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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.”

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WFAN/Facebook

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrea

    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

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BNM Writers

The Debate About Debates Will Continue to Rage On

I’ve determined that it’s a no-win for the moderator. Interrupt too much, and you’re a jerk. Stick to time too much, and you’re a neurotic jerk.

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A photo of the 2024 Republican Presidential candidates
(Photo: Fox News)

There’s been so much talk about debates ever since President Joe Biden and Donald Trump agreed to two of them.

Do we need them? If so, how many? Too many. Not enough. Who are they even for?

Microphones: Should there be a kill switch?

Audience: To have or to have not.

Then, there’s the issue of the moderating.

Why does everyone stink at it? How involved should they be? How many should there be? Even on Barrett News Media, their very own existence was put up for debate.

I have done one in my career. It was “meh” at best. It may be one of my legitimate blind spots (and here you are, thinking I can do anything).

Despite all of those above questions and a certain modicum of self-doubt about my ability to perform the duty well, I am all in for doing them locally — whenever and wherever possible.

In studio. At a diner. Library. Church. Ice cream shop. You name it.

Why?

Good, bad, or indifferent, it satisfies a big thirst in the local news desert, and it’s great exposure for the station and the show.

The companies that produce written words (formerly known as newspapers) don’t seem overly interested in leading the way with political coverage. When there’s a news conference or nominating event, they cover it, but there’s very little enterprise reporting at the moment.

Same with television, and some local stations don’t even have a dedicated political reporter anymore.

10 years ago, congressional candidates might not even consider a radio-focused debate. Television was king, and newspapers were thorough. Now, as it sits, things are different, and if I land a congressional or senate race, I can go get TV to simulcast – and not the other way around. Even if the TV stations don’t bite on the opportunity, I can record it myself and post it on YouTube.

Having said all that, I am not 100 percent certain of this, but I think it’s true. And we’re about to test it.

My initial approach is the lowest-hanging fruit – candidates who need exposure badly. In my state, that’s the Republican primary in the race to face two-time incumbent Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). Murphy is a huge favorite, and the Republican primary will get very little attention.

Motivated candidates. Under-the-radar race. Perfect for me.

Then, there’s actually a race garnering national attention that I will take a shot at. Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District has a rematch from 2022, and it’s close – really close. The Republican candidate will take as many debates as possible, and the Democrat may bite because my show has a lot of unaffiliated voters. She needs them to keep her seat.

As for the debates themselves? Let’s be honest, there’s a cringy-ness to political debates. People are nervous. Time is limited, and it’s bizarre to say negative things about a person when they are right next to you.

That’s why we watch and listen even if our minds are made up about voting.

As a moderator, the issues are myriad. What kind of format should you have? Well-defined timing and rebuttals or let them go? How do you fact-check in real-time when you have a staff of two? What kind of questions should you ask? Where should it be? Live audience? Allow parties to have an equal number of “guests”, or have it be a free-for-all for attendance?

I’ve determined that it’s a no-win for the moderator. Interrupt too much, and you’re a jerk. Stick to time too much, and you’re a neurotic jerk. Let them go, and you’re a wimp. Have an imbalance in talk time, and you’re biased.

I don’t care; it’s worth it, especially since single-host radio seems more fluid and better set up for authentic debate. I won’t (hopefully) have to share time with one or two other moderators, and with radio, it feels easier to interject, deflect, and pivot.

Maybe that’s just a feeling, but it’s how I feel.

Oh, and one last thing. Do me a favor: Don’t share this article or tell anyone. I don’t want the TV guys to know I’ve got the jump on them.

Thanks.

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BNM Writers

2024 Presidential Race Has a Media Problem

It’s not just the media’s fault, political candidates typically stick with more friendly outlets.

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President Biden recently said he was Vice President under Barack Obama when COVID started. This is false. President Trump spends more time “truthing” in ALL CAPS than he does in the “Ice Box” New York Courtroom. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has a worm in his brain which gives him short-term memory loss. These are the three candidates who are dominating the media headlines for the 2024 election.

But, are these men the best candidates America has to offer? Unlikely, but it is what we have because the media and the political establishment have drowned out our ability to have rational people running for political office. It’s time for the media to do better.

Most outlets pander to their audience which enables confirmation bias (all things we’ve talked about before). Through all the skewed news, there is one cable news outlet that’s been capable of having substantial air time with all three candidates, CNN. Their coverage, however, is laced with criticism:

Mediaite: CNN Called Out For Not Fact-Checking Biden Interview With Erin Burnett

CNN: Analysis: CNN faces harsh criticism after Trump unleashed a firehose of lies during its live town hall

Real Clear Politics: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: CNN Edited Interview So It Looked Like I Said Biden Was More Of A Threat To Democracy Than Trump

In essence, what these articles say is CNN lets major political candidates slide while subsequently chopping up interviews from third-party candidates. Oliver Darcy’s article does note CNN defended itself for letting Trump rampage on about election interference saying, “That is CNN’s role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account.” But letting a candidate repeatedly say the 2020 election was stolen is hardly holding him accountable.

This is why it’s not shocking both the Biden and Trump campaigns agreed upon “The most trusted name in news” to host their first debate. Despite the outlet having less than One Million viewers for their day (462,000) and primetime (601,000) Nielsen ratings in March.

It’s not just the media’s fault, political candidates typically stick with more friendly outlets. The media does try and reach out to opposing candidates (okay, some outlets don’t really try to get opposing politicians and that’s a different story) but very few politicians can handle the pressure from the opposing side.

If a political candidate can not take the heat from so-called “journalists” who are challenging you with the opposing side of an argument, how are you going to handle everyone else in the world (because let’s face it even some of our closest allies aren’t the biggest fans of US).

The media is the 4th estate, which means we have to confront, pester, and question our politicians (even when we agree with them). Very few members of the press do this now and the ones who do are labeled as ‘difficult’ by media outlets and often ignored by politicians.

Aside from the labels, some (but not enough) in the mainstream media aren’t openly recognizing the biggest elephant in room, the age of our politicians. In 2023, Statista reported, the average age of the House of Representatives is 57.9 (this isn’t bad). The average age in the Senate is 64 (not great but I’ll take it). Out of all of these politicians, the best we can do are three guys who are in their 70s and 80s. Whenever Joe Biden stumbles up the stairs or opens his mouth I’m not sure if I’m watching a real-life remake of Weekend at Bernie’s or I’m watching elder abuse.

There are over 330 million people living in the United States. Most voting-age adults did not want to see a Trump/Biden match-up again yet, here we are. Mr. Kennedy likely won’t make the Oval Office. He will, however, take votes away from both Democrat and Republican candidates.

The President should represent the best America has to offer. I’d like to think those who’ve held and run for office have been at their best, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Historically some haven’t been, but at least LBJ and Taft tried.

When the media doesn’t confront, pester, and question our politicians it shows they have given up. It is the media saying these three are the best America has to offer, (a guy who might have Alzheimer’s, another who might be a narcissist, and the third who admits to having a worm in his brain). It’s a travesty. A Democratic Republic (because America is not a Democracy) only works when every power does its job correctly. Ben Franklin said it, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Right now the media is not doing enough due diligence to keep it.

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Norah O’Donnell Interview With Pope Francis Leads 60 Minutes to 18% Ratings Jump

It was its most-watched edition in five weeks, and the third-most watched within the past ten weeks.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of Norah O'Donnell interviewing the Pope
(Photo: CBS News)

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell sat down with Pope Francis for a historic interview that originally aired on Sunday, May 19 on 60 Minutes. This was the first time a pope has given an in-depth, one-on-one interview to a U.S. broadcast network. It also marked the 56th  season finale of the long-running CBS newsmagazine.

Among the topics discussed in the interview were same-sex marriage, clergy sexual abuse scandals, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the May 19 edition of 60 Minutes averaged 7.33 million viewers. up +18 percent from its prior week and ranking first in the hour. It was its most-watched edition in five weeks, and the third-most watched within the past ten weeks, behind March Madness Elite-8-fueled Mar. 31 (10.365 million) and Masters golf-fueled Apr. 14 (8.588 million). 

One factor of the increase was what led into it: the final round of the major golf tournament, the PGA Championship (4.958 million for 1-7:14 PM ET, above average from a regular golf tournament audience).

A lengthier version of the interview Norah O’Donnell held with Pope Francis aired on CBS the following night on Monday, May 20 at 10 PM ET. That delivered an audience of 2.247 million viewers, which placed behind NBC’s Weakest Link (3.011 million) and Fox News’ Gutfeld! (2.871 million) within the hour.

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