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Tim Wenger Has an Ever Loving Embrace for Buffalo

Wenger calls Buffalo ‘the world’s largest living room.’ “Everybody has some connection to Buffalo. My mother, grandparents, grandkids. Some sort of connection wherever you seem to go.”

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What do Spyro Gyra, Rick James, Goo Goo Dolls, Rob Gronkowski, and Tim Wenger have in common? They all emerged from the loving embrace of Buffalo, New York.

“Buffalo is a hidden gem of a city,” said Wenger, operations manager, and program director at Audacy Buffalo and NewsTalk Format VP for the company. Wenger oversees the NewsRadio 930 WBEN, WGR SportsRadio 550 and ESPN 1520 brands on air and online.

“It’s a very family-friendly city and an awesome place to raise a family,” Wenger said. He was born and raised in suburban Buffalo. “I had every opportunity to leave and go to a bigger market,” Wenger said. “The economy in Buffalo tends to remain in the middle while the costs elsewhere go high and low. Real estate is reasonable, and of course, the taxes are a bit of a problem.”

“Everything is 20 minutes away. There’s nowhere you can’t be 20 minutes.
No crazy or untoward traffic situations like you see in other parts of the country.”

Wenger calls Buffalo ‘the world’s largest living room.’ “Everybody has some connection to Buffalo. My mother, grandparents, grandkids. Some sort of connection wherever you seem to go.”

Tom Langmyer, CEO of Great Lakes Media Corp and veteran radio manager, spends time just up the street from Wenger. “He takes care of his dad but still lives in Milwaukee. Buffalo is the armpit of many jokes. A lot of cities in the rust-belt have that problem.”

His wife, Susie Rose, is a morning news anchor at WBEN.

“I went to school at SUNY Oswego (north of Syracuse). I majored in communications and meteorology. When I moved back home, I worked at WRVO in Oswego. It wasn’t long until I was banging on the door of WBEN.”

Wenger interned at WKBW-TV in Buffalo and recalled his intern supervisor contacted him after he was entrenched in a radio news career. “She was the assistant news director,” Wenger said. “They called me and said they needed some help reporting for about a year. Now, this was television. I didn’t enjoy it very much. Even if you don’t try to, the story on television seems to become part of you. On the radio, you just tell a story. It’s hard to manage people if you don’t understand what’s going on.”

Wenger said he was more of a glorified secretary than anything else when he began at WBEN working for the late Jim McLaughlin. “The program director would have described it as a distant hope I would get involved in news,” Wenger explained.

Then his now-wife, Susan, moved into the traffic copter, and Wenger took her job. Later, Susan moved on from the traffic copter, and of course, Wenger took that job. That’s when they got to know each other better.

“We’re not on the same time clock now, but were for many years,” Wenger said. “We co-anchored the same show. Most people look at me and say how can you work with your spouse? We always worked well together. She understands what I’m dealing with every day as she’s seen it first-hand. I don’t come home and get the cross-eye because she knows the type of things I deal with.”

As Operations Manager and Program Director at Audacy Buffalo, Tim oversees the NewsRadio 930 WBEN, WGR SportsRadio 550, and ESPN 1520 brands on-air and online. He also serves as the NewsTalk format VP for Audacy.

Today, he said it’s difficult to find people to fill news roles. The greatest success he’s had is cultivating local talent. “There aren’t a lot of people exiting college now saying, ‘I want to go into radio.’ There are a lot of 21-year-olds who don’t know what radio is.”

Wenger said his morning co-host came from a producing role.

“There are fewer jobs; newsrooms are smaller,” he said. “In general, there’s less commitment to local news. Odyssey has a great mall of radio stations that focus on local. There aren’t too many of those anymore. We’re local from five in the morning until ten at night.”

Wenger said on the talk side; that people tend to slant everything; politics, economy.

A month ago, it was all about the Tops supermarket shooting. There had been some talk about razing the store, but Wenger said it fizzled. “The mayor of Buffalo is firmly committed to reopening. It’s going to be an entirely different store. But it will still be traumatic for people who live in the community that have to go there. The tragedy must be overcome.”

Under the worst of times, Wenger said he had witnessed a neighborhood unite.

“I’ve seen a region come together. The mayor is concerned the city is segregated by his own admission. But says it’s improving. We all want to bring the community together.”

“I was at the Tops supermarket shooting. I remember my wife Susan asked the Mayor if he thought they would raze the store. The Mayor thought the question was being asked too soon. The plan is to reopen as quickly as possible. It’s a food desert out here. They need it in the community.”

The school in Uvalde being razed is something Wenger could get behind.

“That’s a different situation,” Wenger said. “That has to be removed.
I can understand being completely taken down. Removed from memory. Both share tragedy, but they’re different. The Buffalo shooter was clearly identified as racially motivated. That’s particularly concerning. For whatever sick reasons.”

Now, perhaps more than ever, journalists’ ethics are called into question. Wenger said he understands there are some reporters who show their bias from time to time. Some go after negative stories.”

Anything somebody doesn’t want to hear is fake news. “I do think it’s a shot from the hip reaction,” Wenger explained. “A reaction when something doesn’t fit in with their own agenda.”

It can delegitimize real news and reporting just because people don’t agree with them. “The reporters are just doing their job, telling you what happened.

Wire copy often goes out of its way to make statements against the former president,” Wenger said. “Networks will align with one side. I never thought I’d see the day. I used to enjoy CNN and the early days of FOX. You’d see a 60-minute newscast. The only place you’ll get a straight news hour is at 6:30.

When we do a political story, we hear both sides. It’s one of the biggest struggles I have, like serving two masters. We have some really talented local hosts. Many have opinions, but they’re surrounded by a news department that doesn’t.”

He said you’re fed content every time you turn on a television. “Everything is about January 6th. When I’m out at the store in line, nobody is talking about that. It’s my job to listen to what they’re talking about. I challenge our brand managers to reflect reality, put it into perspective. Ratings will follow if the engagement is real.”

Wall Street recently took a dive, and Wenger watched as all three networks were leading with coverage about Rudy Giuliani being drunk.

Wenger said you don’t have to be salacious to deliver the news and drive ratings. “One of our most highly rated stations, KMBZ in Kansas City, doesn’t do a lot of that, and ratings are going gangbusters. They talk about more interesting and nuanced things.”

He said most people are somewhere in between. They don’t want to be pulled into polars on either side.

“For me, these have been some of the most troubling times. Buffalo was very active covering BLM. The city was very active. A riot on a Saturday night was problematic for sure. It can take its toll emotionally. It does weigh on you. But I will tell you; I’ve been uplifted in Buffalo following the Jefferson Avenue shooting. I have seen hope. We have more in common than what divides.”

There’s a lot to talk about in Buffalo regarding gun issues, abortion, and the gamut. “I’ve told my hosts, producer, we have to talk about that. Most people have an opinion. Whether a 19-year-old should be able to buy an automatic rifle. On our shows, there’s no room for yelling. You’ve immediately disenfranchised half your audience and riled up the other half. We have to be aware of the tone of what we’re saying and be accepting of everyone’s opinions.”

Overall, Wenger said he’s happy with his life. “That’s probably the biggest reason I’m still in Buffalo. Also, because I’m too old to go anywhere else. I met my wife here, raised my family here. The job offers a lot of opportunity for change. Different career directions. I think if I were in a profession where you stayed in one spot, I would be bored. Since 2000, I’ve been with Audacy. Before that, it was Entercom. Both gave me a whole bunch of opportunities.”

Wenger’s entire career has been composed of welcome challenges. “I feel challenged all the time,” he said. “I’ve been a news guy, news director, flown in helicopters, run a sports station. And I’ve been able to do all that in one place. That’s satisfying. I know just about every community leader, political leader. They know they can reach out to me. Hopefully, I can affect positive change in the community. Grow roots and trust with community leaders.”

Now that his wife Susan is being inducted into the Buffalo broadcasters Hall of Fame, Wenger said he’ll have to rethink his role.

“From now on, I’ll just be referred to as the ‘First Man.’”

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BNM Writers

In News/Talk Radio, Sometimes It’s Ok to Break the Format

Sometimes, it’s ok to skip a break or two if the content is so compelling that you know your listeners can’t get enough.



photo of radio switchboard

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. As hosts, we spend hours preparing for our radio shows. Reading, listening, and consuming news of all kinds. Putting together a road map for every program. Figuring out where potential guests might fit into each hour, if at all. It’s a daily puzzle, but occasionally we have reminders that plans can, and should, go up in flames when appropriate.

Last week was a week of chaos in Kansas City, as one woman was killed and nearly two dozen injured, including one dozen children, following a shooting shortly after the Chiefs Super Bowl parade wrapped up in front of Union Station.

As broadcasters, we are asked to give the facts to update the public on a minute-by-minute basis as to what is happening in their community, but then, as talk show hosts, we are also required to opine and create engaging content around the tragic news that impacts our communities.

It’s a fine line to walk, at times, especially considering the amount of misinformation that can rapidly circulate on social media, with far too much attention being given to being “first” rather than being “right”.

And while we are working to navigate news that is constantly changing, when there’s a moment to “break the clock”, so to speak, it’s worth doing.

Friday morning, 36 hours after the shooting, FS1’s Nick Wright offered to come on my show to debate gun control, which he had been advocating for on his platforms since Wednesday afternoon. 

I had used my social media to refute many of his points, which led to his suggestion that he join my show that morning and debate on the air. The entire backstory was written about here on Barrett News Media

This came together 30 minutes before he appeared on the air. And there goes the show plans.

The conversation began at 8:05 am, and I thought to myself, if this is going well, I will keep him through a break and wrap around to the bottom of the hour.

It became apparent in the first 60 seconds that this was not going to be a hold-over conversation and that it was going to be intense. At that point, I decided to let the conversation ride as long as it felt like it was engaging content for the audience. 

That meant three breaks and the news reports had to go. Don’t worry, sales staff, we made it all up!

But I also did something I usually don’t do, I monitored our KCMO Talk Radio stream in real-time, which was jumping 15-20% each quarter hour as the conversation continued.

As for the content of the conversation, you can listen to that on our podcast and determine for yourself how you feel it went (and I’d be open to your critical feedback). 

But from a radio formatics standpoint, there are times, albeit very infrequently, when breaking the clock and the format of the hour makes sense. It has to be a feel, as much as anything else, but remember, with real-time streaming numbers that you should have access to, you can use the immediate technology available to you to at least get one data point that might clue you into if your gut is right.

In the meantime, keep hitting your breaks, getting your spots in on time, and playing by the PPM-friendly rules. Your GM, sales manager, and program director will appreciate it.

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Saluting Black Broadcasters: Arthel Neville, Fox News

“Black History Month is a time to focus and remember that we should embrace commonalities. We have more in common than not as a human race.”



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True to herself and true to the truth, Arthel Neville has graced TV screens for over 20 years. From hosting entertainment news, to acting, and for the last 10 years anchoring at Fox News, Neville said her successful career is thanks to, “A lot of hard work and it worked out and paid off.”

Growing up in New Orleans, music and celebrities we a part of Neville’s life, thanks to her famous musician father, Art Neville. Despite the fame, the Neville’s kept home life humble. “He was always daddy. He’d come home, he’d help me with my homework in the daytime because his work was at nighttime. He helped clean the house and mow the lawn and just regular stuff.” She later added, “I was always exposed to celebrities and people who had not your standard jobs, if you will. But I was always raised to just be humble, and it always just normal to me. So that was no different than if your dad went to work at a bank every day.”

After high school, Arthel Neville went to Xavier University, where she turned pre-pharmacy and made the Dean’s list. But while she was in school, “I was doing some local commercials in New Orleans. I got a regional, commercial for Burger King at the time. In my first year of college, I took a gap year.”

Neville went to New York and stayed with her dad’s friends and gave acting a full-time shot.

“I went up there and did the cattle calls like everybody else but I also got an opportunity to work on Saturday Night Live as an extra,” Neville said. She also appeared on All My Children but after 12 months, “I knew my mom told me, ‘You have one year and you have to go back to college.’ So I said alright. I didn’t get this really major part in the soap opera and then I knew that was time to go.”  

Transferring schools, Arthel Neville landed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She picked the school because “At the time Dallas had a major production facility complex. So I could work to help pay for my college.” She put together a tape and a colleague connected her with a KVUE Executive Producer.

KVUE hired Neville and she transferred to the University of Texas. For two and a half years, she went to school and worked as a full-time student and full-time general assignment reporter. Neville said of the time, “I would go to class from 8 AM to 1 PM and then I go to work from 1:30 PM to 10:30 PM.” She later added, “My days off at the time were Tuesday and Wednesday because, you know, low man on the totem pole then. So you see this cycle of just nonstop working and working and rarely I would get a holiday off my vacation time.”

Neville did the market climb until she got her national break  as an entertainment reporter on E! “I had my own celebrity one-on-one celebrity interview show for E!. This was before everybody and their grandmother was doing celebrity interviews. So it was a really big deal and it was a 30-minute show. So again, that was a big deal.” She later added,  “I’m still very, very proud of that work to this day. Really quality work. So once you get on that plane, offers start to come in. You get a lot of attention.”

Arthel Neville made appearances on several shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Moesha, and Monk. She noted, “You’re a celebrity at that point and then they call you in and word got around that I can act. So I kept getting the calls and I had a lot of fun doing that. I loved it, really a lot of fun.” She added, “After a while, I decided to leave the entertainment space and get back into hard news because I figured that that is what would provide the most longevity.”

Over the years, Neville has covered thousands of stories. But the most meaningful to her is her work after Hurricane Katrina.

“As a journalist, the story is not about us. When that story was about me, that was personal. That was my hometown ravaged and that was we lost. We lost a collective of ten family homes. I will say no one [in my family] died in this storm, thank God.”

Arthel Neville later added, “I mean, there are times when I’m out there just in a boat going to my house, I’m going to break down because I’m a person. Even writing the story had a lot of crying. I did [cry] some on camera because I’m not trying to make it about me, but I’m also a person. But mostly off-camera. That was the most difficult assignment of my life because it was personal.”

Arthel Neville has made history several times in the industry. At E!, she became the first African-American woman to host a nationally syndicated entertainment news magazine program. More recently being awarded the DeWitt Carter Reddick award from Moody College of Communications in 2017, their first African American female honoree.

When asked what Black History Month meant to her she focused less on race and more on what commonalities we, the human race, have.

“I am a Black woman 12 months of the year, 365 days of the year. So Black History Month is nice for other people who don’t walk my path and live my life to maybe stop, and focus on people who have created created a pathway not just for me, but for you and everybody else. It’s not just for Black people. People who have come in before us, who have made things better for the country.”     

She later added, “Black History Month is a time to focus and remember that we should embrace commonalities. We have more in common than not as a human race. So stop it with the looking at people from the perspective you think they’re different from you because they look different. We’re all human beings and let’s take that. Take this month to focus on that. Love each other.”

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Radio — The Communication Business Where We Don’t Communicate

Corporate policies are cold and rigid.

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A photo of a radio host in a dark studio

When I was a radio program director in the 1970s and 80s personally responding to job applicants was an important part of every work day. Nobody told me to do it, it was just obvious. Replying to letters from people who mailed me their personal introductions, resumes, and airchecks was as important to me as if they had made an appointment and were seated in my office, freshly scrubbed, smiling with hope, and making their best first impression.

Every afternoon I read their letters and resumes. I listened attentively to their carefully packaged tapes as if mining for a rare gem, which I was. I wrote encouraging letters to them whether I had a possible job for them or not. I took unexpected phone calls from job applicants.

Why wouldn’t I? These were passionate broadcasters offering their unique, hard-earned experience. They respected our station and were excited for an opportunity to join us. Besides, I’d been in their position myself and would be again. These hopeful young talents deserved my attention. To me, as a program manager, it was my primary responsibility.

None of this happens anymore. Radio job seekers today have to run a gauntlet of dehumanizing corporate job websites. When you’ve filled in all the blanks and linked the resume you spent hours perfecting you hold your breath and click “submit”. You did it! The website immediately gives you the impersonal assurance that your application has been received. You wonder if that’s true. You may never really know.

Bob Helbig is the media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. He recently found that while 60% of employers surveyed said they felt they regularly communicated with applicants, only 28% of job seekers said they felt the communication was sufficient.

Corporate policies are cold and rigid. I recently talked with a major market talk radio program director who asked to remain anonymous, which in itself tells the tale. He told me he’s not even allowed to take word-of-mouth recommendations for new hires. Email and phone inquiries are out of the question. When somebody tells him, “Hey, I know a great reporter you should talk to,” all he can reply is, “Please tell them to apply online.” The most he can do is file a name in his memory and hope it pops up in the HR-approved list of candidates.

Back in the day, I would have phoned that reporter and invited him or her to come in and talk.

As a job applicant, you know you face strong competition. All the career websites offer volumes of advice about how to prepare a strong resume to stand out from the crowd. You’ve done that. You plug it into the web portal, hoping to make an impression. You count the days since you submitted your application and check your email many times daily hoping for an encouraging reply from a real human, maybe even from the big-name program director who holds the key to your future.

Patience. You have to wait still longer.

After a few days, you wonder if a real person has even seen your application or if the algorithm is just weeding people out. Yes, indeed it is.

Artificial Intelligence now entering the process might speed things up a bit but it won’t help your need for human contact. God forbid AI takes over the screening process entirely but you can’t rule that out.

Nobody writes or calls even to say, “Thanks for your interest, we’ll get back to you.” You’re left to wonder if your love of radio, your hard work, and your beautifully written pitch even landed before a real person’s eyes.

The worst part is knowing that hearing nothing is nothing personal.

Jeff Altman is a career coach and host of the No BS Job Search Advice Radio podcast. He told Forbes, “The hiring process has been turned into sausage-making. People apply for jobs through an applicant tracking system where they are expected to homogenize their experience so they are plucked from the thousands of others. They are asked the same questions by most employers until, eventually, they are chosen and onboarded.”

How did we get to this complex and impersonal process? Laws, of course. Federal and state mandates to prevent any form of discrimination in hiring practices are good things but they don’t allow for human integrity and discretion. They’re ironclad. The difficulty for HR departments lies in making sure that the rules are followed to the letter by management employees who are not lawyers. The list of federal regulations alone is long and daunting.

“For instance, you can’t ask questions that reveal a person’s race, gender, religion, marital status, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, or age on an application or during an interview. This information could lead to biases and discrimination in the hiring process.”

Those restrictions are fairly obvious these days but they’re just the tip of a large iceberg, most of which is hidden below the surface and beyond the limits of what program directors, news directors, sales, and other radio managers are expected to know. So, yes, the software is asking only legally acceptable questions before any live interviews can take place.

I really hate being the “back in my day” old fart but my god, is there no way we can allow a young person to walk into a radio station with stars in her or his eyes, and talk to somebody about their future?

Must we expect job applicants of the 21st Century to understand that’s just the way things are or could the process be massaged a bit to keep them hopeful and feeling less like a piece of uninspected data?

Would it be so hard to send job applicants a pleasant and somewhat personal email along the lines of: “Hi, Mark. I’m in the H.R. Department at BigTime Media and I want to thank you for your application for our on-air opening at News/Talk 95.3 WTF. I will call or text you when your qualifications have been reviewed and let you know whether you can expect a follow-up live interview with somebody at the station. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. – Sincerely, Mary Sunbeam, BigTime Media”.

Sure, it’s another form letter but at least it addresses the applicant by name, refers to the specific station, and gives them a sense of humanity and hope for future contact. Assigning applicants to a real-life personal H.R. staff member like Mary Sunbeam might require a little more effort but it would be an enormous boost to the company’s reputation.

There might be other ways to go about it. The point is people need to feel their applications are worthwhile and accepted with some degree of sincere gratitude.

The ugly irony is we’re in radio, yet we talk to people, not with them.

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