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Tom Tradup Took Journalistic Route to Becoming Salem Radio’s VP of News/Talk

“Political jobs weren’t easy to find in D.C.,” Tradup explained. “They wanted people like Karl Rove, John Dean, people like that.” 

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There are instances where being a bull in a China shop isn’t the worst thing.

“I’m kind of a bomb-tosser,” said Tom Tradup, vice president of news and talk programming at Salem Radio Network.

Tradup majored in political science at the University of Alabama. What he really wanted to do was go to Washington, get congressmen elected, and write some laws. Radio broadcasting wasn’t a blip on his radar. 

“Political jobs weren’t easy to find in D.C.,” Tradup explained. “They wanted people like Karl Rove, John Dean, people like that.” 

Admittedly, his entry into politics was a bust. 

“The first and only politician I worked for was in the 70s,” Tradup said. “He was an investment banker in Boston and he asked me to manage his congressional campaign. He was running against Paul Tsongas.” 

Thanks to Tradup’s fledgling skills and neophyte approach, his candidate lost by a landslide, running against future presidential candidate Paul Tsongas. 

“It’s good to be known for something,” Tradup jokes. “We lost by the largest landslide of Massachusettes, which dated back to the Pilgrims. And with a breadth of responsibilities within his network, Tradup finds time to smile. 

In the first election, Tradup admits he didn’t vet his opponent well enough. 

“Tsongas never held a real job in his life,” Tradup said. “He went to Dartmouth, then joined the Peace Corps. That’s not a real job. He was on the city council of Lowell and quit to become Middlesex County commissioner.” 

That dubious experience prompted Tradup to exit hands-on politics for good. Still, he wondered where he could still harness his love of affairs of state, so he decided he’d cover politics as a journalist. He started working for WCNY, the public radio station in Syracuse. 

“I covered state and local news, and was a regular on All Things Considered. I didn’t get paid much, but I got all the free tote bags I wanted. I became a connoisseur of Ramen Noodles.”

His first stop in commercial radio was in Columbia, Missouri at KTGR, the Tiger. This was the beginning of what Tradup termed his recurring ‘two year plans.’ Essentially spending two years in each job until he ended up with Salem, his tenure nearly three decades. At the time KTGR was a country music daytimer. That wasn’t where the fun ended.

“At the top of the hour for the legal ID, we had to growl,” Tradup recalls. “You know, like a tiger growling. We’d say, “It’s 1:30 at KTGR…(insert growl here.)”

Tradup was less than thrilled. 

“I told the station manager that I knew I was just a young guy, but as the station’s news director, it was humiliating to have to growl. I asked if there was some kind of sound effect of a growl we could use instead. He screamed, ‘No, you S.O.B. Folks love that.”

After he’d had his fill of growling, Tradup moved down the road to KCMO/Kansas City for two years, then on to New York and WMCA AM as a morning show producer. The station had legendary hosts like Bob Grant and Barry Farber. The station was owned by R. Peter Straus doing business as Straus Communications. Straus was director of Voice of America under President Jimmy Carter.

“We were a little radio station in the middle of Midtown Manhattan,” Tradup said. “We were small, but there were a lot of ears tuning in to our station. We had everybody on that station; Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, David Dinkins, Rudy Guiliani. It was great for me because I loved politics.” 

Then he got a call from WASH FM and John Kluge. He told Tradup they needed an operations manager. 

“Kluge told me they wanted a new morning show and asked if I’d create it,” Tradup said. “I did and it was called Continental Breakfast with Arthur Crofton and Linda Sherman.

Crofton was American, but he had British parents and had the Alistaire Cooke accent working. “It was a soft rock format. Crofton was the British touristy type, and Linda had the American perspective. We’d do a different remote every month. The show did well, it punched through. It can be very hard when you’re doing something new. Harden and Weaver ruled the roost in the market, but we were a strong second.” Harden and Weaver Show was the top show in D.C. for more than 38 years.

After that, it was KRLD in Dallas, a 50,000-watt station with rating problems. 

“On Sundays we had the Cowboys, but they said they needed someone to juice things up during the week,” Tradup said. Tradup was the juicer. 

“One of the first things I did was replace an operations director who had been there for 17 years. They were doing a lot of things by rote, them saying things were always done that way. I think if you bring in a fresh perspective it always helps. We brought in full-time news staff, helicopters.” 

Tradup said that was when the station produced features during Cowboy games. Shows like Coaches Corner, and shows with Preston Pearson and Bullet Bob Hayes.

“When I arrived I remember listening to former Cowboy player  Bob Lilly’s show, which was sponsored by a local grocery store. I thought it was kind of boring. The KLRD guy was asking him a lot of boring questions and I realized the show had to go.”

It’s not easy to tell “Mr. Cowboy,” a fierce defensive tackle, his show was going to be axed. It turned out to be just fine with Lilly. 

“He was living in Colorado, a very nice guy, a professional photographer at the time,” Tradup said. “I called and said, ‘I said I hate to do this to you, but I was thinking I have to cancel your show.’”

To Tradup’s surprise, Lilly was totally cool with it. He told Tradup he couldn’t understand why the station had him doing the show in the first place. He didn’t really know or relate to the younger players. Lilly said they’d just wanted him to talk about the ‘old days.’

This was also about the time Jerry Jones had just come to Dallas, and everybody knew he was going to fire Tom Landry and bring in his pal Jimmy Johnson. 

“I don’t think you could argue from a business decision, but it was the way he handled it that bothered me,” Tradup said. “I remember picking up the now defunct Dallas Herald and there was a color photo of Jones and Johnson celebrating their new era at Mia’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. The reason this was not appropriate is this was Landry’s favorite Mexican restaurant. It was his place. Not very classy.”

Then came the storied WLS radio in Chicago. He’d gotten a call from the late Norm Schrutt, at the time the ABC group president who oversaw the station. He asked Tradup if he wanted to come to WLS. Tradup was dating his future wife Lori and didn’t want to mess that up with a move. 

“The first question Norm asked me was whether I wanted to come to WLS and I answered ‘no.’ The second question he asked was, ‘are you stupid?’”

Not the beginning of a great interview.

Schrutt told Tradup he was offering him a 50,000-watt radio station owned by Capital Cities/ABC. Reminded him they owned ESPN, and that they even had cable deals in China. 

Schrutt continued. “Don’t you understand? Chicago is the third largest market. You’re in Dallas.” 

Tradup knew what market he was in. He got the trade magazines. As you may have guessed, Tradup eventually went to WLS. 

“Norm introduced me to the staff. He told me while I was running the station that it’s my baby. It’s nice nobody can tell you what to do, but it’s your butt on the line when things go bad.” 

After unpacking at his new home in Chicago, Tradup had his first experience with Sun Times media columnist Robert Feder.

“Norm had told me there was one guy I should never talk to. That was Robert Feder. My first reaction was ‘why?’ I was taking over a new station and it was in everybody’s best interest if I got along with this guy.”

Schrutt told Tradup that Feder was the guy who destroyed WLS.  When Tradup came to WLS, they were 27th in the market and were hemorrhaging money with a 1.3 share. 

“Feder operated on the theory that when there’s smoke there’s fire,” Tradup explained. “When salespeople saw bad writing on the wall, they’d jump ship, and he’d write about that. Other people would get nervous and leave. Feder would attack the station on this and that. When I got there Don Wade and Roma were there. They’re the only people I kept when I came on board.  The station was still playing music when I got there.”

Tradup said during a typical hour on that incarnation of WLS, you’d hear a Dean Martin song followed by a Phil Collins song. It was a big bowl of dirty soup. When WLS flipped to talk, Robert Feder flipped too. He grew up with Dick Biondi, John Landecker’s Boogie Check, Old Uncle Larry.

“Robert Feder figured if Norm hired me I must have been a bad guy,” Tradup said. “I asked my assistant Lanette to get Feder on the phone. The color drained from her face and she asked me if I knew about the bad blood between Norm and Feder? I said I did, and she got him on the phone. ‘What the heck is your problem?’ I said to Feder.”

‘I beg your pardon?’ was Feder’s reply.

Tradup asked Feder why he had such a bone to pick with WLS.

Feder told Tradup he grew up necking with his wife on WLS along Lake Michigan. He talked about all the history of the station, including WLS being the station that ran the Hindenburg disaster. A whole lot of colorful radio history and necking. And he saw ABC as an out-of-town, absentee landlord that didn’t appreciate WLS as a Chicago institution.”

“I told him I’d hoped he’d find I was a  good guy, even though he didn’t know me,” Tradup said. “I had a lot of good ideas. It wasn’t like Chicago really needed another talk station. In those days, Chicago didn’t need another friendly WGN. You couldn’t be hipper than The Loop.”

“I told him I’d make a deal with him,” Tradup explained. “I’d give him complete access to what I was thinking or planning. If I was going to change talent in a day part, I’d tell him. I promised I’d never say ‘no comment.’ I only asked him two things; Don’t take something I say out of context to make me sound stupid. I could do that well enough on my own. I also told him I’d give him a heads–up if something was coming down the road. We agreed and we’re still friends to this day.”

Tradup said his Christian faith and background in journalism have taught him candor, integrity and truth-telling always are the best policy in the long run. 

“If people learn anything from this interview, I hope they’ll take that advice to heart.”

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How KDKA Transformed Overnights to Grow Its Future and Reach Younger Audiences

“The overwhelming feedback has been positive. It makes us local, it gives us a bench … it makes the radio station’s brand bigger and connects us in different areas.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of the cast of KDKA Next Take and the KDKA logo
(Photo: KDKA)

In February, venerable Pittsburgh news/talk station KDKA announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh that would see students from the college host a weekday overnight program.

The program — KDKA Next Take — is heard from 1-5 AM and replaced the nationally syndicated Red Eye Radio in the Audacy-owned station’s lineup.

A product of the imagination of Audacy Pittsburgh Senior Vice President and Market Manager Michael Spacciapolli, he believes the show has been a success in its early run.

“The show certainly offers a different perspective on the way that this generation looks at the world and from their viewpoint as opposed to other hosts who are in a different time in their life than them,” Spacciapolli said. “So we certainly are able to share a different point of view from them, while at the same time utilizing those points of view on social and getting them to really engage the radio station from a social perspective and hopefully engaging in and not just speaking to, but engaging people in that demographic, as well.”

Needing to attract younger audiences has been at the forefront of the news/talk radio industry for quite some time. Another issue discussed by leaders of the format are often centered around where stations will find the next crop of young talent.

With the partnership with Pitt, KDKA took the initiative to seek out those who might be interested in a radio career, rather than hope those potential employees found them.

“I’m always looking for great talent. Everything I do and in every aspect of the radio station, I’m looking for the most talented people. I’m always looking for where is the next great talent in everything we do,” said Spacciapolli. “This gives me the opportunity to have them working with us on an everyday basis and learning everything they do — from their work ethic, to their thought process, to their ideas. It gives me an opportunity to have our own ‘bench’ and have an opportunity to see where talent could come from in the future.

“There’s going to be talent there that we are potentially going to take a look at in different roles. Do they leave Next Take when their time is up on the show and do they immediately become full-time hosts? Probably not. But can they become part-time hosts? Sure,” he added. “Can they become producers? Absolutely. Can they become reporters? Can they become part-time reporters? Absolutely. Working with us gives us the opportunity to certainly move in that direction much more quickly and confidently than we would have previously.”

For decades, overnights were a proving ground for aspiring hosts. The daypart allowed for opportunities for young hosts and provided a low-pressure timeslot to experiment and hone your craft. But with the rise of automation and syndication, those positions have largely fallen by the wayside.

However, Audacy Pittsburgh looked at the partnership with the college and saw opportunity. The collaboration allows a younger generation access to the station that is largely dominated by older hosts and listeners.

Additionally, it provided even more local coverage to a station that prides itself of being “The Voice of Pittsburgh.” That factor wasn’t lost on Spacciapolli.

“A big part of my vision was it gave us the opportunity to be local, gave us the opportunity to be local overnight, which for me is how we win in this business is being local, staying local, talking to people in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, and this gave us the opportunity to do that on a pretty big scale and with fresh content every day.”

It would be natural for a full-time or even part-time employee of the Pittsburgh news/talk station to be jealous that a four-hour program was being given to college students. But that hasn’t been the case, Spacciapolli shared.

“The overwhelming feedback is very positive … Because there’s no expense it’s not like it’s somebody else could have been doing it. It would have continued to be syndicated if we weren’t able to do it through the partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. So it just makes the radio station’s brand bigger. It connects us in different areas and hopefully grows the brand and gets the brand younger.”

The program is recorded live-to-tape earlier in the day before airing in the 1-5 AM timeslot, which allows for some fine-tuning and takes the pressure off the radio novices, while also allowing them to helm a show instead of working in the wee hours of the night while trying to focus on their studies.

Spaccipolli shared that an overnight program hosted by college students interested in one day working in the industry doesn’t have to be proprietary to KDKA. He said there’s one deciding factor in the success of the endeavor.

“It’s about the relationships and the partnerships. And, fortunately, I have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, they’re a great partner. I was able to get deep enough into this relationship with them and find ways to potentially make this work,” he stated.

“This is not easy. It’s not something you can pull off easily because, traditionally, I think, people think about it and they think, ‘Oh, there’s got to be significant expense.’ And in this situation, there’s not because that wouldn’t have fit our model for where it is and what we’re trying to do with it. So there isn’t that expense. You’re not gonna be able to make it work everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to do it here.”

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Jordan Peterson Has a New Model for Higher Education

“We built a social media network into the platform and we hope that it will be the best social media network that there is.”

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Jordan Peterson
(Photo: Jordan Peterson)

Is it time to give higher education a makeover? Yes – according to one of the world’s preeminent thought leaders — Jordan Peterson — who is changing the game for higher levels of learning.

A segment this weekend on Fox News Digital highlighted famed psychologist and author, Jordan Peterson, as he discussed his new mission to educate the masses in a new and innovative way through his new start-up, the Peterson Academy.

“So what have we got with Peterson Academy?” he began. “Well, it’s a University in that we feature the best University professors in the world. And I have the privilege of being able to call on such people and to make them a good offer and to have them participate avidly and to teach only what they really want to teach in the way they want to teach it.”

Peterson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, has written three books that have sold more than seven million copies. A simple online search will turn up many of his most notable philosophical monologues, covering such topics as morality, finances and culture. His massive worldwide following allows him to call on the best of the best to teach through his new venture.

“We bring them down to our studio in Miami or go to their home country to film them and we’ve produced, I think, the best courses that have ever been filmed. Not only in terms of their academic content but also in terms of the production quality. So very high-quality production levels, using animation and background images and all filmed in front of a live audience,” Peterson noted. 

Collaborating with students is old hat for Peterson. Throughout his career, he has taught some of the most highly regarded courses at Harvard and the University of Toronto. In addition, he has published more than a hundred scientific papers with his students and co-authors. And his material will not be the run-of-the-mill brainwashing many think their children receive at typical colleges and universities.

“Very focused courses. No politically correct nonsense,” Peterson said of the course material at Peterson Academy. “The opportunity for people to obtain a bachelor’s degree to begin with. We’re not accredited but we’re working on that, and we have ways of dealing with that that I can talk about.”

Due to government collusion through the student loan industry, costs for higher education have skyrocketed in recent decades. As many experts have pointed out, rising tuition costs are caused by the government’s insistence on saddling teenagers with astronomical debt loads. All to the benefit of mostly far-left universities and their personnel, who live off the taxpayer largess.

“We hope to bring down the price of a bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s degree equivalent by, like, 95 percent. And I think we can do that,” Peterson said optimistically. “But more than that, we have stellar lecturers and we have stellar courses. We have accreditation processes, examinations let’s say, that teach while the examinations are occurring.”

In his mind, however, the new organization will add much more value than just nuts and bolts education. 

“More than that, we’ve understood as we’ve assessed what a university does, that you think of a university as professors and lectures and exams. But that’s a small fraction of what a university does. A university provides young people a place to mature and a place to develop a new community of peers. And hypothetically a place to find a mate. And those are very valuable services that people don’t think about as the university,” Peterson said. 

The Peterson Academy is founded by Peterson and Mikhaila Fuller, and students can enter their email address on the website to be notified of the organization’s official launch. The site slates June as the official launch.

“Universities bring bright, young people who are ambitious together and they can meet each other. And so they form social network, they form romantic relationships. That’s part of the reason the universities can get away with charging, like, three hundred thousand dollars for a four-year degree,” Peterson told Fox News Digital. 

As part of his other work, The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast frequently tops the charts in the Education category. Peterson often creates memorable sound bites with his direct, common-sense approach to many of the more complex societal issues. For this, he has garnered a loyal tribe of followers, eager to hear his take on some of the more thorny issues facing the world. He has taken that same networking approach to begin building a following for his new university.

“We built a social media network into the platform and we hope that it will be the best social media network that there is. And for a variety of reasons I think we’ve taken the best features of the social media networks that currently exist,” he said. 

The Peterson Academy is tentatively set to launch this month, targeting a unique audience that seeks thoughtful, truth-based higher learning.

“We’re going to have a very specialized audience, right,” Peterson said. “It’s only going to be people that want to be educated and want to be educated in a manner that isn’t politically correct.”

Peterson told Fox News Digital, his new online university will “help people fulfill their desire to get a true education that they can’t find in today’s ‘demented’ and ‘unsalvageable’ universities, all at a much more affordable price.

As the world lurches back toward freedom of thought and educational choice free of liberal biases, Peterson summed up his organization’s thesis Saturday on a post on X.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the modern university (@Harvard and @Columbia in particular) for doing everything they can to make my endeavours both necessary and successful.”

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Do News Media Members Need a Copywriting Refresher?

Broadcast news, with very few exceptions, has gone over to the side of the cute and cuddly, the shiny and shocking, the “poke you with a stick to get your attention” society.

Bill Zito

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A photo of a dictionary page

We are in a banner year here already and we are barely halfway done. 2024 has already seen the 96th annual Academy Awards, the 75th Emmy Awards, the 77th Tony Awards but of course none of them can outshine last month’s release of the 57th edition of the Associated Press Stylebook for use of news media members everywhere.

(Yes, kids it’s out there. Buy it, collect it, trade it with your friends.)

I kid because I love. I think somebody has to set some rules so it might as well be the AP. Yes, I realize there’s also the Chicago Style Guide as well as a few others but really, there are Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, and their associates as well but I didn’t read those either.

I think the guides are great references and maybe they are the ultimate authority in a lot of cases but I’m fairly sure a scarce, few platforms outside of the giants in print pay them the mind they once did. I myself, stand in AP’s corner because they still shun the Oxford comma as any fine, upstanding outlet should be doing.

Besides, in TV and radio writing (Yes, TV News uses the written word on occasion) most everything said on air is written in all capitals while all accurate and dignified terminology is exchanged for sayings and slang like, “Creep,” “Accosted” and “Gunned Down.”

It’s the more outlandish words that get the attention of the audience and nobody is really concerned anymore with proper capitalization, tense, or even proper pronunciation.

(Yes, an overstatement on my part but with more than a hint of truth to it,)

In the new edition of the AP’s guide, there is much devoted to the use of words relating to law and justice, when and how to refer to those convicted of crimes and suspected of them as well.

Progress is good, right?

When is a criminal not a criminal but instead a person convicted of a crime?

Is it an assault weapon or is it not and does it matter when it comes to the story or the headline?

Is the teen a juvenile or is the child a minor and is using the wrong one hurtful or dehumanizing?

A rose by any other name…yes, yes, we get it.

Consider another identifier or descriptor that style guides might suggest if we followed them without impunity.

Is Mike Tyson a boxer who is also a convicted rapist or is convicted rapist Mike Tyson also a boxer?

I’m okay with growth and development in speech and description if for no other reason that over time it has gotten most of us to stop using words we shouldn’t be using and to start identifying people and circumstances as what they truly are.

Having never been formally schooled on AP style as I was not educated or raised as a journalist I’ve always played fast and loose with my writing and struggle with anything beyond the very standard first and second references and abbreviations.

Don’t get me started again on the Oxford comma as I’m still stopping random people on the street and asking people when and where that pretentious and superfluous bit of claptrap came about.

I offer nothing but praise for the noble newspaper reporters and editors as I largely consider the talented among them to be the last bastion of civilization in journalism.

Broadcast news, with very few exceptions, has gone over to the side of the cute and cuddly, the shiny and shocking, the “poke you with a stick to get your attention” society.

To reiterate, I like when there are rules and guidelines, as long as they are there for the right reasons. If you’re promoting accuracy and clarity, I’m on your team. If you’re latching on to an agenda, public interest pressure or political correctness which muddies the waters of truth, you and I have a problem.

I have often found myself at odds with some writing styles, sayings and/or manners of speech when it comes to reporting in general and it’s not always about grammar or AP stylistics.

Unless you can prove immediate malice or criminality, I take great exception when a journalist tells an audience a police officer gunned down a suspect especially referring to an officer involved shooting. It’s cool NYPD Blue talk but it’s misleading and inflammatory. Let’s wait for the investigation, okay?

Alleged is a great word. Overused, misused, a crutch used by those inexperienced and demanded by jitter news management who have no concept of the parameters of slander, defamation and libel.

Person of Interest and Suspect, both names of TV shows which is why the news media often gets them wrong when reporting about criminal activity. It’s certainly easy enough to check and learn how and when to use these words before you hit the air.

And finally, a personal favorite and one we can all remember and enjoy:  You don’t have to be the New York Post to call the police officer a cop to know that it’s not disrespectful.

Somebody somewhere once told somebody in news that cops don’t like to be called cops.

Of course, there are exceptions. As an ex-cop I can tell you that real cops don’t mind being called cops. Those who insist on being referred to as police officers at all times probably never got their uniforms dirty.

A cop is always a police officer, but a police officer is not always a cop.

Or to put it differently:

A Journalist is always a Member of the Press, but a Member of the Press is not always a Journalist.

Not long ago, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lobbied hard (and succeeded) to have the media refrain from using the term, committed suicide, when describing a person taking their own life. The argument being that it tainted the act with criminality, contrition, or fault. The AP updated its guide to reflect the terms, completed suicide or the more often used, died by suicide and encouraged journalists to make use of these wordings along with “killed themselves” or “took their own life.”

As the husband of a wife (a retired police officer) who committed suicide, I have no objection to writing, saying, or hearing those words in describing the tragedy. In my viewpoint, it is what happened, and were it to be reported in the news, alternative language would not have made a bit of difference. I also have worked extensively with AFSP and other suicide prevention organizations over the years and I disagree with them on this point. But that’s all it is, a difference of opinion and a matter of perspective.

The idea of an organization, a political lobby, or corporate entity pushing the free press into a viewpoint or a particular way to tell a story does not leave me with feelings of comfort. That’s a larger concern of course when it comes to regulated style, less worrisome are where and when to use capital letters, accents, or quotes, but the ideas are still worthy of scrutiny by any of us who report what’s going on. 

The truth is still the truth and the masthead and byline, or their broadcast equivalent must stand by the story they are telling and the way they are telling it.

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