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WBT Reporter Brett Jensen Couldn’t Avoid Ukraine

“I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

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Yes, Brett Jensen went to war-torn Ukraine during his vacation time. But it wasn’t like he went for a vacation.

“I do these long trips every year,” the Breaking with Brett Jensen host on WBT in Charlotte said. “I try to take my vacation days around July 4th to get that extra day. I’ll use 11 or 12 of the days and make it stretch through three weekends or 19 days.”

Jensen had been thinking about revisiting Ukraine after having been there for a week last year as part of an actual vacation, even though part of it was spending 36 hours in Chernobyl. He found his opening for the return visit.

“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office in Charlotte donated 30 sets of bulletproof vests to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, to be given to its aid workers on the frontlines,” he said.

Jensen explained Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides help to people in physical need. They specialize in going to disaster areas. They’ve gone into Somalia, as well as other major disaster and war-torn areas.

“They’re generally the guys on the front lines,” he said. “They make sure the area has electricity, food, and basic supplies. The CEO is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham.”

When Jensen learned of the body armor being donated, he knew this was serendipitous with a connection to Charlotte.

“I wondered how cool it would be to be in Kyiv when the armor arrived there,” Jensen said. “I was already going to be in the Baltics so I looked into the possibility of it actually happening. I contacted all kinds of people in Poland, which people had told me was the best route to get in and out of Ukraine. I contacted all the governments and authorities I needed to and then talked to some people I knew in Ukraine. I was on my own time, but I was also a journalist.”

The plan was to fly from Lithuania, to Krakow, Poland where he’d take a bus the rest of the way. The safest route to Ukraine is through Poland; nowhere near the fighting. But it’s also a very long bus ride from Krakow, 21 hours in all. The journey itself proved to be one of the most taxing parts of the trip.

Initially, Jensen was repeatedly told not to go to Ukraine by the State Department. If he insisted, Jensen would have to fill out forms with next of kin information and they wouldn’t be coming in after him if he got in trouble.

“That made it all real,” he said. “They said they weren’t responsible for me.”

But it was that bus ride that Jensen knew was going to be a problem the moment he sat down to settle in for the long ride.

“I sat in the front of the bus with my legs at 90 degree angles with a railing in front of me,” Jensen said. “Periodically I was able to stand, but not all the way up. It was kind of bending over at the waist. We stopped every two or three hours and I was able to stretch my legs.”

When he got to the Poland and Ukraine border, he said he was amazed at the long lines of trucks, trailers and supplies lined up for miles parked on the side of the road. It could take as long as a week for the supply trucks to get across the border.

“First, they’d take everybody’s passports, then we’d sit for a couple of hours,” Jensen explained. “They’d give the passports back and we’d drive a mile, and the exact same thing would happen over again with the Ukraine border patrol.”

Jensen was the only one on the bus with an American passport. There were 66 people on the bus and only four were men, with Jensen being the youngest male. The women were going to see their husbands, sons and brothers left behind.

While at the border, Ukrainian soldiers inspected his passport and asked why he wanted to come to Ukraine.

“There’s two words that everyone in Europe understands, even if they don’t speak English: American journalist,” Jensen said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. If it was Lithuania, Romania, everyone there understands ‘American journalist’.”

Jensen arrived in Kyiv at 8:45 PM after having left the previous night at 11:55. He quickly learned there was a curfew from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Every restaurant shuts down at 9:00 PM, so employees could clean up and be home by 11 pm.

“I made it to my Airbnb at 9:45 PM and they had a little kiosk outside on the sidewalk,” he said. “I got the essentials; potato chips, Coke Zero and a muffin. That was my first meal in Ukraine.”

Like most of us, Jensen didn’t really know what to expect when he arrived. He said the western part of the country hadn’t been leveled, but there was still a lot of rubble the closer he got to the capital.

“Once we got 60 miles outside of Kyiv, you started to see the devastation,” Jensen said. “Many of the warehouses and homes were decimated. That’s when we started going through road checks. Picture driving down I-95, then all of a sudden a four-lane highway slimming down to one lane in each direction. You have to do an ‘S’ through the barriers at 10 to 15 miles per hour. They’ve built all these barricades with steel and concrete and you weave your way through. Then it straightens and you go back to 60 miles an hour.”

He said you could look around and see where Russian missiles struck, destroying apartment buildings and creating immense rubble. Jensen said there were soldiers everywhere. There were what they call Czech hedgehogs, similar to the obstacles they had on the beaches at Normandy. They are protecting statues and important entities with sandbags and built structures. Many streets are blocked.

Once there, it didn’t take long for Jensen to experience the haunting air raid sirens.

“At 1:55 AM, I first heard the sirens going off,” he explained. “Of course, I was a little nervous. I was staying in the ‘Times Square’ in Kyiv, Independence Square, where they have all the statues and rallies. I got dressed, grabbed a few extra phone batteries in case I needed to stay in the shelter for a long time, then ran down to the subway. I got there at 2:07 AM. It’s a very deep subway, some of the deepest in the world built by the Russians in the 60s as fallout shelters.”

When Jensen arrived at the shelter, there were only five other people. None spoke English. After a short time, they left, started to head for home. Jensen was perplexed. The next day he talked to his Uber driver, who spoke English, about the situation.

“I asked him why people don’t go down to the air raid shelters. He told me they don’t react to the sirens anymore. He said if they reacted to every siren, they’d never get anything else done. It just wasn’t worth it. The driver then laid some math on me and explained that with 3 million people in Kyiv, he still had only a 1-in-3 million chance of getting hit. He figured he’d roll the dice.”

After the first time, Jensen didn’t bother to go down again. He figured he’d be the only guy down there. On what was to be his last day in Kyiv, Jensen met up with a university student that he had interviewed during his first full day there. The sirens went off five times over the course of nine hours. After one of the sirens finished sounding, the 19-year-old took Jensen to a bar near the university, where tourists generally don’t go. When they walked into the bar, it
was relatively full because nobody had left.

“Five minutes later, a lot of police came in yelling because they didn’t evacuate, nobody in the bar left during the siren,” Jensen said. “They shut down the bar. That was the only time I’d seen anyone in Kyiv chastised for not going to a shelter.”

Jensen arrived on a Wednesday and was scheduled to leave Saturday. He was supposed to take a bus to Warsaw, Poland, and from there take a flight to Estonia to continue his vacation.

His bus was canceled and Jensen was forced to stay in Ukraine and couldn’t get out for another four days. It was Friday and Jensen knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Another Uber driver, who Jensen described as highly educated, had just come in from Poland to take care of his father. He spoke English and this was the only job he could get.

“I asked him if he was working the next day and he said he wasn’t,” Jensen said. “I asked if I could hire him as my personal driver the next morning, not as an Uber driver. We didn’t talk about money or location.”

The driver arrived at 9:30 the next morning. Jensen said he got in the front seat and asked the driver if he’d take him as close to the front lines as he felt comfortable. The driver agreed and they drove for nearly three hours toward the front lines.

This is where Ukraine started to look like a war zone.

“We went through villages that had been completely bombed out, but there were people still living there. They had nowhere else to go.”

Jensen interviewed an older woman in front of her bombed-out house, his driver serving as interpreter.

“Her daughter and grandson were next to her by the side of the house,” Jensen said. “The only thing left standing were the four walls and you couldn’t see the floor through the rubble. I walked around the corner and saw another woman hanging laundry in front of her destroyed apartment building. I asked them if they were scared and they said of course, they were still scared, but that there was nothing they could do.

“The woman told me the Russians still popped in every so often. I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

On another occasion, Jensen said things had gotten pretty hairy. During the final day in Ukraine, the sirens blared many times. Then there was the alert that wouldn’t stop and Jensen knew something was different.

“In the streets people were walking very fast toward the shelters. I figured I really needed to take cover. If they were nervous, then I probably should be, too. I’m not sure to this day if something was hit or not.”

Jensen said he was struck by the confidence and determination of the Ukraine people. “To a person, from the landlord of my Airbnb to my Uber driver, they all said the same thing,” he recalled. “ ‘If we have the firepower, we will win.’ In a poll, 80 percent of the people said they were not giving up a single acre to the Russians. They argued that if they did, the Russians would come back and want more.”

According to Jensen, Ukrainian’s have an internal fire. They truly have something to fight for.

“I got out of Ukraine a week and a half before all the crap hit the fan with the nuclear power station and the increased bombardment. They are so steadfast in their beliefs. They’ve got that fire. They’re not going to stop.”

Finally, after doing live reports back to Charlotte on WBT several times a day, interviewing the head of Samaritan’s Purse for 45 minutes about the need for bulletproof vests, and talking to many citizens of the country, it was time to head to the next destination – Ireland, via Poland.

On his train trip out, only sleeper cars were made available. They hold four people in a very small cabin. Jensen was the first to arrive and had to imagine who he’d be sharing the car with. At the very least he knew he could stretch out his legs, and not be forced to travel again like a pretzel.

“I prayed for an electrical outlet to plug in my laptop so I could watch movies,” Jensen said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get a petite woman or a heavy Ukrainian guy living off cabbage. I also prayed there wasn’t a bathroom in my cabin.”

There wasn’t. He lucked out as his cabin mates were two females in their 20s and a woman in her 40s. “There was a power outlet and the women didn’t snore. It was uncomfortably hot in the room, but at least it wasn’t like the bus.”

Crossing the border back into Poland, a guard walked into his cabin. He spoke in Polish and the women answered him. Then the guard looked at Jensen and said, “American journalist.”

“I’m thinking, how the hell did he know that? He asked where I entered Ukraine, and I told him from Krakow on a bus. He asked when, and I said a week ago. He took my passport and about an hour later, he came back and told me to show him the stamps on the passport that proved I had done what I said. The Ukrainian stamp had faded, but you could make it out. He gave me a
weird look that said, ‘Yeah, okay.’”

From there, it was another five hours to Warsaw, Poland, where he finally checked into his hotel at 7:00 PM. Jensen was finally safe and in the comforts of a room with a real bed, not a vinyl bunk bed on a train for 19 hours.

“There are a few things that I would change in hindsight, but I would absolutely go back if given the opportunity,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of great and horrific stories to tell and I’m glad I was able to help tell them. The Ukrainian people basically want two things: weapons for journalists to tell what’s happening there and I was able to do at least one of those.”

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Rachel Maddow Interview With E. Jean Carroll Provides MSNBC Major Boost

Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

Doug Pucci



Prominent interviews with two notable news figures were in focus on the week of May 15. On the night of May 15, former “Elle” magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.  

Their guest spots took place six days following her legal victory against Donald Trump in which a jury found him $5 million liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Carroll and Kaplan stated they’d seek to expand those damages due to Trump’s defamatory comments about her during his infamous CNN town hall from May 10. (Carroll officially made that expansion request to the court on May 23.)

As stated in the show list at the end of this article, the hour drew 2.414 million total viewers including 276,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

In addition, it was MSNBC’s most-watched telecast since the Apr. 24 edition of Maddow (then, that week’s top cable news telecast overall) which came just hours following news of the dismissals of two of Maddow’s former prime-time competitors, Tucker Carlson from Fox News and Don Lemon from CNN.

Airing directly opposite Maddow on May 15 were FNC’s Hannity (1.974 million total viewers / 194,000 adults 25-54) and CNN Primetime  (454,000 total viewers / 114,000 adults 25-54) — the latter of which that 9 p.m. hour will soon be anchored by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, the moderator of the aforementioned Trump town hall.

Leading out of Maddow on MSNBC was Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.868 million total viewers / 150,000 adults 25-54) which offered post-analysis of Carroll’s guest appearance.

For the following evening (May 16), another NBC-owned news network scored another key interview: mega-billionaire Elon Musk, with financial journalist David Faber on CNBC.

Within the 70-minute discussion, Faber pressed the now-former Twitter CEO on his controversial tweets that spouted unverified conspiracy theories. Musk responded, “I’ll say what I want to say and if the consequences of that are losing money, so be it.” Former NBCUniversal advertising head Linda Yaccarino took over as CEO on June 5.

CNBC’s Musk interview delivered 257,000 viewers and 54,000 adults 25-54, the network’s top hour for the week in both data categories. Nonetheless, it could not top five hours of the Fox Business Network for that week, in total viewers: Varney & Company (the 9-10 a.m. hour on Mon. May 15, 274,000 viewers; and the entire 9 a.m.-noon slot on Fri. May 19, avg. 266,000 viewers) and the Thu. May 18 edition of Kudlow (271,000 viewers).

Cable news averages for May 15-21, 2023:

Total Day (May 15-21 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.097 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.715 million viewers; 83,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.361 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.188 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.118 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.105 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.103 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.081 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 15-20 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 21 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.413 million viewers; 136,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.124 million viewers; 120,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.371 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.308 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.138 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.128 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.118 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.090 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.060 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.802 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.801 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.673 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.504 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.420 million viewers

6. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.414 million viewers

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.268 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.221 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.087 million viewers

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.022 million viewers

185. Smerconish (CNN, Sat. 5/20/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.636 million viewers

207. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.587 million viewers

421. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.294 million viewers

441. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.274 million viewers

464. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.257 million viewers

500. Highway Thru Hell “(1118) Rise Up” (TWC, Sun. 5/21/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.232 million viewers

705. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.151 million viewers

860. FBI Files (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.102 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.330 million adults 25-54

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.281 million adults 25-54

3. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.276 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.266 million adults 25-54

6. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.264 million adults 25-54

7. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.245 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.242 million adults 25-54

9. Special Report/Biden-Medal of Valor (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:46 AM, 26 min.) 0.231 million adults 25-54

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.221 million adults 25-54

51. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.168 million adults 25-54

221. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.087 million adults 25-54

319. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Thu. 5/18/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.069 million adults 25-54

414. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.054 million adults 25-54

484. Highway Thru Hell “(1117) Know When To Hold Em” (TWC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.046 million adults 25-54

534. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54

586. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 5/19/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.036 million adults 25-54

630. Corrupt Crimes (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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News Radio Hosts Must Remain Weary of Stories Created By AI

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true. It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”



One of the few things I love about social media in the 21st century is how it shrinks the world. If I see something interesting, I can DM or tweet at someone to see if they’d talk about it and maybe come on my radio show or on my podcast.

Sometimes, I get ignored. But more often than not, I at least get a response, and it’s usually a yes (Tom Brady still ignores my requests, though. Most recently, it was my invitation to be the 4th in a charity golf outing. I will never give up!).

Of late, it’s how I got baseball legend Fred Lynn (@19fredlynn), the guy who is organizing kids to mow lawns for vets and seniors in all 50 states (@iamrodneysmith), and of course, the genius behind the Dad Jokes Twitter feed (@Dadsaysjokes).

It also led me to Nathan Lands. He’s a young entrepreneur who specializes in artificial intelligence. He lives in Japan and runs the AI newsletter When all the ChatGPT stuff started vomiting out of my Twitter feed, in a sea of thread seaweed, he was some clear water of smart, thoughtful, and informative post … like he’d been in the space for more than a minute and wasn’t directly trying to profit off my reading his stuff.

After corresponding for a bit, he came on my show, and since then we’ve been messaging on and off as he’s been managing an explosion of attention. He’s seen his followers nearly triple to about 47,000. Meanwhile, Elon Musk himself publicly pushed him to use a subscription model, which he dutifully did, and is now charging a buck a month to loyal followers to see a little extra.

Nathan’s probably getting enough for a case of Sapporo every month, at least so far.

From my journalistic perch, I was curious: What about information in this era of artificial intelligence?

One thing I work on quite a bit – and think about all the time – is how to verify information. I am semi-obsessed with primary sources, and figuring out what’s true has become increasingly difficult over the last few years of competing “alternative facts”. Now, artificial intelligence is adding a layer that, frankly, has been a little too frightening for me to fully engage… yet.

I thought it would be interesting to ask Nathan his thoughts about AI and this ability – or inability – to separate fact from fiction in 2023.

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true,” he admitted. “It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”

What I found interesting about the discussion is that Mr. Lands came back to an old-school name: CNN. With all the hysteria surrounding Chris Licht’s tenure there, perhaps, a brand like that could shine through if it could burnish a reputation for consistently reporting things that are actually true. If he can succeed in convincing people the network has a minimal bias, it could harken back to the Ted Turner days when the world turned to CNN whenever a global story hit.

Of course, Licht’s role in this is only one of several ifs. First and foremost, the network would need to truly figure out the facts consistently, a matter that will only get more difficult. It also needs to convince a significant portion of the public that views it as having a political bias.

But the challenge of being right is the biggest if.

“(CNN) will likely eat up fake stories that are produced by AI soon,” Lands said. “Not sure if you saw that one photo that spread a week or two ago about an attack on the Pentagon, and it actually moved the stock market.”

The scary part is that the technology – and the fakes – are only going to get more sophisticated and more believable.

“In a year from now, the stuff that anyone can create is going to be so good, it’s going to cause some pretty large issues,” Lands said.


The person doing it could be a Russian national, the Chinese, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds”.

As a radio host, we get half-truths and no-truths all the time. Thank goodness, the morning show doesn’t have time for the minimally screened call because certain claims can have a shred of something true, but the conclusions from them go quite far on the imagination spectrum. Saying something and then hanging up means disseminating fact and fiction in real time takes up a lot of audio real estate and can slow down a good show – but if it happens, it’s a host’s responsibility to try and figure it out. If not, then an entire audience could walk away thinking something is true when it’s not.

But what if we can’t figure it out in real-time? Or at all? And we’re the ones actually trying.


Buckle up, always be skeptical and always figure out the primary source … if you can.

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Greg Moceri Knows The More News/Talk Changes, The More It Stays The Same

“I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing.”

Ryan Hedrick



Greg Moceri has played a prominent role in the talk radio industry as a consultant and program director for many decades. He began his career at WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and later achieved great success at WTIC in Hartford. He then became the Program Director and format Coordinator at WSB in Atlanta.

Throughout his career, Moceri has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Entercom, Bonneville, Salem Media, Tribune, and iHeart, helping them achieve unprecedented success. Additionally, he has played a crucial part in the success of multiple syndicated talk shows.

Upon taking over WSB in 1993, the station was ranked 12th and struggling. Undeterred, Moceri led WSB to great success with his visionary ideas and innovative tactics. From 1995 to 2000, he propelled the station to the top spot among the coveted 25-54 demographic.

During a sit-down with Barrett News Media, Moceri spoke about Rush Limbaugh’s influential legacy and its impact on the industry. He also shared insightful tips on bringing out the best in radio personalities and his expectations for the upcoming Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ryan Hedrick: As a news/talk radio consultant, what do you think are the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

Greg Moceri: It’s the state of the business on the revenue side. The revenue side is not my bailiwick, but you must know the challenges. So much of radio has been cut into by other mediums. However, I would much rather be in the spoken word format on the radio than the music side by a mile. There are still plenty of opportunities in the spoken word for revenue. It’s still an incredibly viable format, and I’m excited for the future.

RH: Could you provide some information about changes in news/talk programming over the years and any current trends you have observed?

GM: That’s a tricky question because a lot remains the same. The format itself, news/talk, leans conservative. It’s an excellent vehicle for people who want to relate to what’s going on in their community and their world. If you have a special connection to a host or a personality, that’s nirvana for someone running a news/talk station.

There are some incredible opportunities. Syndication has grown over the years, and so has the number of syndicated talents. There are ways in which you can make syndicated talent part of your radio station and not consider that they’re piped in somewhere and not there. With the need for more familiarity with younger listeners, recruiting those people is getting more complicated and complex, and that’s the number one problem I see.

RH: What do you think about the people who replaced Rush Limbaugh after his passing, and what made Rush Limbaugh stand out so much?

GM: That is subjective to everyone’s point of view. Nobody could replace Rush; I don’t care who it is. Rush had that incredible ability and talent to be able to contextualize. He did everything I always thought a talk host should do to become an indelible part of your life. Some good people are coming up. Rush was fabulous at pointing out the absurd, a crucial ingredient to connection and engagement.

There’s not a lot that’s different to being a talk show host than there was 20 years ago. You must still be entertaining, use great audio, emotionally connect with your audience, and be innovative. Rush could put things into a context you could understand; that was his greatest talent to me.

RH: How can we effectively engage and entertain listeners in today’s environment when so many different platforms and options are vying for their attention?

GM: I’m a big believer in focusing on the basics. If you’re a program director of these stations, an executive producer, or a host, you must be as local as possible to your community. I know for many companies, that’s part of the challenge. The main challenge is whether you have a budget to be local rather than local for local sake. There are some incredible syndicated hosts out there that present a good show. I would choose those hosts over somebody that is local but isn’t that good. 

It’s essential; you have to be local as much as possible. When I was running WSB in Atlanta and working for Cox Media for so many years, we invested in research. That’s what’s missing. I wish people had the budget to invest in focus groups. Many stations still have it, but it’s different from how it used to be.

RH: With the growing popularity of podcasts and on-demand audio content, how can traditional news/talk radio stations adapt to remain relevant and attract new listeners?

GM: It’s another vehicle to the spoken word in a different format. In the end, podcasting has provided talented people with an actual broadcast. Podcasts are more personal than they are as a radio station. It’s just another one of the arsenals that’s available in the spoken word. It’s growing, it’s excellent, and it’s also starting to get tethered out. In other words, the good podcasters will stay, and those who aren’t so good will not.

RH: Could you give examples of successful and innovative programming approaches in the news/talk radio industry?

GM: You have a single host, two people, or an ensemble. You have to fill 38 minutes in an hour, you’re selling time, and many things are the same as they were. Now you have social media. There’s more opportunity as a potential arsenal of information you could pass along and connect to your audience. There has not been a lot of innovation. One great thing is more and more stations have been able to find an FM signal to go to and enhance their ability to reach more people. There are still some AM stations that are doing well.

We need innovation from the sales side. We have a lot of good content people, a lot of great programmers. There’s still too much focus on national sales instead of building regional sales because it puts people in a box. You and I know that the people with the money are 55-plus. Who cares whether they’re 35 or 40? There’s a stigma involved that thinking anyone over 55 is not as worthy as the national folks believe.

RH: What will happen to news/talk radio as technology advances? Are there any exciting technologies or trends that you are looking forward to?

GM: I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing. We must continue to find great talent to emerge to be part of our business. I find that exciting. I would like to tell you that finding ways to enhance your emotional connection with your hosts to build across social platforms is essential.

RH: When you hear someone like Bob Pittman, the CEO of iHeartMedia, state that they won’t be shutting down broadcast stations, what are your thoughts on that?

GM: Radio is still a viable business, I read the article you’re referring to, and Pittman said, ‘Radio has never been in a better place.’ That statement could be arguable, but it’s great to hear that kind of endorsement from someone influential in our business for so long.

RH: You will speak at the first annual Barrett News Media Summit in September. Please provide insights on what distinguishes this event from other industry conferences or gatherings.

GM: So many conferences, seminars, and things like that, try to put too much into them. For instance, they may have a panel with six people on it and only 30 minutes to talk. I don’t think that’s the way [Jason] Barrett is looking at doing this. I think people really want to have some time to engage. You guys have put together some really good people. The more time you can spend with quality people, the better it will be. 

RH: How do you coach and train radio hosts to improve their performance and build a stronger connection with their audience?

GM: This is something that I am passionate about. I got into the business, evolved, and entered a bigger market. I worked at WTIC in Hartford and went to WSB in Atlanta, and then I wanted to come home with my family in Grand Rapids. What was interesting to me in that process was that I learned a lot about how to coach. It’s not about coddling or making excuses for bad performances.

Some people have said, and rightfully so, that some program directors are too critical of the people they’re supposed to help and coach. There are fundamentals that good programmers know inherently. The key to me is that you must have great relationships with your talent to build a better station. How do you do that? To me, it’s much more about emotional connectivity. Talent always does best with praise if it’s sincere and they don’t think you’re playing them.

RH: Do you think radio executives will start prioritizing influencers and individuals with large social media followings over traditional radio professionals who have gained experience in the field?

GM: It’s an opportunity for people in radio to hire people in that fashion. Some of the best talents I’ve ever known, coached, or worked with didn’t come up traditionally. Erick Erickson is a guy who I worked with at Cox Media. He didn’t have the traditional deep pipes, but he gave me context. He checked the boxes; he made me think. The influencers to me are the talent. Talent influences how much money we make and whether the station is doing well. Influencers on Tik Tok adapt to what they know well. Some of those people will be in traditional media as they get older.

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