Radio sensitivity

Radio, like all aspects of the media not created or controlled by the internet, is feeling the pressure to show results. Nowhere is that more apparent than talk radio and it appears the pressure is getting to folks.

Most prominently are the boys at the toy store known as WEEI. To call WEEI sports talk radio these days would be to broaden the definition of sports. And talk. It is loud, bombastic, bullying, confrontative, political, insulting, and, most of all, insensitive. Sports talk radio these days is not for the empathetic.

WEEI, though, has taken it to new levels in the past couple years to the point there is no middle ground on the station. People (mostly young males) either love the coarse dialogue that passes for conversation or (mostly female and older males) are repulsed by the borderline misogyny, racial stereotyping, and chest-thumping by the all-male, mostly white weekday lineup. And anyone who disagrees, whose feelings are hurt, or who gets in their way can just kiss their… ratings.

But have they gone too far? A pile-up of incidents that need not be repeated here has prompted the worst of all nightmares for the corporate owners and program directors: The defection of advertisers. And that has finally gotten the attention of Entercom, the parent company at WEEI.

Corporate officials have taken the extraordinary step of shutting down live broadcasting from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday while they hold an all-day, mandatory sensitivity training session for all station personnel.

“Nothing is more important to WEEI than the close-knit and diverse Boston community we call home, and we are committed to actively contributing to its betterment,” a statement from station officials said. “WEEI is in the process of closely reevaluating our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure that our programming is never intolerant or harmful to our listeners or our city.”

They must have just tuned in. Or maybe it was the suspension of advertising by at least five companies – and counting – that got them to listen more closely. They certainly have been told about it. Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said the team, whose games are broadcast on WEEI, has been telling station officials for the better part of a year that the programming was going down the toilet and it was not only bringing down the station’s brand, but the Sox as well since they are so closely aligned.

“We’ve shared our frustration and disappointment dating back to really last year,” Kennedy told reporters at the start of spring training Wednesday in Florida. “It seems like there’s been a pattern that’s sort of emerged in terms of a different culture throughout the station. There are always one-off controversies in talk radio and we get that; we’re talking about different highly charged subjects. Since last year, we’ve expressed our displeasure and concern to Entercom’s corporate leadership down in Philadelphia. They’ve listened to us, we’ve had productive dialogue, but as you know, there have been a series of incidents that have sort of become a pattern.”

A little further down the dial, on WBUR, another exercise in insensitivity, albeit backroom rather than on-air, has resulted in a fixture of public radio being removed for good. Boston University, which had suspended On Point host Tom Ashbrook while officials investigated allegations of bullying and sexual harassment, announced the soft-spoken host would not return.

On Point employees expressed enormous pride in the program and they recognized that along with everyone else, Mr. Ashbrook was under a great deal of pressure to make sure that the two-hour daily program was perfect,” BU vice president for operations Gary Nicksa told the school’s BU Today website. “But the employees also described ways in which Mr. Ashbrook consistently overstepped reasonable lines and created a dysfunctional workplace in the process.”

Ashbrook, in a statement posted on WBUR’s website, said he was “deeply disappointed” and called the decision “profoundly unfair.” Ashbrook noted the investigation found no evidence of sexual harassment, though his lawyer acknowledged the “workplace issues” of the bullying allegations could have been handled with some mediation.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

A Lowell Sun editorial lambasts the House and Senate chairs of the Legislature’s Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for failing to resolve their differences on the so-called Equifax bill.

Former senator Linda Dorcena Forry says goodbye to her colleagues. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Framingham City Council is considering adopting regulations for short-term rentals after police had to respond to a rowdy party of more than 200 people at a house rented through Airbnb. (MetroWest Daily News)

Barnstable officials are prepared no to auction off 23 of more than 140 properties the town has seized for delinquent taxes, the first town on the Cape to hold such an auction. (Cape Cod Times)

Fall River is stepping into the 21st century by creating a system that would allow online permitting for building and housing issues. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Seventeen people are killed in yet another mass school shooting, this one at a high school in Parkland, Florida. (Associated Press) The mayor of Parkland, who was at the scene within 15 minutes of the shooting, is a West Roxbury native who maintains strong ties to Boston. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed the controversy surrounding her claim of Native American heritage in a speech to the National Congress of American Indians in which she defended her position — and ripped President Trump for his racist invocation of “Pocahontas” to deride her. (Boston Globe) Hillary Chabot says Warren recycled the same talking points on the issue she has been using for years — and says she still has not reconciled her claim of never using her claimed heritage to advantage herself, or her acknowledgement that tribal membership is something determined by tribes, with being listed by Harvard as Native American on federal affirmative action forms. (Boston Herald) Keller@Large says it’s time for critics to give it up because no evidence has ever been unearthed showing Warren benefitted from her claim.

President Trump, after days of silence following the resignations of two top aides, said he is “totally opposed” to domestic violence. (U.S. News & World Report)

The White House sought to underscore the problems with undue regulations slowing down infrastructure projects by spotlighting the long reconstruction of the Anderson Bridge over the Charles River near Harvard — but it did so using a photo of a nearby footbridge by mistake. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Ayanna Pressley kicks off her campaign against US Rep. Michael Capuano, saying she “can’t and won’t wait my turn.” (CommonWealth) A WBUR poll shows Capuano up by 12 points. (WBUR)

The Springfield Chamber of Commerce comes out against a nurse staffing ballot question. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Berkshire Eagle editorial urges local officials to address the rise of short-term rentals with a complete overhaul of zoning regulations rather than just tinkering around the edges.

EDUCATION

UMass Dartmouth has unveiled a master plan to repair and replace many of the campus’s aging buildings, including housing for the school’s 4,500 students. (Standard-Times)

Teachers at two Boston campuses of City on a Hill charter school vote to unionize. (Boston Herald)

A former teacher at the Harborlight Montessori School in Beverly claims he was fired because of his advocacy of LGBTQ issues at the school. (Salem News)

A group of Scituate parents are pushing school officials to start middle and high school classes later, claiming research shows sleep deprivation impacts behavior, heightens stress, and lowers performance. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Deaths from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts dropped by more than 8 percent, the first significant decline in years. (The Enterprise)

Tyrek Lee Sr., who was suspended in December for unspecified “inappropriate conduct” from his top position with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the state’s largest union representing health care employees, allegedly made unwanted advances toward women in the organization and sometimes engaged in lewd behavior in front of coworkers, the Globe reports.

State regulators gave their final approval to the merger of Partners HealthCare and Mass. Eye & Ear Infirmary. (Boston Globe)

Labor cost uncertainty at Berkshire Health Systems prompts a bond agency to lower its rating. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu is calling for a hearing on poor MBTA service in the wake of the agency’s talk of a fare increase and in light of the $85 million Boston contributes to the T budget. (Boston Herald) Joan Vennochi urges Gov. Charlie Baker to ride the T to see how bad things are — and pursue new revenue to fix it through channels other than another fare hike on beleaguered riders. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Peter Rothstein of the Northeast Clean Energy Council says the Baker administration must step up and play a bigger role in deciding what to do about Northern Pass. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Former governor Deval Patrick’s brother-in-law, who was the focus of a earlier controversy about his status as a registered sex offender, has been charged with rape and kidnapping in Milton. (Patriot Ledger)