Congratulations to veteran political consultant Charley Manning, who’s been selected to replace Rush Limbaugh on WRKO-AM in Boston. Manning is a quick wit, a sharp observer and someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. With the strong local lineup of Manning, Tom Finneran, Todd Feinburg, Howie Carr and weekend hosts Avi Nelson and Kevin Whalen, WRKO should remain in good health for years to come.
Just a friendly bit of advice to Mr. Manning: Your main competition is not Limbaugh, who will soon decamp for WXRS-AM. Your main competition is not Michael Graham, who continues to excel at WTKK-FM. Your real rival is the previous newest kid on the block: Emily Rooney of WGBH-FM.
One can disagree with some of Rooney’s views while recognizing her as a commanding presence on the airwaves. In just a matter of weeks, The Emily Rooney Show has distinguished itself as a high-quality broadcast; Rooney comes across a prepared, thoughtful, serious host. She transcends the usual public-radio stereotypes; while clearly holding some progressive views, she can truly say with a straight face that she is not an ideologue.
Rooney’s show is compelling because it provides intellect without snobbery, entertainment without unbearable lightness. Manning must–and surely will–match this standard. Rooney has raised the bar for talk radio in this region, in the same way that Dan Rea raised the bar just weeks after he succeeded the late Paul Sullivan on WBZ-AM. Listeners will demand quality from Manning–and he will undoubtedly deliver.
It looks like there will be an embarrassment of riches for fans of locally-focused talk radio in Boston. Are there more changes in store? Will WGBH-FM consider giving Rooney three hours of her own to directly challenge Manning? Will this competition expand the overall talk-radio listenership in the, er, Greater Boston area? If so, the winners will be Graham, Limbaugh, Manning, Rooney–and everyone who enjoys good conversation.