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Keeping Calm in a Crisis: The Programmer’s Perspective

“Be factual, get the information on quickly but also remember a little empathy is important.”

Ryan Hedrick

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When I was managing KIRO Radio in Seattle, I had a very funny routine with our afternoon news anchor, Heather Bosch.

Heather is a pro’s pro who was in her second stint at KIRO after spending 5 years in New York at CBS News.  She knows her craft and knows it well.

Anyway, the routine would happen during a breaking news situation.  I would be in my office, get word of a story, and then sprint to the newsroom to alert the team.  Usually before I could even make it to the editor’s desk, Heather would wave me off.

“We’re on it, chief,” she would say (usually while feverishly typing).

I would then give her a thumbs up before retreating into my office.

What I learned from Heather and the great news team at KIRO was- less is more when it comes to management in situations like this.  At times, this was a tough pill for me to swallow.  Ask anyone that’s worked with me and they’ll tell you that I’m very hands on.  When breaking news happens, I like writing stories, editing audio, doing interviews, posting on social media, etc.  I like being “in the trenches” with the team. 

However, doing that often only causes disruption.  Step one in “keeping calm in a crisis” is KEEPING CALM.  If the PD is running around with their hair on fire, they’re doing their entire staff a disservice. Odds are, they will follow their lead for better or worse. If you’ve done your job as a PD or News Director, you’ve hired a staff of talented, anchors, editors, producers, hosts, reporters, and digital specialists.  You’ve established procedures for how to handle breaking news from step “A” to step “Z”.   Let your people do their jobs and be thinking of ways to support their efforts strategically, not tactically.

Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know Ken Charles, who currently serves as the Program Director of All-News KNX-AM in Los Angeles.  Ken and I have had the chance to discuss and exchange ideas on radio, news and the media and I’ve found him to be one of the more insightful programming minds in the format. I wanted to get his perspective for the finale of my three-part series for BNM.

RM- What are the best things a PD of an all-news or news-talk station can do in a breaking news situation?  

KC- Big breaking stories are an evolution.  Often you really don’t know what you have, especially in a social media world, until you get eyes on the incident. So, advice number one is – trust your people and stay out of their way.  Your reporters are on the scene and can see things you cannot back at the station.  Your editors/producers are in contact with your reporters and also making calls, scanning social media etc. to find out exactly what is going on. Let them do it, let them work the story.  As a manager my role is to let them be in the now while I am looking a few hours or even a few days ahead to make sure we are properly staffed, we don’t burn out our team and we can maintain our coverage for hours, days or even longer.  I have seen too many situations where a station didn’t look ahead and got caught out of position and without proper coverage as the story continued beyond the first few hours.  Think of the PD role as the Head Coach, the ND’s role is the offensive coordinator and the anchors, reporters are your players on the field.  Lastly, most of the preparation for breaking news occurred the last 87 times you covered breaking news.  While every story is different with unique components you learn something new every time and that makes your coverage a little better the next time.   We have an amazing team of professionals who have covered way too many earthquakes, wildfires, “trials of the century” police situations, protests, school shootings, terror incidents etc. etc. etc.  All of those events have prepared us for the last 8 months and through the 2020 election and into the next big breaking story. 

I remember covering a hurricane that was racing up the East Coast.  While my reporter was on the beach in North Carolina as the storm roared overhead, the competition had their reporter stuck in Charleston hundreds of miles from the actual story.  My reporter was feeding live shot and you could hear the wind while the other guys were reporting it was 86 and sunny.  Being prepared, learning from previous events, and allowing our team to report the now while my role was looking ahead allowed us to completely own the story. 

RM- What do you convey to your hosts, producers, editors, reporters, and hosts in situations like that? 

KC- Be factual, get the information on quickly but also remember a little empathy is important.  Stories affect real people, and those real people are our neighbors, friends and in some cases coworkers.

RM- Can you recall 1-2 anecdotal examples of how your station handled a breaking news story or crisis?  What did you do? 

KC- Over the last few months, in addition to COVID we’ve had protests in the streets, the 2020 election, the President getting COVID, wildfires and on and on and on and on..what haven’t we done?  I have an incredible staff of talented professionals, I have a news director who is great partner in making sure we execute the plan and don’t miss a thing, we have 2 dedicated women keeping our digital and social presence moving at the same speed as the on air product and together they all make sure we cover the story, hopefully make an impact on people’s lives and help either get them through the story and keep them informed throughout the story.  What do I do?  Trust them and stay out of the way.

RM- What are the best traits a young pro looking to get in this field should have that would best prepare them for a crisis? 

KC- Being fearless and inquisitive and remembering that the story is not happening at the command center, it is happening in a neighborhood, building or sadly a school.  Go where the story is not where the PIOs tell you to go.  Talk to real people, not just officials.  Officials aren’t the story, people are. 

RM- 2020 has been (to say the least) a unique year for the news media.   How do you keep your team balanced amongst the chaos? 

KC- It has just been crazy.  For the team still in the building the goal is to try to be as normal as possible despite masks, plexiglass and gallons of hand sanitizer and remember to laugh and try to still have some fun.  For the team who is not coming into the building it is to keep constant communication, make sure they have the things they need to do their jobs and for every one constantly remember that safety is the most important thing.

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BNM Writers

77 WABC and Newsmax Host Greg Kelly Tackles AI, Trust in Media, and Advice for the Next Generation

“I do think it’s important to experience life before you start kind of evaluating things. I think it’s very important to learn a skill.”

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A photo of Greg Kelly
(Photo: Greg Kelly)

Greg Kelly — who hosts shows on both 77 WABC in New York and nationally on conservative cable news outlet Newsmax — is one of the hardest-working men in the industry.

“I am working approximately 11 hours a day, developing content for, two programs that I host,” Kelly told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

His shows have no scripts, and provide incredibly unique, very engaging content for his listeners.

Before joining the media Greg Kelly, like his famous father Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, served in the Marine Corps. The younger Kelly retired from the Marines with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before gracing America’s TV stations.

With over 20 years experience, he has covered some of the most important national events of our time. Even being injured while covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Artificial Intelligence

While some on the left find him controversial, many right-leaning voters seek his wisdom — including on Artificial Intelligence being used in the media.

“I have experimented with all of the chatbots, especially, ChatGPT, and honestly for all the hype, I recognize that there are aspects to AI that are not necessarily accessible to the consumer or the user.”

Kelly added, “There are things going on with supercomputers and whatnot. But, I had not been impressed, quite frankly, with the output of, artificial intelligence. You can usually spot it right away. The questions that I’ve asked it, have not yielded usable results. To me, it’s like a crude Wikipedia. It just doesn’t, and it’s not as useful as even Wikipedia or your basic data you can find on the internet.”

When asked about concerns on how Artificial Intelligence is going to affect the election this year, Kelly said, “Well, I’ve seen these things myself, and you can kind of spot them right away. And I think the American voter and the American media consumer has achieved a certain level of sophistication. So, no, I’m not particularly concerned.”

Greg Kelly went on to give an example.

“The other day I saw something — Alvin Bragg announcing his resignation — and I knew in about a second and a half that it was fake. So these things are out there. It’s like a political cartoon. I would almost liken it to the political cartoons of yesteryear.”

He continued to say, “People can have a pretty good ability to figure out what’s true and what’s not in terms of what you’re talking about. The deep, the I guess they follow of deepfakes or whatever. Those things I think are detectable.”

Trust in Media

To be better media consumers Kelly believes viewers and listeners should do their own research before blindly following talking heads.

“Why rely on the media to give you a summary of things that you can access yourself? You know, for instance, these indictments of Donald Trump have been floating around,” he said. “I’ve yet to meet anybody who’s read one. I’ve yet to meet anyone, including folks in the media who actually sat down and read those 92 pages of Justice Engoron, [which were] released last Friday.”

He added, “You can, as a citizen, as a person, access this material there’s no need for, I mean, theoretically, for you to rely on anyone else to tell you about it. Most likely the person telling you about it hasn’t actually read it. They’re relying on yet somebody else’s summary.”

Greg Kelly went on to say, “Why do we need people who we know will distorting and almost I’m not saying that’s necessarily malicious, although often it is. But why go through that step? Why do we need people on the news at night to tell us things that we can access ourselves?”

He also recognized the limitations of working people saying, “Now, I understand, you know, the daily ritual that people are working in, that kind of thing. But, you know, people do consume a lot of content on their phones and elsewhere. I have been urging people to, you know, if you want to be as smart or smarter than somebody from The New York Times, read the primary source documents, which are often accessible to all of us.”

Advice to the Next Generation

His advice for young aspiring media personalities begins with a question.

“I would ask them first ‘Why?’ What is it you want to do?” Kelly later added, “I do think it’s important to experience life before you start kind of evaluating things. I think it’s very important to learn a skill.”

Once one has the answer to that question, Kelly’s advice is both lengthy and wise.

“Number one: Read a lot of nonfiction. Everybody reads tweets. Everybody is surfing the internet. Very few people read books. That’s important. And no matter really what it is, personally, if you are interested in current events, politics, I do recommend nonfiction bestsellers. It is absolutely incredible what people are not reading.”

Greg Kelly continued by saying, “I would suggest, if you’re genuinely curious about what’s happening in the world — and that’s kind of where my impetus to do this kind of stuff is based on curiosity. And that’s kind of a rare thing I’ve come to discover. I thought more people were curious. I thought everybody had a level of curiosity. I’m shocked at how incurious people are. But I would say, yeah, read a lot of nonfiction.”

Second, Kelly advises, “I would say, try thinking about acquiring a skill. A true skill that is marketable, that you can make money from. Whether it’s becoming a pilot, whether it’s becoming an engineer, and then possibly embarking in media. We don’t know what it’s going to look like in a couple of years, right? Seems to be changing rather fast.

“I also tell people, no matter how old they are, if they’re asking me for advice, to do what I did about ten years ago, which was start reading the Bible. I took it for granted and I didn’t think too deeply about faith. In my earlier years, I was an atheist for a while. But about ten years ago, I started reading the Bible a bit more seriously.”

He succinctly wrapped up his advice by stating, “Start reading. Think about getting a skill and faith is important. I encourage them to take the journey if they wish.”

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BNM Writers

Deciphering What CBS Got Right and Wrong in the Catherine Herridge Saga

The actual details and timeline are quite murky.

Bill Zito

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A photo of the CBS News logo

There’s been significant media reporting and analysis concerning the very recent terminations of CBS employees, some quite familiar and one highlighted above them all because of her notoriety, her work and accusations that her exit was different from others in her situation.

Catherine Herridge is known for her political coverage past and present and more than anything, I think she has now become the poster child for what’s perceived as a controversial dismissal and alleged questionable termination practices.

If you read the reporting, Ms. Herridge, along with about 800 others recently were let go from Paramount and CBS in cost-cutting actions. Among stories out there are several stating that Herridge’s notes, files, and confidential information were “seized” by CBS management after she was let go.

This is certainly worth delving into if it’s true, or at least true in the way it has been depicted in the media so far.

I keep reading and hearing that reporter files and content are not retained by stations, networks, and parent companies following separations and that somehow this is a strange and unusual occurrence.

Somehow, people are inferring, it must have been done for reasons directly related to Herridge and her coverage of Hunter Biden, President Biden and the White House.

Okay, I guess.

Let’s be clear here, I will never claim to know anything, much less everything, and my experience and exposure to such matters is severely limited at best. But, I have worked more than a few jobs, at more than a few places, many of them in news, and among a slew of commonalities I have come face to face with are onboarding paperwork and company handbooks that pretty much lay out the groundwork that content generated, utilized or gathered under the company employ is in whole or part, theirs.

Meaning, a lot of the time, the company says it belongs to them, or at least both parties.

I’m not an attorney but I have seen writings like this before and, to be fair, I usually would skip down to the parts about non-compete clauses and how many vacation days I might get.

It sort of makes at least some sense to me.

You’re sitting at our desk, using our resources while gathering stories for our company to make use of as we see fit.

Yes, it’s ours but you probably, and hopefully, have copies of everything yourself and if you don’t, I for one, think you’re pretty silly.

The content a journalist or investigative reporter generates while working for an employer is not necessarily their sole property as many of us out there understand it. They create it at the behest and under the direction of a parent company, a station, or a network so I’m thinking it’s not just theirs.

In the case of Ms. Herridge, there are conflicting versions of what actually transpired in all this. And nearly all of it is attributed to sources and opinion columns like that of Jonathan Turley, who is older, far more experienced, and certainly better educated than I.

Turley wrote in part,” A former CBS manager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had “never heard of anything like this.” He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was “outrageous” and clearly endangered confidential sources.”

Okay, that’s one school of thought for sure. Apparently, the SAG-AFTRA union agrees, calling it, according to Turley, “very unusual” and “a matter of serious concern”.

I’ll buy that, if that’s how things happened. But in all my reading on the subject, the actual details and timeline are quite murky. Were there discussions or negotiations during any potential out-processing or exit interviews?

Everyone referenced except those identified as uninvolved business analysts is unnamed, unidentified, or a confidential source.

CBS denied seizing material yet it also says the files and materials have been returned. So, which Is it?

Herridge, as far as I have read, has said nothing but, nonetheless, the House Judiciary Committee has reportedly asked questions about her termination and the claims of personal files and notes being seized.

So, accurate or not, it looks like more than just a few people are rattled by all this.

As a cop, I knew a lot of detectives and patrol officers who had snitches and informants and it was not always like all these identities and information were passed up the chain of command.

“If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell the boss.”

-Jimmy Malone, The Untouchables.

Do journalists share every source, note, and contact with their bosses? My guess is no, but is it unreasonable for an employer to have access to content, background, and related materials so when someone else picks up the next chapter of the story they are not starting from a blank page?

Would it be right if Herridge left of her own accord and said, “Sorry, I’m taking everything I’ve done while you’ve been paying me and supporting my efforts with me and you’ll have to reinvestigate and pursue your own sources and contacts?”

Does that seem reasonable or even likely?

Hopefully, there is a bit more mutual respect between journalists and employers than has been implied by the stories published since Herridge and many others were separated from Paramount and CBS. Equally, I would trust that nobody at CBS is unaware that anything left behind in the form of content, product and notes has not already been copied and is safely in the possession of those who were shown the door.

Let’s be real here, please.

I still have my old desk blotter from when I was a producer in Seattle in 1999. Prior to the common use of all the electronic information storage choices, I would write names and numbers on my desk calendar, and when I ran out of months, I wrote it on the cardboard underneath. I took that cardboard with me to my next job and the job after that and the job after that. I’m pretty sure if I unearthed it today there would be at least one name and number that would still be useful, but it’s really not holding any particular information that the station didn’t have also.

However, If the nice people at KIRO asked if I had so and so’s name or number from 25 years ago, I would unpack a box and gladly offer it up.

Again, if you’re not making a copy of everything you do for your own reference and future use then I don’t know what to tell you.

This is news and in this and many other businesses, you can be out the door at any given moment so I’m pretty confident Ms. Herridge has everything she came to CBS with and much more. And I find nothing wrong with that.

If you or others want to read into some sort of political motives and conspiracy because of Herridge’s reporting and her story coverage, well, that’s up to you. Have fun with that.

What am I missing here?

When a reporter, investigative or not, does work for a station or network or any outlet really, pretty much anything they’re doing is retained and archived. Coverage of countless stories as they unfold, can continue for weeks, months, and years.

Did Carl Bernstein take everything with him when he left The Washington Post?

The Post still had to cover countless aspects of Watergate and the Nixon administration and everything that followed long after he departed and I imagine Woodward couldn’t fill in all the holes just because he stuck around.

I see this all as either very simple or extremely complicated depending perhaps on what the actual big deal is here.

Is it because this is about Catherine Herridge and people are angry that she was given a pink slip? Is anyone upset about the other people also losing their jobs?

I am really asking the questions here.

Am I way off base in my thinking?

Is what I am putting forth here incorrect, erroneous and without factual basis?

If I am on the wrong side of the truth here, I will accept it and stand wide open in admitting it. I also welcome the reeducation I must sorely require.

Or, could it be that this is simply about money?

Show me the inner workings of the financial wizards who pay an exceedingly small number of individuals inflated wages while eliminating the lowest-paid support staff in the interest of fat-trimming and cost-cutting but who will, every once in a while, publicly toss a few well-compensated “sacrificial lambs” into the fire to try and make themselves look and feel better.

Or if, as the conspiracy theorists have already begun to claim, Herridge is being silenced for her work and revelations, firing her is not exactly the best way to accomplish that. She is well-known, respected, and incredibly good at her job. As we will no doubt see very soon, she will land someplace else, perhaps before my prattling here even makes it online.

I’m sure NewsNation has another hour of availability in their lineup.

By the way, I certainly hope that Mr. Pegues, Ms. Ruffini, and Ms. Falk land on their feet along with all of the reported 800 others that were let go in what has been described in job action terms as a “bloodbath”.

In regard to Mr. Turley’s outrage at the actions taken by CBS, I will point out that on my and most anyone’s best day, none would likely be professionally capable of carrying his briefcase or laptop. My opinion and perspective are offered here, of course, and remain my own.

With that in mind I will also state simply and humbly to Mr. Turley that merely quoting Murrow and Cronkite in your opinion piece does not validate your point to a higher degree, no matter how renowned and accomplished you, yourself may be.

But in the interest of fairness and curiosity, I will give it a shot:

“We are in the same tent as the clowns and the freaks-that’s show business.”
– Edward R. Murrow

“And that’s the way it is.”

-Walter Cronkite

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Can the Media Predict America’s Looming Challenge?

Based on data and polls, are that President Donald Trump could begin his 2nd term in about eleven months, and similar to his first time in office, many think he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Rick Schultz

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A photo of the American flag

While many experts are predicting brighter economic days ahead, some media pundits are warning that it might take longer than expected to get the good times rolling again.

A former World Bank President took to the airwaves recently to share his opinion about what faces the U.S. economy in the future, and what can be done to reverse the current period of instability and hardship. 

Based on data and polls, are that former President Donald Trump could begin his 2nd term in about eleven months, and similar to his first time in office, many think he’ll have his work cut out for him.

“Growth in the U.S. held up last year, up more than three percent annually in the fourth quarter, despite inflation, high rates, global tensions,” Barron’s Roundtable host, Jack Hough, began on Friday. “But my next guest says this news is not as good as it sounds on the surface.”

“The storm is, growth simply not fast enough to raise peoples’ living standards or to pay back the debt,” David Malpass began on the Fox Business program. “You’ve got the energy problems that are mounting in the world. Germany today, I don’t know if you saw, but lowered their forecast for 2024 to only .2 percent. So basically, a really severe slowdown or recession going on in Europe.”

U.S. national debt has now surpassed a record $34 trillion, and the Federal Reserve is predicting American GDP will only grow at an anemic 1.4 percent this year. Even more soberingly, they expect only 1.8 percent growth next year. That’s a far cry from the 2.5 percent annual growth spurred by Mr. Trump during his first three years in office.

“Africa and Latin America are in deep trouble and it all stems back to the U.S. holding up it’s growth by simply borrowing money from everybody else to dump it into the economy,” Malpass added.

“What should the next president do first, bearing in mind that it could take some cooperation from Congress?” Hough asked.

“It could, but the Commander in Chief has huge power to state the outlook for the U.S., but also for the world. The world waits with bated breath to hear what the U.S. is going to do in terms of economic policy, in terms of foreign policy and energy policy,” Malpass, the former Treasury Undersecretary added, noting that the policies of the current administration are not helping matters. “The latest is cutting off the LNG exports. That’s driven the natural gas prices down in the U.S. It’s gone down by 50 percent just since January.”

While that might sound great to homeowners and consumers on the surface, Malpass says it has created more harm than good.

“What that means is lots of jobs lost in the U.S., but for the rest of the world what it means is a shortage of energy. And that’s really important to their GDP,” he said. “So the new President has to say, we’re going to create an environment in the world where the U.S. can grow fast. That’s a top priority. And that’s going to allow us to project security for the world. And that will comfort everyone and allow them to begin investing again.”

Hough pointed out that last year, 2023, ended up being much better economically than most analysts predicted prior to the year. 

“The U.S. spent a lot more than was expected,” Malpass explained. “ And also, I think, the model has changed for the interest rate hikes. You know in the past when the Fed raised interest rates, that meant that people felt the bite. But this time the government is borrowing so much itself that as the rates go up, they’re paying all the upper-income people around the U.S., and even outside the U.S., top dollar for all of this borrowed money.

“So as the interest rates went up, it caused a huge spewing of money into the economy. Plus the direct government spending. So I think the projections didn’t work out for the U.S., but if we look outside the U.S. the slowdown was intense. Just as bad as expected.”

Hough highlighted a recent piece Malpass wrote in The Wall Street Journal, in which he illustrated a model that worked in such a difficult historical economic situation – Ronald Reagan’s combination of pro-growth policies and peace through strength. And while not mentioning Trump by name during the entirety of the interview, it was clear that Malpass believes such an approach will certainly be needed by our next president.

“We hear some growing calls in the U.S. for a more isolationist stance. Do you see any kind of a risk there?” Hough asked. 

“I think isolationism is not the answer. It is peace through strength. And Reagan did that through having a strong economy and then by having a strong defense policy that showed the Soviet Union that communism was not going to be given this free ride,” Malpass said, echoing the policies that succeeded under Trump’s first term. Most experts, however, think it unlikely that today’s Democratic party would do such an about-face against socialism and communism around the world. Especially as the party pushes such policies at home.

“That, of course, brought down communism. It fell of its own weight,” Malpass said. “And that was a giant relief for the world. We ended up with a peace dividend and so it was a good investment to have the U.S. be strong, because that then stabilized the world. We can do that again. Markets are forward-looking. And so if they see the U.S. talking about defending the dollar, controlling the government spending so that there’s some money left over for the rest of the people in the U.S. and around the world.”

Malpass told Hough that the results of such an approach would be tangible for working American families.

“That will allow interest rates to come down, which would be positive. And it means that there can be more growth,” Malpass said. “Right now, we’re looking at this prospect of some years of really stagnant growth.”

In other words, even though he did it once, Mr. Trump’s second go-around might be even more challenging than the first.

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