Thursday, December 09, 2004

SAYING GOODBYE TO BRUDNOY. Fine pieces today by the Boston Globe's Brian McGrory and the Boston Herald's Mike Barnicle (sub. req.) on David Brudnoy, the legendary talk-show host of WBZ Radio (AM 1030) and a fixture in the city since the 1970s.

Dean Johnson of the Herald has a good account of "The Last David Brudnoy Show," hosted last night by former 'BZ host Peter Meade, a close friend of Brudnoy's. The Meade show was a fitting tribute to Brudnoy. I listened for the first hour, and was especially moved by my friend "Seth from Hull," my friend and occasional collaborator Harvey Silverglate, and by Paul Sullivan, a WBZ host who is himself battling cancer.

Here is the interview that Gary LaPierre did with Brudnoy yesterday. There's a streaming-audio version online, too; if you haven't heard it yet, please try it. Brudnoy's courage and dignity are beyond comprehension.

We are about to lose a truly amazing man.

FACT-CHECKING SEVERIN. While Boston was saying goodbye yesterday to a true giant of talk radio, a new-generation talker, Jay Severin, was attempting to rip apart Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh during his afternoon show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). It was truly enough to make you doubt the theory of evolution.

I'm not going to get into the merits of Lehigh's latest attack on Severin, except to say that I basically agree with Lehigh. But just in case any card-carrying members of the Best and Brightest are reading Media Log today, I want to take a closer look at a few things Severin said, in the possibly vain hope that they will come away Better and Brighter.

My usual caveat in these situations: I was in my car and wasn't rolling tape. I'm confident that this is accurate, but you're not going to see any direct quotes.

First, in an attempt to demonstrate Lehigh's alleged insignificance and his own incomparable awesomeness, Severin breathlessly told his listeners that if you search for Jay Severin on Google, you will come up with 26,400 hits. Wow! That must mean he's, like, a master of the universe or something. (I see this morning that it's down to 26,200 hits. These things fluctuate.)

Of course, a master of the universe can't be expected actually to learn how to use Google. But as every good Googler knows, you've got to put a full name in quotation marks, like this - "Jay Severin." Otherwise, you'll get everything that has the word "Severin" and everything that has the word "Jay." If you use the quotation marks, and eliminate all those stories about the Toronto Blue Jays, jaywalking, and Jay Peak, what do you get? How does 6970 hits sound?

Now, that's still not too shabby, I think we can agree. But let's do a quotation-mark search for "Scot Lehigh." Oooh - 3610 hits. Not as many as Severin, but not bad. Besides, there are hits and there are hits.

Which brings me to a second point. Severin claimed that Lehigh knew nothing about national politics because he's never covered national politics. I believe he said something about Lehigh covering garbage pick-up in Revere or some such thing. In fact, Lehigh has covered several presidential campaigns. And here is a link that Severin might not want the Best and the Brightest to know about: it's to the website for the Pulitzer Prizes. I can't find a way to create a direct link, but if you drill down, you'll see that Lehigh was a finalist for a Pulitzer in national reporting in 1989, for his coverage of the '88 presidential campaign, when he was a reporter for the Boston Phoenix.

(Here's a meaningless aside that I can't resist: if you Google "Dan Kennedy," you will get 155,000 hits - just a few more than Severin's almost-7000. As you'll see if you do this, there are four different Dan Kennedys on the first page of results alone, so the comparison's not exactly fair. But hey, Best and Brightest! I hold down four of the top five unsponsored slots!)

Third, Severin boasted about the number of times he's been interviewed by the national media. It's true - he has. I searched "news transcripts" on Lexis-Nexis and came up with 868 examples. The vast majority, though, seemed to be appearances on Imus in the Morning and from his old talking-head shtick on MSNBC - and for some reason, a number of those appearances were listed multiple times. So it's actually quite a bit less than 868.

Severin said he had been interviewed by Tom Brokaw; Lexis-Nexis contains zero evidence of that ever having happened. (Lexis-Nexis isn't perfect, so I wouldn't call that dispositive.) Severin also said he had appeared on Nightline. I had better luck with that, coming up with three appearances - the most recent of which occurred in 1995.

Severin is eminently well-credentialed to do what he does; take that any way you like. What's interesting, though, is that Lehigh, in the course of expressing some pretty harsh opinions about Severin, said nothing that was even remotely untrue. Severin, in fighting back, couldn't manage to get through the 10 or so minutes that I was listening without making several whoppers.


Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight, you're going to debate the facts of a broadcast you heard while driving and admit up front you have no tapes and no notes.

This is quality journalism here, folks!

The point that you and Lehigh miss is that it's organization's like the Boston Globe (Lehigh's employer) that give rise to the Jay Severins of the world. A legacy of one-sided opinion-making generates an audience for someone with an alternative point of view -- and its shameful that his that point of view is couched in cheap rhetoric. It's the Globe that has created Severin.

Put some more conservative voices in the Globe's opinion mix, hire some reporters who ask a different brand of questions and the Globe becomes a better paper while Severin's teeth are dulled. They won't do that because they're not interested in any kind of balance.

Lehigh makes the mistake of dismissing Severin's audience as unintelligent and does so at his peril. That was shoddy and arrogant and Lehigh reveals himself to be cheap and unthinking.

Ironically, Severin and Brudnoy agree on much of the same principles. The latter is an articulate gentleman and the former something less than that.

Dan Kennedy said...

Uh, excuse me, but I was merely explaining why I have no direct quotes. I also wrote, "I'm confident that this is accurate." It is. Have no doubt.

Anonymous said...

You know, I could understand the previous complaint if it were about something heavily detail oriented. I mean, I guess what he is saying is that you were lying, Dan: Severin never mentioned Google and the many hits that will turn up if you search for him.

Like the person at my work who says she likes Severin - I say I think he's seriously helping destroy respectable discourse by referring to "wetbacks" and "towelheads," among other things. She was very dismissive of me, since, you know, I don't carry around airchecks of Severin's show.

This is typical of right wingers: they find a problem with a nit-picky detail that doesn't affect the overall meaning at all, and exploit that, ignoring the larger point. Thusly, Dan Rather's screw up becomes the story that overshadows Bush's going AWOL from the Guard, or Joe Wilson's relationship with his wife takes over the media over the story that the Niger claim was bogus. Calling attention to these lies somehow supposedly challenges your patriotism. Ridiculous.

By way of transition, Brudnoy, who I didn't much agree with, was nothing like this. He's a man of dignity and respect, who could engage on honest debate. He didn't need to make stuff up or insult people for his own aggrandizement.

Now we're supposed to regret calling out the Bush admin or the right because it creates hateful right wing radio hosts? That seems a little backwards to me.

Phil Gallagher said...

Lehigh criticizes Romney for having Severin at an event yet where in the Globe could we find any criticism of Kerry holding hands with and having the despicable Sharpton on his payroll? Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Re: said Rev. Sharpton; read the latest Village Voice, available online. AMAZING story on Rev. Al from a source you will, no doubt, find unimpeachable, DK. Sen. Kerry may want to burn the copies of those "grip&grins" w/Al.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of the point that "Anonymous, at 2:34 PM " is trying to make.

If you consider papers like the Village Voice lying liberal rags, like your tone seems to imply (if I'm wrong, I apologize), then why do even believe their Sharpton story? Either they are lying and Sharpton's a good guy, or they aren't lying, and are apparently less biased than you thought - you can't really have it both ways.

I'm not much of a Sharpton fan, though I think a lot of what he says needs to be said... I haven't read the story yet, but I've read others about him - enough where I consider him a fairly dubious character.

The larger point here is that Dan never mentioned Sharpton, and you seem to be blaming him for things he has nothing to do with. The subject of Dan's post is Severin mainly, with some Scott Lehigh. If Dan wants to write about Sharpton, maybe he will some time. But he didn't in this case, so why are you attacking him for it? I mean other than to divert attention from the point, which, as I understand it is that Severin is a hateful, boastful, lying hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:36:
Dude, take some Metamucil and chill out!

Anonymous said...

Here's reality. Jay Severin lives in Long Island, NY. He is doing PM Drive in Boston because he refuses to live here. Jay Severin is a New Yorker.

Jay Severin has essentially stolen parts of Howie Carr, David Brudnoy, Bob Grant, Michael Savage and created a persona that is the opposite of the real life he leads.

Jay Severin is a fraud.

It's embarassing to be in a city that enjoyed David Brudnoy, Jerry Williams, Gene Burns, Howie Carr, Norm Nathan et al and have this fake get ratings. I just got done listening to Mike Savage, he's a tortured soul but talented, John Batchelor is starting to weave his actually (believe it or not) interesting talk show on WRKO. WTKK is a joke, Severin is a joke. No, I'm not a radio employee, I'm a talk radio fan. Thank god for WBZ, WRKO and my morning NPR fix.

Anonymous said...

Jay is probably the only host in the market I've never Listened to. I caught him once on another show and that was enough.
I've frequently asked people why they tune in to people they don't like. They don't have good answers. Forgeting about content I have a simple rule: if you are a jerk, I'm not listening. That rules out Rush,Bill,Sean...the usual suspects. Imus I have to admit is testing that rule.

Anonymous said...

The direct Pulitzer link to Lehigh's nomination is here:

Anonymous said...

I saw Severin doing his show once and he was standing and seemed totally focused in a scary way with his non-stop bluster. He has that enunciation thing down and unfortunately, the lowest common denominator will be likely buy into his shtick. His style of speaking and mannerisms brought vague thoughts of Hitler only without the responding masses.

Anonymous said...

Jay Severin is a Libertarian - who is disavowed by the top Libertarians. He is part of Boston's 'best and brightest', yet he's in a basement in Cold Springs Harbor, NY. He is not against gay marriage, he is againt 'homo' marriage. He is not against the government providing assistance to black children, he's against providing anything to those 'illegitimate bastards'. He is a flag-waving, sunshine patriot - but of course, has never served. He is a political operative who has never been involved with a successful campaign. In fact, he said tremendously nice things about John Kerry on-air, until Kerry picked his campaign manager(s). Where Howards Stern 'baits' his audience in a humourous way for comedic purposes(and in the process, gives exposure to people who NEVER get any airtime, i.e.,retarded people, stutterers, strippers, angry blacks, KKK members.

He constantly talks about it being NATURAL to want to 'stray' and to f**k Britney Spears and other young 'things', gay people are FREAKS. How small does your penis (or political accomplishments) have to be for you to lisp on-air when discussing gay men, and react to Hillary Clinton with such vitriol?

This homo (along with a lesbian friend in the Air Force) has several times offered to box Severin for charity. The man with the mouth has thus far not responded.