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Angelo Cataldi Still Loud After All These Years

He writes with good humor about the many athletes, celebrities, and politicians he has interviewed on the air or dealt with in other settings with enough detail to quench the reader’s appetite.

Andy Bloom

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A photo of Angelo Cataldi
(Photo: Audacy)

For 33 years, Angelo Cataldi set the Philadelphia-regions sports agenda and ruled the morning airwaves. Nine months after hanging up the headphones, Cataldi gives birth to an autobiographical book called “Loud.”

Because Angelo’s roots are in journalism, it isn’t surprising that the book is a good read and highly instructional for anybody interested in building audiences or creating content.

The story begins with Cataldi, the son of a toolmaker and a housewife, growing up in Providence, Rhode Island. He describes himself as “the quintessential dork,” something he professes without a wink and nod. Throughout the book, Cataldi frequently uses authorial intrusion, where he steps out of his role, narrating his story to tell the reader his current thoughts. It works in “Loud.”

Cataldi goes from hustling his way through the University of Rhode Island in three years to applying for admission to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, “eliciting a snort” from his professor. All these years later, he still isn’t sure how he got in, but it became the basis for his long and successful career in newspapers and radio.

At Columbia, Cataldi meets Norman Isaacs, who he credits with changing his life. He convinces Isaacs to allow him to create a program on sports. Sports wasn’t considered true journalism at the time. However, there are conditions, some of which became life-long credos for Cataldi. He had to ask the toughest questions and hold people in power accountable. The rule was no hero worshipping; you are not friends with the people you cover. It’s something Cataldi learned and demonstrated throughout his career.

At Columbia, he also learned to tape his interviews. He returned to Providence after graduation and endured a year of consumer reporting before covering the Celtics. His first big assignment is an interview with the newly signed Larry Bird. Cataldi ends up with a scoop that Bird then denies saying. However, Cataldi taped the interview. Cataldi ends the chapter with “Gotcha.”

In “Loud,” Cataldi takes readers through the many stunts, events, highlights, and lowlights of his life and career, including bouts with depression and anxiety—the end of his first marriage, becoming an adjunct professor (and an excellent stunt he performs while teaching) and meeting Gail, his wife of over 20 years now.

Cataldi devotes pages to his teammates on the show, especially his longtime on-air partner, Al Morganti, who is both hero and anti-hero. Cataldi writes an intriguing portrayal of Al, including his run-in with the late actor Ray Liotta.

He writes with good humor about the many athletes, celebrities, and politicians he has interviewed on the air or dealt with in other settings with enough detail to quench the reader’s appetite.

It’s a little surprising to learn the depth of Cataldi’s personal relationships with listeners off the air. He writes, “One thing I definitely got right was acknowledging from the very beginning that they (the listeners) would be the ultimate judge of my work, not the sports teams and not even my bosses.” On this, he was almost always on point.

The book includes details of road trips with listeners, a listener dying during a broadcast, his own near-death experience, a chainsaw-related injury, and, on a happier note, a kidney donation from one listener to another, among other stories.

Then there are his bosses, including me. When Angelo retired last February, I wrote a column comparing him and Howard Stern.

Stern had Pig Virus (the real-life Kevin Metheny, WNBC PD) portrayed brilliantly in the movie “Private Parts” by Paul Giamatti as Pig Vomit – Kenny Rushton. Angelo had the late Tom Bigby. The two clashed to the point that eventually, Cataldi insisted on and was granted a clause in his contract that prevented Bigby from criticizing or sanctioning him.

The book is personal to me. I was the operations manager at WIP for eight of Angelo’s 33 years (2007-2015). Cataldi had no clause preventing me from such interactions. When I learned he was writing a book, I wondered how he would portray me. The answer: barely. I’m mentioned mostly surrounding an unfortunate incident during Cataldi’s 2008 Phillies championship parade remote broadcast.

Back at the station, people not named by Cataldi were jamming an unmerciful number of commercials into his show. Some of the details aren’t totally correct, but the overall point of the story is true. Throughout the book, I found minor points to correct, but they are all picayune, and none change the material points Cataldi makes.

After Stern, Cataldi is the most talented and successful air personality I have worked with. Reading “Loud” taught me much more about Angelo than I knew. I wish I had all this knowledge on the first day of our relationship.

I’ve previously written about our rocky start. The Eagles decided to test me and pushed me to reign in Angelo literally on my first day at WIP. It caused us to go nose to nose. Only after our shouting match did I realize I’d been set up, and I backed down.

Cataldi writes about me, “He was not Bigby. From that point on, our relationship improved dramatically. For most of his eight years with us, Andy became our loudest and proudest advocate in management.” That’s actually high praise from Cataldi. If I had handled the Eagles first test better, Angelo and I would have accomplished much more.

“Loud” demonstrates that Cataldi misread some of my actions and motives. It’s tough to earn his trust, but ultimately, I didn’t communicate with him well enough.

“Loud” contains much about Cataldi and the Eagles, including owner Jeff Lurie, former President/GM Joe Banner, and his nemesis – Andy Reid. For the book, Cataldi asked former WIP GM Butch Forester if Lurie ever tried to have him fired. Forester answered the question the same way I would: I am unaware that anybody in the Eagles organization ever asked for his firing, but they did not like him.

Contrary to popular belief, Angelo was not wholly unreasonable. I never again told him what opinion to have or topics he could or couldn’t have on the air; never suggested which callers or how long they should be on.

That’s not to suggest I agreed with everything he did, but he had the highest ratings on WIP each month over eight years, with rare exceptions. Commonsense dictated to worry about the other shows and leave the morning show alone.

Over the years, I reasoned with Cataldi to keep his opinions based on performance, not personal. I think Angelo inherently understood this, but we navigated the line together. At some point, he realized it had become too intensely personal between Banner and him beyond the point of being in the listeners’ best interest.

Whether Cataldi agrees or not, my assessment is he toned down the personal attacks after my first couple of years. That made it easier not to go crazy when he occasionally crossed that line.

For those who never attended a Wing Bowl, you missed something spectacular. The days and weeks surrounding Wing Bowl were some of the most intense periods for everybody at WIP. Cataldi writes about the history of the dazzling event.

Cataldi denounces some of his past work, particularly Wing Bowl (much like Stern has done of his past work). However, he understood the value of doing a final Wing Bowl instead of retroactively announcing there would be no future Wing Bowls after the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in 2018.

He writes, “For most of 2018, I argued in vain to hold one final Wing Bowl and to bill it as our last hurrah. What do you say, guys? Let’s do this for the fans. Let’s give our listeners closure. Other than me, the vote was unanimous: No. Wing Bowl was dead.”

Wrong! One programmer would have vociferously argued that doing exactly what you imagined was vital. The idea for the prize for the finale was brilliant! (We had a lot more to accomplish, Ang).

The part that made working with Angelo easy was that he understood it was all about the audience and almost always got it right. He wasn’t there to make friends. He admires listeners and a handful of people – mainly Tom Brookshier.

Early on, when Brookshier had the temperamental Bobby Knight on, Cataldi learned another lesson: “Don’t change the tone of the show to serve your own needs.” When I thought this had happened, was the only time I would speak to Cataldi about content. He would push back but, upon reflection, often back down without saying anything further to me.

What made Cataldi difficult was that his logic didn’t always make sense. Nothing makes that more straightforward than his feelings about Buddy Ryan and Charlie Manuel.

He writes Buddy Ryan was “Heavy, loud, brash, and uninterested in how other people (beyond the customers) saw him.” Remove “heavy” and substitute “listeners” for “customers,” and that sentence would be a fair description of Angelo Cataldi.

Forgetting whether Ryan was a good or bad coach, Buddy understood and played to the fans. It seems after all these years, Angelo looks back at him more forgivingly. Ryan could have served as Cataldi’s inspiration.

His case against Manuel comes down to two things: 1) Charlie’s stammering southern accent (Cataldi calls him a “country bumpkin.” 2) The team’s failure to win more than one World Series. It’s a great sports conversation; should the 2007-2011 Phillies have more than one championship? Angelo can make a good case.

The shame is that Cataldi never spoke with Manuel. My thoughts were like Cataldi’s – until I had a couple of opportunities to talk with Manuel. I’m not friends with Charlie Manuel. I haven’t spoken to him in years and don’t have his contact info, but he’s smart – like a fox.

“Loud” is intriguing, as is its author, Angelo Cataldi. The hardest part about writing this column was deciding – to quote a Bob Seger song – “what to leave in and what to leave out.” I enjoyed the book. Cataldi writes well and is an excellent storyteller. There are many surprises that I have left out but are worth reading.

Further, Cataldi was a master at building an audience-focused product that consistently finished in the top two men 25-54 and top five adults 25-54 for several decades in the competitive Philadelphia market. For anybody looking to create content that builds large audiences, “Loud” is an excellent primer.

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BNM Writers

Proof That Both CNN and Fox News Manipulate Their Audiences

Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias.

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When news organizations collide, journalism loses. Last week, CNN posted on X saying “US inflation cooled down in January, offering some relief for Americans who have suffered through the steepest price hikes in four decades.” The same day Fox News posted “BREAKING: Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.”

While these are seemingly opposite statements, both can be true at the same time. More importantly, both of these outlets are manipulating their audience.

People like their own opinions and want those opinions verified by others. This is what social media has done to news: You read the post, see your opinion is valid, and then move on to the next clickbait (confirmation bias). More importantly, both of these tweets are true because one is based on an estimate, and one is based on actual numbers.

Looking at CNN, while their post on X seems positive, their business headline is a little less positive, “Inflation cooled last month, but some price hikes continue to cause pain.” The change from tweet to headline is striking. One says Americans are getting inflation relief, the other says inflation continuing to cause pain. In today’s world of “Read the headline and move on,” this is why people feel CNN lies. Its post is in conflict with the headline— even though both are true statements.

It’s not until you read the article that people can see how this is possible. The outlet notes overall inflation did cool when comparing January 2023 (6.4%) to January 2024 (3.1%). Four sentences into the article it says, “CPI rose by 0.3% in January.” It goes on to break down why inflation is still high and causing pain in the pockets of Americans. Although the X post is factually correct, people on the right side of the political spectrum feel CNN is untrue because they see the inflation problem in their bank account.

Meanwhile, the Fox News X post and Fox Business headline are identical, “Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.” However, the keyword here is “expected.” Inflation did cool year-over-year. However, because Fox is comparing the January 2024 number to what experts expected the number to be, what they have posted is factually correct. This nuance is sometimes lost on readers.

The article does not mention inflation is down year-over-year. However, nine sentences into the article, the business outlet says, “Inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 9.1%.” The nuance of “expected” combined with the lack of mentioning year-over-year inflation is down is why the left side of the political spectrum believes Fox lies.

Let’s be clear, neither CNN nor Fox News have lied (on this one specific topic). They both chose to present the same data differently. It also needs to be noted, CNN and Fox News are not the only outlets that do this. They all do. Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias. The problem is twofold.

  • Facts are no longer direct but skewed to fit a narrative.
  • Some viewers accept headlines and posts without diving deeper into the article.

We have been trained to share a headline without reading the article. We’ve known this since 2016 when Columbia University and the French National Institute found 59% of shared social media links were never read. We’ve gone from headlines selling newspapers, forcing people to read the articles, to headlines being shared on social media, but people won’t read the articles.

This is only a small part of why The Messenger failed: neutrality. The sentiment of unbiased news was well-intentioned. However, America has lacked unbiased news since 1987 when the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. Many on the left believe this has helped right-leaning outlets. This is false. Not only has it benefited both sides of the aisle, it can be argued the progressives have benefited more than the conservatives (but that is a different article for a different day).

When news outlets collide, the American public loses. Not because we lack news, but because we lack the ability to read the full scope of the issues in one place. Outlets are not forced to present all sides of the political argument or present the entirety of data sets. Additionally, news is not being fully read. Headlines are now king. Shares, clicks, and likes keep the lights on in newsrooms. Most importantly, facts are now nuanced. This forces debate instead of continuity and cohesion.

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BNM Writers

Does Dealing With Criticism Ever Get Easier?

Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.

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A photo of the word Truth written on a typewriter

Thick skin. If you work in media, you gotta have it. If you don’t, you either won’t last or you won’t sleep – or both.

Even if you are neutral politically, super nice, and in it for all the right reasons, there always will be people who criticize you, and some will even make it personal.

Having “thick skin” is a cliché I’ve been thinking about and dealing with for years. I find it fascinating that, somehow, I am way more sensitive at home than I am at work – and by at work, I mean on the air for hours every day.

Even the angriest of listeners are engaging, and engagement is what I want. Sometimes, it can throw a show off-balance, but if handled properly, it should never fully derail you.

Over the years, I have modified my professional behavior, perspective, and attitude, yet my foundational approach has not changed. It began with my first full-time television job when a journalist/mentor of mine told me not to ever act interested in ratings. Rather, he said, focus on my performance and content — the rest would take care of itself.

In my first two anchor/host jobs, it worked wonderfully. I immersed myself in the job, and the ratings were strong. I thought it was a mandate to always take this approach, although in retrospect, I was probably more lucky than good. Regardless, following that mantra actually allowed me to learn my craft and not be overly aware that ratings mattered.

Ignorance was journalistic bliss.

Flash forward to 2024 and it all seems rather naïve, but I think the approach really works well with criticism, too, whether it be on social media, through phone calls or even with fellow hosts.

Just a quick note on nuance: Look at the sentence four paragraphs above – don’t act interested. Looking back at the guidance given by my mentor, his point also seemed to be that even if you are laser-focused on how a show is rating, don’t make it a major topic of conversation, and don’t let people think it defines you as a broadcaster and journalist.

All of it may seem like advice from Fantasyland, but in an indirect way, this approach also makes me less vulnerable to criticism. I simply don’t focus on it too much, and over time, it stopped bothering me even if I did focus on it. Make sense?

Of course, it’s not as if I like it when a listener rips me or the show, either directly or on social media; but I never engage emotionally, and if I do respond in any way, it’s usually content-focused.

That’s the key.

Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.

You have the conch. Never forget that.

Ultimately, you’ll feel better, especially knowing you did not take the bait and handled it professionally – no need to create any more tension than is already out in the media eether.

That brings me to the moment a host of a show on my station was sharply critical of an interview I had done, saying it was soft, and not holding the guest (a sitting U.S. Senator) accountable enough.

Specific questions were put forth that absolutely should have been asked, according to the host, and honestly, it was used as a chest puffer for that person to show why certain guests were scared to come on that later show.

And … I thought it was great.

Great?

Well, maybe not great, but I actually had no problem with it. First and foremost, they were talking about it, which is good. When I can provide that kind of grist, it’s good radio. It wasn’t always easy to listen to — I was still in the office doing some booking — but for some reason, it did not bother me. This from a guy who gets a one-second side eye from my wife of 20 years, and I think our marriage is in trouble.

In the end, a few of the criticisms were helpful, believe it or not: One or two of the suggested questions put forth on the later show should have been asked.

It’s all part of the balance I seek to create a place where members of both political parties feel comfortable coming on our network. I always reserve the right to ask difficult questions, and I do ask them (apparently not enough for some), but I also try and be balanced and manage relationships.

It’s delicate, and sometimes, elicits criticism – sometimes deserved. Meanwhile, I just focus on the content, naïve as that may be.

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CBS Mornings Scores Big Post-Super Ratings Win

CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of the CBS Mornings logo

The historic ratings milestones continue for CBS as a result of Super Bowl LVIII.

Less than nine hours following what turned out to be the most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history to date (120.25 million of the near-124 million watching Super Bowl LVIII did so on CBS), CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.

For the Monday, Feb. 12 edition of CBS Mornings, which featured co-host Nate Burleson from Las Vegas, the site of Super Bowl LVIII, and a visit from Jon Stewart in New York to promote his Daily Show return (which generated great ratings milestones of its own later that night), it delivered 2.9 million total viewers including 654,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked its best total audience and demo figures since Feb. 4, 2022.

CBS Mornings topped ABC’s Good Morning America, the usual morning news viewer leader, by a mere 7,000 viewers; it also outdrew NBC’s Today (2.86 million) by 49,000 viewers.

CBS also bested ABC in A25-54 by +103,000; the sixth time CBS Mornings has led over Good Morning America this season based on the key demo.

This was not the first time a morning show benefited from a halo effect of what the network had aired the night prior. Mar. 8, 2021, was the first time CBS won in the morning. It was the day after Oprah Winfrey’s primetime interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had aired which drew 17.1 million viewers for CBS. The Mar. 8, 2021 edition of CBS This Morning featured an exclusive interview with Winfrey and the premiere of never-before-seen clips from the Meghan and Prince Harry discussion, had delivered 4.793 million viewers with 1.026 million of them in the 25-54 demographic.

The program changed its title to CBS Mornings in September 2021.

For this 2023-24 season, CBS Mornings has the smallest deficit margin in viewers with ABC’s Good Morning America since the 2017-18 season and the tightest margin in A25-54 ever.

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