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Susan Richard is Making History at 1010 WINS

“I go to work every day, and I don’t know what the work of the day is going to be.”

Ryan Hedrick

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A photo of Susan Richard with the 1010 WINS logo

The exceptional storytelling skills of Susan Richard are evident from her ability to deliver the news as an anchor for Audacy’s 1010 WINS. She has achieved unparalleled success within the station’s 58-year history, climbing the ranks over 25 years. Her greatest strength lies in her ability to remain true to herself, even when delivering heart-wrenching news to the people of New York.  

Richard was broadcasting live on December 14, 2012, when an armed individual entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and tragically killed 26 individuals, including 20 children. Recounting the incident, she vividly recalls the moment as if it occurred just yesterday. The memory of the producer’s voice in her ear, directing her to relay the information verbatim from the chat, remains etched in her mind.  

After the incident, a listener emailed Ben Mevorach, the News and Programming Director at the time, to express gratitude towards the station and Richard for her real approach to delivering the news. This experience helped Richard realize the significance of authenticity in news reporting.

It’s worth noting that unlike many media brands today, 1010 WINS delivers straightforward news reporting, just the facts. The brand holds great importance in the community, given that it serves a city with a population of nearly 20 million people. WINS has evolved in its commitment to delivering news around the clock, earning it numerous accolades and credibility in the industry.   

Richard, who initially wasn’t interested in news, started her career at WFAS FM/AM. In 1994, she was named Program Director. She may not have known then that she was making history as the first female program director on the FM side of the station. Coming from a two-parent household, she was taught that hard work and determination can lead to success.

Years later, at 1010 WINS, she expressed to Chris Oliviero and Ben Mevorach that she wanted to break the glass ceiling as the first female, top-of-the-hour morning news anchor in the station’s history. She believed she deserved the job based on her skills and abilities, not just for the sake of history and legacy.  

During an interview with Barrett News Media, Richard discusses her recent promotion, the distinctiveness of New York City’s radio market, the importance of radio writing, the significance of storytelling in her daily communication with listeners, the relevance of 1010 WINS’ social media presence, and her involvement in animal rescue advocacy. 

Ryan Hedrick: Your promotion to the top-of-the-hour morning news anchor for 1010 WINS is a tremendous achievement. As the first woman to hold this role in the station’s 58-year history, could you share with us your thoughts?   

Susan Richard: The radio station is six months younger than me. For many, many years, radio, TV, and broadcasting, in general, was a man’s business, and that’s just the way it was. The playing field is much more level now. At 1010 WINS, we have a 50/50 split, both men to women, on the air and off the air. I will say, thanks to Ben Mevorach (Vice President of News) and Ivan Lee (Brand Manager), we also have a more ethically and culturally diverse on-air and off-air staff than we have ever had, and I have been at the station for 25 years.   

RH: What makes New York City radio unique besides being the largest market in the world?  

SR: New Yorkers are very in your face, right? We are unashamedly in your face, in a great way. We may have a reputation, but it comes from a place of love and joy of life. 1010 WINS really embodies that in an audio way, in an audio sound. I liken us to a Top 40 station doing the news. We give you the hits, we give you the most important news of the day, and we do not waste your time. We crank it out; just like three-minute songs, we are cranking out those stories. The news that you need from, as we say, ‘The people that you trust,’ in a way that is so New York.   

I love that about our station because it’s got that high energy, fast-moving vibe. It’s like you can always tell when a New Yorker is wading through Times Square. They are weaving in and out of the tourists. They’re like, ‘Get out of my way.’ It’s like that on the air for us. We don’t mess around with it [the news]; we don’t waste your time. I can’t speak to the other philosophies on other radio stations, but that’s the vibe on 1010 WINS, and it’s a very New York vibe.   

RH: As a resident of New York, how does your connection with the city influence the subjects you choose to cover in your reporting?  

SR: Our editorial staff does the [news] lineup. Our editor, Jim Maloney, who’s fantastic, does the lineup. I’m not doing story choices, but we have a conversation all the time. I’m writing the news; I write all my own news. Having spent my entire career in the tri-state area, whether it was Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, or New York, I have a real understanding. I think I can be more on the pulse of the various communities of the Tri-State, which differ.   

I lived in the suburbs, I lived in Westchester for six years, and I worked on Long Island; it’s different, and people’s priorities may be different than somebody who grew up in Queens or now living in Manhattan or somebody that may be living in Brooklyn, Bronx, or Staten Island.

Having spent my entire career here and going to NYU, I get it. I can go with the flow of different stories and understand the needs of the listener in communicating that specific story to them. That gives me an edge as opposed to someone that may be an out-of-towner.   

RH: Could you provide some insights on why writing for radio is essential and the challenges that come with it, especially compared to other forms of journalism?  

SR: The thing about writing for radio is that as much as we can, it’s most interesting to the listener when we let the sound that we use help to tell the story. That is a very specific art form that is different from television, where it’s mostly the visuals telling the story. They can’t see it on the radio, so it’s theatre of the mind. We need to do it with our descriptive words, the facts we’re conveying, and the use of sound.   

There will be times when I have a story, and I’ll ask, ‘Can I get the cut where Joe Shmoe says this’ because that cut tells the story in a more interesting way. We also use music underneath stories or sound effects or whatever because it is theatre of the mind, and that’s unique to audio, not just radio, but any audio communication. That kind of sculpting of a story is not something that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is going to be able to do. When it comes to human communication, which is what we’re doing here, you need humans for human communication.

RH: What has been the driving force behind your motivation and engagement in your career with 1010 WINS since 1998?  

SR: I go to work every day, and I don’t know what the work of the day is going to be. I don’t know what the news stories themselves are. The specific lineup is fresh every day. So, every day I go in, and the show is a brand-new show that I get to sculpt because I’m writing my own news from scratch. And so, the 20-25 stories in my half-hour lineup is an opportunity to create as part of this art form every single day. You never know what’s going to happen, you never know when a story is going to break, and so I’m certainly always on my toes.   

RH: Can you share your experience of 9/11 and describe your role at 1010 WINS on that day?  

SR: I was a part-timer on 9/11. I wasn’t working that day, but when I saw what happened, I immediately called the station and was told to stand by. It was just a big scramble. You have to realize that in 2001, everything was on carts; you had to cart-up sound. We had paper scripts; we were writing in digital software, but then you literally printed the script. In some ways, back in 2001, it took a little longer for the news to get on the air because everything wasn’t digital. Now, it’s all digital, and if sound comes in, I drop it in my newscast and play it; there’s no time lag.   

I remember calling the station, and they said stand by, and I remember telling myself I can’t just stand by. So, I grabbed my Sony Walkman, I had bought a special one with a mic input. I grabbed my little RE-15 mic, plugged it in, and ran outside. I was on the Upper Eastside and ran around the corner to the Food Emporium, and the line was halfway around the block.

There were a million people in that supermarket, and nobody wanted to talk to me. So, these two guys came out of the Food Emporium, and it turns out they had evacuated the Citicorp building. I talked to them, got some good sound, and ran back upstairs, and I literally held the speaker of my Walkman to the phone to feed the sound through the phone [to the radio station].  

After that, I went to the station, and I just started pulling different angles of the story as sound was coming in, writing a script with the cart, and running it into the studio. A lot of it [coverage] was just live. We had reporters at the scene; we had various people interviewing live on the air.

I ended up being on the air that night at 9 o’clock. What was interesting about 9/11 was we went wall-to-wall with no commercials for two weeks. We didn’t play a single commercial, and they simulcast us for two weeks on 102.7 FM at the time. The format clock, as it exists now, completely got upended. We weren’t doing sports; we weren’t doing business reports; we were wall-to-wall with this story.   

You have to remember that in 2001, not everybody and their uncle had a Blackberry. Did phones even get internet back then? I don’t even know. But not everybody necessarily had a computer. At:15 and:45, when we were normally doing sports at the time, we were literally reading phone numbers on the air or places where they had addresses of family information centers for people to go to report somebody missing, just basic information that people needed.

It wasn’t giving out websites; it was giving out phone numbers for things. I remember at 12, 32, and 52 when we usually do the Accuweather forecast, we were doing special anchoring. We had special anchors in, so it wasn’t just the person on the air anchoring; we had other anchors doing the national and international angles of the story. So, the clock, within a couple of days, to then Mark Mason was the head of programming and, to his credit, quickly became a different format clock, and it was all about 9/11.   

That, really, to me, is the beauty of 1010 WINS. In the 25 years that I’ve been there, the same happened when we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We had a war-format clock. The station, when it needs to, can completely upend its normal format, and still be 1010 WINS, and still be the brand.

So, when people tune in, they know what they’re listening to because the brand is still the same, and that takes excellent programmers like Mark Mason, Ben Mevorach, and Ivan Lee. It takes talent that understands the brand and knows how to be on the air and ebb and flow, depending on what’s happening in the news today.   

RH: Social media has drastically altered journalism. Share your perspective on the impact of social media on this realm and how it affects your duties at 1010 WINS.  

SR: Social media can be an incredibly positive thing. As somebody who blogs about animal rescue, I will tell you it has been great for the animal rescue world. Like everything in life, it can be for good, or it cannot be for good. It depends on how you use it. The opportunity for outlets like WINS is tremendous because every year, people are aging in and out of your target demo, so you need to make sure that those younger people who are aging into your target demo know about you. Where are they going to find you? Probably on social media.   

So, it’s a great way to make sure that your branding on those platforms is on point and interesting and inviting enough that they then come around to the broadcast side and then meet you on the radio. We have to be on social media, and we have to do a good job. We have to have a slick, professional presentation that is still on brand on social media. I think the challenge on social media, in terms of news, is still misinformation and fake news, which makes me crazy.

It makes me crazy when I hear somebody that saw something on TikTok that is completely false, and they take that as gospel; that really makes me crazy because It’s dangerous; it’s just dangerous. To that end, for legitimate media brands like 1010 WINS to double down and make sure we have our act together on social media, make sure that we are getting in people’s faces on social media so they know this is what we say on the air, it’s not just a line, ‘The station you know, the people you trust.’ That’s not just an imaging statement; that’s got to be who we are.  

RH: Have you noticed any changes in your audience since WINS switched to the FM dial?  

SR: You would have to talk to Ben [Mevorach] about that. It’s my understanding that the ratings are up, and the audience is growing, I don’t have the specific numbers about demographics. But I am so excited that we are on the FM! For me, that was the greatest moment to be on the air, the moment we switched. It’s so exciting, and it was so exciting on July 4. We broadcast music every year, and it sounded so great on 92.3 FM. It wasn’t like Rice Krispie, snap, crackle, pop, radio. Being on the FM is just fantastic.   

RH: What advice would you give aspiring journalists and broadcasters looking to make a name for themselves in the field?  

SR: Learn how to write, learn how to tell a story. For broadcast, learn how to write a story that is verbal storytelling. It’s a different kind of writing than print. The second thing is, don’t wait until you graduate from college to get your first job. Whether your school wants you to do an internship for credit, do it!

Work for free. That’s what I did. I was Shelli Sonstein’s intern at WPLJ, and that was the first thing that I did. She wrote the news out of the WABC newsroom when WPLJ and WABC were sister stations, and that’s how I got my first desk assistant job at WABC.    

From that, I sent out my first airchecks from WNYU to WFAS and got a stringer’s job at WFAS. While I was a stringer there, there was a breaking story about an abandoned chemical warehouse that was about to blow.

I covered that story for WFAS, and I remember telling the news director at the time of WABC, ‘Hey, I’m covering this story for WFAS. Do you guys want wraps for tomorrow morning?’ That was how I got onto the air in New York. I did college radio wraps and put a WABC outcue on them.   

I remember, Gil Gross was doing the morning show, and I went into the radio station that morning. I believe I was the desk assistant that morning, and so I hadn’t slept at all. I was pissed off because my story was not the lead story (laughs).   

RH: Are there any projects or events that you are currently working on and would like to share?  

SR: My website is susanrichard.com. You can hear a whole bunch of audio from 1010 WINS. You can hear my most recent interview with Mayor Adams, which by the way, was quoted in the New York Times. You can check out my acting work that I do. There’s some video on there of some stuff that I’ve done. Also, check out allforanimalstv.com.   

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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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