Plenty to Take Away From Steve Somers’ Legendary Career
“Somers was the first talk show I ever called, close to 20 years ago, and was the person I would listen to while doing middle school or high school homework in the evenings.”
As Steve Somers gets set for his final show this Friday night, there’s plenty to take away from one of the most legendary careers in sports talk radio. And it’s not just about what Steve did behind the mic for decades at WFAN. It’s also about who he was as a person.
Having spent a few years as a freelance anchor, I spent many nights walking in and out of Steve’s studio every 20 minutes for a 20/20 update. And even in the early days, when some nerves existed sitting next to Steve, working with him, and being on the FAN, there was no one more soothing in the building. Although, he did have a habit of taking his effortless, late-night style and building up to the toss to the update anchor where by the time he mentioned your name, he was like Usain Bolt coming down the final 10 meters of a race.
But then, he’d give you a look, wink, and/or smile, leave the studio, and get his 14th cup of coffee. He also is the only person other than my mother to call me “Peter.” Why did he do it? I have no idea. But I didn’t mind it. Also, I didn’t feel like having to correct him.
On a personal note, Steve Somers was the first talk show I ever called, close to 20 years ago, and was the person I would listen to while doing middle school or high school homework in the evenings.
Fast forward ten years, when getting the chance to work on his show, he was always genuine, interested in you, while at the same time keeping himself incredibly humble, almost to a fault.
For as long as I worked there, Steve was one of the most-liked guys in the building because, despite his longevity with the station, he wanted to grow with it. He got to know the new faces, the part-time faces, who were coming in and out of the building. He wasn’t looking around the studios, barely recognizing anyone, and beamoning the “good old days,” as many in his shoes might do.
And while he liked to talk sports in the hallways, he also talked about life. He would talk about his path through the broadcasting world, where he succeeded, where he failed. These stories could come before a show, during a game broadcast when he would have downtime, or possibly even during a commercial break. Sometimes the stories felt like one of his monologues, the difference being you didn’t know the end result, as you did with the game he was talking about on the air.
Speaking of monologues, no Steve Somers story is complete without mentioning them. While I admittedly haven’t heard one in a long time since moving out of the New York area, they were art. Although if you saw the scribble on the yellow notepad, you probably wouldn’t think so. But when you heard them, the way they were written and delivered, there was nothing like it in sports talk radio. They were clever, funny, just enough sarcasm while also being informative. It was storytime. And it was trained to listen. You had to adjust to it, but once you adjusted, there was nothing like it.
And as far as I’m concerned, no one in sports talk radio will tell a story as unique as Steve Somers ever again.
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.
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Nielsen Will Face Many Questions With Major Methodology Changes
Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version.
I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend! Last week, I gave a little history of the seven-day Nielsen radio paper diary which, if you believe the trades (and the trades are always right including this one!), could be replaced with an online version by late 2025.
This week, I’ll discuss the issues surrounding what would be a major methodological change in a system that not everyone loves, but for the most part, everyone involved knows well.
Will the results differ when Nielsen changes methodologies? The answer is almost always a resounding “yes”.
Even the smallest changes can affect the results and when results differ from expectations, someone will be upset or as I’ve told people for years, “We’ve never figured a way to create more than 100 share points in radio”.
On a share basis, if someone gains, someone else has to lose. And for now, let’s not think about what might happen to usage levels.
Let’s consider the potential reasons for differences in results between the paper diary and an online version. The list is not exhaustive, but you’ll get the general idea of the complexity:
- Will the sampling be the same as currently used? The Nielsen Audio sampling system has evolved over the years from using only landline telephone numbers to adding cell phones in 2009 (probably the first major survey of its kind to do that in the US) to using mail-out pre-surveys (the address-based sampling frame) ensuring the most everyone has a chance to be part of the sample.
- Will individuals that fill out paper diaries be the same ones who fill out the online diary?
- What will be the effects on response rate and proportionality?
- Will the listening levels (PUR meaning Persons Using Radio) be statistically the same, in other words, the results could be different, but not due to the method?
- What about the number of entries and the quality of those entries in the online diary compared to the paper diary? Will the online diary be easier or harder to edit when there are unclear entries?
- The paper diary is completely unaided, in other words, the “diarykeeper” fills in whatever they think they’re listening to with no help from Nielsen. An online diary could include prompts. Will such a version be tested?
- Will diarykeepers be more likely to fill out the diary in “real-time” versus taking care of the chore at the end of the week? We know that a majority fill out the current diary after the fact.
- For that matter, the “diary week” has been Thursday to Wednesday for nearly 60 years. Could that change and if so, what would be the effect of that change?
- How will incentives be delivered? Currently, money is included with the package that includes the diaries, but I don’t think Nielsen wants to try using Venmo or PayPal or some other method to send out incentives. If there is one thing that’s been learned over time about survey incentives, cash is still king. That means plenty of mailings just as is done currently.
- How many markets will be part of the test?
- What kind of pretesting will be done? Will various designs be tested with focus groups or “one on ones” ahead of a major test?
- What will be considered an “acceptable” online diary? It’s easy to leave a question blank in the paper diary, for example, race and ethnicity, but the online diary could force an answer. Perhaps the online diary will offer “none of the above” or “I don’t want to answer this question”, but would options like that lead to more ascription (meaning filling in the data based on other information)?
You’ve just read twelve research and operational issues and almost certainly, I’ve missed something. The researchers inside of Nielsen have likely put together a longer list and also considered the costs and benefits.
These and other questions will be asked by the various industry groups and committees such as the Media Rating Council, NAB’s COLRAM (Committee on Local Radio Audience Measurement), the NRRC (Network Radio Research Council), and the big ownership groups.
My perspective is that this change should have taken place years ago. As noted last week, the original E-Diary had one easily fixable design flaw which should have been changed and then refined over time so that the industry could adjust.
Instead, the early termination in 2007 and focus on the 48 PPM markets put the industry in the situation we have today. Nielsen Audio has painted itself into a corner. The online diary has to work because failure means the paper diary will be with us through most of this decade.
The financial side of the house has likely figured the cost savings from the change which means “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” regardless of the test results unless the test is a complete disaster, which is unlikely.
Further, any change means IT fixes which are often slow. Speeding things up requires the assumption that the test version can be implemented as designed, in other words, the programming changes will be done in parallel. If the test works well, you’ll see far faster implementation, which is great. If the results are controversial, you’ll also see a fast implementation, whether you like it or not.
Considering that the video side of Nielsen is facing an unprecedented amount of competition as well as criticism, the company would no doubt like to see even more profit from the near-monopoly radio service. The industry may complain, but the end result will be similar to the change to monthly rolling averages a few years back.
If you don’t like it, find another vendor. Of course, competition in this field is rather limited. My advice to the industry is to work together, ask a lot of questions, and fully understand what the outcomes mean for your companies, your stations, and your talent.
Let’s meet again next week.
One of the radio industry’s most respected researchers, Dr. Ed Cohen writes a weekly column for Barrett News Media. His career experiences include serving as VP of Ratings and Research at Cumulus Media, occupying the role of VP of Measurement Innovation at Nielsen Audio, and its predecessor Arbitron. While with Arbitron, Cohen spent five years as the company’s President of Research Policy and Communication, and eight years as VP of Domestic Radio Research. He has also held the title of Vice President of Research for iHeartMedia/Clear Channel, and held research positions for the National Association of Broadcasters and Birch/Scarborough Research. Readers can connect with him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Media Sources You Can Count On To Deliver News, Not Misinformation
“This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.”
The internet is a beautiful thing, except when it is not. At a tap of your finger it brings a world of information, or a firehouse of disinformation. Rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and unvetted “news” from every angle of the political, medical and economic spectrum. The internet is NOT to be trusted, and frankly the world needs to get off the web at least 22 of the 24 hours in a day.
Gone are the days when trusted filters with long track records and editors with green-shaded visors poured over copy for sources and evidence. Today, we are bombarded with tweets, blogs, and aggregates written by anyone with a computer who claims “I do my own research”.
So, as a public service I here now recommend the following list of 5 vetted, trusted sources of information and news which have systems in place to avoid misinformation, and when they make mistakes, retract and revise. Yes, the New York Times and many in the mainstream media made huge errors in the run up to the Iraq War, but they later admitted as such and chastised themselves.
This list will consume under 2 hours of your day and allow you to sound smart at dinner parties, pick a President, know the sports scores and go about your day.
1. Turn off cable news, unless there is a major breaking news; a new war, a school shooting, plane crash or otherwise. And then tune into CNN which has the world’s largest TV reporting staff, way ahead of any other domestic broadcast service. The rest of the time, CNN and the other major cable networks MSNBC and Fox are filled with comment and opinion. While that can be entertaining, it is not news and not necessary. My guilty pleasure is Rachel Maddow.
2. Watch one or more of the 3 evening network TV broadcasts and 60 Minutes on Sunday. Even watching all 3 nightly news programs takes less than an hour if you fast forward through the commercials. They are a quick 18 minutes of news, a summary of the top stories of the day reported with perspective and in most cases experienced journalists. They have seasoned editors who vet each story and best of all, there is no time for opinion. No commentators, just news. CBS is my favorite, NBC a close second. But that’s subjective, the most popular is my former place of employment for nearly 20 years, ABC. CBS has 2 excellent Washington political correspondents, Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa, former newspaper reporters (Washington Post) with an emphasis on straight reporting, rather than looks and performance. NBC has Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O’Donnell and Peter Alexander, with years of experience. ABC has Jon Karl, Martha Raddatz, Pierre Thomas and the up and coming Mary Bruce, all of whom know their stuff.
But perhaps most important, the process at the networks makes for few mistakes. Each script is reviewed by “the rim”. That consists of a senior producer, the executive producer and in most cases, the anchor/managing editor. Opinion, error and bias are flushed out. As are grammatical mistakes.
3. Respected national newspapers: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Reading the top stories in these papers takes more time, but each has more actual reporters than television, radio or blogs. Their reporting is straight and dependable. And in an hour over morning coffee you will be educated and filled with data and information that will be useful when you encounter the hate filled disinformation flooding your direction each day on the internet.
4. If you have time, move to the second tier of newspapers on line. More regional in their coverage….the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution or your local paper.
5. The Daily podcast. An arm of the New York Times, this half hour or so audio deep dive into one subject of importance makes one smarter. Each weekday morning the hosts who are decidedly not radio veterans with big voices or rapid fire cadences, interview a Times reporter about a story on their beat. From the Supreme Court to Congress to the White House and beyond. Another guilty pleasure: Countdown with Keith Olbermann, decidedly from the left, but smart and a great writer/performer.
That’s it. We would all be better served by limiting our intake. Choose a few of the myriad of would be news organizations. Make your own list, chosen after they have earned your trust. I know I have left out the scores of narrowly focused internet outlets from Politico to the Daily Beast. Mostly because they are insider type publications or in many cases aggregators which merely take from other news sources and re-publish to the internet. I’m not saying don’t read them but they can be done without for the general reader.
Also save your precious time by avoiding the tabloids, from the NY Post to the Daily Mail. And agenda publications like Breitbart and Daily Caller. They are not dependable, and they are filled with conspiracies and disinformation.
Use Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to share memories and photos, not conspiracies. And Twitter to alert you to ongoing events or breaking news. But switch to your trusted sources after the alert. Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, my feed has become a deluge of hate and right wing drama.
It’s hard to look away, but we would all be better off if we did.
Jim Avila serves as a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. An Award-winning journalist with four decades of reporting and anchoring experience, Jim has served as Senior National Correspondent, 20/20 Correspondent, and White House Correspondent for ABC News. Prior to his time with ABC, he spent a decade with NBC News, and worked locally in Los Angeles and Chicago for KNBC, and WBBM. He can be found on Twitter @JimAvilaABC.
The News Media Industry Is Better in 2023 Than It Ever Has Been Before
For every news viewing option, there is an equal and opposite news viewing option. Or at least that’s what Sir Issac Newton must have meant.
The science is settled. No counter-argument will be heard. Consensus has been reached. Our futures, and that of our children, grandchildren, and polar bears everywhere, may very well be at stake.
And should you have the temerity to be a denier, you may very well be canceled.
The science is settled on this very fact — the news media industry is better in 2023 than it has ever been before.
Surprised by the boldness? What about the balkanization, you ask, with consumers dug into their political and ideological corners? What about the fact that families no longer gather around the television to watch the evening news, as they did in bygone eras?
How about the fact that many new broadcasters, hosts, and personalities have turned the news into a game of “look at me” instead of “just report the facts.”
And why does the news media consistently score so low in terms of respect it is given by Americans?
With all those truths, how can one possibly think we are witnessing the news media’s glory days?
The answer to these questions depends on how one defines “news media”. In years past, the television news media basically consisted of three major television networks – ABC, NBC, and CBS. They would decide what news to report and then did so in the manner they felt was proper. As has been covered here, this delivery largely consisted of an unopposed left-leaning viewpoint. The balancing effect of traditional, conservative news options, such as Rush Limbaugh and the earlier days of Fox News, had yet to emerge.
But in the year 2023, it is much more accurate to describe the news media as a conglomerate of seemingly non-related options, offered over countless modes of delivery.
We have news outlets that cover national news, local news, financial news, entertainment news, sports news, crypto news, political news, religious news, etc. They reach us through radio signals, cables, satellites, or the internet. This array of transmission methods means that more people worldwide can tap into one of these options. One doesn’t need to be sitting in front of a cable-ready television at 6:00 PM to view the news. Today, news is ubiquitous.
This overwhelmingly diverse assemblage of subject matter options makes up our modern-day news media. And this is where the real value is realized by the consumer. This is precisely why the news media industry has never been better at achieving its goal of educating and informing its audience. Separating opinion from objective journalism is a topic for another, much longer, piece.
Today, the viewer wins by having a smorgasbord of options literally at his or her fingertips. Your options are as specific and focused as your tastes.
We have so many options. You can learn about Tesla’s future by watching Brighter with Herbert on YouTube. Learn about living from a Christian worldview from Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church. Catch up on Bitcoin or Ethereum news with Rob on Digital Asset News. Among thousands of other options.
Some viewers still wind down at night by watching the primetime television lineup on MSNBC, CBS, or Newsmax, if winding down is possible while getting riled up. The options are limitless to find the content you desire, on the schedule you demand, and delivered in the method you prefer. Your options are as endless as your time allows!
Another often-unspoken benefit of this assortment of news options is that, innately, we know opposing options counter our preferred news sources. Unlike previous generations, where opposing viewpoints and diverse thought was often hidden from viewers, today’s consumers are wise to the fact that most news is delivered with a healthy dose of bias. Liberal bias, conservative bias, bullish bias, bearish bias, etc.
For argument’s sake, we can use the programming examples mentioned above and understand that there are also options available for those that believe the opposite – perhaps they don’t believe in a bright future for Tesla, maybe they are atheists, or possibly some, like legendary investor Warren Buffett, believe Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.”
For every news viewing option, there is an equal and opposite news viewing option. Or at least that’s what Sir Issac Newton must have meant.
Because viewers’ eyes are open and they have limitless options, they are free to go down any rabbit hole they’d like. And in many instances, they can do so, literally, for free.
One can only imagine how this dynamic might improve, or denigrate, with the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence. Will AI create even more detailed and informative content at an unimaginable pace? Or will AI develop disinformation so precise it cannot be deciphered from the real thing? Although theories abound, only time will tell what kind of impact AI has on the news media industry.
What cannot be denied, however, is that consumers have more options today to learn about endless and varied topics. For this reason alone, news media has never been better in its impact on the lives of its customers.
We should all salute Mr. Newton and agree that he has been correct all along.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
November 29, 2021 at 8:18 pm
and now one of the two gentlemen of NY sports radio has retired – pray that Richard Neer stays around a while