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An Angry Talk Radio Climate Won’t Change Todd Schnitt’s Approach To Entertaining

“The mainstream talk radio environment may be toxic but Todd Schnitt won’t allow it to temper his enthusiasm for radio or limit his ability to entertain audiences and stay true to who he is.”

Chrissy Paradis

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The evolution of Todd “MJ” Schnitt’s career across stations, formats, decades and companies is truly a testament to proving that truth always wins. His respect and unique dynamic with his listeners proves his commitment to utilizing growth and development opportunities within radio is stronger than ever. Among his success, accomplishments and accolades in media, perhaps the most significant contribution is his ability to cut through the bull-Schnitt to candidly speak to his audience while honoring the values most important to him.

Through his desire to continue applying innovative approaches to bolster the broadcast medium, Schnitt, known by many as MJ from his CHR Morning Show based in Tampa, added another host role to his weekly routine. This mic was reserved for The Schnitt Show, airing weekday afternoons on news/talk stations. The eloquence he exhibited allowed for him to manage the challenge before him—as his laser-focus, drive and unmatched work ethic effortlessly aligned to make way for such refreshing programming, especially within the news/talk space.

Schnitt’s philosophy took shape as he remained committed to bringing listeners honest content, genuine intention and authentic communication; as opposed to the fleeting, hollow guise achieved through the outdated style of pandering by way of a scripted format. The more Todd exposed his thoughts, takes, beliefs and ultimately, his truth, the bigger the listenership—until Schnitt’s NTS program was captivating audiences in syndication in over sixty markets.

Having studied and developed a keen understanding of the potential pitfalls that could be associated with the news/talk/sports format, Schnitt found a way for his programming to remain dominant, during a time that so many other shows/stations were suffering. Todd was able to identify, comprehend and prepare for what inevitably was hiding in the blind spot for others around the industry, essentially, the Achilles Heel of NTS shows/stations nationwide: format fatigue.

The rigid confines that so many hosts were painstakingly committed to were rooted in fear-based thoughts. The concern of being lost in the shuffle if they failed to carve out their piece of the market quickly enough. This thought process may have had genuine and honesty peppered in the motives however, the rationale lacked the only standard that is absolutely necessary, if not required— creating a connection with the listeners: transparency.

Schnitt’s programs exemplify the importance of this fundamental principle and the value of flexibility, relatability and honesty with listeners which plays an undeniably important role in the foundation for Todd Schnitt’s career in multiple formats.

His eclectic resume paired with his insatiable appetite for radio continues to inspire media junkies to raise the bar while fostering transparency, both on and off the air: a refreshing rarity to the radio medium. Despite the responsibilities, contacts, managing relationships, prep, hosting and social media responsibilities, Todd ‘MJ’ Schnitt agreed to join me to discuss the return of the MJ Morning Show, news talk as a format, advice for others and what’s in store for the medium in the near future.

CP: First, I wanted to congratulate you on the return of MJ. How has the first month been going?

TS: The first month and a half or so has been tremendous. The response has been enormous. And it’s been fantastic to get such an amazing welcome.

CP: The reunion podcast received a lot of attention. You certainly want that kind of warm reception. How did the crew manage though to rekindle the chemistry and sound like you hadn’t skipped a beat?

TS: The podcast was designed as really a quick reunion. Once we did it, there was an outpouring of people demanding more regular podcasts. Next, we began a biweekly podcast, and then we started doing a weekly podcast in October. I believe, late October of 2019; now, I believe we can wrap up the MJ standalone podcasts. I think that this week’s might be our last one.

CP: Because then, listeners can just catch your show in the morning or the podcast or the show itself each day?

TS: Exactly. The show is on daily, Monday through Friday, 6 to 10am on Q105. The legendary WRBQ-FM in Tampa. The station where Scott Shannon invented The Morning Zoo. WRBQ and the history that this station has is tremendous. For us to relaunch the MJ Morning Show on Q105 is a natural progression because it’s an 80s and 90s station. The audience that grew up with us are now the core demographic of the radio station.

CP: I was amazed with how you would host The MJ Morning Show from 6-10am, then turn around hours later to run The Schnitt Show. To be the lead host of two different style shows, I wondered, how do you keep your head in a CHR morning show and a conservative news talk program every day?

TS: I’ve always been able to delineate the content between the two shows. The MJ Morning Show is more lifestyle, entertainment, personal experience and current events; whereas The Schnitt Show was certainly more current events, but you definitely get plenty of MJ that creeps into The Schnitt Show.

CP: With the development of bringing back MJ, are there any big changes or additions that you’re trying to implement? In terms of prep or your routine?

TS: No, it’s pretty much business as usual. Nothing has really changed. I just formulate each show on a daily basis just based on what’s available and what’s going on, and what happened in our lives.

CP: You’ve been vocal on your show about being an independent conservative with libertarian values. I don’t know if you’re a Parks and Rec fan, but I like to think of you like a Ron Swanson, except you carry a microphone instead of a mustache. Have you ever felt like it was difficult to appeal to some of the more staunchly conservative listeners or P1’s that listen to your show, with it being broadcast on dozens of stations nationwide?

TS: On The Schnitt Show, I just call it the way I see it. The audience knows that I’m a conservative Republican, but I’m also an entertainer first. I’m not swayed by what the audience wants to hear. I just deliver my opinions and what I think is correct. I can’t do a show based on what the audience might want. I have to do a show from my heart and mind.

CP: I’m sure you experienced some of that in New York, a very liberal area. You were talking last week about being a realist as it pertains to the election results. During what’s been considered by many to be a tense time, with divisive topics dominating our country, what do you think the most important thing for news talk hosts to remember as they’re talking to their listeners?

TS: Ultimately, you have to be true to yourself. A lot of hosts these days are held hostage by what they think they’re supposed to broadcast and what they think they’re supposed to deliver. There are a lot of talk show hosts who are not speaking honestly and will not call true balls and strikes as they see them.

CP: You’ve had a lengthy career between MJ and Schnitt. What would you point to as some of your more significant moments or special memories from your time on the air?

TS: For The Schnitt Show, I think it’d be George W. Bush’s administration, and their decision to launch military action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, plus the election, and eight years of the Obama administration. Then of course there’s the campaigning, election, and four years of Trump which really changed everything.

CP: When you think about the news talk radio business in 2020, what do you think are the biggest issues facing conservative talk radio? Are their issues in the industry that you feel are becoming more inflammatory (for example, Twitter/Facebook vs. Parler, censorship issues, etc.)? Will we always have a left vs. right media battlefield?

TS: There is a dynamic that has been brewing for quite some time where the extremes are so polarized, the far right and the far left seem to have zero tolerance for any other ideas, even those that are more centrist. And, I believe that’s problematic because not everything lies on the fringes and the extremes. The fact is, this is really kind of a centered up nation for the most part, but the most noise is being made on the extreme wings. There’s a degree of hijacking going on. Unfortunately, some folks take things too seriously these days. While there are some very serious topics and very intense subject matters that I cover, you can still present it in an entertaining way without an angry delivery. The mainstream talk radio environment has become remarkably toxic. We need to work on reducing the toxicity while being informative, but most importantly, entertaining.

CP: What is your philosophy for dealing with those who think you’re not conservative enough or that you’re too conservative for certain people because their personal opinions aren’t reflected in yours?

TS: Part of the toxicity that I described, has been if I didn’t agree with Trump on everything, or if I criticize Trump, whether it’s a policy or whether it’s his behavior, I would get attacked by a certain portion of my listenership. People would threaten to stop listening. They call me a RINO (Republican In Name Only). They call me a fake Republican. And that kind of personifies the poisonous landscape that has been developed, there is a lack of tolerance for a diversity of opinion, even within a perceived political group.

CP: When it comes to news talk media figures, who are some people who have been influential to you in your news career?

TS: I came out of entertainment radio, and while I listened to news talk quite a bit, I tried to develop my own persona and just build on my existing personality. But of course, there’s Rush Limbaugh who helped reshape talk radio and is deservedly credited with saving a lot of AM radio stations across the country. I can remember as a kid growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a talk show host named Charlie Huddle who made an impression on me. There was also DXing at night, and hearing Larry Glick out of WBZ in Boston.

photo courtesy of South Tampa Magazine

CP: For people interested in pursuing a career in radio, specifically the News/Talk radio format—where you’re on the air 40 plus minutes, an hour, what advice would you pass along to them?

TS: I love radio. I’ve always loved radio. I was bitten by the radio bug, probably at about five or six years of age when I was growing up in New York City, prior to moving to Virginia. My station back then was WABC, when it was a famous top 40 brand. I just honed in on the magic of what came out of the speakers in the car, or at home, or my little mustard colored RCA 9v transistor pocket radio. That made an impression on me and drove me towards this career path. I have an extreme love for radio and am still in love with the medium. I wouldn’t discourage anybody from exploring this career path, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the radio business on many levels is not the way it used to be. With the rif’s (reduction in force) and gutting of many great radio companies and stations, it’s a very difficult environment. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I’ll say this, I’m thankful that I’ve experienced several decades of amazing radio operations, and am very excited about my new home for The MJ Morning Show and The Schnitt Show- Beasley Media Group. Beasley Media wants to continue to build an environment where talent is appreciated, and that’s all any on-air performer can ask for.

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Rachel Maddow Interview With E. Jean Carroll Provides MSNBC Major Boost

Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

Doug Pucci

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Prominent interviews with two notable news figures were in focus on the week of May 15. On the night of May 15, former “Elle” magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.  

Their guest spots took place six days following her legal victory against Donald Trump in which a jury found him $5 million liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Carroll and Kaplan stated they’d seek to expand those damages due to Trump’s defamatory comments about her during his infamous CNN town hall from May 10. (Carroll officially made that expansion request to the court on May 23.)

As stated in the show list at the end of this article, the hour drew 2.414 million total viewers including 276,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

In addition, it was MSNBC’s most-watched telecast since the Apr. 24 edition of Maddow (then, that week’s top cable news telecast overall) which came just hours following news of the dismissals of two of Maddow’s former prime-time competitors, Tucker Carlson from Fox News and Don Lemon from CNN.

Airing directly opposite Maddow on May 15 were FNC’s Hannity (1.974 million total viewers / 194,000 adults 25-54) and CNN Primetime  (454,000 total viewers / 114,000 adults 25-54) — the latter of which that 9 p.m. hour will soon be anchored by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, the moderator of the aforementioned Trump town hall.

Leading out of Maddow on MSNBC was Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.868 million total viewers / 150,000 adults 25-54) which offered post-analysis of Carroll’s guest appearance.

For the following evening (May 16), another NBC-owned news network scored another key interview: mega-billionaire Elon Musk, with financial journalist David Faber on CNBC.

Within the 70-minute discussion, Faber pressed the now-former Twitter CEO on his controversial tweets that spouted unverified conspiracy theories. Musk responded, “I’ll say what I want to say and if the consequences of that are losing money, so be it.” Former NBCUniversal advertising head Linda Yaccarino took over as CEO on June 5.

CNBC’s Musk interview delivered 257,000 viewers and 54,000 adults 25-54, the network’s top hour for the week in both data categories. Nonetheless, it could not top five hours of the Fox Business Network for that week, in total viewers: Varney & Company (the 9-10 a.m. hour on Mon. May 15, 274,000 viewers; and the entire 9 a.m.-noon slot on Fri. May 19, avg. 266,000 viewers) and the Thu. May 18 edition of Kudlow (271,000 viewers).

Cable news averages for May 15-21, 2023:

Total Day (May 15-21 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.097 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.715 million viewers; 83,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.361 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.188 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.118 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.105 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.103 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.081 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 15-20 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 21 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.413 million viewers; 136,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.124 million viewers; 120,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.371 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.308 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.138 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.128 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.118 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.090 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.060 million viewers; 16,000 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. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.802 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.801 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.673 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.504 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.420 million viewers

6. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.414 million viewers

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.268 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.221 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.087 million viewers

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.022 million viewers

185. Smerconish (CNN, Sat. 5/20/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.636 million viewers

207. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.587 million viewers

421. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.294 million viewers

441. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.274 million viewers

464. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.257 million viewers

500. Highway Thru Hell “(1118) Rise Up” (TWC, Sun. 5/21/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.232 million viewers

705. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.151 million viewers

860. FBI Files (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.102 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.330 million adults 25-54

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.281 million adults 25-54

3. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.276 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.266 million adults 25-54

6. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.264 million adults 25-54

7. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.245 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.242 million adults 25-54

9. Special Report/Biden-Medal of Valor (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:46 AM, 26 min.) 0.231 million adults 25-54

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.221 million adults 25-54

51. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.168 million adults 25-54

221. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.087 million adults 25-54

319. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Thu. 5/18/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.069 million adults 25-54

414. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.054 million adults 25-54

484. Highway Thru Hell “(1117) Know When To Hold Em” (TWC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.046 million adults 25-54

534. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54

586. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 5/19/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.036 million adults 25-54

630. Corrupt Crimes (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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News Radio Hosts Must Remain Weary of Stories Created By AI

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true. It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”

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One of the few things I love about social media in the 21st century is how it shrinks the world. If I see something interesting, I can DM or tweet at someone to see if they’d talk about it and maybe come on my radio show or on my podcast.

Sometimes, I get ignored. But more often than not, I at least get a response, and it’s usually a yes (Tom Brady still ignores my requests, though. Most recently, it was my invitation to be the 4th in a charity golf outing. I will never give up!).

Of late, it’s how I got baseball legend Fred Lynn (@19fredlynn), the guy who is organizing kids to mow lawns for vets and seniors in all 50 states (@iamrodneysmith), and of course, the genius behind the Dad Jokes Twitter feed (@Dadsaysjokes).

It also led me to Nathan Lands. He’s a young entrepreneur who specializes in artificial intelligence. He lives in Japan and runs the AI newsletter Lore.com. When all the ChatGPT stuff started vomiting out of my Twitter feed, in a sea of thread seaweed, he was some clear water of smart, thoughtful, and informative post … like he’d been in the space for more than a minute and wasn’t directly trying to profit off my reading his stuff.

After corresponding for a bit, he came on my show, and since then we’ve been messaging on and off as he’s been managing an explosion of attention. He’s seen his followers nearly triple to about 47,000. Meanwhile, Elon Musk himself publicly pushed him to use a subscription model, which he dutifully did, and is now charging a buck a month to loyal followers to see a little extra.

Nathan’s probably getting enough for a case of Sapporo every month, at least so far.

From my journalistic perch, I was curious: What about information in this era of artificial intelligence?

One thing I work on quite a bit – and think about all the time – is how to verify information. I am semi-obsessed with primary sources, and figuring out what’s true has become increasingly difficult over the last few years of competing “alternative facts”. Now, artificial intelligence is adding a layer that, frankly, has been a little too frightening for me to fully engage… yet.

I thought it would be interesting to ask Nathan his thoughts about AI and this ability – or inability – to separate fact from fiction in 2023.

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true,” he admitted. “It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”

What I found interesting about the discussion is that Mr. Lands came back to an old-school name: CNN. With all the hysteria surrounding Chris Licht’s tenure there, perhaps, a brand like that could shine through if it could burnish a reputation for consistently reporting things that are actually true. If he can succeed in convincing people the network has a minimal bias, it could harken back to the Ted Turner days when the world turned to CNN whenever a global story hit.

Of course, Licht’s role in this is only one of several ifs. First and foremost, the network would need to truly figure out the facts consistently, a matter that will only get more difficult. It also needs to convince a significant portion of the public that views it as having a political bias.

But the challenge of being right is the biggest if.

“(CNN) will likely eat up fake stories that are produced by AI soon,” Lands said. “Not sure if you saw that one photo that spread a week or two ago about an attack on the Pentagon, and it actually moved the stock market.”

The scary part is that the technology – and the fakes – are only going to get more sophisticated and more believable.

“In a year from now, the stuff that anyone can create is going to be so good, it’s going to cause some pretty large issues,” Lands said.

Scary.

The person doing it could be a Russian national, the Chinese, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds”.

As a radio host, we get half-truths and no-truths all the time. Thank goodness, the morning show doesn’t have time for the minimally screened call because certain claims can have a shred of something true, but the conclusions from them go quite far on the imagination spectrum. Saying something and then hanging up means disseminating fact and fiction in real time takes up a lot of audio real estate and can slow down a good show – but if it happens, it’s a host’s responsibility to try and figure it out. If not, then an entire audience could walk away thinking something is true when it’s not.

But what if we can’t figure it out in real-time? Or at all? And we’re the ones actually trying.

Scary.

Buckle up, always be skeptical and always figure out the primary source … if you can.

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Greg Moceri Knows The More News/Talk Changes, The More It Stays The Same

“I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing.”

Ryan Hedrick

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Greg Moceri has played a prominent role in the talk radio industry as a consultant and program director for many decades. He began his career at WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and later achieved great success at WTIC in Hartford. He then became the Program Director and format Coordinator at WSB in Atlanta.

Throughout his career, Moceri has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Entercom, Bonneville, Salem Media, Tribune, and iHeart, helping them achieve unprecedented success. Additionally, he has played a crucial part in the success of multiple syndicated talk shows.

Upon taking over WSB in 1993, the station was ranked 12th and struggling. Undeterred, Moceri led WSB to great success with his visionary ideas and innovative tactics. From 1995 to 2000, he propelled the station to the top spot among the coveted 25-54 demographic.

During a sit-down with Barrett News Media, Moceri spoke about Rush Limbaugh’s influential legacy and its impact on the industry. He also shared insightful tips on bringing out the best in radio personalities and his expectations for the upcoming Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ryan Hedrick: As a news/talk radio consultant, what do you think are the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

Greg Moceri: It’s the state of the business on the revenue side. The revenue side is not my bailiwick, but you must know the challenges. So much of radio has been cut into by other mediums. However, I would much rather be in the spoken word format on the radio than the music side by a mile. There are still plenty of opportunities in the spoken word for revenue. It’s still an incredibly viable format, and I’m excited for the future.

RH: Could you provide some information about changes in news/talk programming over the years and any current trends you have observed?

GM: That’s a tricky question because a lot remains the same. The format itself, news/talk, leans conservative. It’s an excellent vehicle for people who want to relate to what’s going on in their community and their world. If you have a special connection to a host or a personality, that’s nirvana for someone running a news/talk station.

There are some incredible opportunities. Syndication has grown over the years, and so has the number of syndicated talents. There are ways in which you can make syndicated talent part of your radio station and not consider that they’re piped in somewhere and not there. With the need for more familiarity with younger listeners, recruiting those people is getting more complicated and complex, and that’s the number one problem I see.

RH: What do you think about the people who replaced Rush Limbaugh after his passing, and what made Rush Limbaugh stand out so much?

GM: That is subjective to everyone’s point of view. Nobody could replace Rush; I don’t care who it is. Rush had that incredible ability and talent to be able to contextualize. He did everything I always thought a talk host should do to become an indelible part of your life. Some good people are coming up. Rush was fabulous at pointing out the absurd, a crucial ingredient to connection and engagement.

There’s not a lot that’s different to being a talk show host than there was 20 years ago. You must still be entertaining, use great audio, emotionally connect with your audience, and be innovative. Rush could put things into a context you could understand; that was his greatest talent to me.

RH: How can we effectively engage and entertain listeners in today’s environment when so many different platforms and options are vying for their attention?

GM: I’m a big believer in focusing on the basics. If you’re a program director of these stations, an executive producer, or a host, you must be as local as possible to your community. I know for many companies, that’s part of the challenge. The main challenge is whether you have a budget to be local rather than local for local sake. There are some incredible syndicated hosts out there that present a good show. I would choose those hosts over somebody that is local but isn’t that good. 

It’s essential; you have to be local as much as possible. When I was running WSB in Atlanta and working for Cox Media for so many years, we invested in research. That’s what’s missing. I wish people had the budget to invest in focus groups. Many stations still have it, but it’s different from how it used to be.

RH: With the growing popularity of podcasts and on-demand audio content, how can traditional news/talk radio stations adapt to remain relevant and attract new listeners?

GM: It’s another vehicle to the spoken word in a different format. In the end, podcasting has provided talented people with an actual broadcast. Podcasts are more personal than they are as a radio station. It’s just another one of the arsenals that’s available in the spoken word. It’s growing, it’s excellent, and it’s also starting to get tethered out. In other words, the good podcasters will stay, and those who aren’t so good will not.

RH: Could you give examples of successful and innovative programming approaches in the news/talk radio industry?

GM: You have a single host, two people, or an ensemble. You have to fill 38 minutes in an hour, you’re selling time, and many things are the same as they were. Now you have social media. There’s more opportunity as a potential arsenal of information you could pass along and connect to your audience. There has not been a lot of innovation. One great thing is more and more stations have been able to find an FM signal to go to and enhance their ability to reach more people. There are still some AM stations that are doing well.

We need innovation from the sales side. We have a lot of good content people, a lot of great programmers. There’s still too much focus on national sales instead of building regional sales because it puts people in a box. You and I know that the people with the money are 55-plus. Who cares whether they’re 35 or 40? There’s a stigma involved that thinking anyone over 55 is not as worthy as the national folks believe.

RH: What will happen to news/talk radio as technology advances? Are there any exciting technologies or trends that you are looking forward to?

GM: I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing. We must continue to find great talent to emerge to be part of our business. I find that exciting. I would like to tell you that finding ways to enhance your emotional connection with your hosts to build across social platforms is essential.

RH: When you hear someone like Bob Pittman, the CEO of iHeartMedia, state that they won’t be shutting down broadcast stations, what are your thoughts on that?

GM: Radio is still a viable business, I read the article you’re referring to, and Pittman said, ‘Radio has never been in a better place.’ That statement could be arguable, but it’s great to hear that kind of endorsement from someone influential in our business for so long.

RH: You will speak at the first annual Barrett News Media Summit in September. Please provide insights on what distinguishes this event from other industry conferences or gatherings.

GM: So many conferences, seminars, and things like that, try to put too much into them. For instance, they may have a panel with six people on it and only 30 minutes to talk. I don’t think that’s the way [Jason] Barrett is looking at doing this. I think people really want to have some time to engage. You guys have put together some really good people. The more time you can spend with quality people, the better it will be. 

RH: How do you coach and train radio hosts to improve their performance and build a stronger connection with their audience?

GM: This is something that I am passionate about. I got into the business, evolved, and entered a bigger market. I worked at WTIC in Hartford and went to WSB in Atlanta, and then I wanted to come home with my family in Grand Rapids. What was interesting to me in that process was that I learned a lot about how to coach. It’s not about coddling or making excuses for bad performances.

Some people have said, and rightfully so, that some program directors are too critical of the people they’re supposed to help and coach. There are fundamentals that good programmers know inherently. The key to me is that you must have great relationships with your talent to build a better station. How do you do that? To me, it’s much more about emotional connectivity. Talent always does best with praise if it’s sincere and they don’t think you’re playing them.

RH: Do you think radio executives will start prioritizing influencers and individuals with large social media followings over traditional radio professionals who have gained experience in the field?

GM: It’s an opportunity for people in radio to hire people in that fashion. Some of the best talents I’ve ever known, coached, or worked with didn’t come up traditionally. Erick Erickson is a guy who I worked with at Cox Media. He didn’t have the traditional deep pipes, but he gave me context. He checked the boxes; he made me think. The influencers to me are the talent. Talent influences how much money we make and whether the station is doing well. Influencers on Tik Tok adapt to what they know well. Some of those people will be in traditional media as they get older.

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