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Markie Martin Wasn’t Thinking National Before NewsNation Came Calling

I never intended to go down the network news route, because so much of what I saw on national television exhausted me.

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(Photo: NewsNation)

Dallas-based correspondent Markie Martin has been named co-anchor of NewsNation’s new morning show, Morning in America.

She’s trading the field for a seat at the anchor desk from their headquarters in Chicago as the network announces the expansion of Morning in America to four hours.

Martin’s new role with co-anchor Adrienne Bankert begins today and she says she is looking forward to presenting viewers, “impactful relevant stories to start their day because viewers want more news that informs them, but they also want to feel like they’re a part of their chosen news family. They want warmth, they want information.”

Offering multiple views on the news is also a priority. She tells BNM, “We’re offering something so unique and unparalleled in this current news marketplace. I can’t name another cable news network that isn’t an echo chamber for its viewers, and I just think we have gone against the grain of that, and I think what we are offering is fresh and it’s needed for Americans.”

Veronica Dudo: You’re joining Morning in America on NewsNation. What stories are you most looking forward to telling?

Markie Martin:
First, it’s an absolute dream to have a seat at that table with the morning team! Some of the best and sharpest colleagues I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. The stories I’m most eager to tell, without a doubt, are those that are anchored in human connection.

I love spotlighting people who are making a difference, or those who can greatly impact others by sharing their personal story and experiences. I think the best journalism is that which elicits change, solutions, and hope for its consumers.

VD: What inspired you to work in TV news?

MM: I wish I had one of those “aha moments”, but it was truly a slow pull to broadcast over the course of time. Growing up, I solely watched the morning news and the Food Network—I wasn’t interested in anything else! However, I didn’t know anyone in the industry so it never occurred to me it could be an attainable career.

Actually, I attended the University of Richmond with the intention of going Pre-Med, and I knew in that first collegiate chemistry course that wasn’t the route for me. I took inventory of all my interests and skill sets—writing being at the forefront—and pivoted to Journalism, and it was there that things started to click for me.

The assignments were meaningful, I adored the professors, and it was during my first television internship at CBS 6 in Richmond, VA, that I knew this was something I needed to pursue. Richmond didn’t have a broadcast specialty or classes, so I created the school’s first campus broadcast in the basement of the school newspaper office. As an ode to our Spider mascot, a co-host and I named it “What’s Up in the Web” and the shows were so bad, poorly lit in front of a homemade green screen. But those segments are what actually landed me my first job in TV—KTEN in Sherman, Texas.

VD: Was your goal always to work in front of the camera?

MM: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a goal, but it was always an area of interest and something I enjoyed. Public speaking and being on camera really started for me in high school. I was Student Council President and made all the school speeches and morning announcements, I’d make a weekly on-camera skit for my church’s youth group to accompany the message of the week. It was always something I saw as a creative outlet, not a career. My mom always likes to say… “And look where those Ada High School morning announcements got you!”

VD: With so many outlets and platforms vying for viewers—what’s unique about Morning in America on NewsNation?

MM: Undoubtedly, the first items that come to mind are the content and tone of the show. I can’t name another cable news network that isn’t an echo chamber for its viewers, and we have gone against the grain. Having been hired on with NewsNation at its onset in 2020, I believe the network has held true to its mission—balanced, fair, and unbiased headlines.

When you turn on Morning in America, you’re going to be informed on the big topics of the day, but you’re going to be informed from all sides and perspectives. As the network has continued to grow, the breadth of guests we now have on is truly remarkable. Viewers are going to get a bit of everything—breaking news, hot topics, diverse discussion, and also a healthy dose of levity to start their day.

VD: What do you consider your greatest unforeseen career opportunity that came your way?

MM: I’m not just saying this because it’s an interview about NewsNation—but my greatest unforeseen career opportunity has been this job, because I never knew this kind of opportunity would exist for me. I never intended to go down the network news route, because so much of what I saw on national television exhausted me. The bias, the lack of civil discourse, the narratives, and the “gotcha” journalism.

I have a complete adoration for local news, and after leaving my last market in Oklahoma City I told my agent not to even shop me around nationally for my next gig. One night over neighborhood pho with my husband, I got a call from my agent who just started the conversation with: “Hear me out.”

He pitched the News Nation Dallas correspondent position, for a network trying to change the game, and I was sold. Thankfully, after a couple interviews, I landed the job. And it’s been a fantastic adventure.

VD: Having moved and lived in different cities across the country for your job—what are some meaningful memories you have from those markets?

MM: I started at KTEN in Texoma, then pivoted to Oklahoma City, then Dallas for NewsNation, and now Chicago. I’d say my top moment that I always share with people, especially young journalists hoping to make it in the business, is how I landed my first job.

I was working at The National Journal in Washington DC and knew I wanted to try for my first television market. In Oklahoma, I grew up watching KTEN so decided to start small there. With no available openings online, I decided to reach out directly to the News Director and pitch myself in the event he had any jobs on the horizon. He messaged back that afternoon and two weeks later I was in his office.

During the interview, he revealed he was about to have a weekend anchor opening and a weekday reporter opening, but I had no experience doing either. Sitting across from him, I said: “I want them both. I can do both.” He made me an offer on the spot and created a hybrid role for me.

I always tell aspiring journalists to just go for it—even if you don’t see any openings or have what you perceive to be enough experience. The worst they can say is no.

VD: Most people look at your job and would think that it’s so glamorous. What would people be surprised to know about it?

MM: The moments of glamour in this business are few and fleeting! I certainly didn’t enter the industry chasing glamour, but nobody prepared me for how polar-opposite it is from that.

What viewers see of us on-air, particularly for correspondents, is about one percent of our actual job. The majority of the job consists of chasing a story, conducting interviews, traveling to assignments, writing and editing, pitching ideas, garnering sources, and the list goes on. The on-air coverage is the short finale of an entire day, often longer, of news gathering.

Journalism school did not prep me for doing my hair and makeup on the floor of more airport bathrooms than I’d care to count, working unimaginably long and arduous hours, missed holidays, birthdays, family milestones…But wow, has it been worth it.

VD: What stirred your interest to obtain your private pilot license?

MM: My dad! It’s his greatest hobby and I grew up flying with him everywhere. He tried for years to get me to take flying lessons, but I never wanted to go up solo. I came home from college one summer and decided to go for it! It is one of the things I’m most proud of, and love that I share that with him.

Aviation has opened so many unexpected doors for me professionally, unforgettable experiences, and is a muscle I enjoy flexing when it comes to big aviation stories. My husband, inspired by my dad and me, is now going for his private pilot’s license, too! And with my mom being a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, aviation is a whole family affair.

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BNM Writers

As History Unfolds, It’s Important for News/Talk Radio to Remain Focused on Playing the Hits

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward.

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A photo of Donald Trump and Joe Biden

The age-old radio adage is to “Play the hits”.

It applies more directly to music stations, but the phrase can also relate to sports talk and news/talk. So, suppose you’re like me, and you’ve found yourself behind a microphone on a news/talk station the last couple of weeks. In that case, you might be having an internal conversation about whether you’ve focused too much on the national political discourse since the unforgettable Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden debate on June 27th.

My short answer is: No, you’re not too focused. 

But in an effort to not stop this column at 100 words, I’ll explain further.

I’ve long advocated for focusing your local shows on your local radio markets as much as possible. It will separate your show from the national syndication that can be piped into any station nationwide. Your local flair is what will build your credibility in your community. It’s what will separate you. Local will win. 

And given that it’s been an unusually predictable few months in the election news cycle, there hasn’t been much to lean into on the national political side. Joe Biden was the unimpressive, octogenarian incumbent going up against Donald Trump, who rolled quickly through a primary and was set to be at the top of the Republican ticket for a third-straight election cycle. It was a rematch of 2020, a period in American history most Americans would prefer to forget, given the state of the nation at the time. Unfortunately for many, they are being forced to relive it. 

However, what happened two weeks ago in Atlanta between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has given a massive jolt to an election season that had been relatively boring. Tens of millions of Americans were tuned in that evening, and given Biden’s debate performance, it has kicked off two weeks of speculation of Biden dropping out, party infighting, replacement conversations, various media reports, and drama that we haven’t seen around an incumbent President in an election year since 1968.

It’s cliche, but we are living through history. And your audience is coming to you for the latest on this unfolding history, with opinions, analysis, and an ability to move the story forward engagingly and entertainingly while also, when appropriate, bringing on guests who will provide them with insight they can bring to their conversations with friends, at the water cooler, on group texts and on social media.

In a perfect world, you can also localize these national stories by getting reactions from local officials, reading/playing their social media reactions on your show, or if you’re in a swing state, your options beyond that are unlimited.

But now that we are in a national news cycle that has been on fire, don’t force yourself into local talk. Find your top local stories that are compelling and impacting your radio listener’s day-to-day lives, and work to blend it with the historical moment we find ourselves living through on the national political stage. And always be working your hardest to think of and find new angles, while moving the story forward.

In the end, just like your local CHR station has to play Taylor Swift multiple times an hour, you need to give your audience what they want and “Play the hits.” We’re living through history, after all.

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James Golden AKA Bo Snerdley Relishes New Nationally Syndicated Weekend Show

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

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A photo of James Golden
(Photo: James Golden)

Radio host, radio executive, producer, author, and a jack of all media trades. Since he was 14-years-old James Golden (AKA Bo Snerdley) has devoted his entire life to the media industry.

The on-air talent’s weekend show —The James Golden Show — just became syndicated through Red Apple Audio Networks.

“I really appreciate having the platform that WABC has provided. It’s a wonderful thing to have a show that’s now in a bunch of different markets and growing! It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Long before Golden hit the airwaves as ‘Bo Snerdley’ on The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a teenager visiting his cousin, DJ Gerry Bledsoe, at work. “It was a mind-blowing experience for me. So many things happened that day. In fact, that day was when one of the older guys there, the guy who’s had a reputation as being a real grumpy, curmudgeon type guy, for some reason, took a liking to me.”

He let Golden into the show where Golden learned how to cut tape. “It took me a lot of years before I actually got a job, and ironically, it was at the same station, doing marketing and research, looking at ratings and learning how to analyze ratings and learning how to do marketing. Later on, I moved into the programming side and started doing music research.”

James Golden was one of the first in the country to do music research which led him to WABC. There he worked with the station’s transition from music to their first talk program.

“I think in life you’re given the sort of the things that you need to fulfill whatever destiny you have. I had always been interested in news, politics, and all of it. This dual love I had for music, it allowed me to transition when the station changed format and to become their senior producer of news. And it was at ABC some years later that I met Rush Limbaugh. And of course, that turned into a 30-year relationship.”

The Author of “Rush On The Radio,” recalled the first time the pair met. “So my first day working on his show, I brought him some news stories. I was in the habit of doing that before I even worked on his show. I developed a friendship. When I saw something interesting, that I thought he would be interested in and I would take it to him. So it was a smooth transition for me being rotated on the show.”

It wasn’t before long James Golden became Bo Snerdley. “So I walked in, dropped off some stories, and on the way out he says, ‘Well, everybody on this call screen has got to be a Snerdley, have you come up with your name?’ So The Daily News was on his desk, and it was on the sports page. Bo Jackson was in the news for some of the headlines, but I just wasn’t able watch it. So I just said ‘Bo’ and walked out. Little did I know that for the rest of my life, I’d be Bo. But it’s great and I love it. I’m comfortable with either one.”

Golden recalled the time spent with his friend saying, “No words can ever describe it. He was the best that there ever was to me, or ever will be in the industry. His talent, as he said, was on loan from God. But it was something unique. The incredibly intelligent, incredibly hardworking. 30 years in, he still brought it. Even when he was sick, [Rush] did as much of the work that he could to make sure that his show was extremely well researched and well delivered.”

While working on Rush’s show, James Golden also had his own weekend show. He worked 7 days a week for years. Today, he is back at his radio home. “Back at WABC, doing six days on air with them, and it’s just been a wonderful ride for me.”

Throughout the years, the former executive producer turned host has seen significant change in the industry.

“For some people, it’s not as much fun as it used to be. And I’ll just speak frankly about that. When the bean counters took over because of corporate interest — instead of it being a lot of different families with smaller radio groups, it moved into more of a big business — for a lot of people a lot of the fun was taken out of it, because those decisions that used to be made locally are now being made by regional managers or by national managers, some of whom had more of a background in sales and didn’t understand the programing,” he shared.

“So there’s always that schism. And so for a lot of people in the industry, I have friends who have left the industry because it just was no longer fun for them.”

Another big difference? You no longer have to work your way up through the markets.

“You had to work your way up through lower markets to get to a higher market. You don’t have to do that now. People that are just good at what they do, if they have very good communication skills, you can learn how to become [one of the] best radio hosts. There’s only one best radio host and [Rush] passed away, but it is still about your ability to tell a good story. To understand and to I think it really is how much you are in love with the medium yourself.”

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The Difference Between News/Talk Radio Programmer and Bureaucrat

The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets.

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Let’s talk about the worst aspect of every news/talk radio programmer’s job: commercial stops, those designed traffic jams that occur every ten or twenty minutes bringing your excellent content to a dead halt. And so, you wait, knowing full well that you’re losing a significant percentage of your audience to button pushers looking for a station where talkers are still talking and news is still being broadcast.

The way most news and talk radio stations operate today commercial clutter takes up 20-30 minutes of each programming hour. It would be nice to say that’s because your inventory is sold out thanks to great ratings but we know better. It happens because it’s allowed to happen. Some of that load is likely bonus spots and far too much of it consists of recorded promos that use branding phrases begging the listener to wait through the clutter.

Yes, commercials are necessary but there are some things to consider that might make them less annoying and potentially informative and entertaining.

Warning: old fart flashback straight ahead.

When I was a young program director I had the authority to reject any spots that I didn’t feel met our standards. Yes, I’m quite serious. I didn’t exercise the option often but if a spot was of lousy audio quality, badly produced, boring, or even just plain stupid, I could kick it back to the sales exec and/or ad agency and ask them politely to make it better.

You might think that could result in an impolite opposite reaction. It never did, not once. From time to time I talked with an advertiser or his agent and they always said the same thing: You’re the expert. I want my time and money spent well on your station.

Sales execs could get annoyed but usually went along as good teammates without too much grousing. Besides, schmoozing clients with better ideas is part of their art; the best enjoy it.

Often these conversations would lead to brainstorming sessions with the production director. (Remember that creative and crucial position?) Ideas were tossed around, writing began and a highly effective ad was usually the result.

If you’re a program director or air talent today your mind must be reeling. It has probably never occurred to you that you could have the authority to actually determine all of your news/talk station’s programming, not just the words between the breaks, every blessed minute. Why not? You’re responsible for your station’s content 24/7 though you have no control over half of it.

Most program directors in corporate-owned stations today have been hired as functionaries at the end of a long chain of corporate bureaucrats. Your days are filled with layers of programming and sales hierarchies. Presidents have lieutenants, regional and format V.P.s, who send out the memos and convene Zoom meetings to address general issues with generalized answers.

They dive into recent studies and charts for boilerplate policies, seldom suggesting anything bold or of local significance because they can’t, they don’t know your town. The sad part is these people achieved their high positions by successfully programming actual radio stations to real people in specific markets. They’re smart enough to know that what worked in Boston might not fly in Amarillo – except in a vague, general way.

As a local PD today your log is bloated, your programming is filled with syndicated shows, and your hands are tied. 

Unless you have a creative fire in your belly and the guts to assert it.

Dream up great promotions that will excite your audience in your hometown. Enlist the members of your on-air, newsroom, and production staff. Invite them to a pizza place for some brainstorming. Don’t make it mandatory, suggest it will be fun and exciting because it will. Your crew will be happier and bubbling tomorrow. Before long fresh ideas will start trickling in regularly because everyone is enthused, involved, and feeling appreciated. You’ll all make each other’s great ideas even greater. You’re having fun and it’s contagious.

If you can ignite a spark of excitement and faith from your GM and sales department you might find yourself with the programming reigns in both hands.

You weren’t hired to be a clickbait expert, you are a radio expert. You know more about the stuff that comes out of the speakers than anyone else at the station. And you can identify problems and turn them into opportunities. You need to spend your days refining the product, not in endless meetings trying to implement generalized corporate buzzspeak into local program policy.

Attend the Zoom meetings, be a cheerful good soldier but if called upon speak your mind with truth and passion. It’s infectious.

Explain to your boss why you should be allowed to reduce the on-air clutter by as much as half and that you need to spend most of your time every day with your news and talk talent because they’re your stars. It’s why they pay you. The station and the community are all that matters to you.

Tell her/him you’ll read the interoffice memos faithfully and join digital meetings when you can but that the corporate culture will mostly just have to take care of itself.

And, oh, by the way, you need the authority to reject bad radio commercials.

You may not get everything you ask for but I promise you’ll earn some respect.

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