Why you’re not likely to see another Neal Boortz

Neal Boortz and his radio crew, after his last broadcast on Friday. AJC/Rodney Ho

Neal Boortz and his radio crew, after his last broadcast on Friday. AJC/Rodney Ho



Neal Boortz signed off for the last time
on Friday.

You won’t hear the likes of him again. And not just because retirement has doomed him to wander the world in an over-sized bus, like some middling country music singer who can’t find enough studio work.

The larger reason is that talk radio and its conservative clout have probably peaked.

As a cause, Boortz fans are sure to point to the Talkmaster’s departure, after four decades on our airwaves and 20 years at AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB. But four months ago, Clear Channel’s WGST – once a burning bush of conservative talk in Atlanta – shifted to sports. In Spanish. Last week, Allen West, the fire-breathing, former congressman from Florida, joined the corps of professional talkers. His program will be on the Internet.

It’s all of a piece.

Forty-eight hours before he bade farewell from the basement studios of WSB, Boortz sat for a relaxed conversation about the mark he’s left, and the where the talk industry is headed. And why, after all the shouting was done, the combined forces of conservative talk radio had been unable to push Mitt Romney across the finish line and stop the re-election of President Barack Obama last November.

Possibly, he said, talk radio had been a little too hot and, at the same time, a little too cold. “The failure of talk radio in this election may have been a little less time on the dangers of this man’s political philosophy” – if you know Boortz, you know this “this man” is how he speaks of Obama – “and a little more time trying to empathize with some of these voters out there. ‘I understand why you feel that way. Let me try to explain to you why this guy is not the answer.’ Maybe a little more of that would have helped,” Boortz theorized.

As for the mark he leaves, the Talkmaster understands that, despite 14 years of national syndication, he was always a “backbencher.” His phrase, not mine.

“One of the things that hurt my syndication was broadcasting from Atlanta. I was a Southern show. There is a bias against the South. We are ignorant, we are uneducated, we have stills, we drag our knuckles, there are dogs chained under our porches,” he fumed.

He pointed to an article by a talk radio consultant on the website of Talkers magazine, forecasting success for Herman Cain, the former Republican presidential candidate, who will take Boortz’ seat before the mike on Monday. Boortz has nothing but good things to say about Cain, who he is sure, will thrive. What galled him was the writer’s contention that Cain, though he was born in Memphis, would come across as “less Southern,” while Boortz had regionalized himself by using phrases such as “up in Washington.”

And so Boortz doesn’t place himself in the ranks of giants who, like Uncle Miltie and Walter Cronkite before them, may be the last of their kind. “The whole radio thing is changing. I don’t think you’ll ever see another [Sean] Hannity or [Rush] Limbaugh come along, because the spectrum is so much broader now,” he said. “You have people that are streaming shows on the Internet. And whatever listeners they do have will probably be taken from somebody else.”

Prior to sitting down with Boortz, I’d put in a call to Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers magazine. He didn’t write the article that Boortz had cited, but Harrison does think that parochialism – though not “bias” — had kept the Talkmaster in the second tier of talk jocks.

“His mark will really have been made as one of the great broadcasters in Atlanta history,” Harrison said. “He made an impact nationally – but not on an A-plus level. He would have had to abandon a lot of the flavor and the roots and the substance that made him such a star in Atlanta. And he didn’t do that. It hindered him going into that next national level.”

But Harrison agreed with Boortz’ larger point – that talk radio, over the next few years, is likely to become a more pallid version of itself. More voices, with less individual impact.

Talk radio, especially the conservative version, has enjoyed a fine run — for a couple reasons, Harrison explained. “Liberals are more likely to listen to a conservative host with whom they disagree. Many, many people love to listen to Rush Limbaugh because they enjoy hating him. The conservative listener is less tolerant of listening to a liberal,” he said. Result: Fewer liberal talk radio show hosts.

Conservative listeners are also a more compact demographic group, and thus easier for marketers and advertisers to target. “There is more of a diversity among people who might vote for Obama or vote for a Democrat or vote for a liberal,” Harrison said.

The looming problem for talk radio – as well as for talking heads on television and columnists in newspapers – is the Internet. “The Internet is causing a dilution of impact for everything. The bar to entry has been lowered. The bar to anyone paying attention to you has been heightened,” Harrison said.

As it shifts to a digital world, the talk industry on both sides of the political spectrum is likely to become more extreme, the publisher of Talkers said, because of the need to attract attention. But with hundreds of Boortzs, Hannitys and Limbaughs competing for your ear, chances are that no single set of voices will dominate as they do now.

The final question, of course, is what young up-and-comers Boortz sees on the horizon. He gave good marks to Erick Erickson, who handles WSB’s evening talk. But after that, his list is pretty short. He was never one for busman’s holidays. “I’ve never been much of a talk radio listener. So I can’t really tell you who’s out there. I’ve got friends in the business, but I don’t listen to them,” he said.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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198 comments Add your comment

blue dog

January 19th, 2013
9:29 am

Please take Rush, Hannity, etc with you and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
America, without these bigots, would be one far more united. A nation moving forward for the common good, not fractured by intolerance, racism and downright hatred of all that is not WASP.

Woofy One

January 19th, 2013
9:32 am

The shift is disappointing. The internet “radio” will never develop a similar following. He and other talk show hosts stimulate those on both sides of the issues. Our news and our talk shows are being dumbed down.

hiram

January 19th, 2013
9:48 am

The bigger story is Chip Roger’s $150,000 salary over at Georgia Public Broadcasting. GPB’s solvency is largely based on donations from liberals, and their programming is counter to the right wing’s, anti-science, flat earth agenda. The last thing they want is an informed electorate – so what is the best way eliminate this threat to ignorant bliss? Cut off the funding – the comments on the AJC “Rogers” article indicate that it’s working as planned. One comment after the other is vowing to stop donations to GPB. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

only a matter of time

January 19th, 2013
9:48 am

I listened to him sometimes and like he always said his job was to get people to listen long enough to get to the next car commercial. I didn’t see eye-to-eye with him on a number of issues and I don’t think he truly believed much of what he said, but that’s how radio is played. He used to say he was a libertarian but how many libertarians drive Benzes and have a plane? I wish him well in his next endeavors.

Mr_B

January 19th, 2013
9:51 am

“Our news and our talk shows are being dumbed down.”

Largely as a result of hucksters like Boortz, who discovered very early that they could make a lot more money trying to shout people down than they could bringing actual ideas to the airwaves.

jd

January 19th, 2013
9:59 am

Hey Hiram — while everyone else took a 5% cut in the FY13 amended, GPTV got a 5% increase ($500,000) and another $1.5 million in FY 14… A double digit increase — name another state agency that did likewise

Sam

January 19th, 2013
10:00 am

I’ve listened to Neal since I sat across from him on the control board at WRNG back in the 70’s. He’s highly intelligent, but, in my opinion, much more earthy and plain-spoken than Limbaugh or Hannity. I fail to understand why Hannity is on the air. He’s all bluster and no substance, in my opinion. I don’t agree with many of Neal’s opinions or rants, but, as he liked to say, that’s why they have knobs on the radio. Best of luck to you, Neal. I’m glad you made it to retirement with your mind mostly intact.

GardenDiva

January 19th, 2013
10:09 am

Neal will be missed by those of us who are members of “the Church of the Painful Truth”!

Bill

January 19th, 2013
10:15 am

Neal always said he was in the business of “entertaning” and in my opinion, he was good at it. He was not afraid to get on anybody, lib or conservative, if they deserved it. And there is never a shortage of them. The other talk guys are all business, not entertaining at all . I won’t be a listener to any of them after Boortz is gone except for Ericson. He should have been the replacement for Boortz. Wish “The High Priest of The Church of The Painful Truth” the best in his retirement.

Chris

January 19th, 2013
10:22 am

Boortz was at his best when he pointed out all of the corruption in government and stuck to his libertarian roots. He offered his listeners a chance to hear the truth. What they chose to do with that information was of course up to them.

He will be missed. We’re left with GOP pom-pom wavers like Hannity and Rush. Time for a change.

why are people so stupid

January 19th, 2013
10:23 am

blue dog please give us examples of the announcers being bigots.you cant fix stupid and you are the prime example of liberal dribble with no basis of common sense and the truth .nobama has done more to divide this country than any other person but you uninformed/ignorant voters keep smoking and drinking the same crap god no wonder this country is screwed.

Peach Buzz

January 19th, 2013
10:34 am

Ah yes, I will always remember this fellow as the guy that WSB played between commercials for Mr. Plumber and D. Geller and Son jewelers.

James

January 19th, 2013
10:36 am

Neal often spoke what was on the tongue of people who feared the consequences of saying it in today’s environment. Do not be fooled and allow yourself to believe that there is not a huge number of people out there that are close to reaching a tipping point with the excesses of government. They are not activists by nature but firmly believe that the overreach of the federal government has now reached a critical point where it threatens the very existence of our country. Political leaders should take this seriously.

bucket

January 19th, 2013
10:39 am

How’s that liberal talk show network working out?

Wilbur

January 19th, 2013
10:40 am

It’s not hard to find a racist in Atlanta but it gets a lot easier south of I-20.

Who Me?

January 19th, 2013
10:41 am

Good Bye Neal. You will be missed but not forgotten. For years I thought you were nothing but hot air, but I learned alot more about you when Royal passed so unexpectedly a few years back. You are truly a conservative man of substance and one that a whole lot of people won’t know just how much a difference you made til many years from now. I didn’t listen to you a whole lot the last 10 years as I found that your shtick just got old, but I will miss the election invective and anti-corruption threads you wove in your tireless anti-Washington crusades.

Much peace and relaxation in your retirement sir. You do deserve that, and we hope to hear from you while you’re on the road during the next few years.

As our friend Furman Bisher used to say – Selah…

South GA Gnat

January 19th, 2013
10:44 am

I think us GOP voting conservatives are now a minority. It scares me to know that the Obama liberals have taken over in this country. Our population has become so fractured & diverse that us “Good Ole Boys” don’t stand a chance anymore.

Jon Lester

January 19th, 2013
10:58 am

The 2012 elections went the way they did because people are tired of being lied to, and they’re tired of hearing racist, sexist and worse when these guys say what they really think.

Linda

January 19th, 2013
10:59 am

Blue Dog, I couldn’t have said it better myself!!

Weetamoe

January 19th, 2013
11:12 am

Tell us where the liberal talk shows may be found and we will listen. Tried Air America–listened as often as possible until it went off the air. It was repetitive, gossipy, and really very dumb. Listened to Mike Malloy when he was local.. One day he spent the whole segment discussing, mainly paraphrasing passages from, that Madison County Bridges romance novel because he had not a single caller. I think my liberal friend Jim, a Boston expat, called in at times out of a sense of duty to give him a bit support, though even he found Malloy incredibly stupid. Malloy was wont to scream—and such ignorant stuff as *that painting the nude madja* and *religious art is an oxymoron.* So give us some broadcasts and we will listen. We read Bookman’s blog for heaven’s sake. People like NPR’s Ira Glass listen to Rush because they say he is smart and witty. So don’t give me that bilge that conservatives listen to only conservative radio. There is not much else out there now.

Distro

January 19th, 2013
11:14 am

@bucket It’s called the Internet. The conservative radio talk show demographic hasn’t quite figured that collection of tubes yet.

Mel

January 19th, 2013
11:15 am

Just wondering if those that claim the country would be less divided without Boortz, Hannity, Limbaugh, have ever listened to MSNBC? Or is it just that you want everyone to believe like you? And believe me, you should not throw stones. Some of the people that yell the loudest about bigots, racists, etc are just as bad from their point of view.

nathan's political arsonist

January 19th, 2013
11:20 am

we’ll not see another, hopefully, because the world and georgia are becoming more diversified and educated. factual information is powerful. old racist white dudes like borish are dwindling away forever. evolution and karma combined

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 19th, 2013
11:21 am

And why, after all the shouting was done, the combined forces of conservative talk radio had been unable to push Mitt Romney across the finish line and stop the re-election of President Barack Obama last November.

I agree that the lamestream media probably did “push obozo across the finish line,” and when you really think about it, it says a lot about how sad and pathetic America has become.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

January 19th, 2013
11:34 am

Won’t see “another” because without the draft we won’t see another draft-dodger so militant in his support for fascist, warmongering traitors.

milanomania53

January 19th, 2013
11:35 am

Neal may have not been considered a first tier of radio talk show hosts but he was one of the best ones. He was not only entertaining but intelligent and had integrity. And he was not afraid to tell it like it was in our crazy world of that stupid liberal political correctness. I’ve listened to him on WSB since he started and quite a few times I disagreed with him. I turned off his show a few times when he started mocking soccer as an unAmerican sport and soccer players as being sissies in shorts but there is nobody like Neal on the horizon. Ericsson and Herman Cain are fine but they come across as boring dudes. Neal, I wish you good luck and happy retirement and hope to hear your commentaries or when you fill in. You will be missed a lot!!!!

jwc

January 19th, 2013
11:36 am

It’s easy when the head clown is preaching to the circus, but now that centrist level-headedness is settling in nationally and there is a voice or two of reason available from channels outside the dog-whistle circuit, it’s best that the Johnnie One-notes (Boortz being just another of these) quietly fade into their clouded personal misconceptions ….(quietly not being their usual style.)

bigbill

January 19th, 2013
11:37 am

Atlanta will be a different – and very much better – place with Neal Boortz no longer spewing hatred, especially racial hatred, over the radio airways. I have so intensely looked forward to this day. And now, at long last, it is here!

MrLiberty

January 19th, 2013
11:40 am

The media is all now run by a small handfull of individuals who all benefit greatly from the oppression and tyranny of the state. Their advertisers are protected by regulations, tariffs, etc. that keep away competition. They will do whatever the state asks of them including perpetuate blatant lies on behalf of the ever-growing Leviathan (yellow cake uranium, WMDs, the “official” Sandy Hook story, biased polls, etc. While Neal was certainly no libertarian (the principled belief that individuals should be able to do with their bodies and their property as they see fit so long as they do not harm another or their property), he certainly spoke out occasionally against the state apparatus (unless it was murdering innocent brown people in foreign countries – which was perfectly ok with him). If it wasn’t for his great ratings and the potential backlash, he would have been gone a long time ago. Frankly it was probably his love for big government and government power (when wielded in support of the military/industrial/prison/surveillance state) that kept him going as long as it did.

Thankfully the internet is providing intelligent people and those unsatisfied with the lies the mainstream media is telling them, an outlet for finding the truth. Neal’s passing may be the end of an era, but it likely marks the beginning of a much bloodier era for freedom, and liberty.

CB

January 19th, 2013
11:41 am

I use to enjoy listening to Boortz until his show morph into a anti Barack Obama rant. I had to tune him out. Every now and them I would tune in to listen, but, it never fails Barack Obama this Barack Obama that bla baa bla Barack Obama. And so, I would quickly change the dial again and enjoy good music as opposed to a deranged rant.
I will try Hermain Cain, Limbaugh and Hannity never, Erick Erickson for sure as he calls out Republicans when they are wrong.
That been said I wish him well in his retirement, and I hope he can find a cure for his Barack Obama deranged syndrome.

Attack Dog

January 19th, 2013
11:43 am

It is intersting that I finally understand why Boortz used to say some folks “voted for a living.” I thought he was talking about poor liberal folks, when it was actually wealthy conservative folks. Wealthy conservative folks don’t work, they play like in the market, with peoples’ livelyhood, and in some cases peoples’ very lives.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 19th, 2013
11:44 am

I wonder why so many people want to get into the various Conservative talking formats? I wonder why there are so few liberal talking formats? Is it because Conservatives can actually discuss their issues without grossing people out?

Like liberals can’t?

clem

January 19th, 2013
11:48 am

with what they paid neal to bloviate, wonder why rogers did not apply for this job?

3d

January 19th, 2013
11:50 am

I’ve met a lot of black racist.

I can’t walk bankhead or through Pittsburg.

Daddy D

January 19th, 2013
11:50 am

@Why Are People… Prior to the election, NB said he was looking forward to retirement and taking a trip to Antarctica to be”…surrounded by as much white as possible” on inauguration day. Veiled, but there. I won’t miss him. Plus, I don’t need millionaires shouting at me about how bad things are.

Attack Dog

January 19th, 2013
11:51 am

If there is “stupid liberal political correctness,” then based on all credible studies, there is a seriously “stupid conservative political incorrectness.” The reason Boortz is leaving is because conservative talking-heads have been uncovered for being nothing more than puppets for folks like the Koch brothers. Have you noticed that Dixiecans have stopped talking about George Soros?

DannyX

January 19th, 2013
11:57 am

Whoopee!!! Conservatives dominate am radio with comical talk radio. Wow, hundreds a day get entertained this way. They probably listen while polishing their guns.

Liberals dominate the vast majority of radio with music. The cool liberals are in your favorite band. The nerdy talk hosts are ranting on am radio.

Although conservatives did once, about 35 years ago, have Ted Nugent! LOL. Republicans, a one hit wonder.

KMcClure

January 19th, 2013
11:59 am

Its time all americans to start thinking for themselves and not be influnced by people who have hidden agendas. like make a lot of money, ownning a plane, big mansions (creflo dollar). Always educate yourself dont leave it to others. always hidden agendas

Patriot

January 19th, 2013
12:05 pm

Hopefully the same can soon be said for fat, bespectacled, socialist columnists.

WAW

January 19th, 2013
12:08 pm

The Church of The Painful Truth is following in the footsteps of many other mainline churches, the congregations are dying. As an insurance / investment TV commercial points out, 10,000 people are retiring everyday and these Boomers are dropping out of the “fire and brimstone” talk show faithful. And don’t forget that the average life expectancy is 78. Their main political thinking is changing as they age. From a) gotta protect America for my grandchildren, to b) you better not touch my Social Security and Medicare, to c) Granny said there’d come a time. Well, the time is getting closer when Boomers will be “a voice from the past”. The next 20 years (a generation) will wonder what Elvis was all about and who Rush was.

Bob

January 19th, 2013
12:16 pm

From this right wing nut job Atlanta native…Boortz is no southerner. He may live in Atlanta, but he is a Yankee.

Keep doing this GOP

January 19th, 2013
12:20 pm

The next 20 years (a generation) will wonder what Elvis was all about and who Rush was.

See, Rush was this really cool band who…………………………

Corey

January 19th, 2013
12:25 pm

Could it be that people are realizing that anger being spewd daily is not the solution, for anger only generates more anger until it becomes poison? Notice how right wing talk radio popped up like mushrooms with the election of and reelection of Clinton and intensified with the election of Obama. Now Mr. Obama has neen reelected. Ask yourselves how is that right wing talk radio working our for you, and how effective have the puveyors of anger been at improving this nation?

George Burdell

January 19th, 2013
12:28 pm

I love the fact that Boortz listeners are convinced that there is a “Liberal” media when 98% of the talk shows are conservative and are on the air 24/7. Why aren’t there liberal talk shows? It’s simple, liberals actually work for a living and cannot lounge around all day listening to and calling in to radio shows. When was the last time you saw a cashier at Walmart listening to a radio and calling a talk show? Good riddance to the spoiled multi-millionaire who spent everyday trying to convice the masses that things that were good for the uber-rich were good for everyone.

Dave

January 19th, 2013
12:30 pm

I think he had said about everything he had to say by about ten years ago, ten times.

WillinRoswell

January 19th, 2013
12:31 pm

Wilbur says:

“It’s not hard to find a racist in Atlanta but it gets a lot easier south of I-20.”

He is absolutely right. Just check out south Fulton, south DeKalb, all of Clayton, Bibb, Daughtery, etc. etc.
Get the picture?

liberalefty

January 19th, 2013
12:39 pm

the gop’s token is taking over for the racist?…lol

Lee

January 19th, 2013
12:43 pm

Never cared too much for “talk radio”. Just give me a classic rock or oldies station that has a playlist of more than 30 songs and I’m happy.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. Just pop for the XM radio already…)

td

January 19th, 2013
12:46 pm

DannyX

January 19th, 2013
11:57 am

Most country music in conservative.

Conservative rockers are a few more then just uncle Ted.
Ever hear of:
Kid Rock
Johnny Romone
Joe Perry
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sammy Hagar
Dave Mustaine
Styx

Should I go on to prove how ignorant your post is? BTW: It is not AM talk radio any longer most of them now have sister FM stations. WSB/99.7

Pizzaman

January 19th, 2013
12:51 pm