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New KMOX Reporter Sean Malone Learned Plenty in a Week With Kevin Killeen

I joked earlier in the week that any person I call, I just might say that I got their number from Kevin because I know it will open them up to talk to me.

Ryan Hedrick

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A photo of Sean Malone and the KMOX logo
(Photo: AM 1240 KFMO)

At times, KMOX Radio news reporter Sean Malone contemplated leaving the industry. Before his recent breakthrough in St. Louis, he reminisces about his experiences of working part-time while wanting more from his career. Malone’s commitment to both himself and his industry remained unyielding.

He channeled his determination and effort, intensifying his pursuit and sending out resumes to any radio station he could think of. Enduring challenges along the way, he recognizes how not giving up allowed him to land the opportunity of a lifetime working at KMOX. 

Nearly eight years ago, Sean Malone relocated from Connecticut to Farmington, Missouri, a small Midwestern town with a population of just under 19,000. Alpha Media and KTJJ Radio hired him, and he eventually became the program director at KFMO, where he led successful efforts to rebrand the station.

His work paid off when KFMO won the “Station of the Year” award from the Missouri Broadcasters Association. Malone believes that his success at KFMO and the station’s community and state connections contributed to his recognition as a viable candidate for employment at KMOX. 

Sean Malone was looking for a more focused endeavor after programming KFMO. Smaller market stations generally require more time and tasks beyond the assigned role. However, Malone has been chosen to assume the significant responsibilities of Kevin Killeen, a retired veteran KMOX reporter. Killeen worked with Malone last week on stories and engaging with St. Louis newsmakers.

Malone was drawn to radio in the first place because of the significance of building connections with individuals. He understands making connections will serve him well in The Gateway to The West.

Sean Malone recently spoke with Barrett News Media about his transition from program director to a news reporter at KMOX, what he learned from working with Kevin Killeen, and what he believes his responsibility is in restoring integrity and trust back in local news.

Ryan Hedrick: While taking over for KMOX reporter Kevin Killeen, what have you learned from shadowing him? 

Sean Malone: I finished up my first week here, and I got to spend the week following a local legend in Kevin. I’ve been trying to leach off as many connections as he has and absorb as much knowledge and advice from him as I can.  

Shadowing Kevin has been a wonderful learning opportunity. On my first day, I packed myself some breakfast, but I didn’t get to enjoy it because, by 9’clock, I was out on the road with him doing interviews. So KMOX allowed me to hit the ground running and follow someone who I really have, in a short amount of time, been able to learn a lot from. 

The biggest takeaway from this past week with him has been the connections. Every time I would go somewhere with Kevin, people would just start talking [to him], and that makes the job so much easier.

I joked earlier in the week that any person I call, I just might say that I got their number from Kevin because I know it will open them up to talk to me. Having somebody like that that I’ve been able to follow, I’ve made some good connections, and I’m looking forward to making more in the future.  

RH: How has your transition been from being a program director in a small market to a news reporter in a major market?   

SM: It’s almost the inverse. I went from being a program director, the shot caller in a small market, the engine that drives the machine now, to a gear in the machine and a much larger machine at KMOX. It’s interesting because I really don’t have the say over all the programming that I used to at my previous station, but this is something that I thoroughly enjoy, especially working with a station like KMOX

It’s not like I’m going to be having any thoughts about what I think they should be doing. They just won another Edward R. Murrow award for newscasts nationally. So, working at a legendary station like this is no problem at all. It’s quite the shift from what I was doing.

RH: What persuaded you to accept the position at KMOX? 

Sean Malone: I’ve felt for a little while now that I am ready for the next challenge in my career, and that’s what I viewed this here at KMOX as. I had a lot of success when I was at KFMO. When I took over programming at that station, it didn’t have much of an identity at that point. I’m very thankful that the ownership trusted in me, someone in their mid-20s, to rebrand that station.

Anyone who’s had to go through a station re-brand, a new logo, liners, a slogan, it’s a labor-intensive process, and it’s in some ways a risk as well because if it doesn’t go right, it’s not something that you can really turn around and back out. You have to be committed and stick to it.  

We made the change in April of 2021, which is when we officially flipped the switch, and we had a lot of success with that. Recently, KFMO was named Station of the Year by the Missouri Broadcasters Association for small markets. This is the first year that they’ve split into multiple markets instead of one award for the entire state. I think that was a real honor how far we came as a station where we were really known for just our sports broadcasting, which was legendary in the area.  

RH: What do you think is your responsibility in restoring integrity and trust, especially in local news? 

SM: Not to take anything away from national news, but the people that you’re seeing on TV, whether it’s Jake Tapper or Sean Hannity, you’re not going to get an opportunity to interact with those people or see what they’re like outside of their one-hour television show or their three-hour radio program.

Local is that opportunity to get that direct interaction, and I think if more people were able to see what our jobs are like, they would know that we weren’t just making stuff up. We are going out and talking to people, asking questions, and getting that story that matters to people out there. If more people could see that, they would realize that it’s not all fake.

National [news] doesn’t really have the opportunity to do that. It is on us in regional and local news to leave that impression on people.  

RH: You achieved early success as a programmer. Will you seek advice from KMOX about future programming opportunities? 

SM: I might. I’ve always enjoyed the on-air aspect of it. Maybe I will get to the point in my on-air career where the on-air aspect is long hours, late nights, weekends, and holidays that you have to work. Maybe I will take a step back from that and get into programming.

But I love the on-air aspect and the strategy behind programming and coming up with new campaigns and rebrands that we did at KFMO; that was an awesome opportunity. I am very grateful that I was given the trust to be able to do that.  

I wanted to find some more focus in my career. Whether it was just doing sports or just doing news. In small radio market radio, you have to wear, and everybody has to wear a lot of hats. My previous job was doing a lot of projects and prepping for games. I had an afternoon shift on our classic hits FM station. Sometimes, I would be filling in on the mornings on our news/talk show. If there was a big breaking news story, I would also jump in to help with that.

RH: What makes St. Louis radio unique to you?  

Sean Malone: This is a passionate market. They care about the local issues that matter to them. They care deeply about the sports teams. Look at how they treated the Rams after they left and how they treated the Battlehawks (XFL) when they came to town.  

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BNM Writers

The Lost Radio Art of Building a Community Around Your On-Air Product

Your media outlet needs to develop a closer bond with your audience and make them (and you) part of a shared community.

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A photo of a crowd

How well do you know your radio audience? Wait, that goes the other way, too: How well does your audience know you? And are they your audience, or something more than that?

It’s something to consider in an era when media has become overcrowded and audiences are scattered among many platforms. Is your constituency passive – they listen, watch, or read, but don’t feel any particular loyalty or fealty to you – or is it a real community with a strong two-way connection to you and your brand?

I’ll defer to Seth Resler, who has been promoting the importance of community for radio, as to specifics on why community is important (and the missing element in radio marketing). It does occur to me that radio used to be able to do this, and do it better than any other medium. Great personalities and stations were able to create bonds with their listeners that today’s media just doesn’t do as well anymore.

From Jean Shepherd’s “Night People” to Howard Stern’s legion of fans, teens picking sides in the Top 40 battles of yore (were you a KHJ Boss Radio listener or a KRLA die-hard? WABC All-Americans or WMCA Good Guys? WLS or Super CFL?)… even in those pre-social media days, there was a connection that was more than just passive or background listening. It’s why there’s (perhaps too much) nostalgia for those days, especially among the Facebook commentators who want radio to be just like that today. Those days are over.

But community building isn’t, and all you need to know is “Swiftie” or “Bey Hive” to understand what a rabid fan base can do for you. Media in general doesn’t get fans like that anymore, but it should be taking cues from how fans behave online. DJs and hosts should be celebrities, not anonymous one-name interchangeable plug-and-play voice trackers.

Events you create should be big deals clearly identified with your brand (look at D.C., where the “HFStival” is returning even though WHFS as a radio station is long gone from the market). Got a newspaper? Create and promote social media accounts and aggressively promote them as the best local forum on every topic, like local restaurants, local politics, local everything. Ideally, you should make your identity synonymous with your audience and your locality. Your name should mean something more than just “a radio station” or “a newspaper” or “a website.” Think big, then think bigger.

Here’s an example of something someone should be doing: Right now, we’ve entered Hurricane Season in these parts, and as I write this, it’s pouring. The local TV stations in West Palm and Miami all compete to be identified as “the weather station,” promoting their meteorologists being “most accurate” and “number one for weather.”

Great, but it just ends there with the marketing. They could have Facebook groups, and Instagram posts, and Zoom open meetings where people can ask questions and get answers, and report conditions in real-time. Some do have hurricane preparation events, but they could be more than just a card table and canopy with brochures and a station employee there to meet and greet. They all have apps, and that helps, but there’s no interactivity.

As a local resident, do I know who to trust most on the weather? Do I feel loyalty to any of the stations? Not really. There’s no community. So I just turn on the TV and whichever channel I happen to land upon first is what I’ll watch for weather updates. They’re basically the same. Radio?

I couldn’t tell you which station is the go-to for anything. A lot of them just simulcast TV news coverage in emergencies anyway. I haven’t met anyone here who’s a real fan of any local radio station, though that may be a function of the number of new arrivals here, mostly from Long Island; they’re all more likely to say they listen(ed) to 1010 WINS for news anyway.

TL;DR: Your media outlet needs to develop a closer bond with your audience and make them (and you) part of a shared community. Turn fans into family. Ask Seth Resler for more. We have too many ex-New Yorkers here. Ranger Suarez for NL Cy Young. Okay, that wasn’t in here, but still.

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Steve Cochran Isn’t Looking in the Rear View Mirror After WLS-AM 890 Exit

“(WLS) and I were never a natural fit. But I believe — and I believe they believed — that we could do something and deliver something … everybody wasn’t rowing the boat in the same direction, but I’m good.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Steve Cochran
(Photo: Steve Cochran)

There’s a longstanding adage in the radio business: “You haven’t really been in radio until you’ve been fired.” Steve Cochran has embodied the mantra 11 times after exiting Chicago news/talk station WLS-AM 890 last Friday.

After a two-year run in mornings on the Cumulus-owned station, the two sides went their separate ways in what Cochran said was an amicable parting.

“I liked those people a lot. They’re good people. We just have a disagreement on what show should be on there,” he said. “The signs aren’t hard to figure out. It was not contentious. I’ve certainly had ugly ones. This was not it. We just simply disagree on how to do the best show in in Chicago. And frankly, I felt like I was doing not just that, but the best show in the country. And the last sane talk show in the country.”

That sentiment — “the last sane talk show in the country” — is something Cochran had shared on the air during his stint with the station.

When asked what that exactly meant to him, Steve Cochran noted that it includes two separate issues. One is the business side of radio which affects companies like iHeartMedia, Audacy, and Cumulus. He believes some of the larger radio operators are solely focused on stock price, which in turn affects the on-air programming.

But maybe more importantly is the political polarization that has enveloped the talk radio space that Cochran has become most disillusioned with.

“This is not a secret: I’ve leaned right most of my life, but I’ve voted right and left depending on the candidate — the way I think everybody ought to,” said Cochran. “Because the far right and the far left, as I’ve said a million times, will kill the country. And I just wanted to drive the middle. I still think you could monetize the middle, but you have to have a company that’s willing to really invest in that.

“They held up their end of the bargain and they didn’t tell me how to do the show. And I held up mine and told him that I would be hard on Trump, but I would also be hard on any Democrats that deserved it. I pound on the mayor of Chicago, who’s a disaster, and the Democratic machine in Chicago, which is also a disaster, over and over again. We got good response from a lot of people that said, ‘Look, you’re fair. I don’t always agree, but I appreciate it.'”

He continued by noting that welcoming each side of the political aisle to talk radio needs to be much more prevalent than it has become, stating “Unless we get back to talking to each other, we’re done and everything in politics now is about not doing that.”

Steve Cochran admitted that he might not have been the best fit for WLS — and vice versa — but was interested in giving the position a test run after more than 15 years at crosstown rival WGN.

He called the relationship “a joint experiment”, before noting that that the proposed mission of the Cumulus-owned outlet to be “the most conservative station in America,” in the words of former colleague John Howell, wasn’t the perfect situation for him at this stage of his career.

After more than 40 years in the industry, and being 63 years old, it’s logical question to wonder what the future holds for Steve Cochran.

And he revealed he has the same thoughts.

“I will miss being on the radio. I don’t know that I’ll ever be on the radio again, and that’s a very weird thing to say after 43 years,” he shared. “I just think radio is still the greatest medium.”

As much as he questions his potential future on the air, Cochran questions if radio entities will be able to shift their focus away from AM radio to a more easily accessible distribution platform for younger audiences.

“The mistake these companies have made in regards to AM talk radio — and I said this to Cumulus — is stop calling it AM. When you say ‘AM,’ it sounds like an antique store. And it’s a natural turnoff to anybody under the age of probably 45.

“So in talk radio, AM should be treated like every other content platform. It’s just another content platform. It should have as much of the same opportunities and revenue streams as well. Cameras in studio, a video guy, social media people to monetize all of that,” he said. “I think the companies who are gonna win this — the remaining companies that may feel like they’re stuck with these big AMs — will figure out a way to treat them like content platforms and not like ‘Grandma’s down on the corner, the light’s on so I guess she’s ok.'”

If his morning show at WLS-AM 890 really was his last radio hurrah, Steve Cochran is content with that.

“When I left (WGN) — that was not my call, or my desire, though I hated the way the company was being run at that point, and still being run, frankly, it’s half the radio station once was. And (WLS) and I were never a natural fit, but I really believed — and I believe they believed — that we could do something and deliver something,” Cochran said. “But it involved a lot of promotion, a lot of focus, and everybody wasn’t rowing the boat the same way.

“So I came back, I had my say, and I think I’m better at this than I’ve ever been. I’d like to be able to do it somewhere, but for the time being, and maybe fully, I’m gonna do it in podcast form.”

His podcast — Live From My Office — has published more than 350 episodes since its launch. In addition to his podcast, Cochran continues to be a stand-up comedian in the Windy City, with a set scheduled for Friday night at the Raue Center for the Arts.

It would be easy for him to view the departure from the venerable Chicago station as a sad note. However, Cochran reiterated that he had no bad things to say about management in Chicago or the company, and noted that they stuck to everything the two sides agreed upon before the “joint experiment.”

“I didn’t get notes or direction or censorship or editing by WLS in Chicago or by Cumulus and I respect that. That was our agreement going in, and they honored it,” Steve Cochran shared. “But I have considerations for sponsors and consideration for the framework of things when I’m working for somebody else. So I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. That’s a bit of the freedom, but that’s just a small piece of it ’cause I never felt restricted at WLS.”

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How Hunter Biden Talk Should Be Handled By News Media Members

I have some points that you may not have considered, and this could be useful for your show! 

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A photo of Hunter Biden appearing on Fox News
(Photo: Fox News)

The surviving first son — Hunter Biden — was convicted of 3 felonies over his gun buy after lying that he was not a drug addict. I am not going to joke about addiction. It truly is a horrible infliction affecting people in families all over the world and the First Family. But stick with me here. I have some points that you may not have considered, and this could be useful for your show! 

Hunter Biden was raised by an absent father. Sen. Joe Biden has often told the story about taking Amtrak home every night to be at home for his kids. Do you know what would have been better? Raising the kids in Washington DC. Arriving at midnight on a train is not parenting. It is virtue signaling about a commitment to fatherhood. Fatherhood is about being there for your children.

My old man was often on the road when I was a kid. It was necessary for his career as a Sales Manager. I know that if my dad could have been home for dinner every night, he would have done so. Hunter Biden’s mother was killed in a car wreck. It is a terrible thing. While Joe Biden has told that story often as a ploy for sympathy, Hunter Biden was not a prop. He didn’t choose to be raised by a political family. His lack of connection to his father was obviously a part of his addiction. Many of the addicted are hiding from pain and that pain is often familial.

Hunter learned early that the Biden name made things easier. Hunter went to Georgetown and then to Yale Law. I have no idea what Hunter’s qualifications were, but both of those institutions love bragging that a Senator’s son attended. Hunter graduated and Yale Law ain’t no summer picnic. Obviously, graduating from both institutions is an honor.

Hunter started on the grift immediately to cash in on his father’s name. Took a consulting gig with MDNA bank that had donated over $200k to his father’s campaigns. When I was in school and had started my first radio job, my full-time gig was with a hotel. I did the night audit. My dad called me and suggested that I call his fraternity brother who owned several large hotels. I told my father that I wanted to make it on my own. I didn’t want a job from a friend.

Just as a note, I was close to my parents and still hold them in high esteem. (They are no longer with us.) I decided to make my own way. I have this belief that it is not Republican or Democratic, it is reality. There amazing people are elected to Congress. The problem with Senators and Representatives is that they see the massive amount spent in the District of Columbia.

I believe that nearly all Congress can be corrupted by the cash. Hunter Biden just saw a way to cash in. It was raw greed based purely on connections to his father. There are adult children of elected officials who are cashing in because of connections to their lawmaker parents. It is dirty, it is wrong, and it is totally immoral.

Hunter Biden just joined the party. Sadly, Hunter’s father did not stop it. Joe Biden encouraged it. Nearly every member of the Biden family has cashed in on “The Big Guy.” It is dirty and the person guilty is Joe Biden. Joe Biden, who’s claimed he’s “Blue Collar Joe”, owns three homes. I had a friend point out that Joe had a book deal. My retort? Who purchased the books? My thinking is that lobbyists and big donors were at the center of it.

Joe Biden was greedy. Not because of a product, service, or company that he founded. It was because Joe Biden used his power as a U.S. Senator to become stinking rich. I love Delaware. They have The Waffle House! Imagine a strung-out Hunter Biden ordering the All-Star Special! By the way, the pork chops and eggs are amazing at The Waffle House. This is from personal experience.

Hunter cashed in on daddy. It was a family thing. But President Joe Biden chose public service as his career. Joe Biden could have stopped the Biden family scam at any moment. Why didn’t the President stop it? It was greed.

Hunter Biden and his Uncle James (Jimmy) Biden started a hedge fund that was financed by Allen Stanford. Stanford was convicted of a Ponzi Scheme and will get freedom in 2103. The Biden family made big bucks off this. Google Allen Stanford, Hunter Biden, and James Biden. I’ll tell you two people who didn’t have to return any money. Hunter and James Biden.

Hunter Biden may be the most ethical of the Biden family. He needed crack, booze, hookers to mask his personal pain. Hunter is obviously an adult and can make his own decisions. There are children from very functional families who just implode in life. There are children from impoverished families who have risen above their circumstances.

Hunter Biden is an emotional wreck. His father and stepmother have been enablers. His wives and girlfriends have allowed this behavior. But there was no chance for Hunter. He was wrecked by a dysfunctional family and a greedy dad.

I feel sorry for him. Hunter’s fall has more to do by his father than anything else. Beau Biden was the favored son. Hunter was the Prince Harry of the USA. Hunter deserves sympathy and perhaps some crack.

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