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Nikki Medoro Transitions From Life at KGO to YouTube

After 11 years at KGO, Medoro quickly reinvented herself. And I emphasize ‘quickly.’

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As a rule, news and talk show host Nikki Medoro doesn’t play with explosives. That doesn’t mean she can’t recognize when something has been blown to smithereens. 

“They did blow up KGO,” Medoro said. 

On October 6th, KGO didn’t just change their format to Easy Listening, or Rock & Roll, they stripped the station of all previous DNA, and are now a sports betting station, whatever that is. For those scoring at home, it’s now 810 The Spread.

“If you’d have asked me what might have been a logical transition for KGO I might have said syndication,” Medoro said. “They decided to go an entirely different route. But sports betting? Who was asking for this?”

Seems reminiscent of the New Coke, Olestra potato chips, and Godfather III. Who asked for those?

Medoro began as a street reporter in San Francisco in the evenings and graduated to evening anchor with Peter Finch. Later she was an afternoon anchor alongside Brett Burkhart. Medoro also did news for Chip Franklin, then earned her own show, becoming the first woman morning drive-time host in KGO’s history.

Medoro said she understands it was a business decision and they were free to do it. Many stations have switched formats, but KGO scorched the landscape.

“When you ask what blowing up a station means, I think it’s when you take away all the local issues for people that live in the Bay Area. Issues we used to present.” Medoro said. “Listeners are no longer going to get that, at least not in the form we were offering.”

After 11 years at KGO,  Medoro quickly reinvented herself. And I emphasize ‘quickly.’ The Nikki Medoro Show debuted on YouTube on Oct 17th and just completed its second week. Figuratively, the KGO body wasn’t even cold yet.

She decided to act fast as people have short memory. Medoro broadcasts from her home each day. 

“I figured I’d better strike while the iron was hot,” Medoro explained. “I understand how the news cycle works, and I’ve been involved with it for 20 years. If you provide too much time, it’s not that they’ll forget you, but it’s important to feed listeners’ interest in you. Also, you don’t want to lose the groove of doing a show. Even when I used to go on vacation from my show, I’d come back rusty.”

Medoro said her heart is warmed by how patient listeners have been with her fledgling YouTube show. At the same time, she’s not afraid to say it’s hard work. 

“I’m the host, technical person, sound person. I bring on guests. It’s a whole new world for me,” Medoro explained.  “This endeavor couldn’t be bigger for me at this point. I guess I could have taken a month off. But my former co-worker Mark Thompson, (who also took shrapnel from the detonation)  didn’t take any time off. He has more resources than I have and more background in doing this.”

Medoro has been often asked why she decided to go the YouTube route. 

“I imagine there are a few reasons,” she said. “I used to co-anchor news in the morning and did my own show for years. This way I can still do what I love to do.  This is really a new experience from every angle.”

Radio is clearly in the woman’s blood. Even if some huge station came calling, Medoro said she’d have to give it some thought. 

“If a job offer came in and they told me I’d be doing overnights, cover a beat, be a court reporter, I’d have to say no,” she said. “I’ve done all that. I like leading a talk show, bringing on guests, interacting with guests and listeners. I’m creating my own content right now. I control where it goes. Some friends have asked if I’d considered going into television. My answer is ‘no,’ I’ve been a radio girl all my life.”

Gambles, pardon the obvious pun, were made when management dumped the long-serving format of KGO. Medoro admits she probably could have read the writing on the wall. Things were set in motion a long time ago.

“I was at KGO for 11 years. Since day one, I started sensing they were making some changes. They began letting longtime hosts go. I’ve been dealing with that kind of stuff all along. I imagine I always sensed something was coming, but it wasn’t verbalized. I’ve never been laid off in my career. I know in radio, that isn’t very common.”

That’s the understatement of 2022.

Medoro said her YouTube show is still in its infancy, clutching a pacifier. There is a huge learning curve in this area. Just because she’d like to do something on the show doesn’t mean it can happen in an instant. 

“Will I do callers again? If I can figure out how to make it work I will,” Medoro said. “Something like that sounds a lot easier than it is, the technical bar can be pretty high. I’m alone. I don’t have a screener so I’m not going to open lines up to everyone. There’s an art to bringing on callers. If I’m headed in one direction on the show, I can’t afford to have a caller derail that. At the same time, I welcome counter-opinions.”

On her radio shows, Medoro said there were times when a caller would bring something up she liked and could run with. 

“I can tell you I’m working a lot harder for my current two-hour show than I had to for my old four-hour show on KGO. If I can find some more funding I’ll be able to do more.”

Medoro has lived in the Bay Area all her life. She said when she was a student at San Jose State University, she always said her dream was to have her own show on KGO Radio. Dreams come true and that one lasted for several years. She fulfilled her dream of talking with people in the Bay Area, the hometown she loves. Not a lot of people can say that.

“I love that I’ve been here all my life. When I talk about Bay issues, people know I’ve been here. I know the street they are talking about, the neighborhood and its history. It’s a shared history.”

Will we see more stations suffering a similar KGO fate? 

“I think it matters where you are geographically,” Medroro said. “If you’re in a large market, you’re competing with a lot of information. I guess the KGO experience could be a barometer for the rest of radio. If you haven’t already found a way to be at people’s fingertips, you’re already losing as information is so readily available. You might have the headlines, news and traffic from other sources. But radio is still the place you can talk about it. I suppose we should have had an FM presence, that might have made a difference.”

One of the interesting things about her show, Medoro said, is it appears she’s reaching a wider audience. 

“Watchers have reached out to me to say their own kids are listening. I got into radio because it is immediate. Just crack open the microphone and go. Bring something to the table right away. Are we seeing the demise of AM radio? Possibly. The medium? I don’t think so.”

She said she talked with Thompson a bit about pairing up on a YouTube show.

“It made sense because we share a newscaster, Kim McCallister. I’ve had Chip Franklin on a few times. I used to work with Chip, filled in for him. He taught me how to become a radio host. I’d react to what he was talking about. I had to set this up quickly as I really had no other choice.” Medoro said former colleague Mark Thompson launched a YouTube show a week before she did. She was able to see how it all worked. 

Medoro said she and Mark Thompson both have the same sponsor, Bay area attorney Steve Moskowitz. 

“He’s the guy to call if you ever have any tax questions,” she smiles. “Mark has a producer and an engineer. We have some consistent money coming in. I share mine with Kim McCallister. People can donate during the show. Is the cushion the same as my salary was at KGO? Not by a long shot. 

“I already knew about editing and had Adobe Audition,” she said. “I had to learn how to put up photos. I purchased a better camera, got better lighting.

I’m on daily life from noon to 2 pm. That satisfied uber-fans. You can obviously watch it anytime you want. A lot of fans from my KGO days will message me throughout the day and say they waited until the next morning to listen to a show, they were saving the experience. I also think it’s interesting that listeners are starting to get to know each other through the chat component of YouTube. That’s something new to the equation. They get a live text chat going. It’s not the same as taking calls, and I miss that.”

Her callers on KGO were regulars. Medoro knew personal things about them, laughed with them. She’d love to get back to callers and will be trying to put that together.

She also knew on her YouTube show that Kim McCallister was a necessity. 

“Kim and I grew very close on KGO. We were in the same booth for hours. Mark was on right after me, but we didn’t spend a lot of time together. I trust Kim. She’s been doing news forever. I’ll chime in during her newscast if I’m shocked about something. I used to do her job and it’s fun. The two hours seem to fly by between us. In between, it’s a lot of prep.”

Would she ever leave the Bay area? 

“My husband has a great job here and loves it. My kids are here. My daughter is going to start high school, both of my parents are here. I don’t know if I could leave everybody. I have a talk show, I have an opinion. I’ll talk about the facts as I know them. I’m not going to spew lies.”

Medoro said these days we have national personalities like Anderson Cooper or Sean Hannity and we can’t always identify when they’re a journalist and when they’re being a commentator.”

Hannity is a journalist? It must be Halloween. 

“Anderson Cooper will cover Hurricane Ian, then sit behind a desk and be a commentator. It can blur the line.”

Life happens. Life goes on. Her YouTube show has taken Medoro into a new career direction, but it’s also a much-needed distraction. 

“I know I can grow this business through baby steps,” she said. “It will become more seamless, more professional. I’d like to grow it. That takes consistency. I’ve got to make sure I put up fresh content every day. I imagine on holidays I can put up some kind of rerun.“ 

On the lighter side of the past few weeks, Medoro said a scary day like Halloween is a welcome break. 

“Haunted houses and horror movies make me happy,” she said. “I like everything scary, the emotion of it all. I’m not an Eli Roth film type of person. I like scary music. I like to be scared. It depends what I’m in the mood for. A new movie titled Smile made me jump, or what I like to say gave me a ‘jump scare’. I do like thrillers.”

I asked Medoro if she’d start prepping for the next week after we hung up.

“I have to put on my ‘mom’ hat after we hang up,” she said. “I’ve got to pick up the kids. There are so many hours in the day. Then I have to get some costumes ready. My daughter is going to be one of the pinball machine aliens from Toy Story. My son is going to be a stick of butter. I asked how he came up with that costume idea. “You tell me,” she joked.

After a month of scary things; losing your job, creating another in a new medium, Halloween haunted houses, it would take a lot to frighten Medoro. 

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How Audacy Dallas Has Used Technology to Enhance Already Strong Brands

“What I try to explain (to our on-air staff), is that we’re no longer a radio station. We’re a brand. We’re more than just over the air.”

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(Photo: Audacy)

We used to say sports was the toy department of news. I thought that sounded fun but most news and programming people back then said it condescendingly. Today, sports talk listening is eclipsing the more serious news/talk offerings of corporate or “local” radio. There are two such sports stations in Dallas: Cumulus-owned, multi-Marconi Award-winning 96.7 The Ticket, which always keeps its news/talk sisters, WBAP and KLIF, in its ratings dust, and 105.3 The Fan, the Audacy station that is consistently beating its all-news older sibling, KRLD.

I live in Dallas. It’s a huge sports market, home of the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, and Stars, as well as several NCAA Division I programs. The Fan and The Ticket are engaged in an epic daily battle between two superb management and talent teams. They’re both very good.

Gavin Spittle is the Vice President of News, Talk, and Sports at Audacy Dallas, radio home of the Cowboys and Rangers. I talked with him last week. I’m a fan of The Fan. The station is consistently hitting on all cylinders. Their show hosts are unfailingly informative and entertaining, blessed with the hard-to-find combination of brains, personal chemistry, and humility.

Most of all, they know their craft, staying focused on sports while weaving in an organic flow of personal observations and anecdotes that make you feel you know them. You wish you could sit down and have a beer with them, which you often can because they’re always making personal appearances at local events, family eateries, and barbecue joints.

Am I being too effusive in my praise of The Fan?

GAVIN SPITTLE: Well, thanks. I mean, you just quoted my playbook, Dave, as far as like what I look for in hosts. In sports radio I want to create that tree house feel, I want the listeners climbing up that tree to be a part of it or feel like they’re hanging with their buddies at a bar. That’s what I want The Fan to sound like. I want it to be conversational rather than just throwing out analytic after analytic.

One of the things that we pride ourselves on is having conversations, and that can include debates. The other thing that I will say is, and thank you for noticing, our staff is extremely tight. These guys talk to each other constantly, they genuinely like each other, and they want each other to win. That is a brand manager’s dream when you can put something like that together.

DW: The Fan is the flagship of the Dallas Cowboys and the reigning world champion Texas Rangers. Do those affiliations with major sports franchises pay for themselves in terms of prestige, audience, and profit?  

GS: We are very fortunate in Dallas to have two amazing partnerships where, yes, it is effective for us and it’s effective for them. It’s a very creative partnership where the contract only gets pulled if necessary and it’s like, how can we help each other? So, it’s not (just that) we carry the games. It’s how can we help each other?

Like, for instance, a perfect example is that one of the first appearances the Rangers made with the World Series trophy was in our Audacy showroom. That is so special, to say to our listeners, come see the World Series trophy. We had a line around the corner. That shows how tight and how much we value that partnership. And it’s the same with the Cowboys.

DW: Another thing that I love about your on-air talents is, on one hand, they’re unabashed fans of the teams that you carry, but they also level serious criticism of the teams and never sound like they’re forcing themselves to be unbiased; they’re just being themselves and that creates that tree house or bar atmosphere that you were talking about.

GS: I think that’s a key component when carrying a team’s games, that the team understands that you’re allowed to criticize them fairly, as long as it’s not a personal attack. I think that’s something that we have a lot of wiggle room with the Rangers and a lot with the Dallas Cowboys.

(Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones is a listener and it’s cool that he talks to the guys and has a relationship with them and that doesn’t mean you can’t be critical. We love the Cowboys, but we’re still going to be The Fan. If we allowed a team to dictate what we say our listeners would pick that out immediately and we wouldn’t be ourselves.

DW: Let’s talk technology. How great is it for you as a programmer to be able to embrace the new toys that Audacy is giving you on-air and with their app? We all remember the times we sat in our driveway while listening to a great live conversation so we wouldn’t miss any of it. You don’t have to do that now.

GS: No, the ice cream no longer has to melt. You take the app in and you back it up 30 seconds. You can back up and hear the whole show if you want to.

DW: This morning I was taking our dogs to the groomer and listening to The Fan and I noticed for the first time a little audio control panel within the main touch screen. And I’m going, holy crap that’s not just on the app. I can pause and rewind right here in my car. [Which is 10 years old and still has its original audio system.] 

Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s a technology not a lot of stations in this country have available yet. Radio operators are still trying to compete with the Internet while forcing themselves to send listeners to their websites for clicks. I keep thinking, guys, use it all!

GS: What I try to explain (to our on-air staff), is that we’re no longer a radio station. We’re a brand. We’re more than just over the air. We have so many Audacy app listeners, not just in North Texas, but across the country.  It is absolutely awesome when we get calls from Philadelphia or San Francisco. That’s really, really cool.

DW: Yes, you’re a brand and not just a radio station anymore. I love that. A lot of radio people are still trying to struggle between being a radio station and being a website. And you have to go, ‘Wait a minute, guys, you’re missing the whole point. It’s all of these things working together.’

GS: Yeah, absolutely. When a new technology comes out, we want to be at the front of the line and we want to be the ones doing the beta testing and we want to be the ones saying, let’s give this a whirl because, you know, we feel as though that’s the future. And once again, when you change that mindset, as far as an overall brand success, not a radio station success, I feel as though the radio station success obviously is going to be there.

—————————

I never met Gavin Spittle before this conversation. I like him as much as I love his radio station. We talked about sports and talk radio in-depth, including Gavin’s love of hockey, and his own Dallas Stars-centric podcast, Spits and Suds. To hear our full conversation go to my podcast, Conversations.buzz, or on your favorite podcast app.

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Fox News’ Pete Hegseth Still Has a Soldier’s Perspective

Hegseth’s new book, The War on Warriors: Behind the Betrayal of the Men Who Keep Us Free will release on June 4th.

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Christian, Veteran, and most importantly American Patriot. For Pete Hegseth, service and devotion to our country are undeniable. It’s his experience as a Veteran that inspired his latest book, The War on Warriors: Behind the Betrayal of the Men Who Keep Us Free.

“When only 1% of your population is actually serving, most people are disconnected from the wars that they fight or the service that they have. Which means it becomes an academic exercise whether or not you support the war or don’t support the war,” Hegseth told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

“Meritocracy, lethality, and preparedness,” is what Hegseth believes the military should be focused on, but he’s seeing today’s military is focused on everything else. “There’s been an infiltration of other priorities. Call them social justice, call them politically correct, call them cultural Marxism, call them identity politics, it’s all of the above.”

Things once used as political bargaining tools by the left have now become a necessary survival skill for patriots who want to stay in the service. “[These other priorities] made their way into the general class because the general class knew they needed to adhere to them in order to get promoted. So now you have a lot of warps and warts inside our formations. That has vets like me saying, ‘This is not the military I remember.’”

Awarded two Bronze Star Medals for his service, Pete Hegseth believes it’s common unity and mission that should draw those to the military. “We all get bad haircuts for a reason, we all shave for a reason, we all wear uniforms for a reason. Because we’re supposed to look the same. Because it isn’t about your individual identity. It’s about what you’re going to do for the group and your brother on your left and your right. That’s that’s the kind of ethos we need to restore.”

Hegseth noted when countries are at war, diversity is the last thing on your mind. “You swear an oath to defend the Constitution. You want your leaders to be laser-focused on men making sure they’re trained, prepared, and ranked properly based on how good they are at their job. The standards are high and [service members are] held to them so that if they have to go to war, they’re able to be at their best and come home.”

The Army Major made it clear that he did not enjoy writing this book.

“I’m not out to trash the military. I revere my time in the military. I want [the military] to be what it was for me, for other people, and not look like a college or a university playing identity politics.”

He recognized wars are not perfect but it’s the sense of duty which is most important. “I can still hang my hat on what I was committed to, what my brothers were committed to and that mattered. I want to make sure in future wars, these soldiers have the leaders they deserve and the ethos and the focus on mission that we as the American people in our leadership should be responsible to give them.”

When veterans come home, it’s that very same ethos they need help finding and channeling into civilian life. “[Something the average American might not know when it comes to the life of a veteran is] the gaping hole that is your sense of purpose. And you’re missing how disorienting it can be to be sort of outside of the brotherhood that you forged.”

“A combat tour changes you in ways you’re not even aware of at the time, especially when you see things and do things that shake you to your core. But you did those things with other people, and you did big, difficult, nasty, tough things in the middle of the night, in dangerous places where you never knew if you’d come home.”

Veterans rediscovering their sense of purpose in the next chapter of life is difficult but it could be something as simple as, “Teaching the next generation of third graders the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer.”

There are so many chapters to life after but the VA estimates that 17 veterans a day take their own life, some believe the true number is higher. “I’ve talked to a bunch of guys who say ‘I’ve lost way more dudes at home than I lost overseas to suicide.’ So, I think it does tie back to [purpose]. I think we don’t need to throw more pills at them. We don’t need to throw more government programs at them. We need to remind them of the ethos they had when they served.”

Hegseth noted the importance of faith, community, and peer-to-peer counseling as good ways to help veterans process what happened in the war zone and stay connected to those who love them.

While many talk about veterans on Memorial Day, it is a day to honor those who served our county, fought for our freedom, and never came back. Hegseth believes the best way to honor them is by civic ritual.

“Meaning parades or ceremonies. Find one. Be a part of it. Take your kids. Take your grandkids. It’s easy for us to say, ‘Ok, kids. Remember Memorial Day is the day that we remember all those men and women who gave their life for us.’ And the kids will go, ‘Yeah, Dad. Ok, thanks.’ You can’t expect kids to really process that and understand what that means or the gravity of it.”

It’s events like these that inspired Hegseth to join the Army.

“My parents used to take me to the Memorial Day parade and 4th of July parade in their tiny little farming town in southern Minnesota. I remember as a little kid looking up at these vets, and the whole city and the whole town is saluting and clapping, and it’s not a big town. Like 300 people, but everyone’s there. I remember thinking year after year as I watched it like, ‘Wow, this man is really doing something really important. Whatever they did seems important. And I feel like when I grow up, I think I should do something like that.’”

Today, the father of seven is preparing for the conversation with his sons if they choose to serve in the military. “What do I say to my kids? You know, the same question a lot of people are facing. What do I tell my kids if they are thinking about serving? And that’s the last chapter of the book is actually a letter to my sons. Kind of articulating that thought process to them.”

Hegseth made it clear while he is critical of current military status, “I still think we need our best putting the uniform on, and then we need to get them a commander in chief that they deserve.”

The War on Warriors was published by Fox News Books and is available for pre-order now. It hits bookshelves on Tuesday, June 4th.

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News/Talk Radio Hosts Should Embrace Topics From Every Avenue Possible

Bring your audience into the topic, set the scene, and make it relatable as you intertwine the cultural moment we find ourselves in 2024…

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A photo of Harrison Butker
(Photo: Benedictine College)

The Kansas City Chiefs again found themselves at the center of the sports and news universe this past week. By now, you’ve likely heard about kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech at Benedictine College, a small Catholic college in Atchinson, Kansas, that got picked up and covered worldwide. And, if you’re a radio host, you probably have an opinion on his speech. If you haven’t seen his speech in full or read a transcript, you can do both here and come to your own conclusion.

There are two enormous takeaways: one for sports radio and one for news/talk radio.

For sports radio, there needs to be a focus on diversity of opinion, not just diversity of looks. I scanned sports radio across the country, and the overwhelming sentiment was that Harrison Butker was wrong to say what he said, with most misrepresenting his comments during the commencement speech.

It was like they took copy from the MSNBC newsroom and regurgitated it on their radio show. But what happened? As of this week, Harrison Butker’s jersey was sold out on the NFL Shop. And it wasn’t just his men’s jersey that was sold out; his women’s jersey was sold out too.

And when it comes to the political leanings of sports fans, they are overwhelmingly traditional and right-of-center in every major professional sport.

A recent Harris Poll showed the political leanings of every league. A nationally representative sample of 4,116 U.S. adults age 18 and over showed that sports fans are slightly more conservative (55%) in their self-identification.

58% of college football fans identify as conservative (the most of any sport), 57% of MLB fans are conservative, and 56% of NFL fans identify as conservative. Even amongst NBA fans, 51% of their fans identify as conservative.

While there can be value in diversity of background, suits seem to be much more obsessed with favoring physical diversity traits over diversity of thought and ideology. At a time when sports, politics, and culture continue to mix, ensuring any outlet is ideologically representative of the audience is more important than focusing on the melanin levels of the individuals behind the mic and in front of the TV.

Now, for News/Talk radio, these cultural topics are worth discussing. Don’t view them as “sports stories.” They’re not. Harrison Butker is as relatable and engaging a story as we’ve had in recent weeks. 

It gets you away from the day’s politics and into a relatable, easy-to-discuss topic that will likely engage your audience. The day-to-day politics can be mundane and might appeal to the P1s, but broadening topic variety, especially when you can spin it in a relatable way that broadens your audience while still keeping your P1s entertained, is a win-win.

Every adult can relate to attending a graduation ceremony, hearing a commencement speech, and reacting positively or negatively. We’ve all done it as students, parents, uncles, aunts, or grandparents.

Bring your audience into the topic, set the scene, and make it relatable as you intertwine the cultural moment we find ourselves in 2024 and how the media has reacted, and you can weave it into politics if you so choose.

The angles and topics have been endless the last week and a half, with several layers to explore and discuss. You don’t want to beat a dead horse unless you’re in the market like I am in Kansas City, but exploring topics that transcend “traditional” News/Talk will only broaden the audience for your show.

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