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Jim Graci Knows Formal Training, Structure of the Clock on Radio

Jim Graci is the director of branding & programming at WOKV-FM, WOKV-AM in Jacksonville. He left KDKA a year ago in August, programming there for 10 years.

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Jim Graci is the Director of Branding & Programming at WOKV-FM, WOKV-AM in Jacksonville. He left KDKA in Pittsburgh a year ago in August, programming there for 10 years.

“I love Jacksonville, but there are times I miss Pittsburgh,” he said. “I miss the people, we had a great staff in both the News/Talk area and sports.”

Graci said he always strove to be present for the needs of talents as much as they required. “I’ve enjoyed the challenge. The opportunity to coach on news and talk.”

When coaching his talent in News/Talk, Graci says he encourages and trains his staff to hit their marks from the beginning of their show, through the middle, until the end.

“It’s all about being a good storyteller,” Graci said. “Being able to entertain and inform at the same time. I know how difficult it is to do that on a consistent basis. 

“I challenge anyone to come over and do it for just one day.”

When Graci brings in talent that has primarily a print background, he likes to pair them with a seasoned radio person. 

“Radio guys obviously come up through the ranks as a DJ or what have you,” Graci said. “They’ve had some kind of formal training and understand the structure of the clock. It can be a real science.”

In his experience, Graci said print columnists tend to be more analytical. More inclined to be involved in the finite. 

“That’s not necessarily the approach to keep people listening,” Graci said. “That also doesn’t mean newspaper guys can’t become good radio guys. They may need to learn how to deliver in a different manner.”

Communicating on the radio requires talent to transmit content on various platforms, whether it’s building a podcast, or posting on Twitter. 

“We have to learn to adapt to connect, reach a vast amount of listeners,” Graci explained. “Everybody is different. When it comes to coaching, no one size fits all. I have to understand a person’s strengths. What approach with them will help the ‘lightbulb go off.’”

Graci doesn’t like the term ‘raw’ when it comes to bringing on new talent. To use a baseball analogy, Graci says you have to give someone enough at-bats to make an informed decision. 

Graci said a couple of guys he’s proud of nurturing are Chris Mack and Colin Dunlap. 

“I arrived at ESPN Pittsburgh in 2004. After a few years there we needed a producer for Stan and Guy,” Graci explained. “Chris had been a Top-40 DJ and wanted to be on the air right away. I told him he needed to produce a while first. Eventually, I figured he’d get his own show. He was so good with Stan and Guy”

As far as on-air disposition, Graci said he thinks we’re done with the angry young man in sports radio. It’s just too much of the same thing. 

“I love tiramisu,” Graci said. “But I’m not going to eat it every day. It’s not special anymore.”

The first thing Graci looks for in a potential news talker is the ability to tell a story. 

“I want the guy who could sit in the corner of a bar and entertain the rest of the guys with a story. Making people laugh, enjoying the moment,” Graci said. “Experience isn’t everything. I look at people who really have the ability to analyze a situation, not just jump into the obvious.”

To use a cliche, Graci says he likes people that can peel away layers of the onion and discover finer details, then bring those into the discussion. Come back into the circle to the main premise for telling the story. They also have to be good listeners.”

“If you can find someone that can do that, it’s gold. Most people don’t have that ability, though many people try. I like a controlled cacophony rather than spontaneity. A planned cacophony. Know your topics well enough that day you can rattle it off the top of your head, but a lot of work went into that rattling. There’s the theatrics of communicating.”

Graci wants his on-air talent to be themselves. Do not try to be another Rush Limbaugh.

“I have to help them find their voice.”

He said he loves Jacksonville, which he finds to be more conservative than Pittsburgh. 

“I live ten minutes from the beach,” Graci said. “I love walking the halls which house our eight radio stations here at the CMG cluster. I’m taking a walk through sports, news, urban music, and classic hits. Having all that energy in a building to me, post-Covid is very refreshing. I missed the day-to-day interactions. I missed hearing laughter in another room and trying to find out what was so funny.”. 

It’s a pretty good life. Graci lives in a warm state with his wife. His kids are both grown and live in Pittsburgh. He said the greatest things in his life are his marriage and children. 

“You marry your best friend,” he said. “I’ve got the sunshine, the Atlantic Ocean, and my best friend. Those are the secrets to happiness.”

Graci said he’s been blessed to have been able to work in an industry he’s loved since he was 15 years old.  

“It has certainly evolved over the years, but so have I. First a board operator, then disc jockey, a sports and news reporter, to a production director, to owning my own production company and for the last 20 years, programming talk radio. I’ve loved every step of the way and still love coming to work every day. And here in Jacksonville, I’m once again fortunate to work with some incredible radio professionals and extremely gifted talent.”

There’s more. Graci worked as a PA announcer for a couple of NBA franchises. 

“I started in the mid-80s becoming the public address announcer for the Atlanta Hawks, calling games at the old Omni,” Graci said. “I got to watch Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers, Spud Webb and those great Hawks teams in the mid to late 80s.”  

In 1989, Graci moved with his wife to Seattle as she took a job as the northwest promotions rep for Virgin Records. Graci continued his radio career working for a satellite radio company, then Oldies KBSG and Sports Radio KJR.  

“I continued my career as a public address announcer as I was hired by the Seattle SuperSonics,” Graci said. “That was an incredible experience, to watch Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Sam Perkins and those great Sonics teams of the 90s under George Karl. In fact, the team went to the NBA Finals in 1996, so I got to do PA in the NBA Finals.”

As if all that wasn’t enough, Graci said he was lucky to have appeared on an episode of Frasier, as the PA announcer for the Sonics.  

“Like I said, I’ve had a blessed life both professionally and personally.”

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Telling The Audience What You Think They Want to Hear Won’t Help You Grow

“Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.”



Photo Credit: iStock

It’s OK to not always tell your audience what you think they want to hear. 

I have been writing that phrase down at the top of my notepad before I start my show for the last two weeks. Something tells me I will need it for at least another 12 months.

In the last week alone there have been two major topics that have divided News Talk audiences across the country: The debt-ceiling debate and the brewing Donald Trump vs. Ron DeSantis feud.

And as I’ve listened to talented hosts and perused the social media landscape, I’ve noticed a hesitancy that I usually would not expect. 

Granted, for the last two years it’s been relatively easy when talking about the national political scene: Joe Biden is a disaster. Whether it’s economic policy, border policy or foreign policy, most Americans don’t believe the guy is doing a good job. The News Talk audience, generally speaking, thinks he’s doing a terrible job.

That’s shooting fish in a barrel. But now comes the hard(er) work. 

Starting with the debt-ceiling drama, there was a big divide amongst Republicans in the House of Representatives. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, however dozens of Republicans, many of the most conservative members of the House, voted against the bill, saying it did not do enough to cut spending

As a result, it seemed many hosts, who assume their audience blindly aligns with everything the most-conservative members of the House say, were hesitant to point out the obvious: Explain what better deal you were getting when you only had a small majority in the House, and no control over the Senate or the White House?

It was a question I never got a good answer to on my show.

Republicans already picked up a win getting Biden to the negotiating table after he spent months saying he wanted a clean debt-ceiling raise with no spending cuts attached. Speaker Kevin McCarthy won, got some concessions, and slowly began turning the tide towards hopefully Senate and White House victories in 2024, when then the real work can begin on getting spending under control. This was a victory.

And while no one with any levels of fiscal sanity believes our government’s spending isn’t wildly out of control, that is a separate conversation from whether or not this was a good or smart deal. 

Then, there’s the Trump vs. DeSantis feud. Some have staked their claim with one candidate over the other. Some are trying to toe the line and avoid all conflict. Neither approach makes sense to me.

The obvious approach seems to me to analyze the candidate’s based on what they do and say on a given day. There will be good and bad days for Trump. DeSantis will have his up and down moments. I can guarantee this because they’re flawed human beings like the rest of us.Like every election season, it will ebb and flow, and eventually someone will come out on top.

Calling out each candidate’s positives and negatives isn’t picking one over the other, it’s opining on the news of the day.

If you compare this to sports talk radio, a national host talking about the NFL Playoffs doesn’t have to have a preferred team, but he or she has to have something to say that’s interesting, compelling, honest, thought-provoking and entertaining.

If they don’t do this, they’ll become wallpaper in a world of too many media options. 

If you have the trust of your audience, you’re real, honest, engaging and thoughtful, you won’t lose your audience. You’ll keep them engaged and you’ll grow it.

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Why Did Newsmax Allow Rep. Matt Gaetz to Host An Unchallenged TV Program?

“A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies.”

Jessie Karangu



Photo Credit: Newsmax

Representing your constituents in Congress used to be a mark of honor. It was a position that came with pride and respect. At least that’s what I’ve heard from older relatives who lived in an America that was supposedly more united. Today, depending on the individual, the position doesn’t usually come with too much regard if any at all. Congress has an all-time low approval rating and many representatives go into the job plotting their next money-making move in the process. 

The cable news circuit has slowly but surely built a bench of potential hosts from current and former Congressmen. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Fox News commentator, Trey Gowdy is a host on Fox News, Joe Scarborough is MSNBC’s morning show anchor and most recently Rep. Matt Gaetz anchored his own hour for Newsmax. As much as some members of Congress roast young Gen Zers for their tenacity when it comes to TikTok, these men are just as eager for the wrong kind of attention and spotlight. 

A former Congressman on television can provide perspective that gives context to current issues the country faces. On Scarborough’s morning show, he often harkens back to past negotiations and talks he had with fellow lawmakers. At times, he even uses those connections to find out the inside scoop about something that’s happening in the moment. Current Congressmen who appear on shows as guests also get to talk directly to their constituents hopefully alongside a host that is willing to challenge them on the issues of the day and not simply allow them to lead the audience astray. 

For Newsmax to allow Rep. Gaetz to host a show though, is a disgrace to a medium of television that already like Congress doesn’t have much acclaim. With that being said, even for cable news, this is a major low and it should never happen on either side of the aisle. Politicians are elected to serve but are also forced to make tough decisions. These choices are answerable to the American people. When a Congressman is allowed to spew their thoughts uncensored, it takes attention away from the issues that really matter. 

A sitting politician hosting a show also doesn’t allow for a variety of opinion. It gives them the ability to deceive their audience, delude their constituents and impact lives in the name of lies. Unless Gaetz had a co-host that was a journalist questioning his takes, how does an unchallenged show truly serve the public – an oath he agreed to partake in when he took on his role as a Congressman. 

Gaetz’s appearance is also a waste of tax dollars. The people of Florida who elected him into office expect Gaetz to be working with fellow lawmakers to make their lives better. They expect him to be doing research or reading up on bills that can bring the change he’s promised to his voters. Instead, he used the resources of hard-working Floridians to moonlight into his next career and spew misinformation that can prove harmful to the public.

If we allow more serving Congressmen to host their own cable talk shows on such a widely distributed platform, will we reach a day when lawmakers exclusively negotiate bills on television? Will Congressmen be more worried about ratings than results? We’ve already seen what happens when a President reigns over a populous and only rules based on what he sees on television. We’ve also seen the political implications that come with such unjustly behavior. Cable news networks will suffer the moral consequences of their actions while politicians who dare to try this act again will eventually face the demise of their legacy in the voting booth. Be careful.

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Sales Productivity Protects You From Hedge Fund Uncertainty

“The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable. The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.”

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Almost 30 years ago, Radio station ownership limits were lifted, and Wall Street saw an opportunity. But the hedge funds didn’t understand the business and created mayhem in a still vital industry.

I worked in New York City for over 6 years. I had the opportunity to spend time around the brain trust of Wall Street. These Masters of the Universe saw the weakness of the radio industry and thought that they had all the answers. 

Well, they didn’t. 

I will give you some history from my perspective. My first 16 years were spent working for family run operations. Both of these companies were managed by third generation operators who put people and community first. These were highly successful operations with large staffs. 

I am not looking back with rose colored glasses. No organization is perfect or without unique challenges. But people were first in these broadcast companies. Both of my first employers had top consultants to give strong outside the organization feedback. Both companies had General Managers that catered to both the programming and sales departments. 

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the biggest overhaul of telecommunications law in 62 years. It was widely thought that this would bring radio into modern times. Consolidation has been a landmark of American Business, so, Wall Street’s Hedge Funds saw an opening.  Radio station owners sold for insane profits. Longtime owners were able to sell stations for multiples of up to 30 times meaning that if an owner had a station earning 1 million dollars, they could sell it for 30 million dollars. Quite a return (Most stations didn’t go that high but multiples of 18-25 were very common during this period).  

Wall Street looked at radio like the pickle industry. Except there was an issue. Radio did not have hundreds of workers in each location. You couldn’t move all operations to a central hub and save HUGE money, that would justify strong ROI. So, radio ended up with several large owners (by the way, I am not criticizing iHeart, Audacy, Cumulus and the other large owners). 

When larger companies developed, they went public selling stock to individual shareholders and institutional investors. The market states that companies show a certain amount of revenue growth per year. Let’s say that number is 10%. Radio is interesting, we are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. You cannot just build new radio stations. So, companies were forced to merge or expand to meet revenue goals. Wall Street encouraged and even demanded it. 

Here was the problem – radio companies acquired an unsupportable amount of debt that could never be paid back. The Hedge Funds just moved cash around and demanded companies cut staff and consolidate management. It was a blood bath. Any of us who entered this business in the 90’s saw this. Great broadcasters, salespeople, managers were forced out because of unsustainable debt and micromanaging Hedge Funds.  

On the local level, new clusters were forced to protect the biggest biller in the group. This was not set to grow revenue; it was to protect the revenue and keep the spreadsheets looking right. I know of stations that were more successful brands in ratings in a cluster than the cash cow but if you were the Program Director who was consistently beating the cash cow, your job was in jeopardy.  This was a reverse hunger games caused by debt, fear and shortsightedness. 

So, here we are.

The good news is that most radio station clusters are still very profitable. 

The bad news, the debt makes many clusters unprofitable.

Even though a couple of the bigger companies have gone bankrupt, they’re not bankruptcy situations where assets were liquidated creating a market-based value of these properties. It was essentially a negotiation to lower the debt, and did not move these companies to become cash positive operations again. 

Why do the Hedge Funds not cut their losses and move on? Now that is a great question.  Hedge funds handle billions of dollars. They bundle bad deals with great deals and so their investors don’t seem to have a problem if they see enough of a profit at the end of the month, quarter or year. People remember the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. Hedge Funds were bundling bad mortgages with good ones. Soon the bad overcame the market. Thus, a crash.  The homes never went away. The value of real estate fell dramatically in many places.

Are people still listening to us? 80% of Americans do. Not the 93% of a decade or so ago (Pew Research). This is much better than local TV where only 63% of Americans watch local TV News.

But what is the future?

It is entirely up to Hedge Fund involvement. Will Hedge Funds cut their losses and move on?  If that occurs, will local broadcasters rise again? 

What can YOU do?

It is all about the billing. If you are billing a lot more than you cost, the company will need you, and indispensability is what corporate leaders will see. Make yourself available for Sales. If you are the morning talent, be dressed well enough for a sales call. Make yourself available a few times each week to meet clients. Let salespeople know about the products and services that you use. Radio personalities are influencers. They have huge audiences that listen every day.  Don’t forget your advantage. We cannot control the Hedge Funds, corporate debt or a fast-changing marketplace. 

This was not an exhaustive history, but it illustrates our challenges. Radio programming departments are filled with creative people who just want to entertain. Be aware of our weaknesses and strengths. The Market Manager and sales manager are under huge pressure.  Be that person who understands their concerns.

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