Lessons For Those Who Have Been Fired
Before you decide to get your real estate license, sell insurance, or dabble into public relations, have an honest conversation with yourself. Will you really have the same passion for doing something else that you had working in radio?
“I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided that today is your last day.”
“This conversation will not be pleasant.”
“We’ve decided not to renew your contract.”
“Unfortunately, the company has decided to eliminate your position.”
“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done and wish you the best of luck.”
If you’ve worked in radio long enough (or any media company, for that matter), odds are you’ve heard one or more of the above phrases. In my 28 years working in the audio content business, I’ve spoken and had those phrases spoken to me on more than one occasion.
As someone that’s been on both sides of a termination, allow me to share some valuable things I’ve learned along the way as we head into a very uncertain 2021.
MOST OF IT IS FINANCIALLY MOTOVATED
In every instance where I had to part company with an employee or an employer, I can look directly at the company’s finances or the economic climate as the primary catalyst.
Even in instances where I wanted to move on from a talent or a show, my GM’s eyes would often light up when I told them how much money the move would save as a result.
In that respect, there is some solace one can take upon learning they no longer have a job. Financial struggles are largely out of your control. That certainly rings true in 2020, where the pandemic driven recession has devastated the business landscape on so many levels.
For those that have been fired, there is a good chance that you’d still have a job if the financial health of the industry were better.
Try not to take it personally.
BE CLASSY…EVEN IF IT HURTS.
It goes without saying that you should never burn bridges. I’ll take that a step further. Find ways to reinforce that bridge with kindness, even if the people who let you go don’t deserve it.
Send a note to your boss (and their bosses) thanking them for the opportunity. Reach out to your colleagues and wish them all the best of luck. Send a statement to the trades that conveys your appreciation.
Its been said that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Well, you also have only one chance to make a last impression. Make it a positive one. Let the final thing your previous employer remembers about you is that you were the person who was classy on your way out the door.
Silence is not golden. If you go dark and say nothing, odds are the last thing your employer will remember about you is the reason they let you go. That won’t bode well when they eventually get a call from someone who wants to hire you. Being proactive to show your professionalism increases your chances of them saying: “You know, it didn’t work out for them here, but they are a good person and I appreciated them.”
UNPLUG FOR A WHILE
I remember when I left KIRO in August of 2019, one of my closest friends gave me advice I should have heeded.
“Take some time off. You have to give yourself a chance to get over this.”
Of course, staying busy has always been in my nature. So, I didn’t take that advice. It was a mistake.
Instead, I spent my days on the phone. Networking, applying for jobs, putting myself out there as much as I could. I wanted to move on to the next challenge and put my previous gig behind me.
All it did was make things worse.
I interviewed for seven jobs and was turned down seven times.
I sent so many texts and e-mails to my industry colleagues TRYING to shoehorn myself into a position that even some of my closest contacts stopped responding.
I was putting far too much pressure on myself (and others) because I had not allowed myself to get over the job that I no longer had. Moving on was the only way to put it in the rearview mirror.
I’m also thoroughly convinced that all this added pressure directly affected how I performed in job interviews. If there’s one thing managers can smell, its desperation…and it gives off a bad odor.
Depending on your financial situation, its not always feasible to go without a paycheck for an extended period. However, bills can always be paid later. Your mental well-being is far more important. Even giving yourself a week can make a world of difference for your sanity.
Do something you enjoy. Stay off social media. Don’t think about what’s next. You’ll have plenty of time to ponder that.
IT’S OK TO ADMIT YOU STILL LOVE RADIO
I was talking recently with a friend who was a long-time radio veteran and ran multiple stations in large markets. He’s been out of the business for several years.
“I’m done with radio,” he said. Then he went into a long-winded diatribe about the executives he didn’t like, the layoffs, how “local” is being vastly re-defined, etc.
What I didn’t tell him (but quietly thought to myself) is that he’d get back into the biz in a heartbeat if he was offered the right job.
Often, the words the terminated masses will tell themselves are “never again” with regards to going back into radio. Hell, I’ve said it on more than one occasion. Sometimes out of spite. Other times, it was an attempt to be practical given the current state of the industry. It’s no secret that there aren’t as many gigs as there used to be and what gigs exist don’t pay nearly what they used to.
However, as time went on, I knew that I was just kidding myself.
For me, it was never about the money, the awards, or the fame. Granted, I was fortunate to do well in all these categories at one point of another. At the end of the day, I went into radio because I LOVED it. My career choice has been and always shall be a passion project. Even as radio goes through its continued metamorphosis of consolidation, digitization, and regionalization, that passion has never waned. It never will.
Sure, radio is a fickle mistress. It has dragged me across the country, forced me to work long hours and endure sleepless nights. I’ve had those moments where I told myself and others that I was walking away. But deep down, I know I would never have the passion for doing anything but creating great audio content. That’s never going to change.
So, before you decide to get your real estate license, sell insurance, or dabble into public relations, have an honest conversation with yourself. Will you really have the same passion for doing something else that you had working in radio?
It’s not a sin to want to get back in.
Ryan Maguire is a columnist for BSM, and a longtime sports and news radio program director. He has managed KIRO-FM in Seattle, WQAM in Miami, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 105.7/1250 The Fan in Milwaukee. Presently, Ryan serves as the Executive Producer of Chicago White Sox baseball on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. Originally from Michigan, Ryan still holds out hope that the Detroit Lions will one day deliver a Super Bowl title. He can be reached on Twitter @RMaguire1701.
Nielsen Will Face Many Questions With Major Methodology Changes
Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version.
I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend! Last week, I gave a little history of the seven-day Nielsen radio paper diary which, if you believe the trades (and the trades are always right including this one!), could be replaced with an online version by late 2025.
This week, I’ll discuss the issues surrounding what would be a major methodological change in a system that not everyone loves, but for the most part, everyone involved knows well.
Will the results differ when Nielsen changes methodologies? The answer is almost always a resounding “yes”.
Even the smallest changes can affect the results and when results differ from expectations, someone will be upset or as I’ve told people for years, “We’ve never figured a way to create more than 100 share points in radio”.
On a share basis, if someone gains, someone else has to lose. And for now, let’s not think about what might happen to usage levels.
Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version. The list is not exhaustive, but you’ll get the general idea of the complexity:
- Will the sampling be the same as currently used? The Nielsen Audio sampling system has evolved over the years from using only landline telephone numbers to adding cell phones in 2009 (probably the first major survey of its kind to do that in the US) to using mail-out pre-surveys (the address-based sampling frame) ensuring the most everyone has a chance to be part of the sample.
- Will individuals that fill out paper diaries be the same ones who fill out the online diary?
- What will be the effects on response rate and proportionality?
- Will the listening levels (PUR meaning Persons Using Radio) be statistically the same, in other words, the results could be different, but not due to the method?
- What about the number of entries and the quality of those entries in the online diary compared to the paper diary? Will the online diary be easier or harder to edit when there are unclear entries?
- The paper diary is completely unaided, in other words, the “diarykeeper” fills in whatever they think they’re listening to with no help from Nielsen. An online diary could include prompts. Will such a version be tested?
- Will diarykeepers be more likely to fill out the diary in “real-time” versus taking care of the chore at the end of the week? We know that a majority fill out the current diary after the fact.
- For that matter, the “diary week” has been Thursday to Wednesday for nearly 60 years. Could that change and if so, what would be the effect of that change?
- How will incentives be delivered? Currently, money is included with the package that includes the diaries, but I don’t think Nielsen wants to try using Venmo or PayPal or some other method to send out incentives. If there is one thing that’s been learned over time about survey incentives, cash is still king. That means plenty of mailings just as is done currently.
- How many markets will be part of the test?
- What kind of pretesting will be done? Will various designs be tested with focus groups or “one on ones” ahead of a major test?
- What will be considered an “acceptable” online diary? It’s easy to leave a question blank in the paper diary, for example, race and ethnicity, but the online diary could force an answer. Perhaps the online diary will offer “none of the above” or “I don’t want to answer this question”, but would options like that lead to more ascription (meaning filling in the data based on other information)?
You’ve just read twelve research and operational issues and almost certainly, I’ve missed something. The researchers inside of Nielsen have likely put together a longer list and also considered the costs and benefits.
These and other questions will be asked by the various industry groups and committees such as the Media Rating Council, NAB’s COLRAM (Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement), the NRRC (Network Radio Research Council), and the big ownership groups.
My perspective is that this change should have taken place years ago. As noted last week, the original E-Diary had one easily fixable design flaw which should have been changed and then refined over time so that the industry could adjust.
Instead, the early termination in 2007 and focus on the 48 PPM markets put the industry in the situation we have today. Nielsen Audio has painted itself into a corner. The online diary has to work because failure means the paper diary will be with us through most of this decade.
The financial side of the house has likely figured the cost savings from the change which means “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” regardless of the test results unless the test is a complete disaster, which is unlikely.
Further, any change means IT fixes which are often slow. Speeding things up requires the assumption that the test version can be implemented as designed, in other words, the programming changes will be done in parallel. If the test works well, you’ll see far faster implementation, which is great. If the results are controversial, you’ll also see a fast implementation, whether you like it or not.
Considering that the video side of Nielsen is facing an unprecedented amount of competition as well as criticism, the company would no doubt like to see even more profit from the near-monopoly radio service. The industry may complain, but the end result will be similar to the change to monthly rolling averages a few years back.
If you don’t like it, find another vendor. Of course, competition in this field is rather limited. My advice to the industry is to work together, ask a lot of questions, and fully understand what the outcomes mean for your companies, your stations, and your talent.
Let’s meet again next week.
One of the radio industry’s most respected researchers, Dr. Ed Cohen writes a weekly column for Barrett News Media. His career experiences include serving as VP of Ratings and Research at Cumulus Media, occupying the role of VP of Measurement Innovation at Nielsen Audio, and its predecessor Arbitron. While with Arbitron, Cohen spent five years as the company’s President of Research Policy and Communication, and eight years as VP of Domestic Radio Research. He has also held the title of Vice President of Research for iHeartMedia/Clear Channel, and held research positions for the National Association of Broadcasters and Birch/Scarborough Research. Readers can connect with him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Media Sources You Can Count On To Deliver News, Not Misinformation
“This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.”
The internet is a beautiful thing, except when it is not. At a tap of your finger it brings a world of information, or a firehouse of disinformation. Rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and unvetted “news” from every angle of the political, medical and economic spectrum. The internet is NOT to be trusted, and frankly the world needs to get off the web at least 22 of the 24 hours in a day.
Gone are the days when trusted filters with long track records and editors with green-shaded visors poured over copy for sources and evidence. Today, we are bombarded with tweets, blogs, and aggregates written by anyone with a computer who claims “I do my own research”.
So, as a public service I here now recommend the following list of 5 vetted, trusted sources of information and news which have systems in place to avoid misinformation, and when they make mistakes, retract and revise. Yes, the New York Times and many in the mainstream media made huge errors in the run up to the Iraq War, but they later admitted as such and chastised themselves.
This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.
1. Turn off cable news, unless there is a major breaking news; a new war, a school shooting, plane crash or otherwise. And then tune into CNN which has the world’s largest TV reporting staff, way ahead of any other domestic broadcast service. The rest of the time, CNN and the other major cable networks MSNBC and Fox are filled with comment and opinion. While that can be entertaining, it is not news and not necessary. My guilty pleasure is Rachel Maddow.
2. Watch one or more of the 3 evening network TV broadcasts and 60 Minutes on Sunday. Even watching all 3 nightly news programs takes less than an hour if you fast forward through the commercials. They are a quick 18 minutes of news, a summary of the top stories of the day reported with perspective and in most cases experienced journalists. They have seasoned editors who vet each story and best of all, there is no time for opinion. No commentators, just news. CBS is my favorite, NBC a close second. But that’s subjective, the most popular is my former place of employment for nearly 20 years, ABC. CBS has 2 excellent Washington political correspondents, Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa, former newspaper reporters (Washington Post) with an emphasis on straight reporting, rather than looks and performance. NBC has Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O’Donnell and Peter Alexander, with years of experience. ABC has Jon Karl, Martha Raddatz, Pierre Thomas and the up and coming Mary Bruce, all of whom know their stuff.
But perhaps most important, the process at the networks makes for few mistakes. Each script is reviewed by “the rim”. That consists of a senior producer, the executive producer and in most cases, the anchor/managing editor. Opinion, error and bias are flushed out. As are grammatical mistakes.
3. Respected national newspapers: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Reading the top stories in these papers takes more time, but each has more actual reporters than television, radio or blogs. Their reporting is straight and dependable. And in an hour over morning coffee you will be educated and filled with data and information that will be useful when you encounter the hate filled disinformation flooding your direction each day on the internet.
4. If you have time, move to the second tier of newspapers on line. More regional in their coverage….the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution or your local paper.
5. The Daily podcast. An arm of the New York Times, this half hour or so audio deep dive into one subject of importance makes one smarter. Each weekday morning the hosts who are decidedly not radio veterans with big voices or rapid fire cadences, interview a Times reporter about a story on their beat. From the Supreme Court to Congress to the White House and beyond. Another guilty pleasure: Countdown with Keith Olbermann, decidedly from the left, but smart and a great writer/performer.
That’s it. We would all be better served by limiting our intake. Choose a few of the myriad of would be news organizations. Make your own list, chosen after they have earned your trust. I know I have left out the scores of narrowly focused internet outlets from Politico to the Daily Beast. Mostly because they are insider type publications or in many cases aggregators which merely take from other news sources and re-publish to the internet. I’m not saying don’t read them but they can be done without for the general reader.
Also save your precious time by avoiding the tabloids, from the NY Post to the Daily Mail. And agenda publications like Breitbart and Daily Caller. They are not dependable, and they are filled with conspiracies and disinformation.
Use Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to share memories and photos, not conspiracies. And Twitter to alert you to ongoing events or breaking news. But switch to your trusted sources after the alert. Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, my feed has become a deluge of hate and right wing drama.
It’s hard to look away, but we would all be better off if we did.
Jim Avila serves as a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. An Award-winning journalist with four decades of reporting and anchoring experience, Jim has served as Senior National Correspondent, 20/20 Correspondent, and White House Correspondent for ABC News. Prior to his time with ABC, he spent a decade with NBC News, and worked locally in Los Angeles and Chicago for KNBC, and WBBM. He can be found on Twitter @JimAvilaABC.
The News Media Industry Is Better in 2023 Than It Ever Has Been Before
For every news viewing option, there is an equal and opposite news viewing option. Or at least that’s what Sir Issac Newton must have meant.
The science is settled. No counter-argument will be heard. Consensus has been reached. Our futures, and that of our children, grandchildren, and polar bears everywhere, may very well be at stake.
And should you have the temerity to be a denier, you may very well be canceled.
The science is settled on this very fact — the news media industry is better in 2023 than it has ever been before.
Surprised by the boldness? What about the balkanization, you ask, with consumers dug into their political and ideological corners? What about the fact that families no longer gather around the television to watch the evening news, as they did in bygone eras?
How about the fact that many new broadcasters, hosts, and personalities have turned the news into a game of “look at me” instead of “just report the facts.”
And why does the news media consistently score so low in terms of respect it is given by Americans?
With all those truths, how can one possibly think we are witnessing the news media’s glory days?
The answer to these questions depends on how one defines “news media”. In years past, the television news media basically consisted of three major television networks – ABC, NBC, and CBS. They would decide what news to report and then did so in the manner they felt was proper. As has been covered here, this delivery largely consisted of an unopposed left-leaning viewpoint. The balancing effect of traditional, conservative news options, such as Rush Limbaugh and the earlier days of Fox News, had yet to emerge.
But in the year 2023, it is much more accurate to describe the news media as a conglomerate of seemingly non-related options, offered over countless modes of delivery.
We have news outlets that cover national news, local news, financial news, entertainment news, sports news, crypto news, political news, religious news, etc. They reach us through radio signals, cables, satellites, or the internet. This array of transmission methods means that more people worldwide can tap into one of these options. One doesn’t need to be sitting in front of a cable-ready television at 6:00 PM to view the news. Today, news is ubiquitous.
This overwhelmingly diverse assemblage of subject matter options makes up our modern-day news media. And this is where the real value is realized by the consumer. This is precisely why the news media industry has never been better at achieving its goal of educating and informing its audience. Separating opinion from objective journalism is a topic for another, much longer, piece.
Today, the viewer wins by having a smorgasbord of options literally at his or her fingertips. Your options are as specific and focused as your tastes.
We have so many options. You can learn about Tesla’s future by watching Brighter with Herbert on YouTube. Learn about living from a Christian worldview from Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church. Catch up on Bitcoin or Ethereum news with Rob on Digital Asset News. Among thousands of other options.
Some viewers still wind down at night by watching the primetime television lineup on MSNBC, CBS, or Newsmax, if winding down is possible while getting riled up. The options are limitless to find the content you desire, on the schedule you demand, and delivered in the method you prefer. Your options are as endless as your time allows!
Another often-unspoken benefit of this assortment of news options is that, innately, we know opposing options counter our preferred news sources. Unlike previous generations, where opposing viewpoints and diverse thought was often hidden from viewers, today’s consumers are wise to the fact that most news is delivered with a healthy dose of bias. Liberal bias, conservative bias, bullish bias, bearish bias, etc.
For argument’s sake, we can use the programming examples mentioned above and understand that there are also options available for those that believe the opposite – perhaps they don’t believe in a bright future for Tesla, maybe they are atheists, or possibly some, like legendary investor Warren Buffett, believe Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.”
For every news viewing option, there is an equal and opposite news viewing option. Or at least that’s what Sir Issac Newton must have meant.
Because viewers’ eyes are open and they have limitless options, they are free to go down any rabbit hole they’d like. And in many instances, they can do so, literally, for free.
One can only imagine how this dynamic might improve, or denigrate, with the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence. Will AI create even more detailed and informative content at an unimaginable pace? Or will AI develop disinformation so precise it cannot be deciphered from the real thing? Although theories abound, only time will tell what kind of impact AI has on the news media industry.
What cannot be denied, however, is that consumers have more options today to learn about endless and varied topics. For this reason alone, news media has never been better in its impact on the lives of its customers.
We should all salute Mr. Newton and agree that he has been correct all along.
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.