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Alex Silverman Had KNX News Prepared For a Once-in-a-Lifetime Tropical Storm

“There are other sources of news, there are other sources of information, but nobody is as immediate and 24/7 local as we are at KNX, and we’re proud of that.”

Ryan Hedrick

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A photo of the KNX News logo and a tropical storm

For decades, Audacy’s KNX News 97.1 FM in Los Angeles has been the only source of live and local information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The station employs about 55 people who have dedicated their lives to covering Southern California the way that nobody else can. As reporters, producers, editors, anchors, and hosts were game-planning to provide wall-to-wall coverage of Tropical Storm Hilary on Sunday, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in Ventura County, rattling the nerves of millions of Californians and sending the KNX newsroom into overdrive.   

The station is well-equipped to handle natural disasters, and KNX News Director of News and Programming Alex Silverman is the perfect person to lead the operation.

As a manager, he leads an elite team with deep connections to the community to keep his Murrow award-winning newsroom operating at its best. 

Silverman’s newsroom operates like a symphony, with producers and editors in the hub ensuring all information reaches the right places. Production assistants coordinate live elements with reporters in the field and guests calling in. The assistants also gather sound from various sources.

While writers ensure information is up-to-date, hosts handle their assigned tasks and check social accounts for the latest developments in stories. The KNX News team uses cloud-based newsroom technology to communicate. He emphasized how proud he was of his team during its recent coverage of Tropical Storm Hilary and the unexpected 5.1 magnitude earthquake.  

Alex chatted with Barrett News Media about KNX’s uniqueness, similarities with previous markets, KNX News’s impact on Southern California, and how the station maintains its trusted news status in an ever-increasingly politicized world. 

Ryan Hedrick: KNX News reported on the effects of Tropical Storm Hilary. What was your coverage plan, and what made it successful? 

Alex Silverman: Unlike most disasters that we experience from time to time in Southern California, we had advance notice for this one. When there is a wildfire or an earthquake, you get very little to spring into action. Our team is used to that. Our team is used to jumping into things and going right out there. Having a couple of days to prepare for this was a huge benefit. Our plans kind of adjusted as the forecast changed.  

We were talking to meteorologists, both internally — who we work with all the time — and externally. We talked to some meteorologists who have more experience covering tropical events on the East Coast. Because while you have hurricanes in the Pacific, they don’t usually end up hitting land. In fact, there hadn’t been one to hit the LA or the San Diego metros in 84 years, so this was an unprecedented event in anybody’s lifetime.  

We geared up. We put a plan in place to bring our weekday anchors and hosts in on Sunday. Once we realized it was going to hit a little bit earlier than we expected, we moved that whole plan up. We had all our reporters on standby, we had a plan based on the forecast to send people out to areas because we didn’t know if the roads were going to be passable once the storm was underway.

We had somebody out in the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, we had somebody up in the Antelope Valley (the Northern part of LA County), and we had people all over the rest of the area to make sure we could bring the information to people should they end up losing power and connectivity because we knew they were going to end up depending on us and that plan really worked out.  

RH: How many reporters, anchors, hosts, and producers do you have working for you at KNX News

AS: We have a total newsroom staff of about 55 people. We have people who do various roles. We have six full-time reporters, but we have other people in the newsroom who will jump in and do reporting. I would consider all our anchors and hosts reporters as well.

I also consider our producers and our editors to be reporters because they are constantly making phone calls from the newsroom, making sure the information is confirmed, and making sure we can get guests on the air. 

So, we have those reporters in the field, but we also had our producers getting the Mayor of Palm Springs, regular people who were calling the newsroom. That’s another thing that happens when these big events occur. People in the community know that we are a source of information, so they call us.

We were also soliciting phone calls, and so people were calling in and leaving messages, and we were calling those people back to gather reports to really get a sense of what was going on throughout the area. Just in LA and Orange Counties, we have more than 13 million people. It’s an incredibly diverse, enormous, and widespread region geographically.

If I had 30 reporters, you wouldn’t be able to get a sense of what was going on, so we depended on our audience for a lot of that, too.  

RH: You have worked in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Are there any similarities in how news is covered and reported in those markets? 

AS: They are similar in a lot of ways. I had the benefit of having done most jobs in the newsroom at some point in my career. I was a reporter and anchor for a long time, so I always think like a reporter and anchor in terms of how we deliver information to the audience.

The general strategy of how we’re covering the news is similar, but again, in Los Angeles, you have an enormous region geographically, and you have differences there, especially in terms of the weather. One part of the region can be vastly different on any given day from what’s happening in another part of the area, so that’s something you have to think about in terms of staffing.  

In terms of covering the news itself, you have your contacts, you know who to call in any situation, you know how to respond when something comes to your attention, how to verify the information, and get it on the air in a timely way. That really doesn’t change from market to market.

It was a benefit having been particularly in New York during Hurricane Sandy, as a reporter, because that was also a region at the time, not used to dealing with tropical events. Having been through that, having been through how the region handled it, gave me a perspective that was valuable in preparing for this storm.  

RH: Could you explain the impact of KNX News on Los Angeles and its role in Southern California media? 

AS: When it comes to local, audio, and news, we are the only player in town when it comes to being on-air 24/7. People in the market know that when something is happening, we are the ones that you can turn on, whatever platform it is, FM/AM, smart speakers, the Audacy app, at any moment, you see smoke on the horizon, you see the weather coming in, you see something happening that is major in your community, you can turn us on any time of the day or night, and we’re going to be telling you what it is.  

If you’re on the freeway and you’re stuck in an enormous traffic jam on the 101, and you want to know what the hell is causing it, we’re going to tell you. Your traffic app is going to show you a big red line, but it’s not going to tell you that a woman gave birth on the freeway or whatever might be causing it. That is a level of community connection that nobody else in the market has.

There are other sources of news, there are other sources of information, but nobody is as immediate and 24/7 local as we are at KNX, and we’re proud of that. That’s how we’ve been able to, over the past 55 years, create an incredible connection with communities that are geographically diverse.  

RH: How does KNX News maintain neutrality and public trust during times of opinion polarization and skewed reporting? 

AS: When we do research, we see that, and it really stands out. In an environment where there’s political division, people see KNX as rising above challenges they see with the media generally to the extent that they see them. That’s a powerful position to have in 2023, especially with an election coming up and when it’s hard to break through in a fragmented media environment.

We do it just by making clear where we are getting our information from, and when we have a story that is politically charged, we make sure to present all sides. It’s not always about having one side and then the other.

It’s about making sure we get the context in which the story occurs. We also focus on local stories. We also make sure the stories are affecting our communities. If there’s a major national political story, we talk about how it’s affecting communities around the LA area.

We tell you where this fits in the context of Los Angeles and the context of history, and that’s how we do it. Every day, we strive to make sure our stories are as fair as possible, and that’s really all we can do.  

RH: Is there an earthquake contingency plan for KNX News studios in case of destruction or inaccessibility? 

AS: A friend in radio sent me from across the country sent me just the other day, a copy of KNX’s earthquake plans from 1989, which he happened to have, which was four and a half years before the Northridge quake in 1994 (6.7 magnitude and struck at 4:30 a.m.).

We had a plan; we’ve been updating it ever since, and we definitely have contingencies in place should there be an issue in our studios. We also have contacts on file so that the minute an earthquake happens, we’ll be able to reach the people that we need to get on the air to provide the information. 

You know what also happens when there’s an earthquake (a 5.1 magnitude quake struck LA last week during a tropical storm) immediately. The phones light up at KNX. We don’t normally take calls on the air on a daily basis, but the second there’s an earthquake, there are people all over the region that the first thing they do is they call KNX, and we put them live on the air to ask “What did you feel? And where?”

We did that during the middle of the tropical storm and had to balance those two things, we know that the second an earthquake happens, people are going to call us and tell us where they felt it, and we can sort of cross-reference that information with the reports we’re seeing from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and that gives us a real wealth of data to sort of go on in the initial moments after something happens to see how bad it is, where the damage is.

That helps us dispatch our reporters to the right places. That’s how it works. It really involves the community in how we cover these things.  

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Kraig Kitchin Knows and Values the Importance of the Radio Hall of Fame

“I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine a spotlight on the … brilliance of others. I don’t stop to think about if there’s a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Kraig T. Kitchin
(Photo: Kraig T. Kitchin)

When the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class was announced earlier this month, Kraig Kitchin was surprised by one name on the list: his own.

Kitchin — the co-founder of Premiere Networks — is the co-chair of the Radio Hall of Fame and said he was surprised to receive the honor.

“I was pleasantly shocked,” Kitchin said. “Incredibly humbled by the gesture. Very grateful to be recognized. I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine the spotlight on the talent, and hard work, and creativity, and brilliance of others.

“I don’t stop to think about ‘Is there a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame?’ as much as I think about ‘How do we best showcase and reward people who have really, truly made a forever impact on our industry?” I really didn’t put myself into that consideration set, but I’m humbled that others might have felt that was appropriate.”

Usually on the other side of the phone call informing someone they’ll be inducted into the next Hall of Fame class, Kitchin called finding out he would join the list of this year’s inductees surreal.

“I have spent the better part of the last 10 years doing everything I can to make sure that the Radio Hall of Fame is truly a destination for everybody in our industry, regardless of whether or not they’re in front of the microphone or behind the microphone,” he shared. “So, to have the opportunity to experience the sensation that I am really working hard to provide for so many others, it’s a sensation that actually immediately captures you in such a way that you are without words.”

Obviously, as the co-chair of the Hall, Kraig Kitchin holds it in high esteem. But there’s a deeper connection with the history of the medium and chronicling that history for future generations for the longtime radio executive.

“I think it is most important for our industry to have a vibrant Radio Hall of Fame and meaningful one that is just full of integrity in it’s decision-making process and the way in which they recognize and choose inductees,” he said. “We’re blessed to work in such an industry to begin with. You and I both know how special it is to be in a medium that you can connect with individuals on an everyday basis that you can develop a relationship that is so deeply interpersonal and does so much for different communities. And an industry that has sustained more than 100 years those kinds of relationships.

“So to me I’m really committed to making sure that our industry has a forever history of recognizing individuals who are just really making a difference and listeners minds and hearts, whether or not it’s one person at a time or decades and decades or service, whatever that might be, depending on the inductees that’s chosen.”

When asked what qualities currently define the radio industry, it didn’t take Kraig Kitchin long to rattle off his viewpoints.

“Resilience is one. Innovation is a second. Optimism in the face of a very tough economic circumstance is a third. Creativity amongst all else is a fourth,” Kitchin shared in rapid-fire succession.

“An innate commitment from an on-air personality to make a relationship — to set a date at the exact same time, day-in and day-out for five or six days a week for a forever period of time, knowing full well that if they make a date with a listener, there’s a very good likelihood that a listener is going to make a similar date with that on-air personality and maintain that relationship. I can’t think of another place in all of media where that implicit trust — without saying as much — lives on today.”

Joining Kraig Kitchin in the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class are:

  • Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase (The Crook & Chase Countdown)
  • Lee Harris (Former 1010 WINS anchor)
  • Phil Hendrie (former comedy talk show host)
  • Jaime Jarrin (former Spanish radio play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Kraig Kitchin (Co-founder of Premiere Networks and Co-Chair of Radio Hall of Fame)
  • Barry Mayo (former GM of 98.7 WRKS in New York)
  • Mary McCoy (longest female radio career, began in 1951)
  • Matt Siegel (former Matty in the Morning host in Boston)

Kitchin was incredibly complimentary of his fellow inductees, each by name and listing off their accomplishments off the cuff.

“It’s gonna shape up to be a great induction class,” said Kitchin. “I’m thrilled to see those individuals receive their induction this year, regardless of whether or not I’m fortunate enough to be in their class. I’m proud and very much looking forward to spending time in person with this fellow inductee class.”

The Radio Hall of Fame class of 2024 will be inducted in a ceremony on Thursday, September 19th at the Omni Nashville.

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The Real Reson Why the CNN Debate is Coveted By Every Network

“This debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.”

Bill Zito

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A photo of the CNN logo on a tablet

Everybody wants in. It doesn’t really matter who is actually hosting Thursday’s Presidential Debate, (It’s CNN, if you care) you won’t have to look very hard to find it on TV, radio, live stream, social media, or perhaps even on the stage, performed artistically in real-time by interpretive dance troupes across the nation.

Some platforms will do it better than others, of course. TV and livestream coverage will fare most triumphantly, I expect as who wants to miss the facial expressions, the visible acrimony, and the overall frustration of two old men whose belligerent commentary and interruptions of each other will be mostly lost on an audience without visual reference. I still say radio should be permitted to utilize play-by-play and color commentary for their listeners.

“A crimson-faced former President Trump is repeatedly parroting the words, ‘Crooked Joe, Crooked Joe’0 over a muted microphone as a stoic, almost undemonstrative President Biden enters minute four of his rambling claims that Abraham Lincoln created the NASA program.”

I would listen to that and just watch the TV broadcast with the sound off.

There are differing opinions across the political arenas and perhaps a few pockets of voters, but I am comfortable holding the idea that this debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.

The first face-off is likely to be the only one that matters and the smart news outlets know it and they are not going to let competition stand in their way.

News coverage, no matter where you find it offers carefully crafted, artfully edited, and strategically presented soundbites, video segments, and bits of sit-down interviews with the current and former presidents so this will be the first and most important chance for voters of all kinds to look, analyze and decide for themselves if one, or either of these men have enough left to do the job.

The parties and their lemmings already know who they want so they won’t care what they see, the undecided voter, who is often inaccurately pegged as the uninformed voter, will be scrutinized intently as really, this is their only opportunity to make the decision solely by themselves, without the buzzing of chronic zealots or intense political marketing.

Yes, there is a second debate scheduled (hosted by ABC, if you care) on September 10, but really, if you think about it, it could all be a moot point by then.

Everything is likely to be thrown into this week’s debate, by the candidates, the news outlets, the voters, everyone. A second outing three months later is unlikely to offer the same impact, no matter how close to election day it may be.

It rarely is lucrative to be number two. Apollo 12 landed on the moon just four months after Armstrong and Aldrin did in Apollo 11. Yes, poor Mike Collins was stuck up in the command module but without Googling it, name one astronaut on the Apollo 12 mission.

If you think about it, the networks and the cable channels are in a constant battle not only for ratings points but also for respect and relevancy. Their market is forever shrinking, being nibbled away by every other possible platform in existence. USA Today, a print and digital outlet, has hooked on by offering the debate on YouTube.

That’s just one option, by Thursday there will be others to join Fox News, NBC, and ABC piggybacking on CNN’s broadcast for what’s becoming NFL Sunday in regard to coverage plans, some outlets starting hours before and ending hours after the debate’s puck drop.

Let’s be realistic, if you’re watching Fox News, ABC’s or NBC’s platforms ahead of or following the debate broadcast, you’re a political geek. And that’s okay, own it.

The only way to differentiate between broadcasts is to flip around, and dip into everyone. Turn on the radio for a bit, sit on the couch with your phone, your laptop or your iPad, and take in a bit of everyone’s coverage.

Before and after, you’re only going to listen to what you want to see and hear but during the actual debate, you’ll choose whoever broadcasts the best picture. Let’s be sharp and crisp, folks.

And that’s what matters at the end of the day, who paints the best picture and who tells you something closet to the truth,

Choose wisely, my friends.

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Has Donald Trump Caused the News Media to Change Its Tune?

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Donald Trump
(Photo: CNN)

It seems increasingly inevitable that in slightly more than four months, America will once again choose Donald Trump to be their President. Apparently, skyrocketing inflation, high prices, economic pain, open borders flooded with illegals, crime-ridden streets, and other Democrat party priorities and schemes don’t seem to be selling across the nation.  

Perhaps the biggest sign yet of what’s to come, along with swelling Trump support across inner-city America, is the drastic change of opinion across left-leaning Silicon Valley.  

Clearly, and to their chagrin, the mainstream media’s deceptive narrative-shaping efforts no longer seem to be working.

A few days ago, the widely-popular All-In Podcast hosted an exclusive interview with Donald Trump, to discuss his priorities for his next term in office. The interview made headlines not only for what the political frontrunner said, but also for the reaction of the program’s hosts.

“Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Mr. President,” co-host David Sacks began. “The All-In Pod’s basically the four of us having conversations. It’s kind of a spectrum of different views. We got, sort of like, a little bit of some Fox News, and then some MSDNC at the same time.”

“Well that’s ok,” Trump quipped. “Keeps it interesting.”

Two weeks ago, Sacks hosted a fundraiser for Trump, where many Silicon Valley leaders attended and made contributions to help the former President win another term. Many tech billionaires also stepped up to support President Trump on the heels of the event, including the famed Winklevoss twins.

“One of the things I think we heard a lot at that dinner was the difficulty that people in business were having under this Biden administration,” Sacks said. “You got the crypto guys who just want a framework. They just want the government to tell them how to operate and they can’t get that. You’ve got no M&A happening right now in tech. The real estate guys, they can’t get loans because interest rates are through the roof and there’s a credit crunch. So I think one of the common themes we just heard across that dinner was that it was just so hard to do business right now.

“And I guess maybe a good place to start would just be, what’s the number one thing or maybe the top three things you would do to get things moving again if you’re re-elected?”

“So I’d say regulation, regulation and taxes, ok. You know, I gave the biggest tax cut in the history of our country, and a lot to businesses,” President Trump said. “As you know, they were paying, people and companies were paying 40 percent, 45 percent, including state and city taxes in many cases. And we got it down to 21 percent. We’d like to get it down lower, actually. But we got it down and the revenues were better than ever. Even with the lower rate we had record revenues, which tells you a little about that.”

The All-In interview covered many of the most pressing topics of the day, including inflation, immigration, abortion, and the federal debt. As of the weekend, the podcast episode already had approximately a half-a-million views.

On the rash of murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed by illegal aliens urged into the country by Democrats, Trump pointed out that his secure border would have kept those criminals out of the country.

On abortion, Donald Trump said he does not support a national ban. He also noted that the real extremists are the Democrats, with their frenzied zeal for killing babies right up to the moment of birth, or beyond.

On the oversized bureaucratic state, Trump mentioned some areas he could trim the waste, including at the Department of Education.

Donald Trump also said he would de-classify the JFK files in his overarching effort to be more transparent than the current administration.

But perhaps one of the biggest revelations of the nearly-hour-long interview was how and why typically left-leaning tech leaders have reversed their opinions of Trump, when given the chance to talk with him without the usually-biased media lens.

Following the discussion, co-host and billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya prodded co-host and angel investor Jason Calacanis to give his opinion of the interview.

“I’m undecided, as you know,” Calacanis said, playing coy. “We had a limited amount of time with him.”

Just four years ago, Calacanis told CNBC, “I hate Trump with every fiber of my being and he’s the worst human being on the planet.”

“J Cal, just say it. You like him. Just say it, because it’s written all over your face,” Palihapitiya urged. “Just say it. You like him. You’re confused. You asked great questions and he just dealt with them head on. Just admit it, you like him. You like him!”

Calacanis smiled and said, “I like the fact that he came on the pod, I will say that.”

“I told you you’d like him! This is my point!” Palihapitiya said. “Whether you come out of this wanting to vote for the President or not, everybody needs to, I think, just sit in a room and hear him out.”

“He was very respectful, actually,” co-host David Friedberg said, noting that Trump did not take the bait when asked to comment on some controversial figures. “I was very surprised to hear how he respected Fauci and how he framed his response to that question. And I think that says a lot.”

Palihapitiya himself has admitted he was anti-Trump in 2016 and 2020, and he explained his thoughts on his co-hosts admitting they were surprised by Trump’s calm, rational tone and thoughtful answers.

“But can I tell you why you’re surprised? Because I think we have been fed – this is what I’m saying – we have been fed a narrative of what President Trump looks like,” Palihapitiya said. “Now, in fairness, we’re also being fed a narrative of what President Biden is like. And this is why you have to see these men up close and personal for yourself.

“Because, David, the fact that you’re surprised is less about the fact that Donald Trump has changed. It’s more the fact that you’ve been told a narrative and you’ve believed it. And so now when you see the actual truth you have to re-underwrite. Hold on a second, he’s actually pretty thoughtful. He’s pretty presidential. He doesn’t go off on people. That’s not what you probably thought going in because that’s not what the mainstream media portrays about what you should be thinking.”

Perhaps many voters have also wisened up to the manufactured, media-driven conspiracies that were never true in the first place. That Trump was a Russian agent. Or that he said white supremacists were good people. That he told people to drink bleach. That he verbally disparaged our troops. The media reported these things, and many, many more for years, even though they were knowably false. As a result, the voting populous no longer believes the fake news media that cried wolf.

A recent poll from one of the most accurate outfits, Rasmussen Reports, shows Donald Trump with a ten-point popular vote lead over Joe Biden. As many experts have pointed out, this favorability across the country is much larger than the margin of fraud they believe occurred in 2020.

So it seems that – despite the mainstream, corporate media’s best efforts – the wide swath of America stands behind Donald Trump and his plans to help the nation regain peace, prosperity, and security. Never before have we seen Silicon Valley, rural America, and a groundswell from urban culture converge onto the same team. 

This should make for an earth-shattering November 5th, which the media will have to cover, whether they want to or not.

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