2011 flashback: Rush Limbaugh tops Talkers Heavy Hundred for fifth year in a row

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed February 9, 2011

Rush Limbaugh, for the fifth year in the row, topped the annual Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” talk show host rankings.

He has drawn the biggest audiences of any radio talk show host in history, estimated to be more than 15 million listeners a week, far greater than any individual cable news show. He is the strongest performer in Atlanta on 640/WGST-AM, though his ratings slipped as 2010 went along.

And he’s still very much loved and hated, depending on your point of view. (Haters will love an upcoming new book called “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason.”)

Five Georgia-based talk-show hosts made the cut: Neal  Boortz, Clark Howard,  Allen Hunt, Martha Zoller and new Atlanta-based syndicated host Rusty Humphries. Syndicated sports duo The 2 Live Stews on 790/the Zone and Atlanta-based talk host Mike Malloy were included in a secondary list of 150 other notable shows.

Despite huge audiences, syndicated morning hosts Tom Joyner (Kiss 104.1) and  Steve Harvey (Majic) weren’t included, though Bob & Tom were. (Rickey Smiley, on Hot, is on the secondary 150 list.) Syndicated talkers Rev. Al Sharpton and Gayle King on WAOK-AM get no love either.

The rankings are not scientific or based on any poll. Rather, it’s the magazine’s editors who decide how the top 100 works, based in no particular order: courage, effort, impact, longevity, potential, ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. The magazine said it’s as much “art as science and that the results are arguable.”

Here’s the rest of the top 10, followed by hosts I know of that are heard in Atlanta though many have live net streams.

Sean Hannity (heard on AM750 and now 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB) holds again at No.2 behind Limbaugh, with fellow Fox News talker Glenn Beck at No. 3. Michael Savage, who just moved from WSB to WGST from 9 p.m. to midnight, remains at No.  4. Laura Ingraham, heard on 1160/WCFO-AM from 10 to 2 p.m., moves up from No. 5.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, lost her No.  5 spot since she gave up her syndicated show heard on hundreds of stations nationwide in favor of Sirius/XM. She tumbles to No. 20.

Her departure also helps consumer talker Dave Ramsey, who recently moved from afternoons on WGST to nights on WSB, move from No. 7 to No.6.

Mark Levin, heard locally from 6 to 9 p.m. on WGST, moves up to No. 7 from 8. Thom Hartmann, a progressive talk show host, jumps from 10 to 8. He is not heard locally except on a tiny station in Decatur called Green 1640 AM which only reaches  Decatur.

Ed Schultz, another liberal talk show host, moves into the top 10, landing at No.9 from 11. He is not on locally on AM/FM but is available on Sirius/XM.

Another new entry is another progressive talker Joe Madison, heard on Sirius XM but not on AM/FM  in metro  Atlanta. He is at No. 10, up from 12.

Neal Boortz, heard on WSB from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., has been in the top 10 in the past. He almost made it back this year, at No. 11. His rankings since 2007: 9, 10, 14, 13, 11.

Howard  Stern, once No. 1 in the rankings before he went to Sirius, moves up to 12 from 32.  There’s no particular reason why Talkers moved him up so much, but Sirius/XM does now have a subscription phone app, making his show mobile.

At 13 is conservative talker  Mike Gallagher, heard on 920/WGKA-AM, reversed a downward trend (8 in 2007, 9 in 2008, 15 in 2009, 19 in 2010).

Jerry Doyle, heard on 1160/WCFO-AM, ranks at No. 16, up from 17. Lou Dobbs, also on WCFO, falls out of the top 10, tumbling to No. 17 from 9.

Bill Handel, heard on weekends on WSB, holds at 18. Mancow, on WCFO, falls again to 19, from14 last year and 9 the year before. Michael Medved, on WGKA, slips to 24 from23. For the fifth year in a row, Bill Bennett (mornings on WGKA) is at No. 25.

Don Imus, mornings on WCFO, slips again to 26 from 21, 20 and 7 the past three years respectively.

Atlanta’s own consumer guru Clark Howard has been holding in the same vicinity, falling to 29 this year after four years of bouncing from 27 in 2007, 30 in 2008, 27 in 2009 and 28 in 2010. His HLN show has not given the rankers a reason to move him up.

Dennis Miller, on WCFO, is at No. 33, up from34. Rusty Humphries, who does a national show as well as a new local one on WGST from 3 to 6 p.m., ranks at No. 35, up from 38.

Atlanta talk show host Allen Hunt, heard on weekends on WSB but expanding nationally during the week, holds at No. 37 after debuting on the chart in 2009 at No. 41.

Kim Komando, on weekends on WSB, holds at No. 39. Dennis Prager, on  WGKA, holds at 40. Randi Rhodes, about to debut on WCFO, is at No. 41. Hugh Hewitt, on WGKA, is at 66, up from 67.

“Fresh Air” host Terry Gross, heard locally on WABE-FM, is at No. 76, down from 70.

Martha Zoller, on WXKT in the Athens and a regular on cable news shows, holds at No. 89.

Former WSB host Chris  Krok, now in Dallas, is at No. 94.

So far, talkers.com has not posted this new list yet. The 2010 list is here.

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog


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