America Exposes the Media
The media, as a whole, is not fair and balanced. News is not really news. In actuality, news is now a reflection of a point of view.
America is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of unity. Agreement is everywhere, spanning across political, cultural and geographic divides. Among all issues, there is one on which Americans of all stripes can agree – the media should not be trusted.
On Friday’s Ingraham Angle, Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Raymond Arroyo hosted a panel of swing state voters in Columbus, Ohio. This panel of Republicans, Democrats and Independents voiced a common concern – they do not trust the mainstream media or big tech.
During a discussion about the newly-uncovered evidence and corruption charges against Joe Biden, a panelist named Deb pointed out that many viewers most likely hadn’t even heard about the uncovered laptop and email allegations.
“What bothers me is our news has become so personalized, that if you’re a Biden supporter, you’re not getting that side of the story,” she said. “If you are a Trump supporter, you are, so the Trump supporters are going to continue to believe that this is a Joe Biden corruption piece, and the people who are Biden supporters are going to believe that this is a bunch of hooey.”
NPR – partly funded by Americans’ tax dollars – blatantly admitted they would not even cover the new revelations about the alleged pay-for-play scandal engulfing the Democratic nominee.
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories,” NPR announced as it’s reason for not covering the shocking developments. “And we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.” Interestingly, there was no such blackout during many similar stories that, while lacking evidence, targeted the president over the last few years.
The truth is, the veil has been lifted, and America no longer believes in or counts on the media. According to Gallup in 2020, only 40% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media – such as newspapers, TV and radio – when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly. On this, there is a large degree of national unity. Some Americans believe this media deception is purposeful, because forcing us into our respective camps is good for business.
“The response of the media and the press is symbolic of what it takes to create the system that we are under,” said Sadie, a self-described Independent. “The divisiveness is just advanced and supported, split, that’s exactly what democracy requires under a two-party system, and they did it very effectively.”
Americans knew something was wrong when, last decade, the media as a whole refused to look into a presidential candidate’s web of shady ties and anti-American network of friends. They knew, of course. They just felt it was their solemn duty to keep their audiences uninformed. As Sean Hannity has repeatedly, “2008 is the year journalism died.”
Then, in 2016, the same media went from celebrating and glorifying a cultural icon, only to do a 180 and go into full demonization mode once he announced a run for president. Same guy, same media. Americans watched the flip, which validated what they’ve always suspected of the mainstream press. As a result, that year saw only 32% of Americans admitting they had trust in the media’s truthfulness – a record low. The charade is over.
Regarding the current scandal, some voters admit they don’t care about the content or the media’s motives.
“This is actually, for Democrats, a non-issue, a non-story. It’s not being covered like it is on Fox, and quite frankly I’m kind of tired of it,” said Lauren, a Democrat. “I don’t believe that it’s a thing, and even if it is, it doesn’t matter.”
“She’s right, it’s not being covered,” responded Kevin, a Trump voter. “The question is, why? Why don’t you see it on NBC, ABC or CBS? That’s the question we should be asking.” Proving the point, a Democrat named Mark admitted that, even though the initial email and laptop revelations had been made many days earlier, this was the first he’d heard of the allegations. How can Americans agree on anything when we don’t all hear the story or get the facts?
Americans of all stripes know the truth. The media, as a whole, is not fair and balanced. News is not really news. In actuality, news is now a reflection of a point of view. If you agree, you like it and gravitate to it. If not, you are drawn to the opposite media view elsewhere. In some circles, this philosophy is referred to as “advocacy journalism,” which is short for picking a side and anchoring your “reporting” accordingly.
Ingraham wrapped up the segment, asking the live panel, “How many people out there think a media outlet, again regardless of who is in the White House, should regard stories about our adversaries funneling money to family members of a sitting president, that’s not a story. How many of you think that’s the way a media organ should react?”
Not one member of the panel raised a hand. Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Not. One. Hand.
On this, Americans are unified.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
Sales Productivity Protects You From Hedge Fund Uncertainty
“The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable. The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.”
Almost 30 years ago, Radio station ownership limits were lifted, and Wall Street saw an opportunity. But the hedge funds didn’t understand the business and created mayhem in a still vital industry.
I worked in New York City for over 6 years. I had the opportunity to spend time around the brain trust of Wall Street. These Masters of the Universe saw the weakness of the radio industry and thought that they had all the answers.
Well, they didn’t.
I will give you some history from my perspective. My first 16 years were spent working for family run operations. Both of these companies were managed by third generation operators who put people and community first. These were highly successful operations with large staffs.
I am not looking back with rose colored glasses. No organization is perfect or without unique challenges. But people were first in these broadcast companies. Both of my first employers had top consultants to give strong outside the organization feedback. Both companies had General Managers that catered to both the programming and sales departments.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the biggest overhaul of telecommunications law in 62 years. It was widely thought that this would bring radio into modern times. Consolidation has been a landmark of American Business, so, Wall Street’s Hedge Funds saw an opening. Radio station owners sold for insane profits. Longtime owners were able to sell stations for multiples of up to 30 times meaning that if an owner had a station earning 1 million dollars, they could sell it for 30 million dollars. Quite a return (Most stations didn’t go that high but multiples of 18-25 were very common during this period).
Wall Street looked at radio like the pickle industry. Except there was an issue. Radio did not have hundreds of workers in each location. You couldn’t move all operations to a central hub and save HUGE money, that would justify strong ROI. So, radio ended up with several large owners (by the way, I am not criticizing iHeart, Audacy, Cumulus and the other large owners).
When larger companies developed, they went public selling stock to individual shareholders and institutional investors. The market states that companies show a certain amount of revenue growth per year. Let’s say that number is 10%. Radio is interesting, we are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. You cannot just build new radio stations. So, companies were forced to merge or expand to meet revenue goals. Wall Street encouraged and even demanded it.
Here was the problem – radio companies acquired an unsupportable amount of debt that could never be paid back. The Hedge Funds just moved cash around and demanded companies cut staff and consolidate management. It was a blood bath. Any of us who entered this business in the 90’s saw this. Great broadcasters, salespeople, managers were forced out because of unsustainable debt and micromanaging Hedge Funds.
On the local level, new clusters were forced to protect the biggest biller in the group. This was not set to grow revenue; it was to protect the revenue and keep the spreadsheets looking right. I know of stations that were more successful brands in ratings in a cluster than the cash cow but if you were the Program Director who was consistently beating the cash cow, your job was in jeopardy. This was a reverse hunger games caused by debt, fear and shortsightedness.
So, here we are.
The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable.
The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.
Even though a couple of the bigger companies have gone bankrupt, they’re not bankruptcy situations where assets were liquidated creating a market-based value of these properties. It was essentially a negotiation to lower the debt, and did not move these companies to become cash positive operations again.
Why do the Hedge Funds not cut their losses and move on? Now that is a great question. Hedge funds handle billions of dollars. They bundle bad deals with great deals and so their investors don’t seem to have a problem if they see enough of a profit at the end of the month, quarter or year. People remember the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. Hedge Funds were bundling bad mortgages with good ones. Soon the bad overcame the market. Thus, a crash. The homes never went away. The value of real estate fell dramatically in many places.
Are people still listening to us? 80% of Americans do. Not the 93% of a decade or so ago (Pew Research). This is much better than local TV where only 63% of Americans watch local TV News.
But what is the future?
It is entirely up to Hedge Fund involvement. Will Hedge Funds cut their losses and move on? If that occurs, will local broadcasters rise again?
What can YOU do?
It is all about the billing. If you are billing a lot more than you cost, the company will need you, and indispensability is what corporate leaders will see. Make yourself available for Sales. If you are the morning talent, be dressed well enough for a sales call. Make yourself available a few times each week to meet clients. Let salespeople know about the products and services that you use. Radio personalities are influencers. They have huge audiences that listen every day. Don’t forget your advantage. We cannot control the Hedge Funds, corporate debt or a fast-changing marketplace.
This was not an exhaustive history, but it illustrates our challenges. Radio programming departments are filled with creative people who just want to entertain. Be aware of our weaknesses and strengths. The Market Manager and sales manager are under huge pressure. Be that person who understands their concerns.
Peter Wilkinson Thiele is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He currently serves as the program director, and morning host of Newstalk KZRG in Joplin, MO. Additionally, Peter has held programming roles in New York City, San Francisco, Little Rock, Greenville and Hunstville. He has also worked as a host, account executive and producer in Minneapolis, and San Antonio. You can reach him on Twitter at @PeterThiele.
Is Your News Station’s Website Doing Its Job?
“There are plenty of markets and stations around the country who understand the value of their websites and the business and community benefits they can provide aside from being a corkboard for ad space.”
There was a mass shooting on Monday.
Certainly not the first time that sentence has been uttered in this country but in this case, I am referring to Memorial Day on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk in Hollywood, Florida. Nine people wounded, including a one-year-old and a couple of people in custody with more to follow, I expect.
Now Hollywood and I have history, overwhelmingly good history. I lived there, made friends there and met my late wife there. I also worked there as a Hollywood police officer, as did she for those curious enough. So, when this shooting happened, I was naturally wanting to know more and to see those who wear the same uniform I once did as they went about their work.
For that, I did what I rarely do these days when I want the latest news and developments, I went to the local station websites. This was about two hours after the shooting was first reported and I was able to find something on virtually all the TV web pages and some quick blurbs on the newspaper sites, so I and countless others were able to get a preliminary idea of what was going on. And that was about it for a while and to me, that made perfect sense.
I say I rarely go to the local news websites because I personally find them generally lacking in information, slow to add or update details or to stream enough ongoing coverage to remain relevant to anyone above the very casual seeker of news and information.
That is not a blanket statement by any means. There are plenty of markets and stations around the country who understand the value of their websites and the business and community benefits they can provide aside from being a corkboard for ad space.
Once again, ignorance, laziness and a lack of imagination lead to lost opportunities.
The time was when those very websites and their subscription alerts to your email or cell phone were often the fastest ways to find out when things were happening. If you are curious how I found out in New England what was happening in South Florida?
So, the station Instagram posts do their job and take you to the station site but only after you’ve gotten at least a breakdown of what’s happened and what is going on. Are people continuing on to the website and then to the broadcast like all was once intended?
When the conversation centers around content, usually in job interviews or sales meetings it seems, the discussions often follow a pattern of; the broadcast/print content drives people to the website content which drives people to the broadcast/print content, etc., which means the audience member sets up camp and never leaves.
Ever hear people tout this philosophy? Sadly, many of them are still around. They extol the wonderment of the chain philosophy and then are shocked when it doesn’t yield the results they promised, and their clients start buying bus bench ads.
The chain philosophy, in this case the aforementioned broadcast/print content to the website which drives people to the broadcast/print content, etc., has a fatal flaw in it. Only one link in the chain has to disappear for things to go south. Which means if the website is no good or of no use, that volley back and forth ends and people go somewhere else.
If there is a good news product out there, every aspect of its brand must be equally good. It must serve the purpose and the audience. Newspaper websites are easier I guess because most of them are now literally the product. They are the destination. That is why the people who do are willing to pay for them.
I suppose you cannot put every bit of broadcast content on a TV news or radio station site, but you certainly can do better than a lot of what is out there now. Radio websites could do so much more if they really tried.
It’s the same with news coverage as a whole. There are choices to make how stories are told. Granted, when things are unfolding in real time those choices become quick decisions. But that’s the benefit of live hits number 2 through whatever, followed by the story wraps and packages. The stuff is supposed to get progressively better as we move along.
The reporters and producers can add and subtract on air and on the websites and on to social media. Toss out the earlier crap for what is better and more meaningful. I saw particularly good examples with the Hollywood shooting coverage.
I am one person in particular who cannot stand it when the media insists on showcasing a mayor when a tragic or violent incident occurs in their city. Who cares what the mayor has to say? Let us hear from the witness, the people who were there and were impacted by what happened. What does the mayor know about it except what the first responders told them? The police or the EMT’s or fire can tell us what happened, how it happened and who they’re looking for. The mayor will cry outrage and try their best to steer the tourists back to the beach. “Shark, what shark?”
TV news station websites have choices and options, what they often do not have nowadays is enough people to keep them current, active, and alive, frankly. Digital only reporters and producers have been assigned other duties in many markets. Websites are updated by the assignment desk in some places or a show producer at the end of their shift in others. The longest lasting proof of a broadcast day is often the last thing management considers as they’re walking out the door at night.
You make your choices and you deal with the result.
Last week, I urged the AM radio community to improve their product and their service if they want to keep AM in cars. It’s rather disheartening to listen to the cries of, “It’s not fair” or the claims of “You’re killing our industry” when nobody is considering the fact that not trying or simply doing a bad job is what leads to things like falling website traffic, declining viewership/listenership or even things like a major company getting delisted from the New York Stock Exchange while extending their COO’s contract for three years.
If we make things better things have a fighting chance to get better.
It is to wonder.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
Trump Town Hall Delivered CNN’s Biggest Audience Since March 2022
“It was CNN’s most-watched telecast in total viewers since President Biden’s State of the Union address on Mar. 1, 2022.”
The controversial May 10th town hall event featuring 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was at the center of the news world during the week ending May 14.
The town hall, moderated by Kaitlan Collins and held at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire to an audience of Republican and independent voters who’ve previously voted for Trump, drew 3.308 million total viewers including 781,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Those figures could not top Fox News Channel’s five most recent Trump town halls — two from Mar. 2020, one in May 2020, another in June 2020 and one post-election (on “Hannity”) in June 2021 — which ranged from 3.54 millions to 5.11 million. Nor did they best President Biden’s first post-inauguration CNN town hall from Feb. 16, 2021 (3.64 million total/902,000 adults 25-54).
Nonetheless, it was CNN‘s most-watched telecast in total viewers since President Biden’s State of the Union address on Mar. 1, 2022. It also delivered their best 25-54 performance since their New Year’s Eve celebration with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen from New York’s Times Square on Dec. 31, 2022.
A special edition of “Anderson Cooper 360” which followed the town hall on May 10 was cable news’ runner-up telecast of the week among adults 25-54 (as listed in the rankings at the end of this article.)
On the following night, for the May 11th edition of “AC360”, Cooper defended his network’s to carry the event, stating “the man you were so disturbed to see and hear from [on the night of May 10] — that man is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president,”
Cooper added. “You have every right to be outraged today, angry and never watch this network again, but do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?”
The May 11th “Anderson Cooper 360” posted 616,000 viewers including 137,000 adults 25-54, placing behind MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” and FNC’s “Fox News Tonight” although the demo delivery was a mere 2,000 viewers (aged 25-54) behind “Hayes.”
These figures were also on-par with its usual levels: for Monday May 1 thru Thursday May 4, “AC360” averaged 604,000 viewers and 141,000 adults 25-54 within the 8-9 p.m. hour.
Cable news averages for May 8-14, 2023:
Total Day (May 8-14 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.140 million viewers; 137,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.755 million viewers; 85,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.462 million viewers; 95,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.185 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.108 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.107 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.101 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.082 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (May 8-13 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 14 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.434 million viewers; 140,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.161 million viewers; 117,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.701 million viewers; 161,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.317 million viewers; 35,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.141 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.108 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.107 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.091 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.060 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. CNN Town Hall “Donald Trump and NH GOP Voters” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 8:00 PM, 70 min.) 3.308 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.838 million viewers
3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.708 million viewers
4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.692 million viewers
5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.665 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.497 million viewers
7. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.289 million viewers
8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.210 million viewers
9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.181 million viewers
10. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 9:10 PM, 50 min.) 2.152 million viewers
263. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Mon. 5/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.543 million viewers
428. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 5/8/2023 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.290 million viewers
450. Forensic Files (HLN, late Tue. 5/9/2023 3:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.267 million viewers
464. Highway Thru Hell “(1117) Know When To Hold Em” (TWC, Sun. 5/14/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.259 million viewers
518. Squawk on the Street (CNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 AM, 180 min.) 0.223 million viewers
731. Cuomo (NWSN, Thu. 5/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.136 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. CNN Town Hall “Donald Trump and NH GOP Voters” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 8:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.781 million adults 25-54
2. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 9:10 PM, 50 min.) 0.438 million adults 25-54
3. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.338 million adults 25-54
4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.306 million adults 25-54
5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.298 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.277 million adults 25-54
7. Anderson Cooper 360 “Trump Town Hall Analysis” (CNN, Wed. 5/10/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54
8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 5/11/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.252 million adults 25-54
9. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.251 million adults 25-54
10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 5/10/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.246 million adults 25-54
19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/8/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.210 million adults 25-54
316. Forensic Files (HLN, late Tue. 5/9/2023 3:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.076 million adults 25-54
400. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 728” (CNBC, Thu. 5/11/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.059 million adults 25-54
402. Greg Kelly Reports (NMX, Thu. 5/11/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.059 million adults 25-54
510. Highway Thru Hell “(1116) Triple Play” (TWC, Sat. 5/13/2023 1:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.041 million adults 25-54
575. Mornings with Maria Bartiromo (FBN, Tue. 5/9/2023 8:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.035 million adults 25-54
612. Banfield (NWSN, Mon. 5/8/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/