WRKO: Talking It Over?

Will WRKO-AM even be around a decade from now?

One of the year’s most controversial stories has been the decision by “Boston’s Talk Station” to hire former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas Finneran, a staunch Democrat, as a morning host. The decision was met with vocal criticism by some of WRKO’s loyal listeners, who felt that his recent perjury conviction and questionable actions as House Speaker (such as his refusal to implement a 2000 voter-approved income tax rollback) made him a poor choice to convey opinions for the station.

It appears that the controversy has largely died down, either because many Bay Staters regarded Finneran’s hiring as “no big deal” or because Finneran’s selection is not exactly the first questionable decision the station has made (it can be argued that the hiring of Marjorie Clapprood in 1991 was a far greater slap in the face for WRKO’s pro-Republican audience than Finneran’s hiring).

Unless he completely flunks ratings-wise, it seems likely that Finneran will remain a part of the WRKO family for some time to come. The question is, how long will it be before the WRKO family stops reproducing?

Let’s face it, WRKO will be seriously hurting for talent once Finneran and Howie Carr step away from the microphone. Not that long ago, it seemed as though the station had decided to groom Finneran’s predecessor, Scott Allen Miller, and one-time weekend host Spencer Hughes for future stardom, but both personalities are now gone. Current weekend hosts Mariellen Burns, Gregg Jackson and Kevin Whelan are all quite talented, but what if management decides that they lack the potential to become Carr-level stars in a “main-event” position?

It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that WRKO could abandon the talk format sometime with the next decade or so. If the station cannot create a new star (or cannot obtain a star from another market or another medium), then it’s hard to imagine management continuing with the talk format; somewhere along the line, the station will run into the law of diminishing returns. I can’t imagine what format they’d switch to (a secondary sports station, perhaps?), but if it becomes apparent that a new Jerry Williams is nowhere on the horizon, “Boston’s Talk Station” could decide to shut up once and for all.

About D. R. Tucker