Sometimes a man needs to pack up his VW bus, slip on his driving gloves, slap on his Aqua Velva, and just hit the road.
After college, current radio PD and broadcaster Mike Ragozino drove across our vast country to visit friends. Perhaps engage in a bit of soul-searching along the way.
He said the best part of the trip was tuning to all the local stations along the way.
“Radio was my only companion,” Ragozino said. “I heard a rock station here, a pop station there. That trip was such an eye opener.”
An illuminating journey, to be sure; for him, radio wasn’t about being a jock on the air or being cool. If it weren’t for radio, he’d probably have gone into teaching. The man probably would have been an English teacher and high school coach.
That was Plan B.
“I was Ragz way before radio,” Ragozino said.
There was no reach or manufacturing with that nickname; it was a no-brainer. “My first PD asked me to change my name to Mike Malone. I thought Ragz was much better, but I figured if that’s what he wanted, I could live with that.”
Some PDs don’t know a good air name when they hear it.
He looks a bit like Joe Rogan, the podcaster. Just enough to get some ribbing on his morning show.
When he came to Indiana from the east coast in 2006, Ragozino said there was certainly an element of culture shock—moving from a place offering a good slice of pizza whenever you wanted to a place with no good pizza.
“Midwest people are like east coast blue-collar people,” Ragozino said. “They treat you well. The cost of living in the Midwest is fantastic. And I think the radio is just as good, especially being only an hour outside of Chicago.”
He makes it to Wrigley Field every once in a while to see the Cubs and some White Sox games.
“Our stations have a strong affiliation with Notre Dame. We go to a ton of games. Get out and tailgate.”
While working in Indiana, Ragozino had the opportunity to interview Rudy Ruettiger of the movie Rudy.
“He was different, a bit eccentric. He was also quite the character. Ruettiger is a legend in some areas. In South Bend, they don’t make much of a fuss about him.” He also interviewed Sean Astin, who played Rudy. “He was more normal.”
Indiana has long been synonymous with basketball. But, Ragozino said as he’s situated further north in Indiana, where football is just as big, if not more so.
“We have a kinship with Notre Dame, Butler, Indiana University, and Purdue.”
He started at a classic rock station, WNNJ, in Sussex, New Jersey. Ragozino enjoyed that experience. Then moved on to WAOR in South Bend, Indiana.
When WAOR flipped to sports in May 2012, Ragozino lived his dream of programming an all-sports station.
“When I learned of the switch, the management thought I would be a little disappointed. I couldn’t have been happier.” Ragozino co-hosted a weekly one-hour show with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown.
Now he’s program director of WOWO News/Talk 1190 AM and WKJG The Fan. Both are locally owned and operated by Federated Media. Ragozino does the news and traffic on Fort Wayne’s Morning News.
Ragozino said his on-air shifts are still a gas. “I can’t get rid of that bug. Doing sports and traffic is fun. People ask why I still get up at 3:30 for a morning gig, and I tell them it’s what I do.”
He said he could handle his PD duties from anywhere these days. Ragozino likes getting up early, having a cup of coffee, and catching up on the news.
“Those are the reasons I got into this business in the first place.”
When Ragozino started in school at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, he wanted to be the next big host on WFAN.
“When I got out, I just wanted to get a job.”
He pulled the graveyard shift at a local classic rock station from midnight to 5:00 a.m. “That’s a rough shift,” he said. “You never really get it together.” He did it for seven months, and that was plenty.
He helped launch a classic hits station in Newton, New Jersey, where he was program director. He got caught up in the music side of things, and made some good money for those days. After a few years, it was back to sports. He wanted to get into a larger market and moved to Portland.
“It’s not the heart of sports, but I had the Trail Blazers.”
Ragozino said being a good PD is all about leading the team.
“It goes beyond radio stuff,” he explained. “I enjoy teaching and mentoring people. I think mentoring is kind of a lost art. I like to find young talent that wants to be in radio, especially news. That’s the big part of what I do.”
Ragozino’s excitement about the news is still visible.
“News is urgent and vital. It’s different every day. You can’t beat that. Today people jump on Twitter to see what’s going on, but it’s not the same as radio. I like to follow multiple sources and see what’s going on. There’s more of a communal feel to radio. I don’t know if it’s going to be the case in 20 years.
When a tornado is ripping through town, I don’t jump on Twitter. I turn to my radio station.”
But Twitter is still important to Ragozino. He said he uses other platforms, but Twitter has become his AP wire. “I am able to see the urgent stuff, a trade deadline in MLB. I just hit refresh on my phone and the world is at my fingertips.”
Ragozino said the different platforms can offer a lot of crap at times. “You have to filter through some of it to get to something worthwhile. Before I go on air it’s more of the traditional sources, but once I get on the air it’s Twitter, things that are trending.”
If there’s a blue check next to the source, Ragozino might see it as credible. If he sees Ken Rosenthal’s byline on something, he said he won’t question the news as much. Once he’s off the air he’s more selective about what he looks at. It’s more entertainment based.
Ragozino has always a team leader.
“I think it’s in my blood,” Ragozino said.
Ragozino said he had a job as a PD in Fort Wayne where he was a one-man band, the only staff member.
“I hated it. There was no way of developing a camaraderie. I loved what I was doing, but other PDs had people to be with and lead. I had 20 years of radio experience and wasn’t able to share the experience.”
Today he’s at WOWO working in conservative news. He said he’d never dreamed he’d be doing that kind of programming.
“You’ve got 97 years of broadcasting with this station,” Ragozino explained. “I just had to take this job. WOWO is the pure example of why radio exists, why it was invented. WOWO has always been ingrained in the community.”
WOWO is middle ground in the mornings, Ragozino said. “I let the syndicated shows drive stakes through hearts. Our job is to inform, communicate. What you hear from us in the morning is not opinion-based. Just straight news. There are personalities on our staff that can pontificate.”
Explaining the relevance of the station, Ragozino said WOWO was the type of station that told you if you were having a snow day to see if schools were closed. If severe weather is coming, WOWO is where you’d go.
Ragozino has always spent time with his dad, a union electrician. One afternoon in 1984, he and his father were looking for something to do. They were planning a Jets and Giants game, but it didn’t start until later.
“My dad worked a lot at 30 Rock doing electrical stuff. We were there, and a page asked if we were doing anything and if we’d like a couple of tickets. We said we’d love them. Do something before the game.”
It’s around 4:00 in the afternoon. The tickets were for Late Night with David Letterman. This was before Letterman was at the height of his popularity.
“His guests that afternoon were Robert Klein and Bob Costas. This was the night Letterman was lowered into water wearing a suit covered in Alka Seltzer tablets.” Letterman looked like Elvis Presley wearing a sequined 70s outfit, but this was Alka Seltzer, not glitter.
Growing up in Queens, New York, his father spent a lot of his time in cool venues.
“He worked at Shea Stadium for a while,” Ragozino said. By default, he said he essentially grew up there.
“Dad didn’t work too many big games, wasn’t there all the time, but it was fun. There’s a plaque in my office in tribute to the ’86 Mets.”
When he was young, Ragozino, 51, used to work in a video movie store in New Jersey. For some of you, that was before you could watch anything you wanted at any time. You had to go into some dank place with musty carpeting and see if what you wanted was even there or be bummed it was already rented.
“Back in those days, we used to charge people a buck if they didn’t rewind the VHS tape. We used to charge people a buck if they didn’t rewind the VHS tape,” He’s not kidding. “They sold machines where their sole purpose in life was to rewind tapes.”
Today he’s still involved in film with his podcast called Movie Maniacs with his pal Chuck Curry.
“I still love going to a movie theater for a couple of hours,” Ragozino said. “I get to leave my brain at the door. You don’t have to listen to someone pontificate about their political agenda. It’s a magical feeling when the lights go down.”
Life in New York wasn’t always filled with great memories. His father, the electrician, installed wiring in the towers during the construction of the World Trade Center. He was in the city on 9-11.
“All I could do was pray he was okay,” Ragozino said. “I was working in New Jersey doing radio. We had to send wires up into the ceiling to get a live television feed. In the meantime, I was trying to figure out if my dad was okay. I ended my day by picking him up from the ferry across the Hudson River, like so many others escaping Manhattan.”
Ragozino said he took the 9-11 attacks perhaps a little differently than some, maybe more personally.
“Of course, I was saddened and hurt by the attacks, but I was also offended.”
His home state was attacked. So were places he’d been and experienced a lot of memories.
“I knew right then that things would never be the same.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at [email protected].
Proof That Both CNN and Fox News Manipulate Their Audiences
Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias.
When news organizations collide, journalism loses. Last week, CNN posted on X saying “US inflation cooled down in January, offering some relief for Americans who have suffered through the steepest price hikes in four decades.” The same day Fox News posted “BREAKING: Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.”
While these are seemingly opposite statements, both can be true at the same time. More importantly, both of these outlets are manipulating their audience.
People like their own opinions and want those opinions verified by others. This is what social media has done to news: You read the post, see your opinion is valid, and then move on to the next clickbait (confirmation bias). More importantly, both of these tweets are true because one is based on an estimate, and one is based on actual numbers.
Looking at CNN, while their post on X seems positive, their business headline is a little less positive, “Inflation cooled last month, but some price hikes continue to cause pain.” The change from tweet to headline is striking. One says Americans are getting inflation relief, the other says inflation continuing to cause pain. In today’s world of “Read the headline and move on,” this is why people feel CNN lies. Its post is in conflict with the headline— even though both are true statements.
It’s not until you read the article that people can see how this is possible. The outlet notes overall inflation did cool when comparing January 2023 (6.4%) to January 2024 (3.1%). Four sentences into the article it says, “CPI rose by 0.3% in January.” It goes on to break down why inflation is still high and causing pain in the pockets of Americans. Although the X post is factually correct, people on the right side of the political spectrum feel CNN is untrue because they see the inflation problem in their bank account.
Meanwhile, the Fox News X post and Fox Business headline are identical, “Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.” However, the keyword here is “expected.” Inflation did cool year-over-year. However, because Fox is comparing the January 2024 number to what experts expected the number to be, what they have posted is factually correct. This nuance is sometimes lost on readers.
The article does not mention inflation is down year-over-year. However, nine sentences into the article, the business outlet says, “Inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 9.1%.” The nuance of “expected” combined with the lack of mentioning year-over-year inflation is down is why the left side of the political spectrum believes Fox lies.
Let’s be clear, neither CNN nor Fox News have lied (on this one specific topic). They both chose to present the same data differently. It also needs to be noted, CNN and Fox News are not the only outlets that do this. They all do. Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias. The problem is twofold.
- Facts are no longer direct but skewed to fit a narrative.
- Some viewers accept headlines and posts without diving deeper into the article.
We have been trained to share a headline without reading the article. We’ve known this since 2016 when Columbia University and the French National Institute found 59% of shared social media links were never read. We’ve gone from headlines selling newspapers, forcing people to read the articles, to headlines being shared on social media, but people won’t read the articles.
This is only a small part of why The Messenger failed: neutrality. The sentiment of unbiased news was well-intentioned. However, America has lacked unbiased news since 1987 when the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. Many on the left believe this has helped right-leaning outlets. This is false. Not only has it benefited both sides of the aisle, it can be argued the progressives have benefited more than the conservatives (but that is a different article for a different day).
When news outlets collide, the American public loses. Not because we lack news, but because we lack the ability to read the full scope of the issues in one place. Outlets are not forced to present all sides of the political argument or present the entirety of data sets. Additionally, news is not being fully read. Headlines are now king. Shares, clicks, and likes keep the lights on in newsrooms. Most importantly, facts are now nuanced. This forces debate instead of continuity and cohesion.
Krystina Alarcon Carroll is a columnist and features writer for Barrett News Media.She currently freelances at WPIX in New York, and has previously worked on live, streamed, and syndicated TV programs. Her prior employers have included NY1, Fox News Digital, Law & Crime Network, and Newsmax. You can find Krystina on X (formerly twitter) @KrystinaAlaCarr.
Does Dealing With Criticism Ever Get Easier?
Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.
Thick skin. If you work in media, you gotta have it. If you don’t, you either won’t last or you won’t sleep – or both.
Even if you are neutral politically, super nice, and in it for all the right reasons, there always will be people who criticize you, and some will even make it personal.
Having “thick skin” is a cliché I’ve been thinking about and dealing with for years. I find it fascinating that, somehow, I am way more sensitive at home than I am at work – and by at work, I mean on the air for hours every day.
Even the angriest of listeners are engaging, and engagement is what I want. Sometimes, it can throw a show off-balance, but if handled properly, it should never fully derail you.
Over the years, I have modified my professional behavior, perspective, and attitude, yet my foundational approach has not changed. It began with my first full-time television job when a journalist/mentor of mine told me not to ever act interested in ratings. Rather, he said, focus on my performance and content — the rest would take care of itself.
In my first two anchor/host jobs, it worked wonderfully. I immersed myself in the job, and the ratings were strong. I thought it was a mandate to always take this approach, although in retrospect, I was probably more lucky than good. Regardless, following that mantra actually allowed me to learn my craft and not be overly aware that ratings mattered.
Ignorance was journalistic bliss.
Flash forward to 2024 and it all seems rather naïve, but I think the approach really works well with criticism, too, whether it be on social media, through phone calls or even with fellow hosts.
Just a quick note on nuance: Look at the sentence four paragraphs above – don’t act interested. Looking back at the guidance given by my mentor, his point also seemed to be that even if you are laser-focused on how a show is rating, don’t make it a major topic of conversation, and don’t let people think it defines you as a broadcaster and journalist.
All of it may seem like advice from Fantasyland, but in an indirect way, this approach also makes me less vulnerable to criticism. I simply don’t focus on it too much, and over time, it stopped bothering me even if I did focus on it. Make sense?
Of course, it’s not as if I like it when a listener rips me or the show, either directly or on social media; but I never engage emotionally, and if I do respond in any way, it’s usually content-focused.
That’s the key.
Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.
You have the conch. Never forget that.
Ultimately, you’ll feel better, especially knowing you did not take the bait and handled it professionally – no need to create any more tension than is already out in the media eether.
That brings me to the moment a host of a show on my station was sharply critical of an interview I had done, saying it was soft, and not holding the guest (a sitting U.S. Senator) accountable enough.
Specific questions were put forth that absolutely should have been asked, according to the host, and honestly, it was used as a chest puffer for that person to show why certain guests were scared to come on that later show.
And … I thought it was great.
Well, maybe not great, but I actually had no problem with it. First and foremost, they were talking about it, which is good. When I can provide that kind of grist, it’s good radio. It wasn’t always easy to listen to — I was still in the office doing some booking — but for some reason, it did not bother me. This from a guy who gets a one-second side eye from my wife of 20 years, and I think our marriage is in trouble.
In the end, a few of the criticisms were helpful, believe it or not: One or two of the suggested questions put forth on the later show should have been asked.
It’s all part of the balance I seek to create a place where members of both political parties feel comfortable coming on our network. I always reserve the right to ask difficult questions, and I do ask them (apparently not enough for some), but I also try and be balanced and manage relationships.
It’s delicate, and sometimes, elicits criticism – sometimes deserved. Meanwhile, I just focus on the content, naïve as that may be.
Brian Shactman is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Radio. In addition to writing for BNM, Brian can be heard weekday mornings in Hartford, CT on 1080 WTIC hosting the popular morning program ‘Brian & Company’. During his career, Brian has worked for ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC, and local TV channels in Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find him on Twitter @bshactman.
CBS Mornings Scores Big Post-Super Ratings Win
CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.
The historic ratings milestones continue for CBS as a result of Super Bowl LVIII.
Less than nine hours following what turned out to be the most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history to date (120.25 million of the near-124 million watching Super Bowl LVIII did so on CBS), CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.
For the Monday, Feb. 12 edition of CBS Mornings, which featured co-host Nate Burleson from Las Vegas, the site of Super Bowl LVIII, and a visit from Jon Stewart in New York to promote his Daily Show return (which generated great ratings milestones of its own later that night), it delivered 2.9 million total viewers including 654,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked its best total audience and demo figures since Feb. 4, 2022.
CBS Mornings topped ABC’s Good Morning America, the usual morning news viewer leader, by a mere 7,000 viewers; it also outdrew NBC’s Today (2.86 million) by 49,000 viewers.
CBS also bested ABC in A25-54 by +103,000; the sixth time CBS Mornings has led over Good Morning America this season based on the key demo.
This was not the first time a morning show benefited from a halo effect of what the network had aired the night prior. Mar. 8, 2021, was the first time CBS won in the morning. It was the day after Oprah Winfrey’s primetime interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had aired which drew 17.1 million viewers for CBS. The Mar. 8, 2021 edition of CBS This Morning featured an exclusive interview with Winfrey and the premiere of never-before-seen clips from the Meghan and Prince Harry discussion, had delivered 4.793 million viewers with 1.026 million of them in the 25-54 demographic.
The program changed its title to CBS Mornings in September 2021.
For this 2023-24 season, CBS Mornings has the smallest deficit margin in viewers with ABC’s Good Morning America since the 2017-18 season and the tightest margin in A25-54 ever.
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/