Connect with us

BNM Writers

Brad Lane Is Constantly Mentoring Talkers and Guiding Producers

BNM sat down with Brad Lane, who says constant coaching of talent is part of the job as he’s always mentoring talkers and guiding producers.

Avatar photo



Brad Lane is back working in Minneapolis. He returns to the city known for the hat-tossing Mary Tyler Moore, the Vikings, and the land of 10,000 lakes– give or take a few. 

He’s not all that far from Lake Superior, but he was born nearly 1,000 miles away in Razorback country.

“I grew up all over but was born in southern Arkansas,” Lane said. “I guess I worked hard to lose the accent. In this business, you have to.”

It may read Arkansas on his birth certificate, but his heart is where the stars at night are big and bright.

“Dallas and Fort Worth were our home base,” Lane said. “My grandparents had a ranch there. The other side of the family was from Houston and Beaumont. I hate that side of Texas with all its humidity. Dallas has much more culture and interesting people. If I ever moved back, that’s where I’d go.”

Lane appears to love Texas. He said Austin is a great town. “It’s the capital; it has 6th Street, the topography and culture is beautiful.”

He said if you go, March is the best month to see the bluebonnets, SXSW; you get to enjoy great food. 

“You don’t have to deal with 1,000-degree temperatures. I always saw myself as a Texas kid, even though I was born in Arkansas. Austin is like a progressive bastillon, an island in the red meat state of Texas.”

His father was a pastor, and he wasn’t afraid to use his son’s experiences in his sermons. 

“That’s probably my first illustration of being completely transparent,” Lane said. “Everything is fodder for conversation. Everything is up for discussion. There’s no filter, and I mean that in a good way. I was used as an example frequently. I never thought anything was out of balance.”

Constant coaching of talent is something Lane says is part of the job. 

“If we talk about Roe v Wade, we have to do it with balance,” he said.  

“Hosts will come to me and ask how they should approach a specific topic. I tell them to think of the topic as why it’s important.”

“Everything you hear about preacher’s kids is probably true. My father was a Baptist minister in Texas. We went to church just about every night. Sunday mornings, of course. My father would visit homes. You just couldn’t do that today. We were at church constantly.

He said he revered his father. “At the same time, I was scared to death of him. He was an imposing figure with a bigger-than-life personality.

Lane went to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and majored in mass communications in 1992.

“I chose that school and program because of a specific instructor, Jim Reppert,” Lane explained. “He was instrumental in my going there. It was a small program combined with the theater department. Many of the classes you had to take were crossovers.”

Lane also gravitated toward photography. He said that was back in the day when darkrooms were still utilized.

“I took my favorite during my senior year. It was an advanced black and white photography class. The instructor told us we had to create ten photos by the end of the semester, all using darkroom techniques to achieve the intended outcomes.”

Lane said one of those pictures included him playing poker against himself. It’s a little complicated, so bear with me.

He had to photograph himself as though he was playing against himself in three different chairs.

“All you needed was a good 35 mm camera with a flash,” Lane said. “Many of us had to beg, borrow and steal to get the right camera. So, we set up a card table with three chairs around the table. You had to have a partner to take the shot, and I was the subject playing poker.” 

Lane and his student partner made the room as dark as possible and opened the aperture on the camera, which is essentially exposing the film. They dropped the playing cards on the table; then, his partner began to take Lane’s picture. 

“I’d make a face like I was looking at my cards for the first shot,” Lane said. “For the second shot, I’d get up and move to the next chair. Keep in mind the aperture was still open. I’d make a different expression; maybe I was looking at the other cards. Then another flash.”

Lane said this was done a third time to complete the photo.

“Since we had to take the film to the darkroom to process, we didn’t know what we had. If we had accomplished the assignment.”

I’m assuming he did, but it didn’t come up. Lane said he wrote and produced his play in this rather hybrid degree. 

“Jim Reppert was strongly encouraging me to go into television. I was doing ENG reporting. Then I got my first job offer for $11,700. A whopping figure to be a one-man-band reporter.”

Lane’s return to Minneapolis at WCCO, as joyous as it was for his family, was preceded by trying experiences. 

“In 2018, my wife Liv was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer,” Lane explained. “It’s a kind of breast cancer that does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer. The doctors threw the kitchen sink at her, and right now, she’s doing okay.”

Lane said this type of cancer does not stem from genetics. It essentially comes out of nowhere. To compound matters, Liv’s medical concerns were realized just as Lane was let go from a job in Minneapolis. So not only was his wife struggling with her illness, he was faced with sending out resumes.

“Fortunately, Good Karma Broadcasting had a position as program director for me in Milwaukee at WTMJ and ESPN,” Lane said. “I talked with Steve Wexler, vice president, and market manager, and we hit it off right away. I think the world of Steve. We have similar ideas about content and execution.”

Before he met with Wexler, Lane even contemplated getting out of the business to be with his wife. He moved to Milwaukee alone while his wife and two sons remained in Minneapolis. Sure it was a formidable distance, but it could have been much further.

“She allowed me to do it,” Lane said. “To take the job while she convalesced. I worked things out with Wex and Craig Karmazin, owner of Good Karma.”

Lane said the cancer treatments are exhausting and can do a number on a person’s body. The effects will remain with his wife for the rest of her life.

“I spent two years in Milwaukee. I loved it but wanted to get back to my family and come to WCCO,” Lane said. “I think we were able to pick up where we left off. My wife was ecstatic. She didn’t really have energy. I do all the laundry, dishes.”

He’s also proud of his boys and recognizes what they had to go through for two years.

“I may have underestimated the impact of my absence,” Lane said. I grew up with a father who was constantly gone. He was taking care of his flock at church. He was away speaking. I don’t remember my dad making it to any of my baseball games. I tried to be different. I have coached Ryder in baseball since he was five years old. I’m incredibly proud of Ryder and my younger son Truman.”

His neighbors in Minneapolis were incredibly giving when they saw their friends in need of some help. 

“They created a schedule to drive my son to high school. We’re in a good spot. Now I’m back in Minneapolis at a legendary station. With my energy and vision, I hope to keep this a relevant and vital platform. I’m surrounded by great talent.”

Lane constantly mentors talkers and guides producers.

Lane began at WCCO in April 2021. He’s had the chance to take inventory of his talent, and his overall experience allows him to reflect on others in the business.

“Many talkers know they can talk; not many know how to listen,” he said. “They’re thinking about what they’re going to say next. They miss what somebody just said. They try to think of something to say that makes them sound cool.”

“They’re underpaid, underappreciated,” said Lane. “Oftentimes, we don’t search for the best and brightest. Many producers are talk show wannabes and love the sound of their own voice. Others talk too little and are basically board ops and button pushers.”

Lane explained how you could take an amazingly gifted and talented host and pair them with a poor producer. You’ll end up with a less than satisfactory show. 

“You can also take a mediocre host with instances of brilliant work, pair them with a great producer, and have a more relevant and successful host. You can find a producer who will chime in or challenge a host.” 

He said while preparing for a show, a producer has to be nimble and fast at the draw.

“The producer must deduce if they need a guest at a certain point for content, or are they better off without them. Another aspect of a good producer is production and the use of sound design. We call it a show for a reason. Maybe a bell when you’re right or a buzzer when you’re wrong.”

Lane is aware of the impact of a well-timed actuality that can feed the dialogue.

“That all equals a better reaction. I think we’ve lost some of that along the way.

It’s not easy to stay on top of the on-air folks all the time. It’s the equivalent of being a coach of two teams simultaneously. I tend to gravitate to more local content. “

He continued–” A good producer knows when to react and respond. They know how to show rather than tell. Come in to the show with a plan. If things go awry, a producer must be as quick as the host. If they can’t find a guest, they have to determine which way to go. Know how to pivot.”

Lane explained how one of his employees stepped in to save the day.

“The guest didn’t show. The producer answered the call by mentioning Bruce Springsteen was coming to town. That quickly shifted the focus of the show and saved the moment. You have to be able to tap dance in a moment’s notice.”

The veteran program director always knew he wanted to be in some form of public forum. He would go to sleep with a transistor radio under his pillow and had a quaint idea of what radio was. What he did know about it was that radio was both engaging and relevant. 

“Those are two words we try to push in every conversation.

Expanding on that, I tell each of my hosts to touch an emotion in any way, shape, or form. Make listeners laugh, cry, even angry. You need to do that on a segment basis. Provide depth range, a balance between fun and funny.”

As a content shaper, Lane said he needs to find personalities who are interesting and engaging. But they must elicit emotions. Expand on touching the heart and the many emotions we feel on a daily basis. 

“When you make people think by asking provocative questions,” Lane explained.” We need to make them angry. Provide experiences that are hitting the brain. It’s unscripted. We must provide for entertainment and investigation.

When a host can come to the table with how they’re feeling, be quick. Trigger the audience with a lead-in. Don’t bury the lead; tell me what you’re thinking right out of the gate. Know why we’re talking about this.” 

To Lane, hosts are all about personality and topic selection. They also get to the crux of what’s happening.

“I would say WCCO is a little different from when I came on board. I’ve made some tweaks, and I’m always assessing what we’re putting out over our air. The relevance.” 

He thinks overall; in terms of talk radio, the host is personality driven. Maybe 30 percent of the hosts in the country have the right combinations innately. Those that don’t, he tries to coach and teach them. 

“Some are talking about the right things,” Lane said. “Some have a sense of what’s important. Things people are talking about at the kitchen table. They just know how to do it. Other times, I’ll explain what they could have done in a particular situation.”

He said they have only one chance to get it out right and fast.

“In every office, I’ve ever had, there’s been a radio on my desk to the right. I’ve never been sure why it has been on the right; it just always has. I always tell my hosts, if you can get me to turn toward the radio and I wonder where we are going with this, you’ve got my attention. Talk radio was never intended to be in the background. That’s the beauty of good radio.”

The way people consume content is so different from what it was back in the day. You have to have a digital footprint. Connect with your audience in a different way. 

“Maybe you’re not doing nearly as many in-person events as you may be used to,” said Lane. “You have to find other ways for your fans to ‘touch you.’ It can happen by Facebook or Instagram. Twitter doesn’t have nearly as many people as Instagram does. You can’t believe how important that stuff is.”

On-air phone calls are not as prevalent as they used to be. I’m trying to get that back on the air. We don’t live in a day and age where the phone is the only way to communicate with hosts. Old crusty veteran hosts might say, ‘I don’t do that social media stuff. They must realize its importance.”

“We need to make an effort to keep younger people interested. I have two children that never listen to terrestrial radio. Even though their father works in radio.. They listen to stuff off Itunes. One of my sons loves the Pat McAfee Show. He likes YouTube. We still need to get the attention of the younger set. It gives me a chance to get our platform in front of those who are not necessarily terrestrial listeners.”

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
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

What Chris Licht Got Right, and Wrong, During His CNN Tenure

Chris Licht faced an impossible mission of improving ratings without Donald Trump and with a staff he alienated.



The departure of Chris Licht from CNN was abrupt but expected after a string of missteps. His criticism of his predecessor Jeff Zucker spilled into criticisms of the network’s coverage of Donald Trump and the Covid pandemic, which undercut his staff. Journalists who stood up to conspiracy theories and election falsehoods from the very top felt betrayed.

I’ve known Chris for 30 years, when he served as an associate producer at a KNBC/CNBC for a daily half-hour program centered on the O.J. Simpson trial. Later, we were colleagues at NBC and kept in touch while he was at CBS and I was at ABC. He is whip-smart, congenial, worked well with big talents like Joe Scarborough, Charlie Rose, and Gayle King, and, until now, had a stellar track record.

And in his latest and biggest post — despite being put in an impossible position — did some things right, which I will highlight in a moment.

But first that impossible position. His new bosses at Warner Bros. Discovery wanted a restructuring and high ratings. They insisted on less calling out of misinformation and more “both sidesism”. So Licht had to derail the CNN train and then try to lift it back on the ratings track. No small job. Especially in a news climate that is in decline.

All the cable networks — who depended upon Donald Trump’s unpredictable, often treasonous and dangerous style — have suffered ratings decline. Fox numbers are down and so is MSNBC. The viewing public no longer has to tune in every minute of the day to see what the President is going to do or say. Life has largely returned to normal for most people.

So CNN, which could once depend upon airing and then fact-checking Trump’s latest absurdity, had to find new content.

Licht’s decision to emphasize down-the-middle news gathering seemed like a solid response to life without a bombastic — some say irrational — President.

Just cover the news, at which CNN is great. It’s the first place to turn during a mass shooting, a war, or natural disaster. But those are inconsistent events and cannot be depended upon for steady ratings. That’s the environment Licht stepped into.

He reacted with some good moves. His midday CNN News Central program, 3 hours of straight news, positions itself well to cover breaking news. It’s followed by Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer, also emphasizing news coverage.

However, unfortunately, the list of mistakes is a lot longer. Starting with Don Lemon. His “whole thing” in primetime was to be provocative and with a strong progressive bent. Licht attempted to turn Lemon into what he is not, an easy-to-watch, not opinionated host in the morning. A broadcast that was supposed to keynote the Licht agenda blew up in months. Lemon had an opinion on everything and could not get along with his co-hosts, which in morning TV is critical. The all-important chemistry was not there.

His meeting with Republican politicians on Capitol Hill to invite them back to CNN sent a message that they would no longer be challenged for disinformation. And Licht balanced the commentary panels on CNN with GOP election deniers who shouted over questions they could not answer, in turn sticking to talking points. A move that did little to attract viewers from Fox, and instead drove away legacy CNN viewers accustomed to progressive analysis and Republicans who respected opposite opinions.

Next, his attempt to normalize Donald Trump with a CNN Town Hall, somehow expecting the old rules of decorum would work became a disaster. Trump has to be covered. 30% of the electorate supports him, as do nearly 50% of Republicans. But a live Trump supporter audience overwhelmed Kaitlan Collins who was drenched by a firehouse of lies and deception.

And finally, there was Licht’s decision to make his criticisms of staff and their former coverage public in The Atlantic. A profile that made his gym trainer appear to be his top adviser.

To sum up: Chris Licht faced an impossible mission of improving ratings without Donald Trump and with a staff he alienated.

It was an opportunity wasted and a good man self-defeated.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

6 Tips For Dealing With Publicists

I’ll give you my rules for the people slinging guest pitches.

Avatar photo



Especially for morning drive shows using the news wheel, ‘newsmaker’ guests are a part of the format. Beware of publicists that may be stealing bread from your station’s mouth. I’ll give you my rules for the people slinging guest pitches.

No Local Pitches From Publicists

We are often told to keep it local. I generally agree with that statement, but working with a local publicist is a bad idea. Publicists usually get paid for any appearance. If this is a local business, you are stealing money from your station’s bottom line. Why isn’t the guest purchasing advertising from the station? 

Depending on the market, the publicist may be making enough money that would be better used on a spot campaign on your station. I programmed a station with the news wheel with “newsmaker” guests every half hour. A local doctor was talking about the ‘innovative’ procedure his office provides. Post-show, I called in the morning show host and producer. I asked if they stole from the company. These guys said, “No!” 

Then I explained that the doctor was just given 12 minutes of free advertising. The publicist got paid and the station got nothing. I also explained that that the host could have made money with endorsement spots. Now, that was never going to happen. I suggested that the host speak with sales about this amazing doctor. Of course, the doctor never met with the account executive. Lesson learned.

You Are Enriching Them, So Make Them Work for Their Dough

You booked a guest from a publicist. Make them work for the money. Have them provide all the information that you need. A picture of the guest for social media. The interview is on your time, not theirs. 

I had a publicist ask if I could pre-record their amazing guest at 4 in the afternoon, I said no. I only do guests live except in extraordinary circumstances. Occasionally, I’ll do a hit with one of the weekend syndicated hosts on my station. He does a local show at the same time that I am on the air.  So, that is fine. I would pre-record Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but almost no one else. 

It’s Your Show. Ask the Guest Your Questions. 

If a publicist provides a list of suggested talking points, shred them. Do not do the interview for the guest or publicist, do it for your audience. Ask the questions that are focused on your listener. 

The guest is getting free air time and the publicist is getting paid. If the guest and booker don’t like that? Who cares. I don’t do my show for them. I also never tell any guest about the questions that I could be asking. If there is a news story that is related to the guest, I am asking about that first. Being topical is your job.

The Emails Often Look Like the Endcap at Walmart

Here is what I mean: Publicist offers someone very cool. You contact them.  The guest that the publicist offered is unavailable or ‘already’ booked at the time you need. So, the publicist highlights other potential guests that are not that appealing. 

Just like the endcap at Walmart, the email looks appealing. Unfortunately, it is only to get you to open the email. 

I received an email offering a really top guest that would be perfect for my show. I called the publicist and she told me that her guest was open at my time. Awesome. I thought that I had a good score. 

I booked 3 days ahead and the publicist let me know that the guest was unavailable the afternoon before the interview. Since the guest was never confirmed, I didn’t promote it. 

When to Cut Ties With a Publicist 

If the guest slinger only provides people who are only wanting to sell stuff on your show? Move along. Obviously, all guests need to plug their stuff. We all know this. 

About a decade ago, New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was booked on The Dan Patrick Show. Part of the reason was he was going to plug Qualcomm. Well, Matt Harvey didn’t want to speak about anything but Qualcomm. It was a sales pitch and nothing else. 

Publicists should have their clients prepped so that they are booked to talk about their expertise and will get a chance to plug their book or service. 

How to Get Guests Off the Talking Points

In the ’90s, I produced The Barbara Carlson Show in Minneapolis. The great actor Karl Malden was booked to promote the Oscars. 

Let’s say that Karl was not in the mood to discuss anything but the Oscars. So, Barbara wasn’t going to let Karl get away with it. She buttered him up, telling Karl that he had a sexy nose.  Then Barbara asked Karl if he had snorted cocaine at those amazing Hollywood Parties. 

80-year-old Karl lost his cool. She got him off the talking points. It became an interesting interview. 

The publicist was really mad about this. It was really good radio. It’s always about good radio and not pleasing some guest that is a one-time hit. Please the audience. Make memorable radio.

We all use publicists.  Realize that you are their meal ticket.  I am always surprised that I don’t at least get a holiday card from the publicists that I use on a regular basis.  Don’t be naïve about these people.  Hey, we all must make a living.  They are a tool for you to use as you please. 

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Samantha Rivera Is What Every Live Reporter Should Strive For

Bill Zito



Moxie. It’s a great word and it is not used enough these days. Maybe it’s not applied enough because not enough people have it, or not enough people show it. Samantha Rivera has moxie.

That is no patronizing remark, it is an unquestionable fact if you ask me, so do not even go there.

Samantha Rivera is a sports reporter for CBS News Miami, but she hit the jackpot in Las Vegas during a live shot at game two of the Stanley Cup Final.

What did she do you ask?

She did her job, with a flourish, strength, and without even breaking eye contact with the camera.

It’s the age-old story; a jersey-wearing nitwit sees the camera, the mic flag, and decides to bust in on the live shot.

Samantha Rivera’s live shot. And as we all have seen by now; she was not having it.

I am no play-by-play champion, so I recommend watching for yourself if you haven’t already. In this instance, watching an act of capability and composure takes extraordinarily little time.

Look, I still like sports and I still understand the motivation some fans have when they’re at a game or at a bar or even on the street outside the arena.

And as one of the inaugural season ticket holders for the Florida Panthers, a former South Floridian, and a guy who shares a first and a last name with the Panthers GM (I came along first, I checked), it’s not like I wasn’t keeping tabs on the game anyway.

But back to the fans, let us remember something: fan is short for fanatic or fanaticism.

Sports fans are much like those with strong political leanings, although in my observations sports fans usually have a little bit more on the ball and they possess a greater knowledge of the facts involved.

But we need to remember something else as well: reporter is short for somebody with a job, a job that has to get done, often in a challenging environment.

When the journalist meets the village idiot, for all our sakes the journalist has to win.

And Samantha Rivera won. And it was a victory we all should appreciate. News and sports coverage remained that one degree smarter as a result of a professional doing her job and doing it well.

We were spared a black eye, a dose of ridicule, and a round of catcalls because Samantha Rivera stepped up to the plate and went to bat for herself and for all of us really, and she did it at hockey game.

A great moment has gone viral, everybody is covering it and CBS Miami has an exceptional story to tell. They even got to interview their own reporter, a reporter who was the story.

This is one of those times when a reporter making the news is a good thing.

No idiot is calling a colleague a reprehensible name and getting fired here.

A professional’s personal life is not sending their career over a cliff in this scenario.

This time the reporter is seen pushing back against wrongful interference and emerging victoriously.

No big fight, no injuries, no penalty box.

Of course, there is at least one mutant out there still looking for high-fives for the half-second of screen time his shoulder and a third of his face got.

A live shot is not a “free swim” for the moronic, that lesson was reinforced in of all places, Las Vegas.

Live coverage is fun because it’s challenging but what I think should be called to attention here is how well Samantha Rivera handled things and did the job all while keeping a “take no shit” attitude.

I believe it’s a good representative look for a reporter.

That’s the way it’s done, the way it needs to be done and all the praise this pro among pros is getting is just.

Samantha Rivera now has the only shot she will ever need for her reporter reel.

So, in this case, it was a good thing that what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading


BNM Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.