In a marked change of style and content, talk-radio station WBAL announced yesterday that it had selected Shari Elliker, who specializes in lifestyle topics, to replace the blustery and politically focused Chip Franklin as the station's main morning host.
Elliker, an actress who began working at WBAL 1090 AM part-time seven years ago as a movie reviewer on Franklin's show, has been filling in for him since shortly after he left the station a month ago for a job at an AM station in San Diego.
"I'm very happy to be a part of the whole WBAL family, in an expanded role," Elliker said yesterday by telephone. Two days earlier, she had completed a summer-long run as the host of a Sunday afternoon show on WBAL.
For the past two years, Elliker has also been hosting a daily, three-hour evening show on XM Satellite Radio. Now, with the full-time daily commitment to the 9 a.m.-to-noon slot on WBAL, she said, "I can't really do both."
Elliker, who grew up in Laurel and graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said she will not "do a lot of political stuff" on her show, contrary to Franklin, who reveled in taking a bite out of the headlines from Washington and Annapolis.
"I'm more into what's going on in the world, what people are talking about - the topical, water-cooler stuff," said Elliker, who lives in Alexandria, Va., but plans to move to Fells Point soon. In recent shows, she said, she has discussed at length Larry Craig, the disgraced U.S. senator from Idaho, and Michael Vick, the football player awaiting sentencing in a dogfighting case.
In a statement issued by WBAL, Elliker was quoted as saying, "I love to talk about the things that people are really discussing, or secretly thinking, but don't want to admit it."
Jeff Beauchamp, the station's vice president and manager, said in an interview that Elliker "is a perfect fit" for WBAL.
"We shouldn't necessarily be doing the heavy political issues of the day," he said. "What Shari will be doing is analogous to the features or style pages of a newspaper, the slice-of-life stories, the pop-culture stuff."
However, Beauchamp said, Elliker is perfectly capable of tackling weightier issues. "When we have to, because of timeliness, she can certainly deal with that as well," he said.
As an actress, Elliker played a witness to the death of a man who was hit by the subway on Homicide, Beauchamp said. She has also performed as a voice-over actress on video games and commercials.
She spent seven years as a member of the political satire troupe Gross National Product. Elliker also hosted a morning show on WHFS in Baltimore and was a television traffic reporter for Washington's WUSA, Channel 9.