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CBS News Takes Aim at Talk Radio

It’s ironic for CBS News to examine conservative media and blame it for the divisiveness in America. CBS News is neither self-reflective nor honest. 

Andy Bloom



A photo of the CBS News logo

CBS News devoted an episode of its news program, “Sunday Morning,” to “exploring the ways in which America has drifted apart.” One of the segments was titled “Talk Radio: Widening the airwaves’ great divide.”

It’s ironic for CBS News to examine conservative media and blame it for the divisiveness in America. CBS News is neither self-reflective nor honest. 

Bernard Goldberg’s seminal 2001 book “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News,” for the first time, confirmed what conservatives believed, the media isn’t an honest broker of information. A few years later, Dan Rather tried to discredit George W. Bush’s National Guard service using fake documents. 

The CBS News piece on Talk Radio dividing America is another hit job. 

Correspondent Jim Axelrod relies heavily on “industry expert” Brian Rosenwald. Axelrod and CBS News do not say what industry he’s an expert on, but I’ve worked in the radio industry since the 1970s and never heard the name. 

Dr. Rosenwald’s (he has a Ph.D., so I’ll be respectful) website states: He is “a scholar in residence at the Partnership for Effective Public Administration and Leadership Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, an instructor at Penn. He received his Ph.D. and MA in history from the University of Virginia and BA in political science (with honors) (parenthesis his) and history from the University of Pennsylvania, and he wrote a book: “Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over America.” It’s not hard to guess what he thinks.

Rosenwald states Talk Radio has divided America and “hardened our politics.” Axelrod asks how is that good? To which Rosenwald replies: “It’s not. It’s bad for America.” 

You can certainly understand his liberal mindset; everything was better when there was no conservative response. 

The second expert in the report is Michael Harrison, publisher of “Talkers Magazine.” Unlike Dr. Rosenwald, Harrison is a long-time broadcasting pioneer and, by the way, friend. I have the utmost respect for Michael.

Harrison’s quotes in the story were surprising because he is a long-time supporter of Talk Radio. It’s hard to imagine the creator of Talkers Magazine being anything less than 100% supportive of the format.

I contacted Harrison to find out the rest of the story. According to Harrison, CBS News interviewed him for almost two and a half hours. After all that, they used only “a few sound bites that they were able to squeeze and twist into supporting their narrative,” he said.

In one quote they use, Harrison wishes for a balanced presence on Talk Radio which is understandable. I can’t count the times I’ve dreamed of an equal conservative voice in the mainstream media. 

In our exchange, Harrison states that’s his programming position – not a political one. “I’m a programmer, not a politician or partisan.” He adds,  “They failed to include my specific statement that it didn’t mean existing conservative formats should be replaced by liberal ones. I approach the business from a broadcasting perspective, not a personal ideology. I’m always for the expansion of Talk Radio.”

The CBS News piece goes from ironic to farcical. Axelrod states, “It’s not that liberals haven’t mounted a counter-attack; they just chose another battlefield,” Rosenwald concurs, “I think they’ve gone into other areas. I think Jon Stewart has been every bit of a trailblazer as Rush Limbaugh was, and he happened to colonize late-night comedy. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, most of the late-night comics lean left at this point,” he said.

I could write a book explaining who the trailblazers of late-night television were to Dr. Rosenwald. Jon Stewart might be on the list, but he is a Johnny-Come-Lately. 

Saying that most late-night “comics” lean left is an understatement. Colbert, Kimmel, et al. could be mistaken for part of the PR apparatus of the DNC. The funniest late-night liberal “comics” joke is their ratings that have dropped precipitously since the current crop of hosts took over in 2015. Their ratings have eroded further over the past year as they continue to blast away at Republicans without noticing the hilarity across Joe Biden’s America.

Meanwhile, the new “King of Late-Night” is the one conservative, Greg Gutfeld, on Fox News Channel. I’ll tip my hat to Bill Maher for his willingness to criticize Democrats and woke liberals. He can see both sides – sometimes. 

It’s not that there haven’t been attempts at liberal Talk Radio, either. Rosenwald may not be aware of Air America, but Harrison certainly is. He maintains that he told Axelrod that the primary reason Air America failed was that, in his opinion, “it was done extremely poorly,” adding, “Al Franken was a lousy talk show host.”  

Harrison does draw the correct conclusion when Axelrod asks him what the mission of Talk Radio is. “The mission of Talk Radio,” Harrison replied, “is to generate ratings and revenue.”

Also left on the cutting room floor was Harrison telling Axelrod that NPR is “relatively liberal and has a huge audience. Therefore, it is unfair and inaccurate to claim that conservative talk has a monopoly on the airwaves when it comes to political discussion.”

Harrison claims that one of the show’s producers said that Ted Koppel responded, “Public Radio and Talk Radio are apples and oranges.”  When he sought clarification, the producer told Harrison, “Koppel says Public Radio tells the truth, and Conservative Radio lies.” 

If we are to believe CBS News, “Talk Radio is bad for America” and “lies,” but liberal late-night hosts, “trailblazers” that they are, have no culpability in the fracturing of America, and “Public Radio tells the truth.” But there is no bias in the mainstream media, and they don’t have an agenda.  

I am also critical of the report for not including a practitioner of Conservative Talk Radio. I learned CBS News spent an hour and a half talking with my former colleague Dom Giordano at WPHT-AM/Philadelphia but left him out of the story. Giordano confirms this information. Apparently, he didn’t sound loony enough or spout right-wing conspiracy theories. 

Shame on CBS News for producing a segment on Conservative Talk Radio with a predetermined agenda based on their liberal biases. Their reporting continues to show Bernard Goldberg’s book, “Bias,” is as accurate now as when he wrote it 20 years ago. It’s well past time for CBS News to do a little soul-searching and examine its role in causing the rift in America. Dishonest reporting by the mainstream media has done more to pit Americans against one another than anything ever invented by Talk Radio.

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As History Unfolds, It’s Important for News/Talk Radio to Remain Focused on Playing the Hits

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward.



A photo of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

The age-old radio adage is to “Play the hits”.

It applies more directly to music stations, but the phrase can also relate to sports talk and news/talk. So, suppose you’re like me, and you’ve found yourself behind a microphone on a news/talk station the last couple of weeks. In that case, you might be having an internal conversation about whether you’ve focused too much on the national political discourse since the unforgettable Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden debate on June 27th.

My short answer is: No, you’re not too focused. 

But in an effort to not stop this column at 100 words, I’ll explain further.

I’ve long advocated for focusing your local shows on your local radio markets as much as possible. It will separate your show from the national syndication that can be piped into any station nationwide. Your local flair is what will build your credibility in your community. It’s what will separate you. Local will win. 

And given that it’s been an unusually predictable few months in the election news cycle, there hasn’t been much to lean into on the national political side. Joe Biden was the unimpressive, octogenarian incumbent going up against Donald Trump, who rolled quickly through a primary and was set to be at the top of the Republican ticket for a third-straight election cycle. It was a rematch of 2020, a period in American history most Americans would prefer to forget, given the state of the nation at the time. Unfortunately for many, they are being forced to relive it. 

However, what happened two weeks ago in Atlanta between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has given a massive jolt to an election season that had been relatively boring. Tens of millions of Americans were tuned in that evening, and given Biden’s debate performance, it has kicked off two weeks of speculation of Biden dropping out, party infighting, replacement conversations, various media reports, and drama that we haven’t seen around an incumbent President in an election year since 1968.

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward engagingly and entertainingly while also, when appropriate, bringing on guests who will provide them with insight they can bring to their conversations with friends, at the water cooler, on group texts and on social media.

In a perfect world, you can also localize these national stories by getting reactions from local officials, reading/playing their social media reactions on your show, or if you’re in a swing state, your options beyond that are unlimited.

But now that we are in a national news cycle that has been on fire, don’t force yourself into local talk. Find your top local stories that are compelling and impacting your radio listener’s day-to-day lives, and work to blend it with the historical moment we find ourselves living through on the national political stage. And always be working your hardest to think of and find new angles, while moving the story forward.

In the end, just like your local CHR station has to play Taylor Swift multiple times an hour, you need to give your audience what they want and “Play the hits.” We’re living through history, after all.

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James Golden AKA Bo Snerdley Relishes New Nationally Syndicated Weekend Show

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”



A photo of James Golden
(Photo: James Golden)

Radio host, radio executive, producer, author, and a jack of all media trades. Since he was 14-years-old James Golden (AKA Bo Snerdley) has devoted his entire life to the media industry.

The on-air talent’s weekend show —The James Golden Show — just became syndicated through Red Apple Audio Networks.

“I really appreciate having the platform that WABC has provided. It’s a wonderful thing to have a show that’s now in a bunch of different markets and growing! It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Long before Golden hit the airwaves as ‘Bo Snerdley’ on The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a teenager visiting his cousin, DJ Gerry Bledsoe, at work. “It was a mind-blowing experience for me. So many things happened that day. In fact, that day was when one of the older guys there, the guy who’s had a reputation as being a real grumpy, curmudgeon type guy, for some reason, took a liking to me.”

He let Golden into the show where Golden learned how to cut tape. “It took me a lot of years before I actually got a job, and ironically, it was at the same station, doing marketing and research, looking at ratings and learning how to analyze ratings and learning how to do marketing. Later on, I moved into the programming side and started doing music research.”

James Golden was one of the first in the country to do music research which led him to WABC. There he worked with the station’s transition from music to their first talk program.

“I think in life you’re given the sort of the things that you need to fulfill whatever destiny you have. I had always been interested in news, politics, and all of it. This dual love I had for music, it allowed me to transition when the station changed format and to become their senior producer of news. And it was at ABC some years later that I met Rush Limbaugh. And of course, that turned into a 30-year relationship.”

The Author of “Rush On The Radio,” recalled the first time the pair met. “So my first day working on his show, I brought him some news stories. I was in the habit of doing that before I even worked on his show. I developed a friendship. When I saw something interesting, that I thought he would be interested in and I would take it to him. So it was a smooth transition for me being rotated on the show.”

It wasn’t before long James Golden became Bo Snerdley. “So I walked in, dropped off some stories, and on the way out he says, ‘Well, everybody on this call screen has got to be a Snerdley, have you come up with your name?’ So The Daily News was on his desk, and it was on the sports page. Bo Jackson was in the news for some of the headlines, but I just wasn’t able watch it. So I just said ‘Bo’ and walked out. Little did I know that for the rest of my life, I’d be Bo. But it’s great and I love it. I’m comfortable with either one.”

Golden recalled the time spent with his friend saying, “No words can ever describe it. He was the best that there ever was to me, or ever will be in the industry. His talent, as he said, was on loan from God. But it was something unique. The incredibly intelligent, incredibly hardworking. 30 years in, he still brought it. Even when he was sick, [Rush] did as much of the work that he could to make sure that his show was extremely well researched and well delivered.”

While working on Rush’s show, James Golden also had his own weekend show. He worked 7 days a week for years. Today, he is back at his radio home. “Back at WABC, doing six days on air with them, and it’s just been a wonderful ride for me.”

Throughout the years, the former executive producer turned host has seen significant change in the industry.

“For some people, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. And I’ll just speak frankly about that. When the bean counters took over because of corporate interest — instead of it being a lot of different families with smaller radio groups, it moved into more of a big business — for a lot of people a lot of the fun was taken out of it, because those decisions that used to be made locally are now being made by regional managers or by national managers, some of whom had more of a background in sales and didn’t understand the programing,” he shared.

“So there’s always that schism. And so for a lot of people in the industry, I have friends who have left the industry because it just was no longer fun for them.”

Another big difference? You no longer have to work your way up through the markets.

“You had to work your way up through lower markets to get to a higher market. You don’t have to do that now. People that are just good at what they do, if they have very good communication skills, you can learn how to become [one of the] best radio hosts. There’s only one best radio host and [Rush] passed away, but it is still about your ability to tell a good story. To understand and to I think it really is how much you are in love with the medium yourself.”

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The Difference Between News/Talk Radio Programmer and Bureaucrat

The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets.

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Let’s talk about the worst aspect of every news/talk radio programmer’s job: commercial stops, those designed traffic jams that occur every ten or twenty minutes bringing your excellent content to a dead halt. And so, you wait, knowing full well that you’re losing a significant percentage of your audience to button pushers looking for a station where talkers are still talking and news is still being broadcast.

The way most news and talk radio stations operate today commercial clutter takes up 20-30 minutes of each programming hour. It would be nice to say that’s because your inventory is sold out thanks to great ratings but we know better. It happens because it’s allowed to happen. Some of that load is likely bonus spots and far too much of it consists of recorded promos that use branding phrases begging the listener to wait through the clutter.

Yes, commercials are necessary but there are some things to consider that might make them less annoying and potentially informative and entertaining.

Warning: old fart flashback straight ahead.

When I was a young program director I had the authority to reject any spots that I didn’t feel met our standards. Yes, I’m quite serious. I didn’t exercise the option often but if a spot was of lousy audio quality, badly produced, boring, or even just plain stupid, I could kick it back to the sales exec and/or ad agency and ask them politely to make it better.

You might think that could result in an impolite opposite reaction. It never did, not once. From time to time I talked with an advertiser or his agent and they always said the same thing: You’re the expert. I want my time and money spent well on your station.

Sales execs could get annoyed but usually went along as good teammates without too much grousing. Besides, schmoozing clients with better ideas is part of their art; the best enjoy it.

Often these conversations would lead to brainstorming sessions with the production director. (Remember that creative and crucial position?) Ideas were tossed around, writing began and a highly effective ad was usually the result.

If you’re a program director or air talent today your mind must be reeling. It has probably never occurred to you that you could have the authority to actually determine all of your news/talk station’s programming, not just the words between the breaks, every blessed minute. Why not? You’re responsible for your station’s content 24/7 though you have no control over half of it.

Most program directors in corporate-owned stations today have been hired as functionaries at the end of a long chain of corporate bureaucrats. Your days are filled with layers of programming and sales hierarchies. Presidents have lieutenants, regional and format V.P.s, who send out the memos and convene Zoom meetings to address general issues with generalized answers.

They dive into recent studies and charts for boilerplate policies, seldom suggesting anything bold or of local significance because they can’t, they don’t know your town. The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets. They’re smart enough to know that what worked in Boston might not fly in Amarillo – except in a vague, general way.

As a local PD today your log is bloated, your programming is filled with syndicated shows, and your hands are tied. 

Unless you have a creative fire in your belly and the guts to assert it.

Dream up great promotions that will excite your audience in your hometown. Enlist the members of your on-air, newsroom, and production staff. Invite them to a pizza place for some brainstorming. Don’t make it mandatory, suggest it will be fun and exciting because it will. Your crew will be happier and bubbling tomorrow. Before long fresh ideas will start trickling in regularly because everyone is enthused, involved, and feeling appreciated. You’ll all make each other’s great ideas even greater. You’re having fun and it’s contagious.

If you can ignite a spark of excitement and faith from your GM and sales department you might find yourself with the programming reigns in both hands.

You weren’t hired to be a clickbait expert, you are a radio expert. You know more about the stuff that comes out of the speakers than anyone else at the station. And you can identify problems and turn them into opportunities. You need to spend your days refining the product, not in endless meetings trying to implement generalized corporate buzzspeak into local program policy.

Attend the Zoom meetings, be a cheerful good soldier but if called upon speak your mind with truth and passion. It’s infectious.

Explain to your boss why you should be allowed to reduce the on-air clutter by as much as half and that you need to spend most of your time every day with your news and talk talent because they’re your stars. It’s why they pay you. The station and the community are all that matters to you.

Tell her/him you’ll read the interoffice memos faithfully and join digital meetings when you can but that the corporate culture will mostly just have to take care of itself.

And, oh, by the way, you need the authority to reject bad radio commercials.

You may not get everything you ask for but I promise you’ll earn some respect.

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