5 People Who Aren’t Doing News Talk…But Could
These are people who could take what made their shows great in their respective formats and excel in a completely different arena.
Talent crossing over to news-talk from a different format is nothing new. It’s been done for years. Often though, many of these people fall into one of two uninspiring camps:
TALENT A– A jock on a music station that has aged out of the target demo. However, they have enough name recognition in the market to land a news-talk gig. Their shows are big on humor but have little depth. It’s formulaic and contrived.
TALENT B– Thinks that doing news-talk means they have to be a Rush or Hannity clone to be successful. So, they drape themself in an American Flag and regurgitate the same conservative talking points that have been strewn across the news-talk landscape for years. It’s formulaic and contrived.
I’ve always felt that TRUE talent is transcendental. When I worked in news-talk, I was never afraid to look at a candidate who didn’t have a background in the format. The key was finding the RIGHT person…and not an individual who fell into the two camps I listed previously.
As a PD, I would always keep long list of talent I liked, regardless of format. Here are five names off that list. These are individuals I’m familiar with who are NOT currently working in news-talk but would absolutely KILL it if they chose to crossover.
NICK WRIGHT- Co-Host of First Things First on FS1
I had the good fortune to work with Nick for almost four years when he was doing sports-radio in Kansas City. His knowledge of athletes and teams were never in question. However, as I got to know him, I found out quickly just how intelligent and well-rounded a person he was.
Growing up in KC, Nick went to an exclusive prep school and could have easily gone to Harvard or Yale had he chosen to do so. He even managed to snag a spot as a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Our conversations were rarely about sports. He had amazingly well-thought-out opinions on politics, race, pop culture, the economy and history. He’s successfully been able to weave those opinions into the sports shows he’s hosted over the years. Following the death of George Floyd, Nick made an impassioned plea to white people which has since gone viral:
MIKE VALENTI- Afternoon Show Host on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit
As a Detroit sports fan, I’ve been a daily listener to Valenti’s show for years. The man is a verbal assassin and has become one of the most phenomenally successful local sports-talk show hosts in the country.
If he ever wanted to jump into the world of news-talk, I have no doubt he’d enjoy the same amount of success.
Valenti has never been shy about talking about non-sports topics on his show. As COVID-19 put a halt to sporting events, much of the subject matter on his shows changed. Valenti spent time on his programs focusing on the social and political impacts the pandemic had on people in Detroit and across the state of Michigan. It was great content and it certainly didn’t have a negative impact on his ratings. He and his partner Rico Beard dominated the market throughout the spring and summer books. On September 30th, Mike jumped away from sports and led his show with reaction to the surreal first Presidential Debate. The content was as good, if not better than what I heard from many news-talk shows that day:
ANDREW FILLIPPONI- Co-Host of The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh
I had the pleasure of working with Andrew during my time in Pittsburgh. I recall one afternoon at the studio; I saw him intently reading the book John Adams by David McCullough.
“Poni,” I quipped, “I hope that’s not your idea of show prep.”
He smiled and went on to explain how he was getting ready to watch the HBO Miniseries of the same name and wanted to read the novel first. We then went down a rabbit hole of talking about Adam’s politics, his role in history, which founding fathers we thought were overrated, etc. It was a side of him that I had never seen before and it always stuck with me.
In the years we continued to work together, I made a point to steer conversations away from sports. We’d talk about relationships, business, politics, etc. He always had the ability to make stop and think about the topic at hand and even question my own views.
Knowing Andrew, he loves sports too much to want to cross over into news-talk. However, he has the chops to do so. My colleague Brian Noe did a fascinating piece on Andrew for our sister-site and it’s worth a read.
MIKE WICKETT- Host of The Wickett on Wisconsin Podcast
Mike, unlike others on this list, has done news-talk for a living.
After successful sports-radio stops in Ann Arbor and Milwaukee, he was hired co-host middays on Kansas City’s KMBZ.
I worked directly with Mike in both of his sports-radio stops. He was always quick witted, an absolute wizard with audio production and never afraid to go against the grain of popular sentiment. Despite that, I was surprised when he left sports-talk to do news-talk on BZ. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to tackle the far more serious topics that the format would present.
Naturally, he proved me wrong.
Mike spent 3 on KMBZ and became a Top-3 performer with Men, Women and Persons 25-54. He was never afraid to spar with people on politics or social issues, but also knew how to add the right amount of levity and self-depreciation to make him relatable.Wickett left radio in late 2019 and is now a stay-at-home-dad. He’s done some fill-in work on various news and sports stations, but also hosts the Wickett on Wisconsin Podcast.
JONATHAN WIER- Morning Show Co-Host on Country 102.5 in Boston
Jonathan is in the same category as Mike Wickett. They worked in news-talk (at the same station no less), then crossed over to do something else. In Jonathan’s case, he left spoken word entirely and now works as the morning co-host on Country 102.5 in Boston.
I met Jonathan when he was hosting the top-rated evening show on KMBZ in Kansas City. If you listened to his show, his success would have been no surprise. He attacked every topic with an infectious energy that made it impossible to stop listening. He also had an amazing knack for getting the best out of every other voice that was on his show (whether it be co-hosts, producers, anchors, callers, etc.). BZ let him go as part of a cost-cutting move in July of 2019.
It didn’t take him long to land a gig, as Beasley hired him to head to Boston only a few months later. You can get some samples of Wier’s current work here.
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.
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Telling The Audience What You Think They Want to Hear Won’t Help You Grow
“Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.”
It’s OK to not always tell your audience what you think they want to hear.
I have been writing that phrase down at the top of my notepad before I start my show for the last two weeks. Something tells me I will need it for at least another 12 months.
In the last week alone there have been two major topics that have divided News Talk audiences across the country: The debt-ceiling debate and the brewing Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis feud.
And as I’ve listened to talented hosts and perused the social media landscape, I’ve noticed a hesitancy that I usually would not expect.
Granted, for the last two years it’s been relatively easy when talking about the national political scene: Joe Biden is a disaster. Whether it’s economic policy, border policy or foreign policy, most Americans don’t believe the guy is doing a good job. The News Talk audience, generally speaking, thinks he’s doing a terrible job.
That’s shooting fish in a barrel. But now comes the hard(er) work.
Starting with the debt-ceiling drama, there was a big divide amongst Republicans in the House of Representatives. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, however dozens of Republicans, many of the most conservative members of the House, voted against the bill, saying it did not do enough to cut spending
As a result, it seemed many hosts, who assume their audience blindly aligns with everything the most-conservative members of the House say, were hesitant to point out the obvious: Explain what better deal you were getting when you only had a small majority in the House, and no control over the Senate or the White House?
It was a question I never got a good answer to on my show.
Republicans already picked up a win getting Biden to the negotiating table after he spent months saying he wanted a clean debt-ceiling raise with no spending cuts attached. Speaker Kevin McCarthy won, got some concessions, and slowly began turning the tide towards hopefully Senate and White House victories in 2024, when then the real work can begin on getting spending under control. This was a victory.
And while no one with any levels of fiscal sanity believes our government’s spending isn’t wildly out of control, that is a separate conversation from whether or not this was a good or smart deal.
Then, there’s the Trump vs. DeSantis feud. Some have staked their claim with one candidate over the other. Some are trying to toe the line and avoid all conflict. Neither approach makes sense to me.
The obvious approach seems to me to analyze the candidate’s based on what they do and say on a given day. There will be good and bad days for Trump. DeSantis will have his up and down moments. I can guarantee this because they’re flawed human beings like the rest of us.Like every election season, it will ebb and flow, and eventually someone will come out on top.
Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.
If you compare this to sports talk radio, a national host talking about the NFL Playoffs doesn’t have to have a preferred team, but he or she has to have something to say that’s interesting, compelling, honest, thought-provoking and entertaining.
If they don’t do this, they’ll become wallpaper in a world of too many media options.
If you have the trust of your audience, you’re real, honest, engaging and thoughtful, you won’t lose your audience. You’ll keep them engaged and you’ll grow it.
Pete Mundo is the morning show host and program director for KCMO in Kansas City. Previously, he was a fill-in host nationally on FOX News Radio and CBS Sports Radio, while anchoring for WFAN, WCBS News Radio 880, and Bloomberg Radio. Pete was also the sports and news director for Omni Media Group at K-1O1/Z-92 in Woodward, Oklahoma. He’s also the owner of the Big 12-focused digital media outlet Heartland College Sports. To interact, find him on Twitter @PeteMundo.
Why Did Newsmax Allow Rep. Matt Gaetz to Host An Unchallenged TV Program?
“A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies.”
Representing your constituents in Congress used to be a mark of honor. It was a position that came with pride and respect. At least that’s what I’ve heard from older relatives who lived in an America that was supposedly more united. Today, depending on the individual, the position doesn’t usually come with too much regard if any at all. Congress has an all-time low approval rating and many representatives go into the job plotting their next money-making move in the process.
The cable news circuit has slowly but surely built a bench of potential hosts from current and former Congressmen. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Fox News commentator, Trey Gowdy is a host on Fox News, Joe Scarborough is MSNBC’s morning show anchor and most recently Rep. Matt Gaetz anchored his own hour for Newsmax. As much as some members of Congress roast young Gen Zers for their tenacity when it comes to TikTok, these men are just as eager for the wrong kind of attention and spotlight.
A former Congressman on television can provide perspective that gives context to current issues the country faces. On Scarborough’s morning show, he often harkens back to past negotiations and talks he had with fellow lawmakers. At times, he even uses those connections to find out the inside scoop about something that’s happening in the moment. Current Congressmen who appear on shows as guests also get to talk directly to their constituents hopefully alongside a host that is willing to challenge them on the issues of the day and not simply allow them to lead the audience astray.
For Newsmax to allow Rep. Gaetz to host a show though, is a disgrace to a medium of television that already like Congress doesn’t have much acclaim. With that being said, even for cable news, this is a major low and it should never happen on either side of the aisle. Politicians are elected to serve but are also forced to make tough decisions. These choices are answerable to the American people. When a Congressman is allowed to spew their thoughts uncensored, it takes attention away from the issues that really matter.
A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies. Unless Gaetz had a co-host that was a journalist questioning his takes, how does an unchallenged show truly serve the public – an oath he agreed to partake in when he took on his role as a Congressman.
Gaetz’s appearance is also a waste of tax dollars. The people of Florida who elected him into office expect Gaetz to be working with fellow lawmakers to make their lives better. They expect him to be doing research or reading up on bills that can bring the change he’s promised to his voters. Instead, he used the resources of hard-working Floridians to moonlight into his next career and spew misinformation that can prove harmful to the public.
If we allow more serving Congressmen to host their own cable talk shows on such a widely distributed platform, will we reach a day when lawmakers exclusively negotiate bills on television? Will Congressmen be more worried about ratings than results? We’ve already seen what happens when a President reigns over a populous and only rules based on what he sees on television. We’ve also seen the political implications that come with such unjustly behavior. Cable news networks will suffer the moral consequences of their actions while politicians who dare to try this act again will eventually face the demise of their legacy in the voting booth. Be careful.
Jessie Karangu is a weekly columnist for BNM, and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for news and sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He also previously wrote a weekly column for our sports media brand, Barrett Sports Media. Jessie can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
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.
December 14, 2020 at 7:53 pm
Wickett is a piss poor researcher, and will put you to sleep when he talks. He has the charm of a tarantula.