The news came down last week that WFAN program director Mark Chernoff would be retiring from his post. It will wrap up one of the legendary programming careers in the radio business. And as I saw the news and looked back at my five years working for Mark as a part-timer, I thought back to how much credit Mark deserves for my making the switch from sports talk to news talk.
But it’s probably not in the way that many would expect.
It was the summer of 2015 and after two years of freelancing at WFAN as an anchor/update guy, I received the opportunity to host my first show. It was a dream. WFAN was the station I grew up on. Mike and the Mad Dog took me through many afternoons as a kid. Steve Somers would be on my radio in my room as I finished up homework. Heck, I even called him a few times in high school. And at the age of 26, I was getting to host on the station. I had to pinch myself many times to make sure it was real.
Thanks to Eric Spitz, the former program director at CBS Sports Radio (and now executive at SiriusXM), I had been filling in sparingly on the national network. But this was the next level for me. Even though it was local and not national, it felt bigger, because of what it meant to me personally.
The show took place in July of 2015, shortly after the MLB All-Star break. I got to host an overnight show from 2a-6a on the biggest sports station in the country. I was ecstatic. The first hour flew by, the second hour featured a cameo from Craig Carton, who was up and at it early before hosting Boomer and Carton at 6am. Craig could not have been more encouraging and good-hearted when the mic was on and off. He spent a segment with me which was a blast and we goofed around. The last thing he said to me, off the air, as he walking out of the studio was, “A lot of people want to be in that chair. So keep it up and keep working hard.”
The show wrapped up at 6 a.m. and I felt pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Then at 6:01, Mark Chernoff walked into the studio. He sat down and the first thing he said to me, “That was the worst show I have ever heard.”
My heart sank. I got a pit in my stomach.
His critiques were not on delivery, caller interaction, teasing, etc. It was regarding my topic choice.
I spent the first hour or two talking about the Mets and Yankees from the night prior, but then I veered off into more social topics. I remember talking about something around the Women’s World Cup, which was underway, and discussing pay scales compared to the men’s and women’s events. There was some offseason NBA talk around Kevin Durant and the Knicks, more from the standpoint on if he’s a cultural fit. Chernoff told me he wanted game breakdowns and hammering home the nuts and bolts of these games.
And while I was crushed driving home that morning after taking my lumps, I realized he was right. That is what WFAN is. That’s what the greatest sports radio brand was built on. There was no questioning what their formula was and how successful it had been. And yes, that is what the audience expected.
But it was also a moment for me to look in the mirror and say to myself and think, “Do I want to spend the next 30+ years of my life breaking down pitch sequences and pinch-hitting decisions?”
The answer was no. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do that. And there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to do that.
That same summer I hosted an overnight show on CBS Sports Radio and one caller called in to ask about the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line. I didn’t deliver the answer I wanted to deliver, which was, “I don’t care”, but it was another moment to think about what I want to do in the broadcasting business.
The feedback from Chernoff crushed me in the moment, but also pushed me to have a conversation with myself regarding what was next. And what was next would not be sports, it would be news. I was also starting to realize that during a weeknight, I’d rather watch a cable news program over a baseball or basketball game.
So in the fall of 2015, I worked my way into FOX News’ new SiriusXM channel to provide sports updates, with the handshake agreement I could fill in on some of their syndicated news talk programs on the terrestrial radio side.
That opportunity to fill-in first came in the summer of 2016 for then-host John Gibson. That led to more opportunities in the next several months. And after the sad passing of Alan Colmes, who was the night host for the network, I was one of the main fill ins following his death in January 2017. It took the network a few months to figure out their plans and in the meantime I was getting to host 2-3 national news talk shows per week.
The network would eventually hire Guy Benson and Marie Harf for that slot, but I knew the news talk itch was my future. I still used sports talk and updates to pay bills and stay busy, but it was no longer part of my long-term plan.
Within a year, WBAP’s Kevin Graham, who I had the pleasure of networking with in prior months, pointed me in the direction of an opening with Cumulus for a morning show/APD job in Kansas City at KCMO Talk Radio. After several “test shows” from the WABC studios, a trip to KC, and more test shows, in March of 2018, my wife and I were packing our bags and moving. It was a city we had some familiarity with having started my radio career in Oklahoma.
But three years later, the job, company and city have wildly exceeded my expectations. We’ve started a family and are happy to call it home. And getting to cover and talk about the biggest news stories in Kansas City and around the nation, while coming off a wild 2020 election cycle, has been incredible.
And without Mark Chernoff laying into me on the sleepy summer morning in 2015, I might not be here today getting to do what I love. So while I stand by my belief that my July 2015 show was not the worst show in WFAN history, I thank Mark Chernoff for, albeit maybe indirectly, for helping me realize what my passions were and wish him nothing but the best in retirement.
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.
Daily Wire Co-CEO on Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens Spat: We Won’t Always Agree
“We employ people [and] give them a platform to give their opinion.”
The Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro and one of the platform’s big names, Candace Owens, were recently in a public feud.
It all began when Shapiro called Owens’ stance on the state of Israel “disgraceful” and “disreputable,” adding that she was attempting a “faux-sophistication” on the subject.
Co-CEO Jeremy Boreing, who wasn’t in the United States during the entire situation, appeared on The Megyn Kelly Show and was asked about the dispute.
“Yeah, I’ve been handling it by making a movie in Hungary for the last six months, which has been a great way for me personally to handle it,” Boreing jokingly said before taking a more serious tone. “We employ people [and] give them a platform to give their opinion. We’re not always going to agree with the opinions that they give.
“We empower them to be passionate with those opinions, and sometimes those passions are going to get turned in the wrong direction. And I think that in this particular case, you have two very articulate and passionate people in, Ben and Candace, whose conflict of visions on this issue spilled out into the public square, which is going to happen from time to time.
“I wish it hadn’t happened the way that it did, but it’s going to happen from time to time. And I think it just is sort of the territory when you decide to start a media company and give people broad freedom.”
WFNC Morning Host Jeff ‘Goldy’ Goldberg Retires
Jeff “Goldy” Goldberg has been a staple in the Fayetteville, NC market. However, after 18 years of hosting mornings at WFNC, Goldberg is calling it a career.
Goldberg signed off from Good Morning Fayetteville Friday morning.
“Since I announced my retirement a few weeks ago, the outpouring of love and the good wishes from not only my listeners here in Fayetteville, but my listeners in Washington D.C., has been overwhelming,” Goldberg told Fayetteville’s City View. “It has been a privilege and a joy to live out my dream for these last 45 years, and to have a second chapter like the one I’ve had here in Fayetteville exceeded my wildest dreams.”
Goldberg worked in both television and radio in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Cumulus-owned station in 2005.
“I am 80% excited and 20% nervous,” he surmised about his retirement.
Buck Sexton: Media Needs to Facilitate More Debates Like DeSantis/Newsom
“That is my fundamental premise in American politics, in American media. We have gotten to a place now where no one has to defend their positions anymore.”
Fox News hosted a debate between Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Thursday evening. The event was moderated by Sean Hannity. If Buck Sexton got his way, the made-for-TV event would be a regular occurrence.
While previewing the event on The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, Sexton argued that he wants to see more debates and discussions with differing viewpoints more frequently on cable news.
“I want to see more high-level debate. That is my fundamental premise in American politics, in American media. We have gotten to a place now where no one has to defend their positions anymore,” Sexton said. “No one is really pushed and feels like people can say, ‘Oh, well, how do we change this?’ Well, you need to have people that feel that there’s a pressure from the public for them to have to actually stand up and do it.”
He continued by noting a seemingly bygone era of cable television that featured constant discussions and presentations of both sides of political topics.
“I’ve said this before: When I first got into media, I came from an era of watching things like Crossfire, Firing Line, and these different shows, and that’s gone now. You used to have a lot more — honestly used to have a lot more debate on Fox (News). High-level people from the Democrat side would go on Fox, and those were the clips that would go viral. I feel like no one debates anymore. I’m not saying this is going to change all that, but there may be follow-up to it. There may be. So, for me, this is what needs to start.”