Connect with us
BNM Summit

BNM Writers

Harry Hurley Has Embraced Digital Media at 95.5 WPG

Digital is not only here to stay but also incredibly powerful. It’s an amazing way for those that want additional content. We utilize our app very well…It wasn’t that long ago that if you missed it, you missed it.

Ryan Hedrick

Published

on

A photo of the 95.5 WPG logo and Harry Hurley

Talk show host Harry Hurley possesses a genuinely distinct perspective within talk radio. Three decades ago, in a seemingly different era, Harry thrived as a hotel-casino executive under the leadership of former President Donald Trump.

Harry Hurley characterizes his former boss as someone who was relentlessly committed to achieving excellence, in stark contrast to the portrayal offered by the mainstream media. At a certain point, Harry Hurley reached a breaking point in his career and decided it was time for a change. Leveraging his business expertise, he crafted a proposal to present to general manager Dick Taylor and program director John Speeney. 

The presentation impressed them, so they spontaneously hired him on the spot. Harry’s enduring determination and strong work ethic, traits President Trump had recognized in him, have paved the way for his tremendous success in radio. After thirty-two years and countless radio broadcasts, Hurley has made a name for himself as one of the elite talk personalities in the business. 

Hurley firmly believes that talk radio will take on an unprecedentedly pivotal role in informing the nation about the impending 2024 presidential election. He highlights the 1992 U.S. election, which saw Bill Clinton emerge victorious, as a glaring illustration of what transpires when one side isn’t fairly represented.

According to him, a substantial article in The New York Times criticized the lackluster George Bush economy, which propelled the Democratic president to victory. Fast forward two years, with talk radio surging in popularity and Rush Limbaugh captivating millions of daily listeners, and the Republican party achieved a historic win by seizing control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in four decades. These events marked a watershed moment in how politics were reported and perceived.

Sixteen years ago, Harry Hurley established The Hurley in the Morning Charity Foundation because he believed that he was responsible for giving back to the community as a broadcaster. He will host his annual charity dinner on September 29 at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. Brian Kilmeade will join Harry Hurley in raising substantial money for charities at the event.

One of the causes that Harry Hurley is most passionate about raising funds for is the Broadcasters Foundation of America, which exclusively supports radio and television broadcasters in acute need. The Hurley in the Morning Charity Foundation has raised millions of dollars for numerous worthy causes.

In this interview with Barrett News Media, Harry Hurley discusses his path to talk radio, his experience working as an executive for President Trump, what role talk radio will play in covering the 2024 presidential election, how he prepares for a national talk show as opposed to a local one, and why Townsquare Media is leading the way when it comes to digital media. 

Ryan Hedrick: How long have you been at WPG Talk Radio 95.5? 

Harry Hurley: I have been very blessed to be at one radio station my entire career. I started on July 1st, 1992, and I am still signing on Monday through Friday at the same station I started with 32 years ago.  

RH: Do you ever listen to old tapes of yourself to see how much you’ve evolved and where you came from? 

HH: Not as much as I should, but I just listened to a tape of an interview I did with President Trump from about 15 years ago. I heard how much, over 15 years, I have evolved. Your voice becomes a little bit deeper as you get older, and you sound different. With experience, you get better at what you do.  

RH: What has changed with Atlantic City since you started your show there? What makes the city unique?  

HH: Atlantic City has evolved a lot. If you went back 35 years, you’re thinking about a town that is just casino-centric. We came out of the disaster of the Democratic National Convention of 1964, which basically wrecked Atlantic City because the city didn’t manage such a national event well.  

What was gratifying was becoming almost a monopoly in the East of casino gaming because only Las Vegas and Atlantic City had casinos. So, it gave a great advantage. We had a monopoly; we were recession-proof. Part of that, though, is a two-edged sword because you can get comfortable. I think we could’ve done a lot more in the first 20 years than we did.  

So, you think of Atlantic City as a beach, boardwalk, Atlantic Ocean, and casinos, but we’re very diverse. We have a technology aspect: the aviation technical center (William J. Hughes Technical Center). The other thing that people don’t know about Atlantic City is that more people come to Atlantic City every year than the Magic Kingdom.

We are a small city in one respect but a major destination resort in the other. The city feels small, but it’s also big. We have a lot going on. We also have a lot of universities and medical centers that do great work. We are very fortunate to be where we are.  

RH: Your path to talk radio stardom was different; tell us how you decided to switch your career from casino executive to talk show host. 

HH: I’m proud of that; I’ve had two careers. I was the senior hotel executive for President Trump at one of his Atlantic City casinos, I always take great pride in that, because I loved my career, and I was a younger husband and a young father at the time. At the time, I decided that I loved my job, I was good at it, I loved taking care of customers, loved the action, loved the decision-making, loved the authority that President Trump gave me.

The only problem was that I was going to end up being a bad husband and a bad father, and that was not acceptable. So, I told my wife, ‘I’ve got this idea; I think I could be good at it.’  

There were only two local shows at the time in the market, and I had appeared on both when I was a candidate for local office in my hometown, and I fell in love with talk radio. I loved it and before I fell in love with it. I decided I would go make a pitch to WFPG (World’s Famous Playground); now WPG (World’s Playground), same station, slight modification in the call letters.

I created this nice presentation, and I came without an appointment, and much to my delight, the general manager Dick Taylor, and the Program Director, John Speeney, who I always remembered to remember after all these years, two great guys, and who became great friends, and much to my absolute delight and amazement, they hired me on the spot and away we went on July 1st, 1992.  

I decided I’m the new guy and better come out big. No governor had ever appeared on any local Atlantic City talk show, and Governor Jim Florio agreed to come on with me. I knew him from work that I did with him on the Ventnor City Board of Education. He wound up staying for the entire first program I did.  

RH: What kind of boss was President Trump to work for?  

HH: This is the beautiful thing about this. I get to say what’s true instead of this garbage that we hear all the time. He was a great employer; obviously, he expected excellence. He didn’t demand that we were there seven days a week; we put it on ourselves. It was early in an industry where it had never existed before in our marketplace, and we wanted to be great. We wanted to be four diamonds, four-star, five diamonds, five-star if we could. Doing that required a significant commitment.

As executives, we were always there. It was basically seven days a week. President Trump, the time I was with him, which was about two and a half years before I left for my talk show, was a great employer. Everything that you hear about him is not true. He was incredibly generous, an incredibly good boss, extremely tough, but I didn’t mind that. He was reasonably tough, he wanted excellence, and he settled for nothing less. My time with him was exceptional.  

RH: How do you push back against the suppression of news and fake stories in the mainstream media, and how do you earn the trust of your listeners? 

Harry Hurley: I inundate my audience with the truth. I am relentless about pounding facts, I have opinions and let my audience know when I am giving my opinions. But when I am giving a fact, for example, Hunter Biden has been under investigation for over five and a half years, and nothing happens, and they were racing to get President Trump into four courtrooms around the country, and they’re breathlessly wanting to start these things in a few months, it’s obvious.

Anyone willing to embrace the truth knows we have a two-tier justice system. It’s an absolute disgrace, and they know President Trump is going to defeat them, so they are coming at him with everything they have. (The media) always have a scam, whether Russian collusion or a big lie. Everything they accuse President Trump of — look at President Biden — twenty or more fake names where there are no bricks and mortars. It’s just a money-shuffling operation. So, I just pound the facts.  

RH: The company that owns WPG is Townsquare Media. They focus heavily on and carry out dynamic digital strategies. How do you balance your radio show and produce the digital content they want?    

HH: I talk about the digital content when I’m on the air. When I am writing for digital, I reference what we’re doing on the air. It’s not competing; it’s perfectly in concert. Townsquare Media has revolutionized the digital platform in our business. We are new talk media.

Digital is not only here to stay but also incredibly powerful. It’s an amazing way for those that want additional content. We utilize our app very well so that people who want to go back can check out our published podcasts. We podcast everything so that nobody has to miss anything. It wasn’t that long ago that if you missed it, you missed it.

We love digital, but we don’t reveal our station analytics as a company. Our footprint is unreal. We own our market, and I couldn’t be prouder to be an employee of Townsquare Media. I love our focus on both broadcasting and digital. Being an on-air personality is something I love, along with the spoken word format. I was a very young reporter for the Press of Atlantic City a very long time ago. I was one of the youngest reporters in the country with a byline, so I always loved to write. We write multiple pieces of digital content every day of the week.  

RH: You also do regular fill-in work for Fox News Radio. How does your preparation routine change when you fill in on national shows? 

Harry Hurley: It’s not that much different because I open every day by doing a national hour, so I am very well versed on the national issues, and then we talk about the local issues as well. Townsquare Media is very big on being closely aligned with our community.

I know where I am at the time. If I am guest hosting The Brian Kilmeade Show, The Guy Benson Show, or Fox Across America with Jimmy Failla, I just couldn’t be more grateful to Brian, Guy, and Jimmy. Their producers are unbelievable and have treated me with incredible respect.  

RH: Is audience engagement different during one of the national shows than your local show? Do you get more phone calls? More social media interaction?  

Harry Hurley: I don’t want for phone calls on my local show. You never want for phone calls on Fox News talk. They have it set up beautifully. Brian [Kilmeade] is on 9-12, Jimmy [Failla] is on 12-3, and Guy [Benson] is on from 3-6. It’s just perfect what John Sylvester (Vice President of Fox News Media), Maria Donovan (Director of Talk Programming, On-Demand Programming), and all their teams have done.

I love working for all of them. Any time they call me to fill in, I make sure I give it all the energy I can because they deserve it.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BNM Writers

Is Radio Ready to Move at the Speed of AI?

We can only imagine where AI will lead us, and yet we can’t.

Avatar photo

Published

on

A post-it note with A.I. written on it

Who are your favorite radio personalities from your past? Wouldn’t it be great if you could listen to The Real Don Steele, Dan Ingram, or Dr. Don Rose every single day again playing the latest hits and yakking about current issues? What if the late, great Vin Scully still did current Dodgers games?

It’s not only possible, but it won’t be long before it happens.

I would love to hear Paul Harvey’s folksy commentary on yet another Trump-Biden election. (I’d love to hear it but it would still be creepy and somewhat offensive because he’s dead. But that’s just me.)

AI voice and image-mimicking technology are about to become the biggest practical and ethical problem facing the radio, TV, and movie industries.

If it can be done it will be done. That’s an observation accredited to several sources including and beyond the Bible but regardless of who said it first it’s an inexorable truth and ethics has nothing to do with it.

Artificial Intelligence is a genie that can’t be stuffed back into the bottle. AI radio disc jockeys are already here. So are nonhuman voice actors.

“There are jobs that would have gone to voice actors that are now going to synthetic voices.”

Tim Friedlander is president and co-founder of the National Association of Voice Actors. He told me that AI can’t yet replicate human emotion but admits some of that doesn’t matter.

“For the most part you can definitely tell the difference, an AI can’t act the same way or perform the same way that a human actor can, but in a lot of these e-learning or training videos or informational videos it’s purely a transaction of information. There’s no need for an emotional transaction. It’s just purely getting information across.”

Friedlander says he’s hearing regularly from voice actors who are losing gigs. All he can do is advocate on their behalf to protect human rights from being plowed under by new voice and image-mimicking technology.

“There are no federal laws that give you the right to your voice. So, none of us own the right to the sound of our voice. We potentially have rights over a (specific) performance we’ve given. If we’re a celebrity, we have some right of publicity that could possibly protect us in some capacity but we, as citizens in the United States don’t have the right to (own) our voices.

“That’s a thorny problem when it comes down to trying to codify it, to pass laws, especially when you’ve got a bunch of people who are passing the laws, who barely know how to use their phones.”

Tim’s undeniably right about that. But the bigger question is, after we’ve pounded on our Congressional representatives to preserve individual rights for actors, narrators, and audiobook readers will it make any difference in the long run?

Spotify already has a very good AI disc jockey who not only sounds realistic but can address you by name, play the specific music you want to hear, and relate to you personally. In its inception, it impressively mimics the voice and delivery style of real-life deejay, Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships, who previously hosted Spotify’s morning show, The Get Up.

After hearing the Spotify demo I reacted with a mind-blown “Whoa!” as if I was Kramer in Seinfeld. Now I’m wondering if I can get Robert W. Morgan and Bobby Ocean as my personalized deejays.

Like it or not, AI-generated content and voices, mimicked and newly created, are changing what we anachronistically call radio.

It’s time to get up to speed and deal with it.

Though we try to reassure ourselves that AI voice technology will never be able to match the soul and nuance of life expressed by living, trained human voices, we’re required to ask ourselves two questions: First, are we sure of that? Second, will anybody care?

Unanswerable questions aside, we still have work to do.

We must stop resisting inevitable change—not because our ethical concerns are invalid, but because we can’t stop the inevitable. All we can hope to do is manage the challenges and that’s a tall order.

Two bills stewing in Congress at the moment, the No AI Fraud Act and the No FAKES Act, both designed to establish voice and image rights, are good first attempts to deal with the issue but they only address AI use as far as the technology can currently be defined and used. They can’t anticipate future developments and legal loopholes. Opponents of each bill as written say they would cause more problems than they would solve.

Constitutional Law and Supreme Court expert David Coale, partner with Lynn, Pinker, Hurst, and Schegmann in Dallas, explains the legal considerations.

“I’m sympathetic but we already have two complicated bodies of tort law in this area—defamation laws where you can’t lie about someone, and fraud laws where you can’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. Beyond that, you’re well into activity protected by the First Amendment. Adding another complicated body of law on top of all that really does risk causing more problems than it solves.”

Coale is just bringing us back to reality. Lawyers will continue writing contracts, filing suits, and arguing the Constitution. Infotainment entrepreneurs and those who go by the trendy title “influencers” will ply their trades as profitably as possible. In what we still think of as radio, we will, too, as long as there’s an appetite for information and an exchange of ideas.

If we’re to meet the future we have to embrace new ways to create, disseminate, and sell content. We need to leave nostalgia in our shoebox of old pictures and forget much of the how but not the why of what we’ve learned.

Once we’re on that road we can let the marketplace guide us.

I’m not sure I want to hear Vin Scully explain the ghost runner at second going into the tenth inning. Even the best AI can only draw upon his public record to guess what he might have thought and how he would have said it. I like to think Vin hated the idea and would explain that to us with his famously clear and convincing clarity.

I knew Dr. Don Rose and my first thought about listening to him again in real-time was, as much as I miss him I don’t want to hear a genuine-sounding fake of him cracking one-liners about personal pronouns or Taylor Swift. Or, do I? He would make us laugh at the silliness of both subjects without offending anyone, and he’d stamp it with a horn honk and a giggle that perfectly hit the vocal.

We can only imagine where AI will lead us, and yet we can’t.

What would Jesus do in a given situation? We’ll soon be told and probably even hear it in his own impressively imagined and digitized voice. A lot of people will be pissed.

In radio, we need to stop hand-wringing about these things and start planning how to use it all to create a wonderfully enhanced experience for listeners and to turn a profit in the process.

“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” -Kahlil Gibran

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Kate Rooney Has Become One of Tech’s Leading Reporters After Nearly a Decade at CNBC

“You have to just do it to get better and it’s so public but you have to mess up to get better.”

Published

on

A photo of CNBC reporter Kate Rooney
(Photo: CNBC)

She’s smart, funny, and positively positive. CNBC tech reporter Kate Rooney is always looking to make “the next right move” and ask Silicone Valley the hard questions, even if it sometimes makes her feel like a “party pooper.”

“A question [I ask] every time I talk to someone is ‘What’s the risk?’ or ‘How do you think about the risk?’ Because it is something people out here don’t think about. But I think Silicon Valley and tech is such an inherently optimistic group of people. And that’s been paid off in a big way,” Rooney said on a recent Zoom call.

Being a naturally optimistic person, Rooney said she’s learned to be skeptical at times, especially during her time covering Sam Bankman-Fried. “[He] is basically the poster child of [Silicon Valley and crypto] industry and ended up being one of the biggest fraudsters of all time — one of the biggest financial frauds in history. It is just a good reminder that regardless of who the investors are, regardless of how accredited and bona fide a founder is, you just always have that in the back of your head.”

She later added, “One of the things that struck me about Sam Bankman-Fried was how fast it happened. Bernie Madoff was over multiple decades. And it took years and years and years to build that reputation, to build his Ponzi scheme, really. Bankman-Fried did this in a couple of years.”

Rooney never expected her aspirations of being a print reporter would lead her to a TV job, but her years of hard work across four continents prove otherwise. As a communications student at Boston College, Rooney wasn’t sure she wanted to go into journalism until her last year of college.

“I started writing for The Heights — which is the Boston College newspaper — my senior year and took a great journalism class. And one of my professors there recommended journalism school.”

Attending Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Kate Rooney said she received a real hands-on experience that “opened a lot of doors” for her.

“It’s a one-year program, so that really accelerated the journalism move. I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s so many options,’ because you do print, do broadcast, do some investigative reporting.” It’s here where she was able to travel the globe reporting from Argentina, Israel, and the Philippines before coming back home to tackle Washington, D.C.

“I was in a print path, and that’s where I thought I wanted to go and cover politics. I went to D.C. for one of the quarters, and you get a press pass to go and work on Capitol Hill. And you’re kind of a stringer for these local papers. So that just felt like it was the most exciting thing you could possibly think of.”

While the field changed for the Division I lacrosse player, she found a lot of similarities between sports and politics. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s actually it’s kind of like sports. There’s a winner and a loser, and it’s exciting.’ Just being in D.C., you kind of catch the bug.”

Toward the end of graduate school, Kate Rooney landed an internship at Bloomberg before coming home to close to where she grew up in New Jersey.

“[A friend of mine] introduced me to someone at CNBC. I came in and started interviewing and got this job in the news associate program, which is sort of when you rotate and you jump around. You start on one team for three months and then you go to the next team.”

She’s been with CNBC ever since.

Since 2015, Kate Rooney has grown with the station from segment and field producing to reporting on the markets and now Big Tech. “I was so nervous before [going on air for the first time], but I felt after I ripped the bandaid and was on air once, I was like, ‘Ok, I think I could actually make this happen as a career.’”

Rooney did note there were some difficult points in broadcasting. “It’s like anything, you have to just do it to get better and it’s so public but you have to mess up to get better. You have to make mistakes. And when you make mistakes on TV, it’s one of the most painful feelings you can imagine. It’s just so embarrassing. But yeah, you get better with time. It’s one of those things that you kind of just have to be out there and try it.”

Today what Kate Rooney loves about her job is learning something new every day. “[I am] talking to some of the smartest investors in the world, and you walk out and you’re like, ‘That was fascinating.’ Just getting to hear their take and they’ll spend the time explaining one of these interesting tech topics.”

For those looking to follow in her footsteps, Rooney to two pieces of advice. One, “Say yes to everything, especially in journalism.”

“If you have the mindset of saying yes and taking on whatever assignment somebody gives you, you’ll learn something and you’ll become a better journalist.”

Two? “Make the next right move.”

“My grandfather, who is a huge role model of mine, would always say ‘Make the next right move,’ because you get so ahead of yourself. If you’re ambitious and you want to get somewhere, you can kind of spiral quickly to say like, ‘Oh, well, that’s not exactly what I wanted to do.’ But if you make the next right decision again, those compound and you’ll get to where you want to go.”

Rooney loves what she is doing at CNBC but noted what comes next is evolving her reporting skills as the industry changes.

“Adapting to whatever the news is going to look like. I think that’s probably going to be a challenge for a lot of reporters. Not that any of us want to go and be a TikTok reporter, but just making sure, like we’re finding our audience where they are [because] people are consuming news really differently than they used to be.”

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Is Buying a Radio or TV Station Even Feasible in 2024?

For those of you still fantasizing about picking up a radio or TV station on the cheap and putting together the programming of your dreams, how realistic do you think you’re being?

Published

on

A photo of a radio station studio

A million years ago, when I was young and carefree and just starting out in the business, my goal was to own a radio station. One would have been enough, just a local-yokel operation with low overhead and a list of grateful local advertisers. We actually came reasonably close to making a deal for exactly that kind of station, but I couldn’t get the money together quickly enough.

It’s just as well. The fantasy of owning a station evolved into this reality: a) I was never going to own a station, and b) today, I wouldn’t be interested in putting any of my own money into radio. Or television. Or newspapers. I still see people posting on Facebook that they want to own a station, and good luck to those brave souls, but I’m not among them anymore.

This came to mind when it was reported by CNBC this week that Sinclair Broadcast Group is looking to sell over 30% of its television stations — that’s about 60 stations nationwide – including those in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Austin, and Fresno. Whatever the reason they’re selling, the question is who would even buy those stations? Broadcast television, like broadcast radio, is not exactly in growth mode.

When the big broadcast networks appear to be putting more eggs in the streaming basket and rumors have all of them willing to sell their broadcast licenses, that’s not a great sign for their affiliates, either.

Nevertheless, the price for Sinclair’s stations will not be cheap, and in television, it’s hard to see too many companies willing to buy unless they’re giving it all away. Who’s willing to pay more? Tegna? Apollo/Cox? Byron Allen? Who’s left to buy into broadcast TV when streaming is becoming so pervasive that the NFL is putting more and more games online?

The price will also be fairly high if Audacy sells off some or all of its assets, or Beasley, or Cumulus. And even if the price correlated to some metric of reasonable success, it would take someone with the cash in their personal account to do a deal, because Wall Street is not impressed by a business that breaks even or makes a little money. Do you think you could get a meeting with investors and convince them to back you in buying radio stations, even if the price would otherwise be right? Go ahead and try.

And if you’re looking to buy a large group, remember that private equity investors are looking for businesses they can strip-mine for saleable assets. They don’t care about the operation, they care if there’s real estate to be sold off. Ask anyone in the newspaper industry how that works out.

All of this is a shame because there are people making a go of it in all of these businesses. There are radio and television stations unburdened with debt making a tidy profit that might not get Wall Street excited but can support a staff, a news department, a promotions budget, and the light bill. Most of them have been in the same hands forever, though, and can thrive as long as the family members who inherit the facilities are interested in keeping things going. I’m not sure we have too many more generations left who would be interested in keeping an increasingly past-tense business going.

It’s like inheriting a typewriter repair shop; even if there’s enough business right now, you can see the typewriting on the wall.

So, I’m out. But for those of you still fantasizing about picking up a radio or TV station on the cheap and putting together the programming of your dreams, how realistic do you think you’re being? Do you think you could put together the money? How much debt would you be comfortable taking on? Is growth really a possibility with a broadcast station? How much would you need to see? Is it possible in 2024 to do that, or is this the radio or television version of fantasy football?

Whatever it is, I’d love to see someone give it a shot. Hey, it’s not MY money.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement

Upcoming Events

BNM Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.