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Ryan Wrecker is Embracing Being a Hired Gun…For Now

Wrecker has found the keys to being a successful fill-in host despite sometimes not living in the city of the show he’s hosting.

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Getting fired from any job is unpleasant. However, if you get canned from Walmart, 100,000 people aren’t going to hear about it that morning. But, when you’re shown the door in the radio business, you can bet word will get around—fast. 

Veteran talker Ryan Wrecker said that growing up in Detroit, he recalls one of his favorite programs, The Drew and Mike Show, learning of their imminent departure amid an air shift.

“I’ll never forget hearing that show,” Wrecker said, who happened to be monitoring the station at the time. “All the local TV stations were reporting that the station hired a new morning show while the show was on the air. Drew told his audience ‘The show is not a charity. If they don’t want me around, then they don’t have to be forced to pay me.”

Wrecker was a loyal listener of the show and said he recorded a lot of them. “The Drew and Mike Show was legendary in Detroit. I guess they were a Zoo format, but a little different.” 

Drew Lane still does a podcast today, and his numbers are fantastic.

“Drew is one of the greatest personalities I’ve ever listened to,” Wrecker said. “Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, but I was learning so much from him.” His co-host Mike passed away a few years ago. They had immense ratings success, Detroit’s most listened to program.

Wrecker said he was one of those kids who had the Fisher-Price cassette recorder and listened to WRIF in Detroit when he was ten. Detroit is his home. He attended Central Michigan, which Wrecker calls one of the best radio programs in the state. 

“It was one of those curricula that let you in when you were a freshman,” Wrecker said. “Michigan State also had a good program, but you really couldn’t get deep into practice and production until your junior year. I knew as a freshman specifically what I wanted to do, and that was broadcasting.”

There are many benefits to going into the program immediately as a freshman.

“You get your hands-on experience, going into everything raw. You can make your mistakes early on, and nobody notices. The best part is you don’t get punished for your mistakes.” 

“I was able to get my reps in; at the same time, I could learn in a more natural way. Not so much coaching but trial and error. You’re doing what you’ve heard, mimicking people you fell in love with on the air. I don’t think listeners really get how much work goes into the job. You might not sound like the person you were emulating, but there’s always more work to do.” 

After college, Wrecker joined a classic rock station in Lima, Ohio. WUZZ.

He started with an afternoon shift, then moved to mid-day and eventually mornings. Like most things in radio, a lot of his career began with a seismic shift in the landscape. 

“We had a syndicated show out of Grand Rapids, and the decision was made to go local,” Wrecker explained. “They had me program the station and move to mornings. It was a four-hour solo show. I’d do three talk segments in an hour and play lots of music. It became quite a ratings success.”

Tiny Lima, Ohio, has experienced more than its share of notoriety. 

The television show GLEE was fictionally based in Lima. The town kept sending the production team props from Lima to be used in the show.

“If a radio station sent them a sticker, it would end up on the bumper of a car in the show,” Wrecker said. “The town had a local contestant on So, You Think You Can Dance. I guess it’s a pretty popular small town. We did a charity bike run with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister in 2010 for the March of Dimes Bikers for Babies Ride. We actually changed the named Cridersville to Snidersville for a day. It was awesome. Dee came in for a few days, he actually co-hosted the morning show with me, and we played heavy metal and hair all morning.” 

I started out this piece referring to how people can get fired from doing something they love, and after a while, that can be rather devastating. In May, Wrecker was released from KMOX in St. Louis. When I asked him if he held any animosity toward the station that fired him, I was surprised when he said he didn’t. 

“I didn’t take it personally when I got fired from KMOX,” Wrecker said. “I had a feeling things were not going right. The station was moving in a different direction and is in a transformation. Knowing this, I tried to move to a better fitting job in the cluster, which ultimately didn’t happen.”   

I know it’s smart not to bite the hand that either feed or fed you, as you don’t want to look like ‘that guy.’ However, if you bad-mouth a station, there’s a 100 percent chance every other station will hear about it.

“KMOX has such a great history,” Wrecker continued. “They have always had a vision as to where the station was going.”

For now, Wrecker is filling in for station hosts where he can, a hired gun, so to speak, at least on the firing range he loves. Until the new job offer, it’s one day at a time.

“I’d love to be a permanent host, for sure,” Wrecker said. “I’m still trying to figure out what that gig looks like. The way the talk landscape is today, I may be waiting a long time. I’m at the mercy of someone leaving a job, maybe starting that big talk gig in the sky.”

I focused on Wrecker’s recent fill-in gig in Milwaukee only because that was his most recent job. I asked Wrecker how he keeps word out there that he’s available. 

“I got in touch with Ryan Maguire, the director of content at WTMJ in Milwaukee,” Wrecker said. This was earlier in the year after KMOX. 

“He said they didn’t have anything but to send my tape. I sent him a couple of talk segments I’d done.”

Maguire liked the tapes enough to move the discussion ‘upstairs’ to  Steve Wexler, WTMJ’s vice president, and market manager. They agreed to bring Wrecker in for some fill-in work in early August.

Maguire told Wrecker to ‘be himself.’ He knew what Wrecker sounded like, and knew he’d be a good fit for Milwaukee, as long as he did that. 

“That doesn’t mean I couldn’t fill in for someone I really wasn’t a good fit with. Either way, I’m not going to change too much about the show.”

As the stations will do, WTMJ paid for everything during Wrecker’s fill-in period. They put him up at the boutique hotel. He was issued an Uber account to get back and forth from the hotel to the studios. 

“I got meal gift cards from Mo’s Steakhouse,” he said. “You tend to eat well every night, but you’ve got to be careful you don’t eat too much and pay for it on the air the next morning.”

In Milwaukee in August, it is almost a requirement to hit the Wisconsin State Fair. Wrecker did. “You’ve got to have self-control when you go there. It’s a whole different type of food. Much of it is fried and on a stick.” 

I wondered how a fill-in host prepares for a show in a town they’re not overly familiar with. Or at least a place you haven’t visited in a while.

“You’ve got to realize you’re not an expert on the city you’re going to,” Wrecker explained. “You do have to conduct some research. Perhaps get a better idea of how to pronounce nearby city names. Bone up on news that has affected that area. With Milwaukee, I was able to talk about the freshly announced Republican National Convention coming to the city in 2024.” 

Being more selective with your topics is part of Wrecker’s thinking. He said the RNC story was more universal, but you must keep your eye on the local news. 

“I don’t want to go into a city and try to sound like I know everything. The audience can tell if you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t feel comfortable with handling a story, omit it. The audience may question why you’re not talking about certain things. I think that’s better than spouting off about something I don’t really know.”

Wrecker said listeners would be forgiving if you make a mistake, but they can correct you if they feel they should. 

“But they don’t hate you for the mistake,” Wrecker said. “I’ll try some calls if the lines are open. In my experience, that hasn’t been a problem. When you fully know a topic, it’s okay to open the phones. Even in Milwaukee, I knew I could talk about the FBI going into Mar-a-Lago. Of course, people were talking about it non–stop. Then there are topics where I can see both sides. I like to get calls that offer different viewpoints. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But if you’re onto something, you’ve got to prime the pump like crazy.”

Wrecker has learned part of his success has included making himself somewhat of a target on the air.

“I can maneuver a topic, make myself the good guy or bad guy on a subject. An audience will have a certain feeling about you and your stance. They’ll try to find a way to feel something about you. I may come in and tell the audience what a cheapskate I am, just to get the juices flowing. It might be funny, it might be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a connection with them in some way.”

He said he’s always authentic, but Wrecker will certainly try to exaggerate things to make it funnier. 

“I think to myself what can I do to make a situation more entertaining? For example, I might tell a story where it’s not technically the exact way it happened, but I don’t let the audience know. I think they can tell when I’m making something up or doing a bit. They understand I’m trying to open things up.”

Constant moving in the business clearly strains emotions and family life.

“When you have a family and kids, making more money is always appealing, Wrecker said. “It’d be nice not to have to worry about money. I feel bad for my wife and the prospect of moving again. I have two kids, and I don’t like to think of them having to make new friends. It’s not appealing. You start to think there must be a more stable way to handle those things.” 

I asked Wrecker if there was a possibility to go into management and give up the microphone. 

“It’s not far-fetched to see me going that route. When I was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I had a GM that wasn’t that good,” Wrecker said. “In a way, that spoiled me for future GMs. The hard part about programming is you become so obsessed with the station and the product. It becomes an around-the-clock job. Sometimes it’s not sustainable.” 

If he was programming his station, Wrecker said a PD must have intuition, a barometer of what works, and perhaps a small crystal ball.

“You can’t manufacture a successful team,” Wrecker said. “All you can do is bring people to the same table and hope for the best. You can’t force it. If it doesn’t happen organically, it probably isn’t going to happen.”

But how can you know? If only there were a clever way to determine if a team could work well together.

“I think they should hold auditions the way they handle speed-dating,” Wrecker said. “Let them meet and talk for 10 minutes at a pop, then move to the next table. See if they have any chemistry.”

I would be surprised if Fox weren’t working on that show at this moment. 

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News Radio Should Celebrate Audio-First Decision From Ron DeSantis

As radio programmers, hosts, and salespeople, we should be doing cartwheels and leveraging this moment.



Ron DeSantis launched his 2024 Presidential run on Twitter Spaces on Wednesday night to much fanfare. By now, you’ve seen the hot takes on how the enthusiasm for DeSantis crashed Twitter or, depending on your preferred candidate, the rollout was a disaster and is a sign of things to come for his campaign. I’ll let the opposing campaigns and fanboys/girls, and news radio hosts hash that part out between themselves.

What’s far more interesting from a media perspective is DeSantis’ platform choice. It was not legacy media. He did not choose Fox News, Newsmax, etc., but more interesting was the fact he chose an audio-first medium on Twitter. There was no visual element at all.

Ron DeSantis did the equivalent of a radio interview to announce his 2024 bid. Yes, he hopped on Fox News later that evening with Trey Gowdy, but the official announcement and first media interview came on Twitter, without any video component. 

As radio programmers, hosts, and salespeople, we should be doing cartwheels and leveraging this moment.

For too long, TV has been overrated. It’s been a perfect storm. You have politicians who love seeing themselves on TV to feed their egos, and many of their advisors and media buyers have backgrounds in the medium, so it becomes an echo chamber.

From the ridiculous overspending during election season on overproduced, phony, repetitive television spots that produce diminishing returns (rather than the far more cost-effective and impactful radio ads), to the obsession with capturing every TV opportunity they can, TV has become overvalued in recent elections.

Ron DeSantis’ decision on Wednesday night may have been the move that makes many realize where they have missed the boat in recent years. 

If used in a calculating manner, DeSantis’ moment can benefit radio programming and sales.

Programmers should be pitching any of their local candidates in legitimate races that matter to try and get their candidacy announcement on radio. “If Ron DeSantis can go audio-first, why isn’t it good enough for you?” This would bring earned media for the candidate and radio station and the TV hits would follow.

On KCMO, we landed the announcement interview with former KC TV anchor Mark Alford, who used that springboard to win an open U.S. Congressional seat in 2022. 

From a sales perspective, this could also be a game changer in helping PACs, agencies, and campaigns understand the personal nature of the audio-first medium, which radio still dominates, despite what the naysayers claim.

During the 2022 cycle, radio did exceed its estimates in political advertising with $310 million, compared to the projections of $270 million. But that’s peanuts compared to the $4.73 billion spent on broadcast TV, according to this article from Radio Insight.

That is absurd. And it is the very definition of diminishing returns. Whether it’s a Presidential candidate in a key state or city, or more appropriately for this column, a local U.S. Senate, or congressional, candidate in your market, there are two paths.

One, they can become another overplayed, tune-out TV ad, where their ego is stroked and they get noticed in the grocery store, but they don’t get the value from the spending they need. 

Or, two, they can own radio, which will be more cost-effective, impactful, personal for the listener, oh, and reach a potential voter that is 10-15 years younger, on average, than those still watching broadcast TV. 

None of this is to suggest that TV is not important, of course, it will forever be critical to have a visual component for politicians in the 21st century. But it’s not everything. It never has been and it never will be, despite what the differential in ad spending suggests. 

If audio-first is a good enough launch for one of the front runners to land in the White House in 2024, I’d say it’s more than good enough for anyone else entering the political arena at any level.

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Twitter Facing Several Questions After Multimedia Struggles

Everyone should have the ability to say what they want but that doesn’t mean they have the ability to make up their own truths that aren’t factually based.

Jessie Karangu



When Kim Kardashian broke the internet and Twitter, we marveled and were astonished at her attempt and it worked. Her infamy continued to skyrocket more positively than negatively because she embraced her sexuality in a sensual but respectful way.

When TMZ broke the internet, they became a dependable source for news about celebrity deaths even if the method behind their madness was and still is pure madness.

On Wednesday, when Elon Musk and Ron DeSantis broke the internet it was just plain trash.

Your local waste management company couldn’t fix the travesty that was Wednesday night on Twitter. Tech issues, hosts having trouble connecting, listeners hearing nothing — that was the main story of what was allegedly supposed to be the launch of Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

On Twitter Spaces’ biggest night, it made the platform seem out of space and out of touch with the rest of society. When you fire key engineers from your staff, only allow groupthink in your office quarters, and don’t feel the need to answer to anyone because you’ll still get bank credit even if Twitter goes bankrupt, this is the result. Hubris.

At the beginning when things went haywire and nothing was working, the stream drew about 600,000 listeners. By the time the stream actually started working it was down to 100,000 concurrent listeners. Media journalist Oliver Darcy joked that more people are watching CNN at 3:00 AM than were listening to Twitter’s live stream.

With that being said, drawing 600,000 listeners is no small feat. If used effectively, Twitter can become an influential voice in this upcoming election.

Twitter, as a tool, has always been impactful. Journalists, commentators, and newsmakers have used its real-time functionality to shape the national conversation. Twitter as a company hasn’t played too much of an editorial role other than putting their name brand on town halls and debates until the Musk reign. The company has already been able to secure conservative brands Tucker Carlson and The Daily Wire to join their alliance. Both entities plan on posting daily videos to counter the “mainstream media narrative.”

It’s extremely smart to have them posting original content natively to the site. It will increase engagement, it’ll increase the amount of time users spend, and their success could convince other news organizations to produce content that is exclusive to the site.

In the past, Twitter has partnered with BuzzFeed and even the NFL to try and steal a share of television’s audience but it hasn’t proven profitable or viral. Tucker Carlson’s removal from Fox has caused a major splinter among conservative media audiences and could be an answer to Twitter’s content desires. They’ll be serving an audience that can’t find what they want anywhere else.

The problem Twitter faces is that it has already established itself as the place for real-time content and breaking news, as well as the most active social home for many of our country’s most reliable sources. Whether Elon Musk realizes this or not, he has a moral obligation to ensure the user experience stays as neutral as possible even if he wants the company to become a conservative brand. 

Musk needs to make an effort to bring Democratic representatives in to commit to Twitter Spaces sessions as well. A conversation doesn’t exist if two sides of the spectrum aren’t involved and, eventually, interest in Twitter’s political media initiatives will die off because Dems will seek audiences on bigger platforms Twitter can’t compete with.

The Biden campaign could decide to solely focus on TV audiences, YouTube, and webinars just like they did in the last election and still have a chance to win, leaving Twitter’s efforts irrelevant. They could even use Twitter’s tools to promote themselves without the help of Musk. It won’t help Musk or Twitter the brand feel more reliable or trustworthy among Americans without allowing both sides to speak. Twitter has to sell itself to everyone as the tech home for political conversations in the world of fragmented media.

If he’s going to go the activist route with conservative Spaces by having supporters of a particular politician moderating the discussion, then he should do the same thing for Democratic politicians who appear on Spaces as well. A word of advice going forward, though: A journalist always makes the most sense. Journalists are trained to be objective and facilitate conversations for a living. Everyone knows how to cook scrambled eggs, but I guarantee you Rachael Ray’s scrambled eggs hit differently.

Twitter can look to CNN as an example of what happens when a town hall is technologically sound and the moderator treats their panelist with fairness. Since Trump’s town hall, CNN has been able to garner time with Mike Pence and Nikki Haley. Both candidates saw the jump that the town hall gave Trump in attention and hype among his base and, quite frankly, understand that they can reach more people on TV than online. Trump’s town hall reached 3 million viewers. After DeSantis left his Twitter Spaces, he promoted his candidacy on Fox News to the tune of 2 million viewers, ironically Fox’s largest audience since Carlson was let go.

Musk also needs to create a tab dedicated to news and have running video options and audio options that display straight news along with conservative and liberal opinionists. These feeds are already available on other platforms. Why not sell advertising against it and keep viewers right on Twitter where they are already having the discussions? The best thing about Twitter’s old BuzzFeed morning show is that you could multitask.

You could catch up on news and thoughts on your feed while live video discussing what was trending could be placed towards the bottom of your phone screen with the window in window option on Apple devices. Users didn’t have to leave the app to catch up on what was happening in the world.

Allowing Carlson and The Daily Wire to become the only two sources of media that are promoted or favored on the app will only heighten tension before the election and will literally put lives at stake because of the possibility of both outlets spreading misinformation. 

This goes into the next idea to make Musk’s “public square” a safe and accurate space for everyone. Musk needs to either contract or hire fact-checkers. The fact-checkers should be in charge of verifying Community Notes, adding Community Notes to streams/videos/tweets that are posted by publishers to correct or clarify anything that was said, and creating videos of their own based on trending topics or viral videos that aren’t accurate.

Everyone should have the ability to say what they want but that doesn’t mean they have the ability to make up their own truths that aren’t factually based.

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AM Radio Will Still Ride Along…For Now

The math itself is simple. You don’t use what you don’t want. And you probably won’t use what you don’t believe you need.

Bill Zito



In our last chapter on the fight to keep the AM radio in your car, things were not looking so good for the Sunday morning religious shows, exhaustingly predictable talk hosts, and the largely underpaid local news anchors.

But Ford has apparently heard the call from lawmakers, FEMA, and a variety of other concerned citizens, enough at least that they have announced they will back off their plans to do away with AM band in their new vehicles. For now, at least.

So, I will say the U-Turn decision by Ford is nice. Yes, I would venture to say it is nice. But is this a victory or merely a stay of execution?

And since no matter what, AM radio is not disappearing or soon to become unavailable, why don’t we just say this is more a case of bail continued until sentencing day.

What it means is there will be more cars and trucks with AM radios on our roads than we thought there would be last week.

How much of an impact will it make? I don’t think it will make much at all.

There are still a lot more car manufacturers going ahead with their plans to do away with AM so the math will not be grounds for celebration.

The math itself is simple. You don’t use what you don’t want. And you probably won’t use what you don’t believe you need. Even if you might need it now and then.

My vehicle has a trailer hitch. I don’t use that either. I don’t need it. It just happens to be there.

In other words, it does nothing for me and for many people neither does AM radio.

Where do you think these car makers got the idea in the first place to take the AM band out of the vehicles?

I’m sure they asked a few people.

How likely are you to not buy this car if it doesn’t have an AM radio in it?

Ever hear of market research? We did this already.

I’m glad, for now at least, that a few more people will have a choice. We deserve that. We are the ones buying stuff. Treat us with respect.

I have expressed this opinion before. You can put an AM radio everywhere but if the content is not worth the effort, then all it becomes is a receptacle for go-to emergency broadcasts and possibly some inane chatter or white noise to fall asleep by.

I’ve said this before too: Give them something worth listening to and they might listen. They might give it a try and they might actually like it. But here is the trick. Now that you have them, how do you keep them?

Well, now you must be consistently good or at least not awful. That’s harder than it seems, just zigzag across the country and find out.

Oh, when you do you have to turn your AM radio on and keep it on. No cheating, no flipping to the FM or satellite or your own playlists or podcasts or audiobooks.

Could you do it?

The blame for subpar content or a lack of listener-friendly programming is not all the fault of those behind the microphone or those producing, writing, or booking. But you already know that and so do I.

So just look up.

If management or corporate executives are physically upstairs as opposed to around the corner or down the hall. My experience over the last few years has been they are rarely in the building.

But regardless of where they physically might be they are often the ones behind all that glitters or does not.

I have found a good clue to what you might be getting on the air can be taken from a glimpse at the station’s website.

Most stations and managers put a great deal of emphasis on driving viewers, listeners, and readers to their home page. So, go there but go past the landing page with the obligatory three web stories that are less than 24 hours old and delve a bit deeper.

You are most likely to find a lot of material from last week, last month, and even last year if you click on a few sections. Some outlets I have some familiarity with have a mostly corporate-run website with plenty of room though for local elements like news stories, programming schedules, and show host biographies.

You’d think at minimum they would update their lineups, their show schedules, and add some information to entice that reader back to the air product. You’d think.

Nostalgic as I might be, I do not particularly care who was hosting in 2021 nor do I want to listen to an interview with a losing mayoral candidate from a year and a half ago. If your air drives somebody to your website or vice-versa, there should be something of value waiting there for them.

Remember, respect for the audience, the customer is always right, or karma is a …

Back on that cross-country trip, you are likely to find some good things in your travels, largely local and national sports talk, maybe a bit of financial chat, or solid religious conversation. But is it enough to fight off the eviction of AM from your car?

And don’t forget the demographics. The only time my kid listened to the AM band was to hear me (once) and even that took a bit of prompting. Her generation and the one after her, are the last chance to bring on some additional support.

After then, who will be listening?

Tell us why these stations need to stay there when we can generally find them or what they offer in other configurations.

Just as I asked last time, what can AM do that others cannot?

If I know my gene pool, my grandchildren are not going to be fighting for AM radio in their space boats or their flying cars.

CDs maybe.

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