By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Wednesday, September 1, 2015, updated November 5
Atlanta's lovable cheapskate Clark Howard has been voted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
He was the only one voted in by the public, beating out Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Sean Hannity and Jim Rome. The induction in Chicago will be November 5.
"I saw the social media response," said Christa DiBiase, general manager of Clark Howard's array of brands including his website and app who has worked with him for 17 years. "Clark's audience loves him. They wanted to give something back to him since he's given so much to them."
She tried to push Howard to promote the voting last month on his radio show but given the modest person he is, he'd just as likely promote his rivals.
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Howard's syndicated show, on more than 200 stations nationwide courtesy of Westwood One, can be heard locally on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB from 8 to 10 p.m. (Talkers magazine estimates his weekly radio audience at 2.5 million-plus.) He also appears regularly on Channel 2 Action News and writes a column that is seen weekly in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His website draws 2.5 million distinct viewers every month, double the number a year ago.
Now 60, Howard has been in radio for nearly three decades. He spent five years at 640/WGST-AM before joining WSB in 1991. His show went syndicated in 1999.
Howard said the win was "shocking" to him. He noted that he's been nominated eight times as national syndicated talk show host but has lost every time when peers voted. "Having the public decide worked to my advantage," he said Tuesday morning. "I'm in an unusual position in talk radio. Most political talk show hosts are loved and hated. I'm like Switzerland."
It's the year of consumer advocates because Nashville's Dave Ramsey joins him in the Hall of Fame, along with syndicated talk show hosts Bob & Tom and Elvis Duran, both of whom have aired in Atlanta in the past.
Howard, an Atlanta native, has pondered leaving radio in the past (including even running for mayor of Atlanta) but said he's having more fun now than ever. "It was really tough during the great recession," he said. "People would be losing their jobs, their homes. I didn't have good answers. Now people have more choices in their lives. People are definitely more optimistic about their own lives."
I've been covering Clark for more than 14 years. I did a profile about him when I was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that landed on page one. At the time, he was not heard in Chicago, New York or Washington D.C. so my editor, who was based in Chicago at the time, had no idea who he was. He was insanely skeptical how cheap Clark was and had me go through hoops to catalog every single anecdote. To prove that Clark's ring came from Costco for $20,399.99, Clark had to provide me the receipt. He had me ensure that the cheap Mitsubishi Mirage Clark drove at his wedding actually came in the lavender color that year. The story ran June 18, 2001. Two weeks later, I was laid off.
But Clark, who had just been syndicated a year earlier, said that story was a major boost to his career. He was invited on the "Today" show multiple times and he said it helped him get a book deal that led to a best seller.
Former colleague and WSB denizen Neal Boortz, who helped campaign for Howard's induction, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. Boortz retired from full-time radio in 2013. He introduced Clark at the ceremony in November.
Although Howard is known as a penny pincher on air, he is extraordinarily generous to his staff, taking them on trips all around the world every year. This year it was Amsterdam.
"He takes care of us beyond what anyone's expectations could ever be in any job," DiBiase said. "We're just so blessed to work for him."