Connect with us

BNM Writers

Philly Special: Catching up with Alex Silverman of KYW

KYW recently added an FM simulcast for the first time in its long history. I wanted to talk about that, Alex’s thoughts on the format and how his team handled Wednesday’s shocking events in Washington D.C.

Ryan Maguire



I recall one afternoon early on in my tenure at KIRO in Seattle, my General Manager at the time called me into his office to introduce me to some partners of the station.

“This is Ryan Maguire, our new Director of News and Programming on KIRO.  People thought we were crazy for hiring him, but we couldn’t find any candidates for the job that were younger than Barbara Bush.”

(The Former First Lady has just died the day before).

My boss’ macabre sense of humor aside, he did have a point.  News-Talk and All-News radio has skewed older in listenership the last few years.  To this day, its one of the biggest challenges for the format.  In some cases, the best way to find younger listeners is with younger leadership.

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to catch up with Alex Silverman, the Brand Manager and Program Director at legendary All-News station, KYW in Philadelphia.  I had heard of him from my colleagues at KIRO (where he also worked previously) and others in the industry who hold him in high regard.

Once I followed him on social media ( and spent time exchanging e-mails with him for this piece, I could see why.

He has an amazing amount of energy, enthusiasm, and optimism for news radio.  He also has the right ideas and the right mindset to take a heritage brand like KYW into new, younger generations of listeners.

KYW recently added an FM simulcast for the first time in its long history.  I wanted to talk about that, Alex’s thoughts on the format and how his team handled Wednesday’s shocking events in Washington D.C.

Wednesday was truly a surreal day in the history of our country.  How were you able to approach it…personally and professionally?

It was surreal, upsetting, and scary for sure, but I knew we had a team that could handle whatever the day might bring. We know that hundreds of thousands of people not only depend on us on a daily basis, but when something of great consequence happens, they turn to us because they trust us. That is a great responsibility which we take very seriously.

The past year has stretched everyone in every newsroom across this country to the limit, but it has also shown me how capable our newsroom is of handling the unexpected and the challenging. My role in these types of situations is to make sure the team has the support and guidance they need. As soon as things started to take a turn, we mobilized two reporters to Washington – one of whom was already in Delaware covering President-Elect Biden. We knew we were the closest Entercom all-news station to DC, so we would not only be able to serve our audience but also millions of listeners across the country. We had additional reporters working remotely who started calling their local contacts, and everyone shifted into continuous coverage mode: the anchors, the editors and production team, and the digital content team – and stayed that way into the night. We needed to not only make it sound big and important, but to place it in the context it deserved – as a dark day in the history of this country – so we talked a lot about the language we would use to communicate that.

What differentiated your coverage from what other media outlets were doing?

We’re fortunate to have the most experienced broadcast reporting team in Philadelphia, and that institutional knowledge and those contacts paid off immediately. One of the great things about all-news radio is our ability to pivot immediately into continuous crisis coverage. While there are a lot of moving parts to our operation, when it comes down to critical breaking news information, once it’s confirmed it’s just “hit the sounder, open the mic, and tell the world.” So, whether you were listening on 103.9 FM, or on a smart speaker in a home office, or on the RADIO.COM app, you were learning what was happening literally as we were seeing it with our own eyes or verifying it. RADIO.COM allows us to send push alerts to a larger audience beyond our typical listeners, and we were simultaneously producing newscasts for our sister stations in Philadelphia because this was a situation where people needed to know what was happening in real time.

Talk about your background and how your career journey brought you to KYW.

I’ve always been fascinated by the intimacy of radio and the one-on-one connection it creates with the listener; it’s something that I recognized at a young age and just knew I wanted to be in the business. I actually started out in management – as the GM of the greatest student-run radio station in America, WJPZ at Syracuse University – before getting my first on-air news job at WSYR in Syracuse. I spent some time in Seattle at KIRO as a reporter and anchor, then eight years at WCBS 880 in New York City, first as an anchor and reporter and later as APD. When the legendary Steve Butler retired in 2018, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to come to KYW Newsradio and lead one of the country’s great all-news stations.

What are the best parts of your job?

Getting to work with such a talented and connected team of broadcast journalists is a huge privilege. I learn something from them every day. When we break news and tell stories that matter to people, we get an enormously positive response from the audience and that’s always a great feeling.

Technology is providing many of the service elements all-news stations would provide (news-traffic-weather, etc.) on demand and instantly.  How does this format stay relevant in 2021 and beyond?

I’d push back on the premise just a bit because there’s a distinction between the content itself and the technology used to convey it. “Technology” on its own can’t produce the service we provide – it can’t replicate the journalism experience and institutional knowledge and storytelling ability. That said, as technology evolves, we are evolving right along with it. If you have a smart speaker at home and want the news from a credible, local source, all you have to do is ask it to “play KYW Newsradio.” All our stories are available on demand in both written and audio form on and on the RADIO.COM app. We’re on social media at the same time we’re on the air with a story. We have a local news interview podcast, KYW Newsradio In Depth, that focuses on big ideas that we wouldn’t have time to dive into in our typical format. All of this makes us a really strong part of the modern news ecosystem.

As for traffic, sure – the apps are great, I use them like everyone else. But they don’t tell the full story. If I’m stuck in traffic, I want to know what the heck is really happening and why. It takes a human being to provide that color commentary and that’s the service our listeners tell us they appreciate. The same goes for weather. We have a fabulous partnership with NBC10 here in Philadelphia. When weather is a story, people want someone they trust to explain what it means.

Your station was given an FM signal for the first time in its history and got a fresh rebranding as well.  What have the early returns been from your listeners and sponsors?

It’s incredibly exciting for us, and we saw the launch on 103.9 FM in late November as one of the most historic moments ever in Philadelphia media. It not only improves the quality of service for our existing audience, but also allows us to reach some areas where the 1060 AM signal was never particularly strong. I was actually driving around one of those areas in Bucks County the day we launched, and – I swear – the clerk at a deli saw my jacket and said “when’s KYW gonna be on FM? It’s so staticky around here.” I told him, and he was thrilled. So, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from both listeners and sponsors who know there’s more of a chance for new listeners to discover us on the FM band. It’s still too early to make any sweeping statements about the impact, but we’re very optimistic.

Caption- Alex Silverman talks about the FM simulcast on NBC10 in Philadelphia

You’re VERY active on social media which is not common for many Program Directors.  What’s your strategy behind that?

Having spent a lot of time on the on-air side, I’m used to having a public voice and engaging with the audience. It’s a good way to keep in mind that there are real people out there who have opinions and perspectives on what we’re doing, and I think they appreciate that kind of direct engagement. We can’t ever take our audience for granted, so we have to be everywhere they are – and social media is one of those places.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BNM Writers

Noam Laden Was Champing at the Bit to Return to 77 WABC

“It’s great to be part of a winning team with passionate owners. We’ve got lots of exciting plans for the distribution of our news.”

Avatar photo



When Noam Laden was a kid, he was kind of a jerk.

He would lay in bed listening to local radio personalities in Trenton, New York,  and Philadelphia. He was one of the kids who called up and harassed the show hosts with reckless abandon. A practice Howard Stern’s devotees would soon perfect. Keep in mind, Laden was a 14-year-old at the time.

“There was one host I’d call regularly,” Laden said. “Stupidly, I’d use my real name when I called. The host would say, ‘Here’s Noam in Trenton.’ I’d lean into the phone and drop the F word three times and hang up. I just wanted to get on the air.”

After a few times of similar calls, Laden thinks they started to recognize his voice and knocked him off the phone. Then he tried to get smart and switch things up.

“One day they were talking about soft pretzels and I called in,” Laden recalled. “I’d chime in and say, ‘I love my soft pretzels with mustard and then insert the F word three times.’ I may have been the reason they created the seven-second delay,” Laden joked.

He later realized he might have something to add to a conversation rather than tossing cuss words. He has four brothers who also got into the act. One of his brothers would call and say, ‘I’m not wearing underwear.’ The host would say something like, ‘Oh, there’s a full moon out tonight.’ Then another brother would call and say, ‘I’m not wearing underwear.’”

Ah, a young boy’s life in Trenton.

Laden is returning to 770 WABC where he once worked on The Don Imus Show. Most recently he served as anchor/reporter/fill-in host at WOR. Laden is now the news and content distribution director for WABC.

“I joined the Imus show during its resurgence after his unfortunate racist and misogynist remarks. This was when WABC brought him back from the fringe. I didn’t have a great relationship with Imus. He was kinder to other people than me so I can’t say I enjoyed my time with him.”

In radio, there is a razzing process, a piling on at times. People pick on you, all in the name of having fun. Imus was more mean-spirited with Laden than others so that affected their relationship.

“I’ve always been an anchor. I still am,” Laden said. “At first, I was a writer for Charles McCord and did some news inserts while Charles did a national show.”

Laden was with WABC from 2003-2018 until they threw him out, he joked.

Laden has teamed up with Sid & Friends Morning Show. A veteran with 20 years of broadcast news experience, Laden is responsible for all WABC news content and distribution, on-air and online.

“I knew the late Bernie McGuirk well from when I was working with Imus. Such a great young talent, a sweet guy. I have some great memories with him. He was such a workhorse. As we were getting ready for our shows very early in the morning, we’d talk a lot.”

Laden said the station has a terrific lineup of hosts, and the ratings are soaring.

“It’s great to be part of a winning team with passionate owners. We’ve got lots of exciting plans for the distribution of our news.”

Laden was itching to get back to WABC when John Catsimatidis bought the station.

“We are going to make this a local station again,” Laden said. “Not for just a couple of hours a day. I’m going to have local personalities in the studio seven days a week. All local personalities, including overnight. We still have two national shows with Brian Kilmeade and Mark Levin.”

Laden said owner John Catsimatidis was way ahead of the curve in his understanding of what New Yorkers want. He said Catsimatidis has always loved radio and when he was building the station, he said he wanted to build a station New Yorkers wanted to listen to. He envisioned local shows 24/7. He’s deeply involved in the communities.

“He makes the station feel like family, like a smaller station.”

The station celebrates every holiday on the calendar. “We will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and the Lunar New Year,” he joked. “There isn’t one holiday on the calendar we don’t celebrate. This is the most fun I’ve ever had in the business. I get to put my hands into different things.”

When he was at WOR, Laden said the majority of their staff worked out of their homes and many still do as a result of COVID-19.

“It’s so crushing to be out of the routine,” Laden said. “I never worked from home for one day. I needed to see people and be out of the house. When you’re not at the office, you’re missing so much synergy and energy of people working together. I think people being together breeds success.”

Laden returned to WABC in October of last year and started with the morning show in January.

“When I came back as news director, I took time to just observe. You don’t want to be that guy who comes in and makes changes without leaving enough time to fully assess the situation. I decided it would be a good idea to make our newscasts longer.”

In February of 2020, just before the pandemic, Laden was still at WOR and was told legend Joe Bartlett was retiring. Laden was visiting his parents in Israel when he got calls saying it looked like he was going to be the news director and anchor at WOR.

The station negotiated with Bartlett and decided he could work from South Carolina.

“Now he can play golf every day at 11:00,” Laden said. “The writing was on the wall. Joe wasn’t going anywhere. I realized I had to get out of there. When people work remotely, I think people can tell when team members of a show are not in the same room. When they’re phoning in from around the country.”

Laden said when you’re in the same studio you’re hatching ideas, laughing, and talking about bits. You know each other’s families.

“Len Berman was at home, and so was Michael Riedel.”

When he arrived in October, it was all about bolstering the product. One of the first things Laden did was replace the top-of-the-hour 77-second news updates with full newscasts.

“We’re news and talk,” he said. “We give the audience both. We extended the newscasts to five minutes and put in a sports report. It was John Catsimatidis’ idea to start earlier at one minute before the hour. We felt we could grab some of the audience flipping around.”

One of the advantages of working for a sledgehammer like WABC is when a reporter seeks you out for a comment on a story, you invariably will call the station back.

“I don’t understand why some people don’t call back smaller stations,” Laden said. “It’s great to be on the air in New York where you know people from all over the world are listening.”

Laden said he understands recruiting new talent into his newsroom is a challenge. He’s created a ‘bench’ of sorts, a way to groom students for possible careers in radio.

“I reached out to journalism schools and we began bringing in students and recent college graduates to come in on the weekends and work some air shifts,” Laden said. “In a way, it’s a paid internship. We look at it as we’re helping to create new reporters and anchors.”

Laden started his radio career at a small daytime station, WGHT, an oldies station. It was one of those classic radio jobs where he did afternoon drive. He’d been there three weeks when the owner came up to him and said he’d just fired the morning show host and Laden was taking over.

In the morning, Laden will deliver the first 40 minutes of news on WABC by himself. No commercials, traffic, or weather reports.

“After our show, reporters are already covering new stories. Searching for whatever the story might be. In the Tri-State area, there’s never a shortage.”

He’s worked in the New York area for most of his career. He moved to Charleston, South Carolina for two years. “We were living on the Upper West Side during the 9/11 attacks,” Laden said. “My wife and I decided we needed a little breather from the city and moved to Charleston. We loved it there. My son was born there and he sees himself as a southern gentleman,” Laden joked.

Digital is huge in the industry and Laden said they’re working at elevating their digital platform each day.

“We end all our newscasts with a call for action to go to our website for additional information on a story. People expect a digital component from your radio station and we’re building more every day.” 

If you build it, they will come.

Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Cristina Mendonsa Left Television For Radio When Her Star Was Shining Brightest

Avatar photo



Mozart completed his first piece of music when he was five years-old. Doogie Howser was a licensed doctor at 14 years of age. Cristina Mendonsa was working at a newspaper when she was 15 years-old. Perhaps it’s not as stunning as the other two, but Mendonsa was on a career path early.

“I was a columnist on youth issues for a local paper,” Mendonsa said. “I started working in radio before I was 17 years old.”

Then it was an internship at a television station, where Mendonsa baked a lot of cookies for people who helped her learn how to edit.

“I was a television writer when I was 19 years old. Got my first on-air job when I was 20 at KRCR-TV. I was at the CBS affiliate in Sacramento and then hired for a job at KUSA in Denver before I was 21, and I barely knew where Denver was on a map.”

C’mon, Cristina. Now you’re just showing off.

“Every radio station had some form of a newsroom back then. All stations, including rock. Then there became fewer and fewer, especially at music stations. I bounced around in radio for three years.”

It took her a while to finish college, taking a class here and there.

“I started my classes at the same time I was working in broadcasting,” Mendonsa said. “I was moving around in radio, and I had to drop out of school when I made a move for my job. It took me nine years to earn the degree. I was going to school so I could afford to pay tuition.”

Mendonsa believes being a reporter made her a better student. Mendonsa was taking journalism classes with younger students who probably had no idea she was on the air locally. She went to eight different colleges and finished at Sacramento State.

“I earned a masters in communications and leadership at Gonzaga University,” Mendonsa said. “I decided if I was going to have a life after television, more schooling was in order. My choices were between Notre Dame, USC, and Gonzaga. I had dated a guy on the Gonzaga basketball team many years earlier, so I imagine that helped me decide. Gonzaga was a good Jesuit school and had a moral aspect to instruction. Turned out to be a great program.”

In early radio jobs, she had tough editors looking over her copy, brutal with their edits. Brutal in their criticism of Mendonsa’s on-air performance.

“I’ll always have a huge amount of respect for them. They helped me immensely.”

Mendonsa is an anchor on 93.1 KFBK in Sacramento and has been with iHeart nearly five years after serving 27 years as a television anchor.

Born in Oakland, California, her mother raised the family and taught genealogy classes. Mendonsa said her mother was a great writer, compiling books of the family’s history going back generations.

“My father was part of the dignitary protection services in California all the way back to when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as Governor. I spent a lot of time at the Capitol. Dad would have family and friends come and tour the Capitol, usually entering from backdoors.”

She hung out at the Capitol a lot. Listened to political conversations while waiting for her father to get off work.

“Our dinner conversations had a lot to do with classic California politics,” Mendonsa said. “I remember going to a couple of events, standing with my mom on the Capitol steps when Reagan was addressing a crowd. Governor Brown would hold a Christmas party every year. Governor Deukmejian did too.”

When Brown first took office Mendonsa said she was surprised at how austere his office was. Definitely not what you’d expect a higher level politicians’ office to look like.

“That’s what struck me when I was a kid doing homework in Governor Brown’s office.”

Mendonsa’s father had a profound influence on her life, and people who knew him. “I run into people all the time who remember him, his integrity,” she said. “My father had a strong sense of loyalty and justice. He was a good man. Ethical, hard working. I’d like to think I took on some of those traits and passed them on to my children.”

She said as a television anchorwoman in her late 40s, she considered herself an endangered species in television.

“I started to think about some options, considered teaching,” Mendonsa explained. “I was impressed with the concept of leadership and entrepreneurship, but I also knew I had to up my skill sets.”

Sacramento is her hometown and a place she says is beautiful. Mendonsa pointed out that a lot of places call themselves the ‘City of Trees,’ but Sacramento certainly lives up to that.

“We have two rivers that come together, the American River and the Sacramento River. That’s also why we have similar flooding risks of New Orleans. People describe Sacramento as the Midwest of California. We have very friendly people.”

Mendonsa said it was an idyllic place to grow up, but Sacramento does have its issues. She said Sacramento has more homeless people than San Francisco.

“I remember taking a helicopter tour over the river and was stunned at how many there were. There’s a lot of pressure from businesses to get things straightened out. California has 30 percent of the homeless in the country. We’ve thrown a ton of money at it, and they’ll throw more. It doesn’t seem to make much of a dent.”

She said Sacramento simply doesn’t have enough housing.

“A small percentage of the homeless work regular jobs but live in their car. The majority of homeless have mental health issues or are drug abusers. It’s easier to be homeless in California because there are so many assistance programs.

Mendonsa once spoke to an advocate who said when someone has mental illness it doesn’t mean they are violent. If someone is a drug abuser, it doesn’t mean they are violent. But when you get a mentally ill person who is also a drug addict, you’ll see some serious problems.

‘It’s harder for cities to find police officers all over the country,” Mendonsa explained. “We’re constantly trying to train more. People don’t want to be police officers any more.”

Mendonsa said she was talking with her co-anchor and discussed a poll citing Donald Trump’s popularity has gone up in the past few days.

“Our station is news/talk, and we love political stories like that,” she said. “Trump has his ardent followers. He has tapped into a discontent and for many people, they believe his first presidency was a better time for them and the country, so they’re sticking with him”.

Mendonsa also knows people who feel betrayed by Trump. Abandoned by the ex-president.

“They are tired of his mean tweets. Trump is at his best when he’s focused on other people. He’s at his worst when he’s complaining how the world is against him. I swear if he ever gets arrested, he’s going to make T-shirts with his mugshot and sell them. They’ll do great.”

As a kid she’d help her mom when she researched at libraries. She loved writing and talking.

“I was always bending my mother’s ear,” Mendonsa explained. “She’d say to me, ‘You talk so much I think you should get a job where you could do that for a living.”

Message received.

Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Leading Local Is Convenient, Except For When It’s Not

Everybody comes from somewhere and everyone certainly has people in other places. Calamity and misfortune happen everywhere.

Bill Zito



ABC’s World News Tonight obviously had other plans in place for the evening newscast Monday. David Muir had the tornado devastated Mississippi city of Rolling Fork in the background as the show began, an umbrella lead later there was a switch and toss to the latest in the nation’s school shooting tragedies.

The shuffling of course was successful because the networks have a different focus and generally possess the ability to overcome the challenges of breaking and shifting national topics.

For the local markets there is often a tug of war between news operations and administrations over the push to lead local. The tried, true, and often tired philosophy of giving the neighborhood’s news first in favor of the broader national interest because — once again — people behind desks are sure they know what the audience wants.

For the radio folk, there is the often-available luxury of leading with the network newscast at the top of the hour — and the bottom as well, in desperate times — which leaves the responsibility for national news to someone else.

A community devastated by a weather event like an EF4 tornado in Mississippi or horrific violence like the Nashville school shooting are already all consumed by the tragedies. It is a local story that has become national by its sheer magnitude.

In other words, there is no justification needed to bring it to the top of the news block nationally so why are there even discussions about doing the same outside of where it happened. Community is community, there is no requirement that it happen here first for us to care, to be engaged.

I’ve encountered an arrogance often associated with local content that seems to set aside or even ignore the degree of those happenings outside the individual broadcast area. As if for some reason, our targets were not going to care about Russia and Ukraine until the local hook could be identified. Storms and shootings have pretty much happened everywhere so how hard is it to relate, even be transfixed when we’re given the particulars on something that’s not unfolding in our backyard?

Looking back at that arrogance I referred to, I think it also could link it to a level of insecurity, even in ignorance, in programming and direction. Not knowing or caring about what your followers think or want.

On the ignorance front, is it a simple lack of familiarity? Perhaps.

Get a room of journalists together in a room — I’m talking about members of the press, all platforms — with no caveats, no consequences.

What would they say? Leadership, management, or corporate philosophy come to mind?

There is of course a natural development to the equation, which supersedes pretty much everything. Impact.

Will Tacoma’s new downtown parking regulations top an earthquake and typhoon in Indonesia?

Don’t be so quick to answer.

What happens in Jerusalem, Gaza, and Tel Aviv carries a hell of a lot of weight in New York, L.A., and Miami. Span Texas to Southern California and they’re caring about more than just border crossings.

Everybody comes from somewhere and everyone certainly has people in other places. Calamity and misfortune happen everywhere.

And most people don’t care about where and when they see your sweeps story or your 5-part series on Parks Department Overtime when humanity is crashing someplace else.

Tease it, promote it, and move it down to the B-block.

Leading local is a reasonable coverage plan, except when it’s not.

Your brand-new News Director who just arrived from Cincinnati may not know that yet.

Continue Reading


BNM Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.