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Annie Frey Balances Family Life With Career in News Radio

Frey hosts the eponymous “The Annie Frey Show” on Fox News Radio station, 97.1FM Talk. Between her family and her job, she’s a busy woman.

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Annie Frey relayed a great deal of information in the relatively brief time we spent together. She speaks quickly and lands her thoughts expeditiously. Perhaps that’s because, with four children, you find it hard to get a word in edgewise. She ensured her kids could play doubles tennis when the fourth child showed up last year.

“My daughter Molly Marie was born 16 months ago,” Frey said. “She’s a typical fourth child. She’s independent, curious, a take-along baby. I’m not totally sure what that means.”

That makes two of us. 

Frey hosts the eponymous The Annie Frey Show on Fox News Radio station, 97.1FM Talk. Between her family and her job, she’s a busy woman. 

“My husband and I used to sit and stare at the first child, wondering how we were going to navigate it all. When the fourth one comes along, you have a totally different mindset. It’s a bit more autopilot.”

Frey said it’s challenging to be a parent, and difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on in the kids’ lives.

“That’s the difficult part right now, juggling it all. And it’s all happening right during the difficult and silly political season.”

It has been said if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. Frey has a family, a job, and coaches volleyball. However, if something has to give, her family will always come first. 

“The one thing that people always tell me is the time with your kids goes really fast,” Frey said. “The other phrase is days are long, years are short. Here I am physically trying to keep my eyes open from exhaustion, and then in a blink of those eyes, it will all be over.”

Frey said her number one priority is to be there, and be present in the kids’ lives.

“You can’t always stop the world from hurting them,” she said. “But you have to help create resilient human beings. Let them know they will always have a mother and father that will be there for them. Make it so they don’t really need you anymore.”

She said her 12-year-old is just too mature for her age, an old soul. 

“She’s just entering that age where she’s starting to get the jokes, contribute to a conversation. That’s kind of a cool thing. You couldn’t imagine things like that happening when they were super little. What am I going to do when she starts driving a car?”

Frey was born in Edwardsville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. A mere 22 minutes from downtown. She grew up on a generational farm, raised in the same house in which her grandfather was born. 

“There’s a treeline on the western horizon of our property where we can see the Gateway Arch, see fireworks. I always say I’m an Illinoisan in the shadow of the Arch.”

Frey began her radio career as an intern at KFNS, the same time our own Jason Barrett was program director. 

“I grew up listening to Frank Cusumano on KFNS. He is one of the best storytellers, bar none,” Frey said. “I started interning on his show coming out of college. I was such small peanuts. I loved working with Frank. I did have a lot of responsibility and had the chance to do meaningful things.”

The internship was unpaid, but that didn’t seem to bother Frey. 

“I just loved radio. I got a call when I was in Peoria for a volleyball tournament, and it was the station asking if I’d like to extend the internship–still unpaid. Of course, I said ‘yes.’”

Welcome to radio. 

By this time she was living in Hamel, Illinois, and would drive 55 miles to and from the station every day. She finally started making minimum wage. Still, it was all worth it.

“I got to work with some great people,” Frey said. “I didn’t have health benefits, but I was working a real job in the industry. In radio, you have to go where the jobs are.”

She studied communications and broadcasting at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, with aspirations of becoming a sports sideline reporter. Frey said while working at KFNS she made some good connections. While sideline reporting was her goal, she recognized something else was calling. 

“I steered away from that goal,” Frey said. “All of these sporting events I would cover required nights and weekends. What I really wanted was a family of six. (Only two more kids to go.) I wanted to be successful with a family, not spend all my time at a meaningless sports game.”

Frey is a true sports lover, evidenced by her being a four-sport athlete in high school. She played volleyball, basketball, softball, and ran track. 

“Sports was always my passion,” Frey explained. “In the summer of 08, all I was talking about on the air was Barry Bonds, whether his home runs would stand up. It was then I realized I didn’t care enough about topics like that to make sports my life. I guess it was some sort of disconnect. Now I’m involved in news and politics. I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, you should have a heart and head for what’s going on.”

Frey still loves sports, but now it’s all about the heart, not a cerebral endeavor. She said sports is a business driven by success. 

“What entertains sells,” Frey said. “You never really want to know how sausage is made. You almost don’t want to be too close to something where you end up losing the passion. I didn’t want to do the barstool sports thing. There was a specific role on the radio for female voices back then that wasn’t for me.”

Frey said it’s different with politics. She can plead her case with more meaning. It was a huge transformation from sports to politics, but Frey admits she had the right personality.

“I’m a nerd,” she said. “I was raised to be a nerd.” 

While at KFNS, Frey contributed very little on the air with no real ambition to be behind the microphone. 

“I was interested in traffic, loading PSA’s and commercials. I did some weather and business office stuff,” Frey explained. “I did scheduling for producers and part-timers. The last thing I took on was digital responsibility.”

Frey said the digital world now compared to 2008 is a light-year of difference.

“People wouldn’t recognize what managing a website was back then. It was almost primitive.”

Frey said she’s incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family, close to her family’s original home. 

“All four of my grandparents were a big part of my life,” Frey said. “My paternal grandfather was stationed in the South Pacific in WWII. He met his wife, my grandmother, in Australia. They’d only known each other for a few months when they married. He sent her to the United States. She sailed to the West Coast, arrived in Union Station in St. Louis, and lived with my grandfather’s family.”

Frey said everyone assumed her freshly married grandmother was expecting a child, but that wasn’t the case. Her grandfather was a Captain in the Army. He drew maps of farms in Illinois. When he went into the army, his skills transferred to being a topographer during his service.

“My grandparents were influential in my life. They have a strong Christian faith. I use them as a guide to prioritize my life.” 

As a kid, Frey listened to KMOX, which she said was on nearly all kitchen radios. 

“Rush Limbaugh was on. I knew who he was at a young age. But then he was just another voice in the kitchen.” 

Frey’s father was also in the radio business, spending 30 years in the St. Louis market. He did some on-air work and spent time as a program director. 

“It was KFUO AM, a Lutheran radio station,” Frey explained. “I’m sure that was a contributing factor in my own radio dreams. He hosted a radio show, Ask The Pastor. They would discuss biblical concepts, take calls to answer questions.”

Her father taught her to listen and learn from his mistakes. 

“He’d always tell me about having a listener-centric program,” Frey said. “There are a lot of people who have massive egos behind the microphone. He said you had to control the ego. He’d tell me, regardless of how bright and brilliant a person may be if somebody listening doesn’t think you’re serving them. That’s a critical mistake. My dad instilled that in me. Be humble.”

She said she enjoyed spending time in radio stations when her father was working. 

“All of a sudden I realized not everybody’s dad worked in radio. He’s a great man of faith. His work helped him refine his faith. He helped people with complicated issues. I always thought he was cool to be on the radio.” 

Frey observed how kindness, patience, and acceptance in our society are in incredibly short supply between people. 

“I’m a white, suburban, minivan-driving woman. People think they could probably determine who I vote for–but they’d be wrong. Everybody has their own unique mind. Value comes from who we are on the inside, not the outside.

On her show, Frey said she doesn’t call people names. She doesn’t want to hear someone is bad because of the way they wear their hair, or what they wear. 

“I always want to keep it about substance, not surface. I don’t want them to tune into my show to find out how ‘their side’ won today. I want them to listen, stay informed. I don’t want the clenched cheeks, blood pressures going up. Just exhale, let things out. Most people who listen to me are like-minded. They say, ‘I listen to your show. You’re willing to have the conversations.”

That’s easier when the four kids are at home.

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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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