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Tomi Lahren Isn’t Just Fearless, She’s a Pioneer

“I was the only one doing what I was doing at my age from the conservative side, and really talking about cultural issues and talking about those topics that people my age were talking about.”

Ryan Hedrick

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A photo of Tomi Lahren

Tomi Lahren isn’t just fearless; she’s someone whom many misunderstand. TheBlaze canceled her years ago after she shared her position on abortion during an interview with The View, putting her resolve as one of the youngest conservative commentators in the game to the test.

Lahren believed in herself long before millions of supporters and detractors consumed her daily viral clips. As a young girl growing up in rural South Dakota, her parents instilled a blue-collar work ethic as she navigated the rugged terrain of political commentary.   

Back in 2015, Lahren gave a speech at CPAC where she encouraged the GOP to better connect with young supporters and talked about the ongoing cultural war. Over the following years, Lahren improved her delivery and gained a large following on different digital platforms. Her success influenced other commentators to do the same. 

Over the last seven years, Lahren has made significant personal and professional growth. Despite facing all the challenges, she has been at Fox News for seven years. Her primary objective is to have a show on the network. Meanwhile, she also plays a significant role in the success of OutKick, a digital media platform that addresses cultural issues. 

Tomi Lahren is a rising star in the digital world who is breaking new ground. She is known for her strong work ethic and influence and her commitment to empowering conservatives to speak out and lead.

In an interview with Barrett News Media, Lahren talks about her journey to success, addresses common misconceptions about her, explains how leaving TheBlaze made her more determined, discusses why Nashville is becoming a hub for content creators, and shares her excitement about the upcoming BNM Summit. 

Ryan Hedrick: Tomi, could you share with us how you started your career as a political commentator?

Tomi Lahren: This has been a lifelong endeavor. In college at UNLV, I hosted a roundtable show. I’ve always been politically active. I majored in journalism and media studies with a minor in political science. I always knew I wanted to be an opinion-based commentator.  

At 21, I found myself at One American News Network (OANN) in San Diego. I just kept calling, I wanted an internship. I met with the owner, and he offered me a chance to start my own show, so I graduated college, moved to San Diego, and got started. It’s been a roller coaster since then. I’ve been at OANN, I’ve been at TheBlaze, and I’ve been at Fox [News].

This is my seventh year at Fox and my first full year at OutKick. I’ve been at a lot of different places, but these last seven [years], especially this last year at OutKick, I’ve really come into my own in this space.  

RH: As you gained success, what obstacles did you face, and how did you conquer them? 

TL: My biggest challenge was being a 21-year-old female and trying to get into political commentary. People don’t take you seriously at first glance. I think the differentiator for me is that before the social influencing and the political influencing really kicked off, which it has in the last couple of years, I was the only one doing what I was doing at my age from the conservative side, and really talking about cultural issues and talking about those topics that people my age were talking about.

I found a sweet spot there to talk about those things, and obviously, I talk about those things in a very direct and spunky way, often sarcastic and pointed. That style caught people off guard. My age and being who I am was less of a challenge and more of an asset because it allowed me to separate myself from people who were much older, had more experience, went to Ivy League schools, and had family members in the industry.

My being a total outsider and doing something completely different was my biggest asset in growing as fast as I did.  

RH: Could you please explain why you departed from TheBlaze and how it relates to your stance on abortion? 

TL: There are a lot of discussions right now about talent and how they exit a network. It’s not always a clean break, as we know. I went on The View, it was an approved appearance, and I said something that I had said not only in a New York Times profile piece but I had said numerous times on a show that I hosted at TheBlaze, that I am for limited government and, therefore I am on the pro-choice side.

All hell broke loose, and they (TheBlaze) tried to fire me, they tried to silence me, they tried to take my Facebook page for the purposes of deleting it and cutting off the five million followers that I have.   

That’s when I decided to either take a paycheck and wait it out or fight back for what was being infringed on. I chose to fight back. That was a trying time in my life. I was 24 years old at that point, but that was a big turning point for me because I had spent so many years fighting the left.

Now, I am sitting here fighting Glenn Beck, who is a big conservative voice on the right. I went after Colin Kaepernick, I was on with Bill Maher, I was on with Trevor Noah, and I was on with the ladies of The View, but nothing compared to the attacks I was getting from somebody on my own side.

Obviously, a lot of people on the conservative side, that’s the first time they’ve ever really come after me the way they did. That was a growing experience for me.

RH: Did that experience with TheBlaze cement you as someone who was going to stick to her opinions no matter what? 

TL: Absolutely. I could’ve gone out with the hostage talk and said, “I’m so sorry that I’ve offended people.” I’ve never done that; I never will do that. I’ve made plenty of apologies for things that I have said in my career that I wholeheartedly apologize for that I believe were taken out of context.

If I apologize, I mean it. I will never apologize for something I believe I was in the right or for something I truly hold a conviction for. That’s been something that I have maintained for my entire career. I am getting a lot of heat because I have said a lot of things about Ron DeSantis and his ability to win a general election.

I came up as a very vocal Trump supporter in the Trump era, so I’m getting it back from that side now. It would be easy for me to settle into a role, but that would be so disingenuous to who I am as a person. That’s never been a consideration.  

RH: How do you handle expressing your opinions on social media while dealing with public reactions? 

TL: I’ve been called every name in the book. I’ve been doing this for a long time; it doesn’t affect me much now. Over my career, I have changed somewhat in that I used to rattle off a tweet, and I didn’t care what the aftermath was. Now, I’m a little more strategic. If I want to say something and think this might be taken the wrong way, I roll it back. It’s not self-censoring; it’s more of calculating the risk and the reward.

Is what you want to say so important to put out there that it’s going to cause an issue? If it’s not that important, just don’t hit send on that tweet; I’ve learned how to do that.  

Sometimes you don’t want to deal with the headache. I will always stand up for the things that I will stand up for, I’ll take all the heat in the world for them. Right now, I am very vocally telling people that if we want to get back into the White House, I’m very concerned about a Trump pathway to victory.

I have been adamantly anti-mask and anti-vaccine requirements; those are things I will never back down from. That’s something I have learned over the years.

RH: What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?   

TL: The most rewarding part so far is how many young conservatives I think I’ve inspired. I am very proud of that and hear about it constantly. My DMs are filled with people who believe in [conservative] values and freedoms but are afraid of being canceled, unfriended, and unfollowed. It’s very hard for young people to be conservative.

RH: What positive or negative changes have you observed in the digital world? 

TL: Digital is powerful, and it’s the wave of the future. I’m grateful to have the ability to be on cable with Fox News but also to be on OutKick and stream digitally. Whether you want to be an influencer, commentator, sportsperson, or anybody with an opinion, having your content in multiple mediums is always beneficial. I am very lucky to get to present different things on different platforms and gear them for different audiences.  

Also, [having a digital brand] helps with feedback. You don’t know if you don’t have a comment section. That’s what digital allows you to have; direct interaction with your lovers and your haters online. That’s why being able to be on OutKick and stream across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and our website has been a big asset and something I’m happy that we get to utilize.  

RH: What do people get wrong about you?  

TL: They think that I’m always angry. If people watch my show on OutKick, you’ll find that often, I’m just sarcastic, and I like to poke fun at things. There are moments when I get heated and passionate when talking about important things to me and the country, but I’m not angry or hateful. I also know how to turn things off.  

I used to feel like I had to tweet every minute and I had to be in the conversation constantly, and now I’ve learned that I don’t have to comment on everything, I can live my life, and some things aren’t worth losing sleep over, and finding that balance is something that I pride myself in.

People are surprised when they meet me about how easygoing I am because they think I am intense, high-strung, and aggressive. That couldn’t be further from the truth of my actual personality.  

RH: Do you have a mentor? Who do/did you look up to? How have they shaped your approach to your work? 

TL: The biggest mentors in my life are my parents. I come from South Dakota, very middle-class, blue-collar. Both of my parents grew up on ranches. Growing up in the Midwest, in a flyover state, has shaped me because I’ve always felt the need to be able to speak for people and speak in a way that people understand. I never try to sound smarter than I am.

I never try to sound like I’m a philosopher or Ivy League graduate student; that’s not what I am. I’m plain talking; I say things in a way that people can understand, which has shaped me.

In terms of me and my career and being at Fox News, the number one person in that building that I look up to is Judge Jeanine Pirro. She’s one of my favorite people. She never backs down, she’s always got a comeback, and she is unapologetic, and I love that about her.  

RH: What are your thoughts on the idea of monetizing Twitter subscriptions, and how do you think it could impact the platform? 

TL: I do Twitter and Instagram subscriptions. It’s not something where I am trying to make a ton of money off it. I have too much on my plate to do a ton of extra content for subscribers. It’s an interesting premise. You have creators that are getting a lot of engagement, and people want to hear from them and have a direct conversation with them, and subscriptions are a way to do that.

My Instagram subscribers and my Twitter subscribers are very different. I also do Cameo and have done that for many years, and that’s another way that I connect with fans. I have found that when you have a direct conversation that’s facilitated through an app like that with people that have followed you for years, they feel invested in your success, they feel invested in your story, and your narrative.

Those people will be loyal to you throughout your entire career. That’s what these subscription services do. They provide access to talk to people digitally who, otherwise, would never get that type of access.

RH: Why is Nashville becoming a hub for news and talk shows, and what draws content creators to the city?   

TL: Nashville is great because it combines your entertainment industry, your music industry, and your tourist destinations with being in Tennessee, which is a very red state, a very Southern good ole boy state. When you combine the two, you get an interesting cross-section of people, things, and industries.  

People are moving here like they are moving to Austin, Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Florida. People want to get out of New York and California. This is a great place to be. You can take advantage of some of the same opportunities you have in New York or LA here in Nashville and not pay the income tax, not have regulations, and not be saddled with this bureaucracy of liberalism; that’s why people love it here.  

RH: Congratulations on your one-year anniversary at OutKick. Can you share your goals for the brand and what you hope to accomplish while you are there? 

TL: I’ve had the chance to do so many unique interviews and talk to many people outside the box. You go from you Congress people and your typical political people to Nico Marley (Bob Marley’s grandson), talking about the NCAA possibly getting rid of their ban on weed as a forbidden substance. That’s the range that I get to have, and that’s why I love Outkick.  

Some of my biggest moments at OutKick are when I talk about culture. I’m probably one of the only conservatives who had a high-profile beef with Jay-Z, Beyonce, Colin Kaepernick, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and The Game; you name it. I sat on the stage with Chelsea Handler and had a debate back and forth.

I love talking about culture daily, immigration, and the 2024 election. That’s what I love about OutKick. We can do it all. We can pivot from sports and pop culture to heavy politics. People can watch what they want, watch the whole thing, watch a clip, watch two minutes, watch the clip that we turn into a special reel; that’s the power of Outkick.  

RH: You have been chosen as a featured speaker for the BNM Summit happening in September at Vanderbilt University. Could you share your expectations for the event? 

TL: I love talking to people in person; public speaking is one of my favorite things to do. I do a lot of events where I talk about politics. Still, for me, also being able to talk about the business of it and being able to talk about politics and sports entertainment, I love being able to do that. Especially when you get to talk to people you can learn from and who can learn from you.

We all have different experiences, and we’re all existing in this ecosystem that’s made up of TV, radio, and digital, all of it coming together, also, being somebody that’s a 30-year-old woman doing what I do. I like to be able to tell that perspective sometimes to an audience that might not always hear that kind of thing from somebody like me; it gives a chance to have that dialogue.

It’s going to be great, and I love that it’s in Nashville. I’m happy that we have both Clay and me representing OutKick.  

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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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(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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