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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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A Message to News/Talk Radio Professionals: Go to the Sales Meeting

Having open lines of communication with sales can only help.

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A photo of a business meeting

It isn’t often that you can make a news/talk radio analogy by using a popular movie, but here we go. In the Judd Apatow classic, Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl’s character goes into labor, and Jay Baruchel’s character walks in to see how things are going. Well, the scene is absolutely chaotic, and after blood-curdling screams from Heigl for him to get out, he scrambles out of the room.

Rattled, Baruchel’s character returns to the waiting room, saying, “I shouldn’t have gone in there. Don’t go in there.

“Promise me you won’t go in there.”

Kinda like your experience going to a sales meeting?

Funny, right?

In media, it’s always seemed to be a cliché thing: On-air talent doesn’t quite get sales, and sales doesn’t quite get the on-air side.

On-air folks, almost to a person, can never understand why everything isn’t sold all the time.

“This is such a good segment, it should be so easy to sponsor.”

“Sports, everybody sponsors sports.”

“We should get (Insert local business) to sponsor us. They’re a perfect fit. I don’t get it.”

Guilty as charged on at least two of those exact statements.

After breaking down the wall this week and going to a sales meeting, I am here to urge everyone in production or on the air — go to a meeting.

It will do a few things. First, it will confirm that you belong right where you are. It also will confirm that the sales job is far from an easy job.

The reason for my visit was to update the crew on what we were up to, and then, the head of the station group presented us with a refresh of all the sales material.

I recommend you give it a try.

In all seriousness, having open lines of communication with sales can only help. Back when I was an actual journalist, I would refuse this kind of contact, as if it would somehow jeopardize my integrity.

Now?

Well, clearly, that’s been out the door for quite some time. Oh yeah, be serious. It’s obvious that in order to what I call “survive with the chance to thrive”, we need to work together.

They succeed, we stay on the air doing the most fun job we’ve ever had.

A few things will humble you from the experience, while the language of discourse will absolutely confound you.

Here’s how, starting with humble.

I am notorious for taking certain things personally. You can rip me, rip the show, even make fun of my hair! No problem. But if you don’t call me back? After a second call? That’s personal.

I may write you off forever.

It’s a blind spot, I know … but it’s pretty true. I’ve grown to the point where I can overcome it, especially if the person eventually calls me back, yet it really irks me to the core when people can’t return a call.

In the sales meeting, I expressed some frustration over not being able to contact a potential guest, and one sales rep came back with (paraphrase): “It can take 17 calls to make a connection.”

17? 17!

If you doubt it, all I will say is that the collective response to that statement felt like “Praise Be!”

I could never eat that kind of humble pie.

Then, there was the language, oh, the language. Not F-Bombs but acronyms. For everything.

NTR. CNA. KPI. DOMO. IQP. DJT. Ok, DJT is Donald J. Trump, but the rest are real, I promise.

I was the only person there who had no idea what was being said. It was dizzying.

After all the lingo and humble pie that needed to be eaten to sell stuff, I realized how positive the whole thing was for both sides.

I got the chance to talk to the crew beyond the flippant “Hello” while walking past their offices. I also learned how they felt about the show. About the station. About me.

That was both validating, sobering, and ultimately energizing.

Yes, it lasted almost three times the length of my one required regular weekly meeting. Yes, there were times that I thought I was in a foreign land. And yes, there were moments when my only glimmer of hope was the sunshine coming through the window.

But I have to tell you, I will definitely do it again because it was worth it … just perhaps not every week worth it.

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AI is Coming for More Than Just Your Jobs, And the Media Landscape is Changing for the Worse

More important than the loss of more jobs to AI in our industry, we need to take a closer look at the technology’s effect on the media.

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A photo of a computer chip with the AI initials on it

While the world is entranced in President Trump’s jury selection in New York, Artificial Intelligence is stealing your look. AI is stealing your voice and most distressing, AI is becoming more human. It has advanced faster than any other technology known to man.

At the NAB Show, Futuri’s ‘groundbreaking’ AI was applauded. They showed how an AI robot was able to conduct two studies on the media industry. Meaning this AI robot has replaced the job of those in research and development. More important than the loss of more jobs to AI in our industry, we need to take a closer look at the technology’s effect on the media, especially the human toll of AI Beauty Pageants and Deep Fake Pornography.

Announced this week, the first Miss AI Beauty Pageant is coming to a computer near you with $20,000 up for grabs. Now I know what you are thinking: “Krystina, this has nothing to do with media.” Oh, but friends, it does.

Miss Universe and Miss USA combined are industries worth several billion dollars. From paid commercials to designer dresses, hair, and makeup, it is a cash cow. Now, Maybelline can cut out paying advertisers and models by going straight to the programmers. Maybe she’s programmed with it. Maybe its Maybelline? It would cut costs significantly.

Additionally, since the Miss AI beauty pageant also judges its contestant on how many followers she has (can we call a robot she?), you have a significantly cheaper influencer because you don’t have to send the product to her (because again she’s AI).

Revenue from the health, wellness, and beauty industries could now be transitioned to big tech. Yeah, sure, a 12-year-old programmer living out of their mother’s basement might make enough to pay for one semester of college this way, but is that really the route we want to go here? Not to mention this will give people a significantly distorted sense of reality and beauty.

This brings us to AI porn, which has affected Taylor Swift, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and 30 female teens at a New Jersey high school. Let me repeat that for those who missed the story this past fall, a high school boy took the photos of 30 classmates and turned them into porn. These girls are 14. Not only will they likely spend the rest of their lives taking down the AI porn made of them, but to quote AOC, “It has real, real effects not just on the people that are victimized by it, but on the people who see it and consume it. And once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.”

I’m not a fan of AOC, but she has a point. The comments made by conservatives about AI porn made using her image are nasty (and senseless). This should be a bipartisan issue. AOC is also not the only well-known person this has happened to. Twitter had to block #TaylorSwift because of AI-generated porn photos. While this prompted the United States Congress to draft a civil law that would allow victims to sue the makers of these AI images, it falls just short of criminalizing the behavior.

Yes, Rep. Neil Hays (R-OK) proposed legislation last year that would criminalize the creation of deep fakes but it has stalled in the halls of Congress.

As for those nasty comments made by conservatives about AOC, they don’t realize this could happen to them. It could happen to their spouses and children. It’s not just celebrities. Those photos you’ve posted of your children from the time they were born, can now be accessed by the pedophiles of the world and turned into porn. A report, published yesterday by Forbes, shows there is already an increase of AI-made child sex abuse images across the web. Are you concerned yet? You should be.

The European Union and the United Kingdom are working on legislation to make it a criminal act. While the proposals are designed to aid those affected by AI porn, they lack targeting AI which is made to subvert or skew political messaging. It’s not just the videos you watch it’s also the articles you read.

While AI videos still have a long way to go before they are truly believable, we’ve extensively reported on media outlets replacing their writers with AI. A December 2023 study by Science Direct found people were able to positively identify AI writing samples only 38.9% of the time. There are now recruiters on Linkedin asking writers (like myself) to teach AI how to write. Sounds interesting until you realize AI would replace my career as a writer.

While Black Rock’s Larry Fink believes AI will “boost wages and productivity,” he needs to recognize there is already an abundance of jobs in sectors outside of finance that are being eliminated by AI. Business Insider, CNET, and CNBC have used ChatGPT to write stories. BuzzFeed is using ChatGPT to personalize content, a job once held by a person. Law offices are now using services to Casetext to research case law or Lawgeex to read contracts. Another job once held by a legal assistant, or law school intern.

These are all entry-level jobs that are being eliminated. How are people going to gain experience if AI is replacing the entry-level? So, while I congratulate Futuri on their AI research robot, can we put the brakes on the in-your-face AI capabilities and just keep it in the background? We are clearly not prepared, nor do we understand, the full scope of damage this technology can and is doing. (Does anyone remember Terminator, Robocop, Blade Runner, or Ex Machina? This does not end well for us.)

This is a very serious bipartisan issue that is being swept under the rug. So, while everyone is worried about what media outlets each one of Trump’s jurors watches, you should be more concerned with how the media is reporting (or lack thereof) on AI. It is more than just our jobs at risk, it’s our dignity and livelihood which is already being negatively impacted by the technology.

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ABC Draws Biggest Solar Eclipse Coverage Audience

ABC News’ Eclipse Across America was also simulcast on the Disney-owned cable networks National Geographic Channel.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of ABC's coverage of the 2024 Solar Eclipse
(Photo: ABC News)

The solar eclipse that captivated our nation on Apr. 8, for better or for worse, was extensively covered by the major networks. They had broadcast from the key areas where complete totality of the moon directly aligning in front of the sun was observed, from Dallas to Indianapolis to Niagara Falls to Vermont.

ABC, with David Muir and Linsey Davis anchoring from Burlington, Vermont, was the most-watched outlet in eclipse coverage among all key figures, according to Nielsen Media Research. From 2-4 PM ET on Apr. 8, ABC delivered 4.448 million total viewers including 920,000 within the key 25-54 demographic as well as 744,000 adults 18-49.

ABC News’ Eclipse Across America was also simulcast on the Disney-owned cable networks National Geographic Channel (271,000 Total Viewers, 76,000 Adults 25-54 and 69,000 Adults 18-49) and Nat Geo Wild (63,000 Total Viewers, 19,000 Adults 25-54 and 17,000 Adults 18-49).

The eclipse coverage helped National Geographic Channel more than doubled its own weekday performances of 2-4 PM ET from Apr. 1-5: Total Viewers +139%, Adults 25-54 +192%, and Adults 18-49 +237%.

CBS, with Norah O’Donnell and Tony Dokoupil anchoring from Indianapolis, was runner-up among total viewers (2.705 million) while NBC (2.406 million total viewers) – with Lester Holt also in Indianapolis, as well as Al Roker in Dallas – was runner-up among key demos (483,000 adults 25-54; 368,000 adults 18-49).

CBS posted 447,000 adults 25-54 and 339,000 adults 18-49.

On cable news, Fox News Channel was the total viewer leader for the solar eclipse and CNN led in all key demos. As indicated in the network breakdown below, CNN attracted the most added raw viewership and demos (nearly quadrupling its 25-54 and 18-49) compared to the aforementioned Monday through Friday 2-4 p.m. period from Apr. 1-5:

Fox News Channel

  • Total Viewers: 2.264 million (+829,000; +58%)
  • Adults 25-54: 230,000 (+73,000; +47%)
  • Adults 18-49: 155,000 (+54,000; +54%)

CNN

  • Total Viewers: 1.643 million (+1,046,000; +175%)
  • Adults 25-54: 332,000 (+246,000; +286%)
  • Adults 18-49: 221,000 (+163,000; +283%)

MSNBC (compared to Apr. 1-5 @ 1-4 p.m.)

  • Total Viewers: 0.916 million (+120,000; +15%)
  • Adults 25-54: 121,000 (+41,000; +51%)
  • Adults 18-49: 81,000 (+31,000; +62%)

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