SiriusXM’s Andrew Wilkow out-hustled the competition to reach the top, but he’s aware of the industry’s evolution.
No more sending notes to program directors hoping to score a favor or fill in during a quiet weekend shift. It’s a changed game, but talking to someone who climbed the industry ladder is always fascinating.
The Wilkow Majority didn’t happen overnight. Before the iconic slogan “We’re right, they’re wrong, the arguments on this show cannot be broken,” there was “The next generation.”
Before becoming a SiriusXM superstar with a massive following, Andrew Wilkow was a rock jock crashing on couches and pulling overnight shifts just to be heard. He viewed talk radio as the penthouse yet doubted he had the class. Now, he’s proven himself wrong.
The Wilkow Majority’s story originated in a rental car that belonged to Mel Karmazin. While driving to the Hampton’s, the former executive turned on 77 WABC and was intrigued by Andrew Wilkow’s show. Karmazin was so impressed that he wrote a note and placed it on the dashboard to remind himself to hire Wilkow.
Eventually, Jeremy Coleman, Sirius’ longtime SVP/Talk, and Entertainment, contacted Andrew Wilkow, and he was offered the noon-3 slot on the SiriusXM Patriot channel.
At the time, the late Rush Limbaugh was at the pinnacle of his popularity, with over 20 million listeners tuning in to hear him daily. Wilkow’s strategy was straightforward: be yourself and avoid imitation. By being genuine and relatable, Wilkow established a following, both crucial components of a successful talk show host.
Andrew Wilkow owns the talk radio game on SiriusXM or traditional broadcast radio. His show carves its niche, breaking free from the constraints of terrestrial radio with a no-censorship policy and the freedom to dive deep into topics in brisk 20-minute segments.
In a chat with Barrett News Media, Andrew Wilkow spills the beans on navigating the grind of hosting a daily radio and TV show while juggling family duties. Get ready for some real talk on how this radio heavyweight masters the art of balancing TV, radio, and, most importantly, his roles as a dad and husband. We’re laying down the facts – we’re right, they’re wrong, and the arguments here are unbreakable.
Ryan Hedrick: How did your career start at SiriusXM?
Andrew Wilkow: I was told by Mel Karmazin (former CEO of Sirius) that he had his car in the shop and was going out to the Hamptons. He had to have a rental car, and he had turned on WABC, and I inherited Mark Levin’s noon-2 slot. He heard the show and listened to it driving to the Hamptons, and he said he wrote on a Post-it note, “Hire this guy,” and stuck it to his dashboard, and it wasn’t long after that that Jeremy Coleman ( Sirius’ longtime SVP/Talk and Entertainment) made contact.
RH: Is there a difference between doing a talk show on SiriusXM Radio and traditional commercial broadcast radio?
AW: For the record, I don’t curse because I don’t feel it has a place in what I do, and we will drop callers who curse on our delay. Swearing doesn’t add to what I do, but I am not opposed to it. If you like that, you can listen to Faction (punk rock music) or Octane (liquid metal music), and some of our DJs are dropping F-bombs, and that’s fine for what they are doing.
I don’t like it. We are truly niche with all of our speech and personalities. I know what I do is niche. We are different than terrestrial radio, where you might have 3-4 news/talk stations in your market area.
The real beautiful advantage of how I try to serve our subscribers is that with 20-minute-long segments, I don’t have to stop in the middle of a thought for news, traffic, and weather. We can take a topic and go as deep into it as we want or as the niche subscriber wants us to.
RH: Have you been affected by the censorship of Big Tech in terms of how you communicate with your followers?
AW: The one thing I truly take comfort in is that SiriusXM is committed to freedom of speech. If you like my program, fine. If not, we have a voice for everyone in this country. That’s amazing. I haven’t found myself censored. I have been told I was shadowbanned, but I have not been able to prove it.
RH: When Rush Limbaugh passed away, it opened up one of the most desirable positions in talk radio. Were you a candidate to replace him?
AW: I was under contract. I wouldn’t have been available in any way. Was my name considered? I heard that it was spoken about, and I know people over at Premiere Networks, but I know full well that I have bloomed where I was planted. If I had come to this format later in life, I would have struggled because it is a much longer hour. If you are used to doing 21-30 minutes in the hour, we are doing 53 minutes. I think I have become synonymous with SiriusXM Patriot.
RH: Sticking with Limbaugh and his influence on talk radio, what is your opinion on the current state of the news/talk format following his death?
AW: The time of working your way up has been replaced by insta-famous. The days of filling in, doing overnights, sleeping on the station couch, and telling the program director you will do whatever it takes have replaced you in putting up your podcast, and if it catches on, you are insta-famous.
I am not decrying, it’s just the shift in the business. I am considered one of the older guys now. I started by constantly trying to solve the program director’s problem. And I was always trying to get on the air. I was always trying to get a fill-in shift. I did nights, I did weekends, I did whatever I needed to do. After starting in music radio, I did whatever it took. My way was to outwork other people. At that time, there was no such thing as TikTok, Instagram, or any streaming or podcasting.
RH: Where do you think the next generation of radio talk show hosts will come from?
AW: There’s a new way. If you fear competition, you should stay off the field.
When I first came to SiriusXM, and they told me I was going to be doing the noon-3 slot, I asked them if they knew what they were asking me to do. You’re asking me to go up against an 800-pound gorilla that nobody has survived (talking about the challenge of going head-to-head with Rush Limbaugh). I was in the noon-3 slot from 2006 up until the passing of Rush Limbaugh, and I managed to build an audience by not imitating.
If you are truly committed to this and have what it takes, there might be some heartbreak or struggle initially. I know competition keeps me on my toes. I have to work for every set of ears that will be there from noon-3.
RH: How does your radio persona and Salem TV show persona differ from each other?
AW: Yes. I write the monologues every day for Salem. My biggest stress right now is if I get up in the morning and write a monologue, it could be worthless at 5 PM. You could be speculating about who will be the next Speaker of the House, and then there’s the Speaker, and your whole monologue could be gone.
I start writing the monologue around 3:50 – 4:00 in the afternoon, and that’s authentically me. In radio, you have more room to free form than on TV. It’s a much tighter, more time-sensitive format, and watching someone think things up is different than listening to it organically, if that makes sense.
RH: Let’s get personal for a moment. How do you manage the workload of hosting a daily radio and TV show while balancing your responsibilities as a father and husband?
AW: It’s tough because my wife sometimes feels like a single mother. I do a lot of prep, and that takes up time. I get up with my kids in the morning, make breakfast, and try to see them off to school. I get home late at night.
Salem Media Studios is down in Lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center. When I get back on the subway, get back to Port Authority, take the bus out to the park-and-ride, get into my truck, drive through the traffic by MetLife Stadium, it’s 7:45-8:00 before I get home at night.
It is what it is. I can’t complain. I signed up for it. I signed a contract with SiriusXM and I signed a contract with Salem. It is something that you have to consistently and constantly balance.
RH: New York City appears to be rapidly deteriorating. Does the city’s decline concern you as someone who works in New York and commutes from New Jersey? Have you ever considered moving to a Red State?
AW: I check real estate listings in Florida every day. Salem has TV studios in Altamonte Springs and an unoccupied radio studio from which I could do my show with the same technology that I used at the mothership. It’s a discussion that my wife and I have all the time. My oldest daughter is in 8th grade; she will be in high school next year and has a big group of friends. My other daughter just turned 11; she’s got her group of friends. It might be a little easier on my son because he is eight, but it’s something that we talk about all the time.
RH: When situations arise in your professional life, who do you turn to for advice?
AW: It’s no secret my father-in-law is in the business. Phil Boyce (Senior Vice President of Salem Media Group) has created many great programs. It was funny that when they were building Salem, I was still under contract at Blaze TV, and when my contract was up, they wanted more of a commitment for audio, and I said I couldn’t give it to them because I pledged to SiriusXM, who had been my stable venue since 2006.
BlazeTV and I mutually parted ways with no hard feelings. Salem was going to turn the lights on in 2022, and I became available. I said to my father-in-law [hiring me] has to be someone else’s idea. I was not coming to work for my father-in-law; I wasn’t going to do that. So they showed some of my tapes to other Salem executives.
They knew I wrote my monologues, and I learned to do my makeup during the pandemic. I could walk in on day one and give Salem a credible show, and that’s what I did.
RH: How much does national recognition as a host matter to you? And imagine this: what would it mean to be inducted into the Radio Hall-of-Fame?
AW: Anybody that says “I don’t care”, of course you do. When it’s over for me, and it will be over for me, I have told myself that I will not hang around past my expiration date.
If I don’t land in the Hall of Fame, I will not say I didn’t have a successful career. I built a show on a platform where people said, ‘I would never pay for radio.’ We managed to go into that and up against the number one show on radio, format notwithstanding. I’ve been here and had my contract resigned every time my deal was up.
The radio business has allowed me to raise my three children. If it were to happen (being elected into the Radio Hall of Fame), it would be huge for a kid who started in Rock Radio. My goal was to be an afternoon DJ and perfect the afternoon playlist.
Talk radio fell into my lap. I always thought radio was the ivory tower and talk radio was the penthouse. I didn’t think I had the class to get in, and I hope in a way that that’s what makes me appealing and that I am still the guy who, on a Friday night, will park my boat at the lake club and see other dads and have a cigar or something.
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.