In 1992, there was a major shakeup in the Atlanta radio scene when WGST lost its popular midday host, Neil Boortz, who decided to leave WGST and join its rival station, WSB. Meanwhile, Sean Hannity was making his way up in the radio industry and landed the midday slot at WGST. Eric Stanger had never met Sean Hannity, but he liked what he heard on his show. He was amazed that a guy so young could share opinions like he did and hold his audience.
Eric Stanger was working in a restaurant during the day and would do an evening shift in the WGST newsroom. Before he left at night, he made sure to leave Hannity a few stories for his show in the morning. This unexpected turn of events resulted in a long-lasting friendship between the two. Eric Stanger became Hannity’s trusted producer, laying the foundation for a remarkable partnership that has lasted for over three decades.
The Sean Hannity Show is syndicated on more than 700 radio stations throughout the country. With the passing of conservative talk pioneer Rush Limbaugh, many industry leaders now consider Hannity to be the reigning champion in the talk radio arena. Known for his legendary work ethic, Eric Stanger has had a front-row seat to observe one of the most remarkable careers in the history of talk radio.
It’s important to emphasize that The Sean Hannity Show is a testament to his work ethic and name recognition in the industry. However, it’s worth noting that even at that level, one cannot function without an incredible team of individuals supporting them.
In an interview with Barrett News Media, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the team behind the most popular talk radio program in the country and discover how Sean Hannity keeps up with the constantly evolving media landscape. This includes the continued emphasis on transitioning from being a traditional, one-medium brand to being present and accessible on every platform where listeners and viewers are found.
Ryan Hedrick: How did you meet Sean Hannity?
Eric Stanger: I got my paying start in radio at a station called WGST in Atlanta. Back then, it was the up-and-coming news/talk station, and we were going up against a well-known heritage station news talker, WSB. Neil Boortz, who had been on the station for years, left and went to WSB, so WGST needed a new midday guy.
I was working as a news assistant writing news articles and carting up sound at night, and they hired Sean from a station in Huntsville, Alabama. Because I was working at night, I was able to listen to the show during the day on my way to work (day job). I was working at a restaurant.
I just really loved his show. Sean was young and fresh; I think he was only 27 or 28 at the time, and I identified with his voice. I didn’t know you could be on the radio and be young and opinionated like that. His presentation really hit me. So, since I was working at night, I would pull AP stories off the wire and leave them for him on our shared desk. He would use the stories the next morning. He didn’t know who I was.
Finally, it came time for him to hire a full-time producer, and I interviewed, and we hit it off immediately, and I got hired. I was his first producer in Atlanta, and this is probably 1993.
Sean left the station to go launch Fox News Channel in 1996, and I went out to LA, and I went to go produce the Tom Leykis Show for Westwood One, and then I ended up coming back and working at WABC, and I was his (Hannity’s) producer there and we just kind of stuck together after that. I’ve been with him for more than 30 years.
RH: How did The Sean Hannity Show evolve from its early days in Atlanta to its status as a powerhouse on over 700 radio stations, eventually becoming the king of talk radio after the passing of Rush Limbaugh?
ES: We owe a great debt to Rush. Sean says it on the air all the time. Rush kicked the door down for all of us. All of us who are on the air and all of us who work in the conservative talk business. I am proud of all the work I do for Sean, but Sean would have been successful no matter what. He’s just one of these guys; when you combine his talent for the medium with his work ethic and drive, you have no choice at that point but to be successful.
That’s the element that’s really driven the success of Sean Hannity. He started this business in 1987. I go back with him to the Atlanta days.
When I think of what my role is now, I am the happiest guy in the world because I get to work with Sean, who I’ve known for years, who’s kind of like my big brother, and then we have this amazing staff.
RH: What role do you play in facilitating the day-to-day success of the show?
ES: The thing that I like to do is to be able to provide Sean and the production team with everything they need to have to do the best possible show every day, whether it’s in our studios in New York City or on the road. Sean goes on the road every now and then to do remotes and cover news and things like that. And then my other role is staying in touch with our affiliates. We have 720 affiliates now, and we’re very proud of that.
The thing I love is being able to talk to programmers, talk to sales guys, and help them succeed with Sean. I teach them how to sell the show and work with them on that. It’s about winning together. We crossed the 700-affiliate mark last year, and that’s a major milestone for us. The success of the show, Sean, is the driver of that. We have the greatest production staff in the world, and we have support from Premiere Networks.
We’ve worked with many different companies, and we’ve worked with Premiere for about 15 years. Everyone on our team is completely committed to their roles and to making the show successful.
RH: How many people work on The Sean Hannity Show daily?
ES: As far as syndicated radio shows, we have a small team. Everybody on our team plays a key role and works well together. I’ve been around for 30 years. Our Executive Producer, Lynda McLaughlin, our other Executive Producer, “Sweet Baby” James Grisham, producer Jason Mosse, Katie Holcomb and Blair Cullen, and another producer, Ethan Keller, all these people, except Ethan, have been with us for over 20 years.
We have a small team, and we have been around for years and years. We are all loyal to each other, and there’s a commitment that’s very special. When I talk to Sean about it, he calls his team a smooth-running machine. We all have a specific role, but we all help each other when we need It.
Every day in the studio, things run fast. There are so many elements that all need to come together in time for the broadcast. When you’re doing a live radio show, sometimes you’re booking guests up until airtime; it’s really demanding. You’re getting audio together; you’re putting together a cut sheet. All that must be communicated to Sean. It’s constantly changing circumstances, and everyone must be on their A-game daily.
I mentioned Lynda [McLaughlin]; she is extremely talented. She leads the studio team. She is really like the producer’s producer. She has a wonderful way of motivating the studio crew, communicating with Sean, and keeping the swirling chaos manageable. She’s on the air a lot now. She has this on-air banter with Sean that we get such amazing feedback on because she provides comic relief for the show.
We are devoted to Sean and care very deeply about the show’s success. Sean takes very good care of us. We all work on the number one show in the country, and it’s the best show in the country, and we know that and believe that. We work very hard to keep it that way.
RH: When you talk to affiliates, what are their clients saying about The Sean Hannity show?
ES: I’m happy that I can talk to not only programmers and affiliates but salespeople because I think that it’s important. We take great stock in ratings, but I also like to help sales departments sell the show successfully. I think that’s equally important. You can have great ratings, but it will not be successful if your sales department doesn’t know how to sell the show. So, I love to be able to go talk to salespeople about how to sell the show, what categories to target, and what clients to target.
We have many success stories. We have many local clients on local stations who have been with us for over ten years. That kind of retention is amazing. It speaks to how credible Sean’s voice is and what a great job he does for clients on the network and local sides.
RH: What steps does the show take to remain fresh and resonate with tomorrow’s audience and yesterday’s?
ES: You must be on top of breaking news and be current until the last minute. I can just tell you that there have been days where Sean will prep until 3:06 (show time), there’s a breaking story at 3:00, and he throws the show out the window, and we get into the breaking news quickly.
Sean is adept at covering breaking news that is not even political. He loves to talk about football, music, culture, and everything that’s going on while remaining on his focus, which is politics. He likes to refer to the show as the daily newspaper. You’ve news headlines; you’re politics and editorial pages with an opinion, fun, and, when appropriate, a little bit of fun and personality. That’s really the way to stay fresh, and he’s very much himself with all of that.
RH: How do you manage strong and successful personalities within the show?
ES: I am not on top of those guys. Lynda has the freedom to go in the air and banter with Sean. Stations love it so much; why would I get in the way of that? There are strong opinions, but we have a lot of fun, too. Sean did a 15-minute monologue about Due Lipa, and we were just glued to it because it was interesting coming from Sean. He also talks about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, and Lynda chimes in. Everybody has opinions, but it’s also a lot of fun.
RH: WOR host Mark Simone once told me that the best quality that Sean Hannity possesses is his work ethic. Can you describe how Sean manages his daily schedule and what he does to prepare for his radio show?
ES: I’ve never seen a guy work like Sean. Those of us on the staff will sometimes get those calls at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning or 6 a.m. on a Sunday. He’s not only prepping shows but also looking at ratings. He’s looking at TV ratings. He wants to know what’s going on with different markets and what we can do better for various markets. He’s very, very focused. That’s why I said that he would have been successful no matter what because you just can’t have that kind of drive and not be successful.
Sean truly loves this business, lives it, and breathes it. Every minute he spends doing prep or studying TV markets or radio markets, it’s because he loves the business, and there’s no turning it off.
RH: You were promoted to Senior VP of Operations for The Sean Hannity Show in March. What added responsibilities do you have in your new role?
ES: The difference is now, and now that COVID is over, I think the change is that I’m able to be in the studio more and be more hands-on with the crew. During COVID, I was working from home for three years, and I had knee surgery and couldn’t go in. I am so happy with the fact that I am in the studio more, communicating with Sean more, and seeing him when he’s in.
I’m also spending time with Lynda, James, Ethan, and all the staff, just making sure that I am there on a hands-on basis and making sure I am providing the team with the tools they need to do their jobs the best way they can, that’s what makes the show the best it can be.
RH: What is your response to those who claim that radio is a medium that people no longer care about and that it is not what it used to be?
ES: I think the people that are ringing the death knell of radio, I am not going to agree 100%. I think there’s a lot of life left in radio. I think the focus is now that we must be everywhere our listeners are. I don’t think people have stopped caring about breaking news. I think they’ve just moved from listening to AM Radio to listening to FM Radio to listening to streaming, podcasts, and social media. They are finding other ways to get their information. We just need to ensure we deliver our message wherever they are, eyes and ears.
Ryan Hedrick works for WIBC in Indianapolis as a Morning News Anchor/Digital Content Producer. Prior to moving to Indy, he served as Assistant Program Director and Co-Host of the Morning News Express at WFMD. His career also includes stints at News Talk 103.7 FM in Chambersburg, PA, Sirius XM in Washington D.C., WBEN in Buffalo, NY, and WIBW-AM in Topeka KS where he earned the Kansas Association of Broadcasters (KAB) award for Major Market enterprise reporting in 2016. To connect with Ryan, find him on Twitter @SureToCover.
Why I’m Jumping Back Into Local TV
I want to join the fight for light that disinfects from the front lines. And there is no more advanced position than local news.
Yesterday, I started what I believe will be the final phase of my nearly 50-year career in broadcasting, spanning both radio and TV.
I have roamed the streets of San Francisco looking for breaking news as the late news reporter at KPIX-TV. I picked garlic in the fields of Gilroy to expose the terrible working conditions of California farmworkers for KCBS Radio.
In Chicago, I helped topple the democratic machine by exposing the dead voters registered in the Mayor’s race that tried to prevent Harold Washington — the city’s first black mayor — from winning an election.
Next stop? Los Angeles, where I covered the O.J. Simpson trial for KNBC, coverage that earned the station an Emmy and Golden Mic awards. It also earned me a ticket to NBC network news where I became a national correspondent for Tom Brokaw’s Nightly News. Our team picked up an Emmy for the flood and fire that destroyed Grand Forks, North Dakota, and led to assignments in New York for 9/11 and then off to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Next up were 18 intense years at ABC, where I served as 20/20 correspondent, Primetime correspondent, Senior Law and Justice correspondent, Senior National correspondent, and finally White House correspondent.
In 2020, after health issues, I retired and was offered the opportunity by Barrett News Media to write about the only true profession I have ever known. No longer bound by the rules of just the facts, I was invited to give my opinion on the junction of news and politics. I have enjoyed it and thank Jason Barrett — and you, the readers — for taking the time to follow my thoughts on the great institution of the news media.
But now it is time to return to actual journalism. I have been offered the privilege of reporting again. I have started a new adventure at KGTV ABC10 in San Diego. The location is ideal and the job as Senior Investigative Reporter will be a welcome challenge and a break from the retired life.
It also comes at a time when journalism is under attack by those who feel their opinions trump facts. (Pun intended).
So I want to join the fight for light that disinfects from the front lines. And there is no more advanced position than local news. I will be holding authorities and politicians to account. Keeping big business honest by protecting the little guy. I take pride in my career in journalism and I want young reporters to be proud as well. A free press unintimidated by would-be dictators is what is needed now more than ever.
So thanks, and once again, I will see you on TV.
Jim Avila serves as a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. An Award-winning journalist with four decades of reporting and anchoring experience, Jim has served as Senior National Correspondent, 20/20 Correspondent, and White House Correspondent for ABC News. Prior to his time with ABC, he spent a decade with NBC News, and worked locally in Los Angeles and Chicago for KNBC, and WBBM. He can be found on Twitter @JimAvilaABC.
Is Oliver Stone the Michael Moore of 2024?
“They went too far in hating and in dumping on Trump. And people don’t like that in America. People don’t like dumping on. They did it too much.”
In mid-2016, Americans felt the tide turning — with the country rallying around a Donald Trump electoral victory — when liberal filmmaker Michael Moore predicted Trump would win Michigan and the election. Could Oliver Stone be on a similar path in 2024?
Moore was prescient. He heard the people and could sense their overwhelming sentiment. More than anything, he was sounding the alarm bells for his fellow Democrats for what he felt was about to happen.
Last week a media member may have unknowingly let free the 2024 canary in the coal mine, and interestingly, this canary may have been another controversial filmmaker.
Oliver Stone appeared on Bill Maher’s podcast, Club Random, last week and seemed to echo many of the same sentiments from Moore’s premonition eight years earlier.
“Well, I mean, he doesn’t concede elections,” Maher said, bringing up President Trump in the far-ranging, free-flowing conversation. “You know, ‘The elections only count if we win’ theory of government. Okay. Well, come on. You know, Trump, he still has not conceded the election. He has not conceded. He does not honor them.”
“I mean, do you know for a fact that he lost? I’m just curious,” Stone responded. “I just don’t know all of the facts.”
Maher seemed astounded.
“Well, I do. Is there a conspiracy theory that you don’t believe?” Maher asked Stone.
Perhaps Stone was referring to the piles of historical incongruencies and facts, all of which indicated a Trump 2020 win.
No sitting president in the modern era has received more votes for re-election than in his initial election and lost.
Of the 18 most dependable “swing counties” that normally indicate an electoral winner, Trump won 18 of 19. Yet, he lost the election.
No Republican had ever won Florida, Ohio, and Iowa – considered to be a broad cross-section of the American electorate – and lost. Until Trump.
It is difficult to put Oliver Stone in a political box. He has mostly seemed to favor the libertarian philosophy of less government intrusion. On occasion, he has been critical of Trump, while also acknowledging the former President’s ability to tap into populist sentiment that the two seem to share. Less war. Fewer government shackles. More individual and economic freedom.
“I’m just asking you. I’m not an expert on the election,” Stone told Maher. “I’m not a political junkie. You are. And you follow it very closely.”
“Alright then, I’ll give you the thumbnail sketch,” an agitated Maher said. “They tried it in like 60 courts. It was laughed out of every court, including by Republican judges. The people who saved this democracy were Republicans. Good Republicans. In states where Trump pressured them. Like the guy, the one he’s on trial for in Georgia. ‘Find me 11,000 votes.’ It’s on tape. A guy like that saying to him, ‘Sir, we just don’t do that here. I voted for you. I’m a Republican, but we just don’t do that.’ That’s what saved us. And they were Republicans.”
One of the most accurate political pollsters of the modern age, Richard Baris of Big Data Poll, posted on X that “Not even Oliver Stone buys it. Notice when (Bill Maher) tried to dismiss and refute his election concerns, he used a demonstrably false claim to ‘disprove’ it. Oliver, Bill is full of shit. It was not ‘tried’ in 70 courts. Judges used standing to dodge.”
Baris continued in another post, saying, “Also, (Bill Maher) grossly mischaracterized the phone call, using the common fake news talking points that Trump asked the (Georgia Secretary of State) to ‘find 11k votes’. Don’t be lazy, Bill. Read the transcript yourself. He was talking about signature verification and votes not properly scrutinized.”
In the podcast with Maher, Stone went on to say that he had major problems with the outcome of the 2000 election, which resulted in the victory of President George W. Bush. He similarly indicated that he didn’t think 2020 passed the smell test.
“I don’t know. I mean, you went through the 2000 election. That was horrifying to me, what happened when the Supreme Court closed that down.” Stone said.
“What should we do?” Maher asked. “Do we just keep counting votes forever? Or should we still be counting them now?”
“No. Count them correctly,” Stone responded. “Let’s just get rid of the electoral college. Let’s do a popular vote.”
Oliver Stone continued, calling out the media for their biased reporting in the era of Trump.
“I don’t know the facts,” Stone said. “And I think I would trust the accountants more than the politicians. And I’d like to know what the accountants, the guys who vote, who know the most about votes, who do the Electoral Commissions. I can’t take Biden’s word for it on anything.”
“Well, I mean, if there’s nothing that can be said or argued that would convince you,” Maher offered.
“I think what shocked people is that Trump got so many votes. You know, that was what was shocking. That he did so well compared to what he was expected to do,” Stone said. “Because we believed all the East Coast media.”
“Then why do you believe he could have lost?” Maher asked his guest about Biden.
“We believed all the East Coast media elite that he was going to fail and boom, they were wrong. We would love to see them being wrong, don’t we? The media elite,” Stone said. “They went too far in hating and in dumping on Trump. And people don’t like that in America. People don’t like dumping on. They did it too much.”
Bill Maher even agreed with Stone, admitting that the media no longer attempts to give a balanced, truthful reporting of the day’s events. In addition, neither mentioned the years-long, Democrat-led coup attempt that was designed to trick the public into thinking Trump was a Russian agent. Most of the mainstream media parroted the hoax.
“I was actually having this discussion about the CNN network recently. And, you know, I want there to be a CNN in the world. You know, something that I used to be able to count on. And I still do, some of it. Give it to me straight, Doc. Just give me the news,” Maher said.
“And, you know, they had this town hall with Trump about six months ago. And it was, they took a lot of flack for it. But he was adored by the audience who were Republicans, I guess, and independents. I think they said both. But whoever it was, they fucking loved him. And then the panel comes on after and they do nothing but shit on Trump and what a liar he is.”
Like Michael Moore eight years prior, Oliver Stone seemed to be sounding the alarm bell about what’s over the horizon, a mere 11 months from now. He concluded by drawing the analogy of Trump to a legendary baseball player who was famously banished from the game over gambling allegations a few decades ago.
“I think a lot of people liked him because he got dumped on so, so much. It’s like Pete Rose. You know, when he quit. Yeah. A lot of people started to resent the media for the dumping on Pete Rose.”
Oliver Stone is sounding the alarm. And the chirping canary very well may crescendo in 2024.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
How Did Trust in Media Reach All-Time Lows?
Somewhere along the line, Americans must agree on the facts, or we will continue to be a divided nation.
In my previous column, I wrote about Americans losing trust in the media.
Both conservatives and liberals can find ample examples to demonstrate why specific media sources are no longer trustworthy.
We have become a nation of two tribes. Each side has sources of news that it believes and considers the other side fake news or even propaganda.
The Economist and YouGov published a poll earlier this spring measuring how much trust Americans place in 56 media outlets, including social media.
Respondents were asked whether they “trust, distrust, or neither trust nor distrust” each media organization. The percentage of trust minus mistrust scores was calculated to create a “net trust score” for each.
Overall, The Weather Channel, arguably the only non-political entity measured, is the most trusted news source. It is ironic, considering how often we all complain about the “weather people” getting it wrong. Democrats (+64) and Republicans (+47) trust The Weather Channel.
The top four most trusted organizations were the same as the 2022 YouGov survey.
Here are the overall rankings of the 45 organizations published in the Economist-YouGov Poll.
- The Weather Channel +53
- Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) +30
- The BBC +29
- The Wall Street Journal +24
- Forbes +23
- The Associated Press +22
- ABC +21
- USA Today +21
- CBS +20
- Reuters +20
- NBC +19
- TIME Magazine +18
- The Washington Post +18
- National Public Radio (NPR) +16
- The Economist +16
- Business Insider +16
- The Guardian +15
- C-SPAN +14
- The New York Times +12
- Newsweek +12
- The New Yorker +10
- Bloomberg +10
- The Atlantic +10
- The National Review +8
- CNN +7
- New York Post +7
- The Hill +7
- Yahoo News +7
- Newsmax +6
- Axios +6
- Politico +6
- MSNBC +5
- One America News (OAN) +4
- The Washington Examiner +4
- Fox News +3
- The Federalist +3
- Slate +3
- Al Jazeera +1
- The Daily Beast +1
- HuffPost +1
- BuzzFeed News ±0
- Daily Kos −1
- Breitbart News −3
- The Daily Caller −4
- Infowars −16
Note: People who say the media organization is neither trustworthy nor untrustworthy, or that they don’t know, are not included in the calculation.
The differences between Democrats and Republicans are remarkable. In general, Republicans have less trust in the media overall.
Republicans have the most trust in Fox News and positive trust only in Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
Independents have a slight degree of trust in most news organizations, while Democrats have a significant degree of confidence in most of the media groups measured, except for Fox News.
|Organization||Democrat Net Trust||Independent Net Trust||Republican Net Trust|
|New York Post||+18||-1||+3|
|New York Times||+53||+8||-30|
|Wall Street Journal||+42||+19||+9|
Republicans and Democrats see information through completely different filters. The results for the entire survey, including crosstabs, can be found here.
Somewhere along the line, Americans must agree on the facts, or we will continue to be a divided nation. The media needs to do its part to bridge the divide.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at an[email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.