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Lee Habeeb, Like Our American Stories, Is About Nostalgia

“I want to know how Home Depot started. How did Pez come about? I have a lot of love for the lives other people have lived.”

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When Lee Habeeb tells stories, and he tells quite a few, he doesn’t delve into the salacious or dark side of life. There’s already too much of that crud. Habeeb also believes in walking-the-walk in life. Believe in the things you say, and realize them.

Habeeb is the host of Our American Stories, a daily two-hour talk show that profiles  American heroes and icons from history, industry, entertainment, sports, and culture. The show is distributed by Premiere Networks.

“In the end, be a sermon; don’t give a sermon,” Habeeb said.  That causes me to think of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. You can’t talk about integrity if you have none. Some people have lapsed for a moment, a bad voice in their heads. I just want to forgive those people.”

His faith is part of everyday life, but it came to Habeeb later.

“I observed things that can’t be explained,” Habeeb said. “I used to be skeptical of religious people, but I discovered how much good faith has done in this world. The abolition movement doesn’t happen without people of faith.”

At one point I started to not like some things about myself and I needed a change. Christianity changed a lot of men’s lives I respected later in life. Many never talked about it. I want to know what changed them. If someone is ready, I want to talk with them about it.

He said he’s never astounded by the worst actor in a company or business. On Habeeb’s show, one out of three stories is faith-based because faith drives the lives of so many good people in America. Two out of three stories reflect people’s lives.

“I love people. I love my neighbors. I don’t have any answers on the show we do. The world is what it is – we think it is better than what the news says it is. Much better.”

On Our American Stories, Habeeb is a student of history. Through our past we can understand our actions and dreams.

“On our show, we talk about days in history,” Habeeb said. “One day it will be a show about Arnold Palmer, James Madison, the War of 1812, sports, and business. We care what the average person thinks. If we’re talking about free enterprise, we want to know how they formed their thoughts on the subject.”

It’s the small things that people might wonder that make the show. Ideas come from everywhere.

“I want to know how Home Depot started. How did Pez come about? I have a lot of love for the lives other people have lived.”

For Habeeb, it’s about the dignity of work, and he said there’s dignity in every job. If your job is to sweep the floor, sweep it like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.

“Primacy of work is important,” Habeeb explained. “It provides meaning to our lives. We may think being a garbage man is a tough job. If you think he’s underpaid, go to the city council and bring it up.”

Habeeb loves the word ‘nostalgia’.

“To paraphrase historian David McCullough, we’re walking around in history right now.”

Habeeb isn’t afraid to look at controversial subjects. It’s those discussions that allow us to learn. He talked of Thomas Jefferson owning slaves, which was the disposition of the times, but said you also have to take into account the good things he did.

“He also accomplished many wonderful things,” Habeeb said. “He wrote the United States Declaration of Independence, established the Free Exercise clause, authorized the Louisiana Purchase and the Northwest Ordinance. Everybody owned slaves in 1776, but Jefferson wrote ‘All men are created equal.’ It’s all context.”

Those who signed the Declaration of Independence were men in their 30s, by today’s standards, young men.

“All of those signers had a lot to lose,” Habeeb said. “Dr. Benjamin Rush was one of the last to sign the Declaration, and he had a great quote. He said you could feel the hush in the room. They knew they were signing their own suicide pact, an act of treason.”

Habeeb explained there were three types of opinions when it came to the American Revolution;  One-third of the colonies wanted war, one-third was against war, and the rest were under their tables hoping they weren’t going to get killed.

Henry Ford was a known anti-Semite. Again, Habeeb chooses to look at the potential good side of a man.

“He may have believed atrocious things, but Ford’s automotive plants were turned into factories during WWII to create airplanes,” Habeeb said. “It was the arsenal he helped create was used to annihilate the Nazi’s. Most unusual people are used for a good purpose. We push down the dark voices and lift the good voices.”

We haven’t had a Civil War in this country in a while. Does Habeeb feel we may be coming close today?

“Not at all. There may have been 500 hundred idiots who stormed the Capitol and arrested for it, but that doesn’t represent the other 70 million people that voted Republican. The members of Antifa in the protests in the summer of 2020 made them riots with their violence. That doesn’t reflect the ideology of 70 million people that voted Democrat.” 

Habeeb presents nice, long, slow stories.

“We’re not trying to create click bait. We’re not carnal or salacious. Nearly everything we do has nothing to do with politics. We want people to talk to each other. Treat humans differently. There’s just so much lack of respect. These are the challenges of the day.”

Habeeb talked about some of the egregious things we’ve done as a society.

“It’s astounding to think when Duke Ellington was playing in a Harlem Club, he had to enter the venue through the back and walk through the kitchen to get to the stage. Blacks weren’t allowed in the club unless they were serving whites. We did a story on General George Patton,” Habeeb said. “He wasn’t using prayer to get to Berlin. I never want to stand in judgment. I like looking at the human spirit.”

Habeeb explained he’s concerned about a lot of things happening in our society. Instead of taking a side and blaming others, he insists on showing rather than telling.

“I’m concerned about young Black men growing up without fathers,” Habeeb said. “The amount and velocity of young boys without fathers is astounding. It’s a curse on the sons and they’re angry. You have one father that was an alcoholic and beat their son. That’s all they knew. We’ve never seen so many out of wedlock birth rates. People tell me the poverty family’s experience is no different than the Great Depression. Those kids had fathers. It’s not the same thing.”

“Habeeb said men didn’t use to father babies and leave. How do we bring that back? It starts with men saying to other men they know the pain they are feeling. They tell them they can make the decision to stop that cycle in your family. You can be a father to a son, be a grandfather, make the right choices and change your life.”

Our American Stories had a show that focused on good fathers. Not perfect fathers, but good men doing their best. Then they had a show featuring people with no fathers, or fathers who drank and beat their kids.

“If you only tell the good father stories, people wouldn’t want to tune in. You need to give equal time. We have to ask what people did to stop the cycle. Those are the stories I want to get. How can we triumph over our circumstances?”

Habeeb said there are two types of people. Some seek happiness in the pursuit of pleasure. Some find happiness in serving others.

“We did a story on Steve Jobs and wanted to find out what made Jobs tick,” Habeeb explained. “We had Walter Isaacson on, who wrote a book on Jobs. He said when he went to Jobs’ house, he was very unassuming. It looked like he’d just moved into the place, which he hadn’t.”

Jobs’ wife greeted Isaacson at the door, no pretense or flashes of wealth. Jobs wasn’t about that.

“He was always chasing the next great thing. He was living like he did in his college dorm. I learned that we all could have purchased stock in Apple and be rich today. I don’t begrudge people who did that. Most billionaires started with nothing. Jobs was an innovator. He didn’t take anything from anyone. Jobs never forced anyone to buy a cell phone.”

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Telling The Audience What You Think They Want to Hear Won’t Help You Grow

“Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.”



Photo Credit: iStock

It’s OK to not always tell your audience what you think they want to hear. 

I have been writing that phrase down at the top of my notepad before I start my show for the last two weeks. Something tells me I will need it for at least another 12 months.

In the last week alone there have been two major topics that have divided News Talk audiences across the country: The debt-ceiling debate and the brewing Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis feud.

And as I’ve listened to talented hosts and perused the social media landscape, I’ve noticed a hesitancy that I usually would not expect. 

Granted, for the last two years it’s been relatively easy when talking about the national political scene: Joe Biden is a disaster. Whether it’s economic policy, border policy or foreign policy, most Americans don’t believe the guy is doing a good job. The News Talk audience, generally speaking, thinks he’s doing a terrible job.

That’s shooting fish in a barrel. But now comes the hard(er) work. 

Starting with the debt-ceiling drama, there was a big divide amongst Republicans in the House of Representatives. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, however dozens of Republicans, many of the most conservative members of the House, voted against the bill, saying it did not do enough to cut spending

As a result, it seemed many hosts, who assume their audience blindly aligns with everything the most-conservative members of the House say, were hesitant to point out the obvious: Explain what better deal you were getting when you only had a small majority in the House, and no control over the Senate or the White House?

It was a question I never got a good answer to on my show.

Republicans already picked up a win getting Biden to the negotiating table after he spent months saying he wanted a clean debt-ceiling raise with no spending cuts attached. Speaker Kevin McCarthy won, got some concessions, and slowly began turning the tide towards hopefully Senate and White House victories in 2024, when then the real work can begin on getting spending under control. This was a victory.

And while no one with any levels of fiscal sanity believes our government’s spending isn’t wildly out of control, that is a separate conversation from whether or not this was a good or smart deal. 

Then, there’s the Trump vs. DeSantis feud. Some have staked their claim with one candidate over the other. Some are trying to toe the line and avoid all conflict. Neither approach makes sense to me.

The obvious approach seems to me to analyze the candidate’s based on what they do and say on a given day. There will be good and bad days for Trump. DeSantis will have his up and down moments. I can guarantee this because they’re flawed human beings like the rest of us.Like every election season, it will ebb and flow, and eventually someone will come out on top.

Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.

If you compare this to sports talk radio, a national host talking about the NFL Playoffs doesn’t have to have a preferred team, but he or she has to have something to say that’s interesting, compelling, honest, thought-provoking and entertaining.

If they don’t do this, they’ll become wallpaper in a world of too many media options. 

If you have the trust of your audience, you’re real, honest, engaging and thoughtful, you won’t lose your audience. You’ll keep them engaged and you’ll grow it.

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Why Did Newsmax Allow Rep. Matt Gaetz to Host An Unchallenged TV Program?

“A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies.”

Jessie Karangu



Photo Credit: Newsmax

Representing your constituents in Congress used to be a mark of honor. It was a position that came with pride and respect. At least that’s what I’ve heard from older relatives who lived in an America that was supposedly more united. Today, depending on the individual, the position doesn’t usually come with too much regard if any at all. Congress has an all-time low approval rating and many representatives go into the job plotting their next money-making move in the process. 

The cable news circuit has slowly but surely built a bench of potential hosts from current and former Congressmen. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Fox News commentator, Trey Gowdy is a host on Fox News, Joe Scarborough is MSNBC’s morning show anchor and most recently Rep. Matt Gaetz anchored his own hour for Newsmax. As much as some members of Congress roast young Gen Zers for their tenacity when it comes to TikTok, these men are just as eager for the wrong kind of attention and spotlight. 

A former Congressman on television can provide perspective that gives context to current issues the country faces. On Scarborough’s morning show, he often harkens back to past negotiations and talks he had with fellow lawmakers. At times, he even uses those connections to find out the inside scoop about something that’s happening in the moment. Current Congressmen who appear on shows as guests also get to talk directly to their constituents hopefully alongside a host that is willing to challenge them on the issues of the day and not simply allow them to lead the audience astray. 

For Newsmax to allow Rep. Gaetz to host a show though, is a disgrace to a medium of television that already like Congress doesn’t have much acclaim. With that being said, even for cable news, this is a major low and it should never happen on either side of the aisle. Politicians are elected to serve but are also forced to make tough decisions. These choices are answerable to the American people. When a Congressman is allowed to spew their thoughts uncensored, it takes attention away from the issues that really matter. 

A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies. Unless Gaetz had a co-host that was a journalist questioning his takes, how does an unchallenged show truly serve the public – an oath he agreed to partake in when he took on his role as a Congressman. 

Gaetz’s appearance is also a waste of tax dollars. The people of Florida who elected him into office expect Gaetz to be working with fellow lawmakers to make their lives better. They expect him to be doing research or reading up on bills that can bring the change he’s promised to his voters. Instead, he used the resources of hard-working Floridians to moonlight into his next career and spew misinformation that can prove harmful to the public.

If we allow more serving Congressmen to host their own cable talk shows on such a widely distributed platform, will we reach a day when lawmakers exclusively negotiate bills on television? Will Congressmen be more worried about ratings than results? We’ve already seen what happens when a President reigns over a populous and only rules based on what he sees on television. We’ve also seen the political implications that come with such unjustly behavior. Cable news networks will suffer the moral consequences of their actions while politicians who dare to try this act again will eventually face the demise of their legacy in the voting booth. Be careful.

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Sales Productivity Protects You From Hedge Fund Uncertainty

“The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable. The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.”

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Almost 30 years ago, Radio station ownership limits were lifted, and Wall Street saw an opportunity. But the hedge funds didn’t understand the business and created mayhem in a still vital industry.

I worked in New York City for over 6 years. I had the opportunity to spend time around the brain trust of Wall Street. These Masters of the Universe saw the weakness of the radio industry and thought that they had all the answers. 

Well, they didn’t. 

I will give you some history from my perspective. My first 16 years were spent working for family run operations. Both of these companies were managed by third generation operators who put people and community first. These were highly successful operations with large staffs. 

I am not looking back with rose colored glasses. No organization is perfect or without unique challenges. But people were first in these broadcast companies. Both of my first employers had top consultants to give strong outside the organization feedback. Both companies had General Managers that catered to both the programming and sales departments. 

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the biggest overhaul of telecommunications law in 62 years. It was widely thought that this would bring radio into modern times. Consolidation has been a landmark of American Business, so, Wall Street’s Hedge Funds saw an opening.  Radio station owners sold for insane profits. Longtime owners were able to sell stations for multiples of up to 30 times meaning that if an owner had a station earning 1 million dollars, they could sell it for 30 million dollars. Quite a return (Most stations didn’t go that high but multiples of 18-25 were very common during this period).  

Wall Street looked at radio like the pickle industry. Except there was an issue. Radio did not have hundreds of workers in each location. You couldn’t move all operations to a central hub and save HUGE money, that would justify strong ROI. So, radio ended up with several large owners (by the way, I am not criticizing iHeart, Audacy, Cumulus and the other large owners). 

When larger companies developed, they went public selling stock to individual shareholders and institutional investors. The market states that companies show a certain amount of revenue growth per year. Let’s say that number is 10%. Radio is interesting, we are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. You cannot just build new radio stations. So, companies were forced to merge or expand to meet revenue goals. Wall Street encouraged and even demanded it. 

Here was the problem – radio companies acquired an unsupportable amount of debt that could never be paid back. The Hedge Funds just moved cash around and demanded companies cut staff and consolidate management. It was a blood bath. Any of us who entered this business in the 90’s saw this. Great broadcasters, salespeople, managers were forced out because of unsustainable debt and micromanaging Hedge Funds.  

On the local level, new clusters were forced to protect the biggest biller in the group. This was not set to grow revenue; it was to protect the revenue and keep the spreadsheets looking right. I know of stations that were more successful brands in ratings in a cluster than the cash cow but if you were the Program Director who was consistently beating the cash cow, your job was in jeopardy.  This was a reverse hunger games caused by debt, fear and shortsightedness. 

So, here we are.

The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable. 

The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.

Even though a couple of the bigger companies have gone bankrupt, they’re not bankruptcy situations where assets were liquidated creating a market-based value of these properties. It was essentially a negotiation to lower the debt, and did not move these companies to become cash positive operations again. 

Why do the Hedge Funds not cut their losses and move on? Now that is a great question.  Hedge funds handle billions of dollars. They bundle bad deals with great deals and so their investors don’t seem to have a problem if they see enough of a profit at the end of the month, quarter or year. People remember the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. Hedge Funds were bundling bad mortgages with good ones. Soon the bad overcame the market. Thus, a crash.  The homes never went away. The value of real estate fell dramatically in many places.

Are people still listening to us? 80% of Americans do. Not the 93% of a decade or so ago (Pew Research). This is much better than local TV where only 63% of Americans watch local TV News.

But what is the future?

It is entirely up to Hedge Fund involvement. Will Hedge Funds cut their losses and move on?  If that occurs, will local broadcasters rise again? 

What can YOU do?

It is all about the billing. If you are billing a lot more than you cost, the company will need you, and indispensability is what corporate leaders will see. Make yourself available for Sales. If you are the morning talent, be dressed well enough for a sales call. Make yourself available a few times each week to meet clients. Let salespeople know about the products and services that you use. Radio personalities are influencers. They have huge audiences that listen every day.  Don’t forget your advantage. We cannot control the Hedge Funds, corporate debt or a fast-changing marketplace. 

This was not an exhaustive history, but it illustrates our challenges. Radio programming departments are filled with creative people who just want to entertain. Be aware of our weaknesses and strengths. The Market Manager and sales manager are under huge pressure.  Be that person who understands their concerns.

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