Let’s get this out of the way; Jared Hart is not a nerd. Still, I’m perplexed at how while still in high school in the 90s, he knew who The Drifters were. He was familiar with the Four Tops and knew songs belted out by Janis Joplin. Who was this kid?
His radio career was born partially from his ability to identify those and many other eclectic tunes off the top of his high-school head.
“I have a step-sister my age,” Hart began, “In high school they wanted us to do a job shadow as an assignment. To spend the day with some professionals in the area. I told her I was going to call up KGOR radio out of the blue and see if I could do my job-shadow there.”
The dubious step-sister said he was nuts, they’d never let him do it. She did hedge her skepticism and said if they did let him do it, she wanted in.
KGOR let them shadow.
“It didn’t seem like it mattered much to them,” Hart explained.
When they got to the station, they heard the DJ play a few songs. Hart leaned to his step-sister’s ear and said the first song was Me and Bobby McGee. He then informed her the second song was This Diamond Ring by the Four Tops.
“I told her I was surprised they were playing these songs,” Hart said. “The DJ overheard me and said, ” Why do you think that? I said because these were more Woodstock songs, and KGOR was more of a Leader of the Pack station.” (The Shangri-Las.)
The DJ pressed Hart, testing his musical acumen. He played another song and asked Hart to name the title and artist. Hart told him it was On the Roof by The Drifters. The DJ played a couple more and Hart named them as well.
“He was amazed,” Hart explained. “He told me I should work there. I told him thanks, but I couldn’t be an intern for free, and had to save money for college.”
The DJ said, ‘Who said it was an internship?’ Hart was just 18 years old and landed his first radio job.
“They threw me on the board on Saturdays,” Hart said. “I started in the summer and then that September, 9/11 happened.”
Hart had an idea he would go into journalism at the University of Nebraska–Omaha but majored in graphic design. He wrote for the high school paper, then his college newspaper.
“Ever since I was a teenager I liked to argue,” Hart explained. “I often took the other side of an argument just for enjoyment. That’s the way I was with my parents. A contrarian my whole life. It’s something talk radio used to do very well. You can’t always stand behind the pitchfork. Sometimes you have to be in front of it. Whatever perpetuates the conversation.”
Later, Hart worked for the NFL as a producer for Oakland Raiders pre and post-game shows.
“When I was working as an NFL producer, I learned you had to be quick on your feet as you had a lot of things thrown at you at once. You had to get the feel of the broadcast. Constantly prioritizing. Something always needs to be executed immediately, and you have to identify what that is. There’s a ton of pressure and no room for a meltdown.”
Hart said there’s one disheartening thing about the work he’s done on film sets.
“There is no ‘Attaboy,’ or ‘job well done,” he said. “In radio it’s different. If you work hard and do well, you can get more money, get rewarded, and get promoted. All you have to do is shut up and work hard. In film, it’s much more political.”
Hart has worked in radio and film since 2001, including feature-length films and documentaries.
He’s currently the operations manager at Cumulus-owned KKOB and KNML in Albuquerque. Before that, it was WPHT where he helped transition the station from its 90s style of talk to a humorous and relevant political station.
The man enjoys film and spent some time working in the industry. Hart said high-quality projects are shot in New Mexico. News of the World, with Tom Hanks, was filmed there. Hell or High Water, Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, and Better Call Saul, among others.
“Those aren’t California mountains you see in the background, those are New Mexico mountains,” Hart said. “New Mexico has done a good job in creating long-term relationships with filmmakers. Strong incentives to shoot there. Not just a shoot and leave situation.”
Hart said unequivocally podcasts are the future.
“Radio used to be the tribal thing that podcasts have moved into,” he said.
“I have a friend that runs a super-successful podcast. When they have a podcast party, four-thousand people come out. It’s like a midnight movie like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Avenger movies.”
Hart said in a lot of ways we’ve become numb to all the political luggage thrown at us each day. But Hart said in his experience, there is still a hunger for the facts.
“Everywhere I’ve been during my radio career there have been political debate watch parties,” Hart said.
Debate watch party?
“When I was in San Francisco, we had a very educated listenership that didn’t want to watch the debates alone at home on TV. They wanted a more communal experience. One night there was a Giants and A’s playoff game scheduled at the same time as a debate, and 250 people showed up. We didn’t think anybody would show up for a VP debate with that kind of a heavy sports night, but they did.”
Hart explained as far as attending a debate watch party goes, it’s not all about rallying behind the same candidate, it’s about people talking about a shared experience.
“It’s kind of like a cruise to Italy,” he jokes. “These experiences touch people in different ways. With podcasts, people are already truly fans of the subject of the podcast.”
He admits he’s never seen the political climate as turbulent as it is today. But Hart said it’s not like it has never been this way before. Every generation thinks the sky is falling, politically speaking.
“I’m sure when Thomas Jefferson opposed John Adams, at the time they figured nothing was going to be that terrible again,” Hart explained. “I’ve covered five presidential new cycles. Every time you think what was happening at the time never mattered more. It was the same with the administrations of Clinton, Bush, Obama. It always seemed like you were dealing with an existential crisis.”
Hart said there is a lot of Doom Scrolling these days by all age groups.
(I know. I’m old. Doom Scrolling: obsessively scanning social media and websites for bad news, triggers the release of stress hormones that can affect your mental and physical health.)
“People are always looking for the beast to be fed, the quicker the better,” Hart said. “Just because you want to refresh your Twitter feed doesn’t mean news is going to move that quickly. The New York Times spends months writing in-depth pieces and we just want something now.”
Attracting and retaining listeners is the name of the game and Hart said there will always be pressure regarding the ratings.
“Nobody tunes into our stations to hear something boring,” Hart said. “We’ve made a conscious decision to try to not make the station solely political like many talk stations in the country. We don’t allow any name-calling. Only one person was Hitler. The government is not the Nazi party. You can say someone’s policies are stupid, but we stop short of calling someone an ‘elf on the shelf.’”
To keep shows moving in the right direction, Hart said producers play a key role.
“We need exceptional call screening to make this vision work,” Hart said. “When I first arrived here it took a few months for people to get a feeling for what I was trying to do. A few producers didn’t want to go along with the change and moved on.”
Hart said you can’t say whatever you want on his stations. He said there are plenty of outlets to post whatever you want. Again, no name-calling is a general rule.
“The word ‘hate’ is degrading,” he said. “Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t give you permission to say that word. Part of the reason I was brought in here is the station used to be the voice of New Mexico. Now it’s the voice of a small faction of the Republican Party here. I don’t think staying on one side or the other is a viable business model. This is the first election since I’ve been here where we’ve had significantly more Democratic dollars spent on advertising.” You don’t get spending from both parties by ostracizing one of them.
The first two mega-stories that Hart recalls since he broke into radio were the invasion of Iraq and the Terry Schiavo story.
“It seemed there was room for two sides of the debate regarding each issue. There were a lot of tempers flaring, but the discussion was more thoughtful than today. We as radio stations are not the ringmasters. At the same time, hosts need to feel some freedom and they need to know we have their backs. I have to defend them. I need to deflect criticisms.”
Hart said he’s thrilled with Albuquerque. No surprise as it is the Land of Enchantment.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “My wife and I needed to get out of the East coast grind. We needed to get away from throngs of people. Out here we have the expanse, the western sky. In general, there’s a great vibe here. I walk more, eat healthier, and drink less.”
Hart makes New Mexico sound like Los Angeles—without the water.
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at [email protected].
Re-Watch The 2023 BNM Summit, On Demand Tickets Are Now Available
“If you weren’t able to make it to Nashville for the 2023 BNM Summit, I invite you to purchase an on-demand ticket to watch the show. The cost is just $49.99.”
When one of our Summits ends, it’s over for the attendees and speakers. The work is far from done though for yours truly. After packing up a SUV and driving home, the immediate focus turns to posting photos, gathering video of the sessions, sending out final invoices, making sure all ads on our websites and newsletters promoting the conference are updated, adding watermarks to the video footage to support our sponsor, editing clips for social, and then building a web page for folks to be able to go re-watch the show.
It’s a mountain of work and I dive head first into it because I want to make sure that anyone who attends one of our shows has an opportunity to catch a session they may have missed or go back and re-watch a speaker to make sure they have the right information before passing it along to help an individual or entire staff.
When you buy a ticket to one of our shows, I try to provide maximum value. You get an action packed two-day event featuring difference makers in various roles across the industry, access to multiple parties including free drinks, and a FREE on demand ticket to re-watch the show. The ticket price itself is also kept lower than many other events because I’d rather see folks in the room benefitting than worrying about whether or not we crushed our revenue goals. I don’t create these conferences to keep myself busy, boost my ego or get rich. I run them to try and improve the media business. It isn’t easy especially given how reluctant many radio folks are to get out of their buildings and routines to learn something new but someone has to try.
There’s an old Benjamin Franklin quote that I’ve loved and adopted over the years, which says “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” That’s what our conferences are about. We discuss opportunities and challenges and have open and candid conversations with smart people, share information, and provide examples that have hit and/or missed because the goal is to make improvements, and you can’t do that without deeper inspection.
With that said, if you weren’t able to make it to Nashville for the 2023 BNM Summit, I invite you to purchase an on demand ticket to watch the show. The cost is $49.99. Just click HERE to sign up. Once you press the Subscribe button down below, it will take you to the next page to enter your information to gain access. Those who attended the Summit have already received instructions on how to watch the show for FREE.
We will return with a 2024 conference in either Chicago, Dallas, New York City or Washington DC. Given that next year is an election year and we’ve got one of these shows under our belts now, I’m sure the next event will be even bigger, and better. If you’d like to vote on where the 2024 BNM Summit should take place, log on to BNMSummit.com. You should see the poll question just below our main section.
Thanks again for supporting the show. Until next time, may your revenue and ratings continue to rise.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Media. Prior to launching BM, he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
Learn To Be Your Own Biggest Critic
We all have told ourselves lies. I have lied to myself. It is so easy today.
I know hosts and programmers who see everything as wonderful even though it isn’t. I know people who see negativity in everything. I look at things differently and think that both perspectives are wrong. Today, I hope that I can help you find reality and become a critic.
You are programming an awesome news/talk station and seeing all the cool things that are accomplished on a daily basis. Celebrate every incredible moment. Or you are a talk show host, and you are recognized at the grocery store or the restaurant. You’re killing it. Big show on a top station. You are invited to speak at events, charity auctions, and are loaded up with endorsements. Why shouldn’t either of these people be strutting around like they are Deion Sanders?
It is simple why the answer is no: because you are on top today, doesn’t mean you will be on top tomorrow.
Budgets, new corporate leadership, corporate mandates, and market pressures could change your enthusiasm. Are you living in reality? You need to assess this.
Should you be reinventing yourself? What is next for your station or your show? Do you know whatever takes place next will be epic? When was the last time that you listened to your station like an actual human?
Hey Program Directors, take a day to take a long drive listening to your station. Get in the car and drive both morning and afternoon drive times.
Is your station actually grabbing your attention? How is the imaging? Does it leap out of the speaker? Is it too aggressive or not enough? Does it sound like a rock or a good sports station? Sometimes, it could be too aggressive. Most news/talk stations appeal to 60% to 70% dudes.
Does your station sound like your market? Every station is a living breathing entity. They are all different. Your community has a certain feel to it. Are you marrying those two variables?
Ok, talk show hosts: Do you really know your community? Are you speaking to the most likely listener to your station? When is the last time that you airchecked yourself? If your vehicle still has a CD player, burn an hour and go for a drive. If you’re being honest, would you listen to you? Do you have the guts to be honest with yourself?
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs crushed the Chicago Bears on Sunday. I have one guarantee for you: Mahomes was watching his tape all day on Monday. He knew when he failed and where he did great. Do you know? Really?
Find the success. Find the win. You may or may not be doing better than you think. Become a critic. What went right? Did you aircheck yourself? Did you hit your station’s target? Do you know who you’re supposed to be speaking to?
If your answer is conservative human, you are wrong. They are much more complex than just a political point of view. They have mortgages to pay. There are kids that need education. They have jobs, spouses, and things that they love to do. These people are not just angry white men just sick of paying taxes.
Find that gold. What did you do well? Every host hates hearing their own voice. Every host. If you are going to be a better host, you need to listen to yourself and hear the good.
Here is what I try to do… Look at the glass half full. What can be done better? Where is the station falling short? Do you know? How can you solve the deficit? Is the news crispy written? How is the imaging? Are you overthinking it? Go for a drive and find out.
Listen like a real person. Think like a critic. Are you discussing the things that people actually care about? Are you reflecting your target audience member? How can you make it even better? What improvements need to be made?
The worst lie that you can tell is the one that you say to yourself. Are you looking into the mirror and lying to yourself? Perhaps it is over your relationships, marriage, job security, attractiveness, or popularity. We all have told ourselves lies. I have lied to myself. It is so easy today. You can fill your existence with screens and sounds.
Take a walk on a hiking trail with no devices. Just you and your thoughts. Get in touch with your real self and become that critic. If you don’t, reality will be evaded.
We all have moments where we need to be real. There is probably a lot of good going on with your station or show. There is also probably a lot of room to improve. Be real.
Peter Wilkinson Thiele is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He currently serves as the program director, and morning host of Newstalk KZRG in Joplin, MO. Additionally, Peter has held programming roles in New York City, San Francisco, Little Rock, Greenville and Hunstville. He has also worked as a host, account executive and producer in Minneapolis, and San Antonio. You can reach him on Twitter at @PeterThiele.
How To Handle Your Audience Crossing The Line
There’s no need to embellish or editorialize. We need only tell the truth.
Dale Mooney was laid to rest this week. The name may or may not ring a bell. Mooney was a 53-year-old, married father of two who came from Newmarket, New Hampshire. A number of different news platforms described Mooney as, “a lifelong (New England) Patriots fan and a 30-year season ticket holder”. He was in the audience at a game and is now dead.
In fact, it was at a Patriots-Dolphins game in Foxboro, Massachusetts where something happened that led to Dale Mooney’s death.
A fight between fans broke out among the crowd at Gillette Stadium and Mooney was struck in the head.
The local District Attorney said Mooney did not suffer a traumatic injury but instead suffered a medical issue that led to his death. What did kill him has yet to be determined.
We do know this much: Mooney was at the game and got into a fight in the stands before he was struck in the head by a Miami Dolphins fan.
A bunch of people watching a football game. Hell of a news story, right?
I don’t think any of the news outlets have covered it wrong or has necessarily shed improper light on what happened but because of what, where, and when this did happen, I have to say an occurrence like this creates a twisting sensation in my gut.
Sports and politics are two of the most fervent topics likely to stir emotion in the people we call our audiences. Not just the games or the players or even the controversies are enough for us to cover, the fans and the enthusiasts are part of the story.
And like what happened on January 6th, 2021 at the Capitol and what happened on September 17, 2023, at Gillette Stadium, we should ask ourselves what role we in the media play when our audiences cross the line.
Common sense will tell us that journalism did not create these behaviors in those who make use of our product. We provide information and specific details when we are able and that’s where our responsibility ends.
If you are somebody who continues to call January 6th a peaceful protest or simply the price of partisan politics or perhaps believes fan violence at sporting events is all part of the drill in being a dedicated team supporter, I am not going to be able to tell you anything that you’re actually going to hear.
We write and talk about these things (sports and politics) until we are blue in the face in this country and countless others. And after what we report on helps stir the emotions, we report on what happens next.
Business creating business.
We are not doing anything wrong yet why does it often feel like we are?
What is our audiences’ justification for a fight at a football game to end the life of a fan or a political gathering that leads to death and destruction or outrage over criminal activity or a death involving police that leads to rioting, looting, and damage to somebody’s neighborhood?
The news media has a horse in this race. I do not think I can articulate exactly what it is but I think we do nevertheless, possibly before these things happen and certainly afterward when they do.
We need to be the mirror put up to the community’s face to say, “Look what happened”.
There’s no need to embellish or editorialize. We need only tell the truth.
Somebody went to a football game, and now he’s dead. Like I said, hell of a news story.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.