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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content, genuine intention and authentic communication; as opposed to the fleeting, hollow guise achieved through the outdated style of pandering by way of a scripted format.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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1 Comment

  1. Mark

    June 9, 2023 at 10:56 pm

    Schnitt show sucks, like Chris Christie. Why this guy is on the air is beyond me.

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BNM Writers

How KDKA Transformed Overnights to Grow Its Future and Reach Younger Audiences

“The overwhelming feedback has been positive. It makes us local, it gives us a bench … it makes the radio station’s brand bigger and connects us in different areas.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of the cast of KDKA Next Take and the KDKA logo
(Photo: KDKA)

In February, venerable Pittsburgh news/talk station KDKA announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh that would see students from the college host a weekday overnight program.

The program — KDKA Next Take — is heard from 1-5 AM and replaced the nationally syndicated Red Eye Radio in the Audacy-owned station’s lineup.

A product of the imagination of Audacy Pittsburgh Senior Vice President and Market Manager Michael Spacciapolli, he believes the show has been a success in its early run.

“The show certainly offers a different perspective on the way that this generation looks at the world and from their viewpoint as opposed to other hosts who are in a different time in their life than them,” Spacciapolli said. “So we certainly are able to share a different point of view from them, while at the same time utilizing those points of view on social and getting them to really engage the radio station from a social perspective and hopefully engaging in and not just speaking to, but engaging people in that demographic, as well.”

Needing to attract younger audiences has been at the forefront of the news/talk radio industry for quite some time. Another issue discussed by leaders of the format are often centered around where stations will find the next crop of young talent.

With the partnership with Pitt, KDKA took the initiative to seek out those who might be interested in a radio career, rather than hope those potential employees found them.

“I’m always looking for great talent. Everything I do and in every aspect of the radio station, I’m looking for the most talented people. I’m always looking for where is the next great talent in everything we do,” said Spacciapolli. “This gives me the opportunity to have them working with us on an everyday basis and learning everything they do — from their work ethic, to their thought process, to their ideas. It gives me an opportunity to have our own ‘bench’ and have an opportunity to see where talent could come from in the future.

“There’s going to be talent there that we are potentially going to take a look at in different roles. Do they leave Next Take when their time is up on the show and do they immediately become full-time hosts? Probably not. But can they become part-time hosts? Sure,” he added. “Can they become producers? Absolutely. Can they become reporters? Can they become part-time reporters? Absolutely. Working with us gives us the opportunity to certainly move in that direction much more quickly and confidently than we would have previously.”

For decades, overnights were a proving ground for aspiring hosts. The daypart allowed for opportunities for young hosts and provided a low-pressure timeslot to experiment and hone your craft. But with the rise of automation and syndication, those positions have largely fallen by the wayside.

However, Audacy Pittsburgh looked at the partnership with the college and saw opportunity. The collaboration allows a younger generation access to the station that is largely dominated by older hosts and listeners.

Additionally, it provided even more local coverage to a station that prides itself of being “The Voice of Pittsburgh.” That factor wasn’t lost on Spacciapolli.

“A big part of my vision was it gave us the opportunity to be local, gave us the opportunity to be local overnight, which for me is how we win in this business is being local, staying local, talking to people in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, and this gave us the opportunity to do that on a pretty big scale and with fresh content every day.”

It would be natural for a full-time or even part-time employee of the Pittsburgh news/talk station to be jealous that a four-hour program was being given to college students. But that hasn’t been the case, Spacciapolli shared.

“The overwhelming feedback is very positive … Because there’s no expense it’s not like it’s somebody else could have been doing it. It would have continued to be syndicated if we weren’t able to do it through the partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. So it just makes the radio station’s brand bigger. It connects us in different areas and hopefully grows the brand and gets the brand younger.”

The program is recorded live-to-tape earlier in the day before airing in the 1-5 AM timeslot, which allows for some fine-tuning and takes the pressure off the radio novices, while also allowing them to helm a show instead of working in the wee hours of the night while trying to focus on their studies.

Spaccipolli shared that an overnight program hosted by college students interested in one day working in the industry doesn’t have to be proprietary to KDKA. He said there’s one deciding factor in the success of the endeavor.

“It’s about the relationships and the partnerships. And, fortunately, I have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, they’re a great partner. I was able to get deep enough into this relationship with them and find ways to potentially make this work,” he stated.

“This is not easy. It’s not something you can pull off easily because, traditionally, I think, people think about it and they think, ‘Oh, there’s got to be significant expense.’ And in this situation, there’s not because that wouldn’t have fit our model for where it is and what we’re trying to do with it. So there isn’t that expense. You’re not gonna be able to make it work everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to do it here.”

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BNM Writers

Jordan Peterson Has a New Model for Higher Education

“We built a social media network into the platform and we hope that it will be the best social media network that there is.”

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Jordan Peterson
(Photo: Jordan Peterson)

Is it time to give higher education a makeover? Yes – according to one of the world’s preeminent thought leaders — Jordan Peterson — who is changing the game for higher levels of learning.

A segment this weekend on Fox News Digital highlighted famed psychologist and author, Jordan Peterson, as he discussed his new mission to educate the masses in a new and innovative way through his new start-up, the Peterson Academy.

“So what have we got with Peterson Academy?” he began. “Well, it’s a University in that we feature the best University professors in the world. And I have the privilege of being able to call on such people and to make them a good offer and to have them participate avidly and to teach only what they really want to teach in the way they want to teach it.”

Peterson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, has written three books that have sold more than seven million copies. A simple online search will turn up many of his most notable philosophical monologues, covering such topics as morality, finances and culture. His massive worldwide following allows him to call on the best of the best to teach through his new venture.

“We bring them down to our studio in Miami or go to their home country to film them and we’ve produced, I think, the best courses that have ever been filmed. Not only in terms of their academic content but also in terms of the production quality. So very high-quality production levels, using animation and background images and all filmed in front of a live audience,” Peterson noted. 

Collaborating with students is old hat for Peterson. Throughout his career, he has taught some of the most highly regarded courses at Harvard and the University of Toronto. In addition, he has published more than a hundred scientific papers with his students and co-authors. And his material will not be the run-of-the-mill brainwashing many think their children receive at typical colleges and universities.

“Very focused courses. No politically correct nonsense,” Peterson said of the course material at Peterson Academy. “The opportunity for people to obtain a bachelor’s degree to begin with. We’re not accredited but we’re working on that, and we have ways of dealing with that that I can talk about.”

Due to government collusion through the student loan industry, costs for higher education have skyrocketed in recent decades. As many experts have pointed out, rising tuition costs are caused by the government’s insistence on saddling teenagers with astronomical debt loads. All to the benefit of mostly far-left universities and their personnel, who live off the taxpayer largess.

“We hope to bring down the price of a bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s degree equivalent by, like, 95 percent. And I think we can do that,” Peterson said optimistically. “But more than that, we have stellar lecturers and we have stellar courses. We have accreditation processes, examinations let’s say, that teach while the examinations are occurring.”

In his mind, however, the new organization will add much more value than just nuts and bolts education. 

“More than that, we’ve understood as we’ve assessed what a university does, that you think of a university as professors and lectures and exams. But that’s a small fraction of what a university does. A university provides young people a place to mature and a place to develop a new community of peers. And hypothetically a place to find a mate. And those are very valuable services that people don’t think about as the university,” Peterson said. 

The Peterson Academy is founded by Peterson and Mikhaila Fuller, and students can enter their email address on the website to be notified of the organization’s official launch. The site slates June as the official launch.

“Universities bring bright, young people who are ambitious together and they can meet each other. And so they form social network, they form romantic relationships. That’s part of the reason the universities can get away with charging, like, three hundred thousand dollars for a four-year degree,” Peterson told Fox News Digital. 

As part of his other work, The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast frequently tops the charts in the Education category. Peterson often creates memorable sound bites with his direct, common-sense approach to many of the more complex societal issues. For this, he has garnered a loyal tribe of followers, eager to hear his take on some of the more thorny issues facing the world. He has taken that same networking approach to begin building a following for his new university.

“We built a social media network into the platform and we hope that it will be the best social media network that there is. And for a variety of reasons I think we’ve taken the best features of the social media networks that currently exist,” he said. 

The Peterson Academy is tentatively set to launch this month, targeting a unique audience that seeks thoughtful, truth-based higher learning.

“We’re going to have a very specialized audience, right,” Peterson said. “It’s only going to be people that want to be educated and want to be educated in a manner that isn’t politically correct.”

Peterson told Fox News Digital, his new online university will “help people fulfill their desire to get a true education that they can’t find in today’s ‘demented’ and ‘unsalvageable’ universities, all at a much more affordable price.

As the world lurches back toward freedom of thought and educational choice free of liberal biases, Peterson summed up his organization’s thesis Saturday on a post on X.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the modern university (@Harvard and @Columbia in particular) for doing everything they can to make my endeavours both necessary and successful.”

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BNM Writers

Do News Media Members Need a Copywriting Refresher?

Broadcast news, with very few exceptions, has gone over to the side of the cute and cuddly, the shiny and shocking, the “poke you with a stick to get your attention” society.

Bill Zito

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A photo of a dictionary page

We are in a banner year here already and we are barely halfway done. 2024 has already seen the 96th annual Academy Awards, the 75th Emmy Awards, the 77th Tony Awards but of course none of them can outshine last month’s release of the 57th edition of the Associated Press Stylebook for use of news media members everywhere.

(Yes, kids it’s out there. Buy it, collect it, trade it with your friends.)

I kid because I love. I think somebody has to set some rules so it might as well be the AP. Yes, I realize there’s also the Chicago Style Guide as well as a few others but really, there are Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, and their associates as well but I didn’t read those either.

I think the guides are great references and maybe they are the ultimate authority in a lot of cases but I’m fairly sure a scarce, few platforms outside of the giants in print pay them the mind they once did. I myself, stand in AP’s corner because they still shun the Oxford comma as any fine, upstanding outlet should be doing.

Besides, in TV and radio writing (Yes, TV News uses the written word on occasion) most everything said on air is written in all capitals while all accurate and dignified terminology is exchanged for sayings and slang like, “Creep,” “Accosted” and “Gunned Down.”

It’s the more outlandish words that get the attention of the audience and nobody is really concerned anymore with proper capitalization, tense, or even proper pronunciation.

(Yes, an overstatement on my part but with more than a hint of truth to it,)

In the new edition of the AP’s guide, there is much devoted to the use of words relating to law and justice, when and how to refer to those convicted of crimes and suspected of them as well.

Progress is good, right?

When is a criminal not a criminal but instead a person convicted of a crime?

Is it an assault weapon or is it not and does it matter when it comes to the story or the headline?

Is the teen a juvenile or is the child a minor and is using the wrong one hurtful or dehumanizing?

A rose by any other name…yes, yes, we get it.

Consider another identifier or descriptor that style guides might suggest if we followed them without impunity.

Is Mike Tyson a boxer who is also a convicted rapist or is convicted rapist Mike Tyson also a boxer?

I’m okay with growth and development in speech and description if for no other reason that over time it has gotten most of us to stop using words we shouldn’t be using and to start identifying people and circumstances as what they truly are.

Having never been formally schooled on AP style as I was not educated or raised as a journalist I’ve always played fast and loose with my writing and struggle with anything beyond the very standard first and second references and abbreviations.

Don’t get me started again on the Oxford comma as I’m still stopping random people on the street and asking people when and where that pretentious and superfluous bit of claptrap came about.

I offer nothing but praise for the noble newspaper reporters and editors as I largely consider the talented among them to be the last bastion of civilization in journalism.

Broadcast news, with very few exceptions, has gone over to the side of the cute and cuddly, the shiny and shocking, the “poke you with a stick to get your attention” society.

To reiterate, I like when there are rules and guidelines, as long as they are there for the right reasons. If you’re promoting accuracy and clarity, I’m on your team. If you’re latching on to an agenda, public interest pressure or political correctness which muddies the waters of truth, you and I have a problem.

I have often found myself at odds with some writing styles, sayings and/or manners of speech when it comes to reporting in general and it’s not always about grammar or AP stylistics.

Unless you can prove immediate malice or criminality, I take great exception when a journalist tells an audience a police officer gunned down a suspect especially referring to an officer involved shooting. It’s cool NYPD Blue talk but it’s misleading and inflammatory. Let’s wait for the investigation, okay?

Alleged is a great word. Overused, misused, a crutch used by those inexperienced and demanded by jitter news management who have no concept of the parameters of slander, defamation and libel.

Person of Interest and Suspect, both names of TV shows which is why the news media often gets them wrong when reporting about criminal activity. It’s certainly easy enough to check and learn how and when to use these words before you hit the air.

And finally, a personal favorite and one we can all remember and enjoy:  You don’t have to be the New York Post to call the police officer a cop to know that it’s not disrespectful.

Somebody somewhere once told somebody in news that cops don’t like to be called cops.

Of course, there are exceptions. As an ex-cop I can tell you that real cops don’t mind being called cops. Those who insist on being referred to as police officers at all times probably never got their uniforms dirty.

A cop is always a police officer, but a police officer is not always a cop.

Or to put it differently:

A Journalist is always a Member of the Press, but a Member of the Press is not always a Journalist.

Not long ago, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lobbied hard (and succeeded) to have the media refrain from using the term, committed suicide, when describing a person taking their own life. The argument being that it tainted the act with criminality, contrition, or fault. The AP updated its guide to reflect the terms, completed suicide or the more often used, died by suicide and encouraged journalists to make use of these wordings along with “killed themselves” or “took their own life.”

As the husband of a wife (a retired police officer) who committed suicide, I have no objection to writing, saying, or hearing those words in describing the tragedy. In my viewpoint, it is what happened, and were it to be reported in the news, alternative language would not have made a bit of difference. I also have worked extensively with AFSP and other suicide prevention organizations over the years and I disagree with them on this point. But that’s all it is, a difference of opinion and a matter of perspective.

The idea of an organization, a political lobby, or corporate entity pushing the free press into a viewpoint or a particular way to tell a story does not leave me with feelings of comfort. That’s a larger concern of course when it comes to regulated style, less worrisome are where and when to use capital letters, accents, or quotes, but the ideas are still worthy of scrutiny by any of us who report what’s going on. 

The truth is still the truth and the masthead and byline, or their broadcast equivalent must stand by the story they are telling and the way they are telling it.

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