is the silly season. We already came out with a press release.”

Regan was referring to the press release WRKO sent out earlier this week touting its new host, Reese Hopkins, who took over Feinburg’s mid-morning show. “Feinburg was offered another position at the station, but declined,” the release said.

Also, see here:

A source at WRKO (680 AM) tells me Todd Feinburg has struck a deal to co-host with Tom Finneran beginning Jan. 2. Here’s my story I just posted on the Herald Web site.

UPDATE:
WRKO station spokesman George Regan said: “This is the silly season. We already came out with a press release.”

WRKO released a press release on Tuesday that said. “Feinburg was offered another position at the station, but declined.”

Stay tuned.