Bye Bye Boortz

Today’s Courier Herald Column, posted early today as a reminder that you can listen to Neal’s last show this morning here.

About the time this column is submitted for its daily deadline, Neal Boortz will be starting his final show on WSB radio and its syndicated affiliates.  A fixture of Georgia media for the past four decades, Boortz helped create the genre that is today’s talk radio format and has become an integral part of how many in our state follow politics and other matters of contemporary news.

Neal Boortz has been on the air in Atlanta since 1969, the year I was born.  To help put that into perspective, that was the first year Tommy Irvin served as Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture.  Irvin retired two years ago as Georgia’s longest serving Constitutional officer at the time.

Boortz has become an integral part of many Georgians’ mornings, and as someone whose father believed there was no need for that “FM stuff” while I was growing up, he was certainly part of our routine.  When you’ve listened to someone for over 40 years, he may as well be part of the family.  Often cranky and belligerent, he fit right in.

There was a time when talk radio was much less about ideological politics and much more of an outlet for people to express their own “man on the street” type of opinions.  Most of my memories of Boortz during the earlier years are of a man who knew how to play devil’s advocate better than any in his business or any other.

He seemed to do this for two reasons.  Delivering an unpopular opinion that went against the conventional wisdom of listeners was guaranteed to generate immediate and often entertaining responses from callers.  More importantly, many of his positions and his best stunts were designed to remind his audience of the importance for them to think.

Today’s talk radio listeners are a little less tolerant of divergent viewpoints today, which is a loss for the medium.  Those who will follow Boortz will have to fight this general trend and remain creative to keep the format both fresh and relevant.  Pairing the shows with social media has been one of the approaches that seems to keep the audience involved in a format that relies more on the views of the hosts and less of those of callers.

Set to join a new generation of these hosts is the founder of my blog Peach Pundit, Erick Erickson.  He’s found success in Herman Cain’s timeslot and has been a regular guest host for Boortz as he’s wound down his show.  Cain, meanwhile, will begin Boortz’s regular timeslot on Monday morning.

Last Saturday evening Neal Boortz held a farewell event for his listeners at Atlanta’s Fox Theater.  Erickson and Cain joined others such as Sean Hannity and Jeff Foxworthy to roast Boortz into retirement in front of a few thousand fans.  Monica Kaufman Pearson – a legend of Atlanta’s TV news for over three decades herself – handled part of the event with a discussion with Belinda Skelton and Kristina Gonzalez, his two on air…handlers might be their best job description.  Though I’m sure they would scoff at the notion that Neal can be handled.

There was also a tribute to Royal Marshall, Neal’s longtime engineer and board operator who died suddenly of a heart condition two years ago.  Boortz confirmed to the audience that Royal’s untimely death did factor into his decision that it was time for him to move on as well.

Boortz has his detractors, as anyone who has held strong opinions and used them to provoke discussion for more than four decades would.  Some of them will be happy that today is his last day.  They’ll likely still be irritated on a semi-regular basis as Boortz pops up to support items such as the FairTax and other conservative issues near and dear to him.

But love him or hate him, Neal Boortz was here.  He made his mark, and became part of how many of us relate to the events of the day and our local and national politics.  He is an original.  Georgia media will forever be different after today.


  1. Noway says:

    True words, Charlie. Neal’s the best talker that’s ever been. He was doing this 20 years before Hannity and Rush, even though Rush is the 800 pound gorilla. Neal was logical and dead on correct about most of the things he espoused. Whether it is the need for a new tax code, zinging a corrupt politician or the bloating of the Entitlement Generation, Boortz hit the nail on the head. What will be our choices on Monday? Seriously, who else is there to listen too at 9am? Laura Ingraham? Rusty Humphries? Spanish sports talk on 640? Beck? Herman? Pleaseeeeee…..Herman is a smart guy but listening to him is like fingernails on the chalk board. The Intelligent Thinkers Move-ment? God, give us all strength! I guess it’s 97.1 – The River….

    • radiowxman says:

      Love him or hate him (because there’s really nothing in between with Boortz), he is an Atlanta legend.

      42 years in one market (basically) without interruption in this day and age of radio is unheard of. Congrats to Neal on his well-deserved retirement.

      If you’re looking for alternatives, there’s also Alan Butler from 10-noon on 1190 AM.

  2. Nathan says:

    Neal will be missed on the airwaves, but he’ll still be around with his commentaries on WSB, guest hosting for Herman Cain, and burning up the Interwebs and Twitterverse.

  3. tomfromdecatur says:

    Neal, you need to dust off your old hot air balloon now that you are retired. If so, may you always have fair winds at your back.

    Now that Neal is leaving, we may want to take a listen to 92.3, the comedy station. We all need a good laugh and rest our ears from time to time with all the noise on the airwaves .

  4. SallyForth says:

    I’ve never been a Boortz follower, but my grandmother always had him on the radio when I went to her house. I have periodically listened to his show, found some things I agreed with, others not so much. But no matter what, at least he made you think. And in today’s crazy entertainment business, he left on his own terms.

    I did the homage of listening to his last hour today, and I was touched when he said that he actually moved up his retirement date to honor Royal Marshall. Neal said that Royal’s last day on the air was exactly 2 years ago today. An Atlanta radio fixture for as long as I can remember, nobody will ever be able to take Boortz’s place (and certainly not the new line-up at WSB). Like you guys say, I too will be looking elsewhere on the dial when driving.

  5. Three Jack says:

    Growing up in Atlanta, we were fortunate to have people like Boortz, Grizzard, Hudspeth and Bisher to provide us news, entertainment and an occasional fit of anger that more than likely turned into a teaching moment when rational thought returned. Replacements aren’t nearly as good.

    For those who didn’t hear it, the last caller to his show was the ‘Queen’ who began her call with, ‘first time caller, long time lover’….

    • saltycracker says:

      Add Ludlow Porch –
      Who could forget Milton Crabapple’s friend that had an encounter with a hooker at the Atlanta bus station. She said she’d do anything for $20, so he gave her $20 and said paint my house.

      • Raleigh says:

        I’ll never forget Ludlow’s description of his hospital stay. He said that after they put on that little gown that tied in the back he understood what the ICU unit was all about and the annual Tucker “Flip-Flop Parade” has never been the same.

    • Noway says:

      TJ, good memories there. I have a framed Luckovich print of Catfish greeting Grizzzard as he arrives at the Pearly Gates. Another Atlanta treasure…just like Neal.

  6. Noway says:

    Are there any conservative talkers of note on XM? I was over at The River for a few hours this AM. I knew there was a reason I left Classic Rock 25 years ago! I gotta get a conservative fix to listen to on Monday! I’m starting to panic!!

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Nah, you just probably didn’t like it when Boortz raised his voice when he was trying to make a point that you most likely may not have agreed with.

      Boortz was harmless, the on-air equivalent of a small child throwing the occasional temper tantrum in order to gain a little attention. Other than a few comparately-mild attention-getting antics every now-and-then, Boortz was a pretty much a really nice guy.

    • saltycracker says:

      Listening to Boortz was optional and we were not required to buy any of the products he pushed – in contrast to the politicians he railed on.

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