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How to Use Radio Network News to Your Advantage

Using the services of more than network offers options, it strengthens the overall product and it very well will be helping to do what we indeed hope it will: keep the medium alive.

Bill Zito

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Content. It’s what make the news platforms what they are, especially radio, always a struggling medium. Where are they without the information?

So, in a move for the New Year, WTOP-FM in Washington has added content from ABC News Radio to its broadcast menu. It’s not an affiliate switch, its simply and smartly an increase in that which drives the news, substance. The station is staying with CBS News as its network at the top and bottom of the hours and will continue to use their fed content.

But now, it’s kind of like the Mets getting to use the Yankees players too or the Giants using the Jets…well, forget that, bad example, especially this year.

Most local radio stations rely on a network news provider not only for their national content but often enough live feeds, long form event coverage and the ability to arrange exclusive content and conversation with network reporters as they cover the happenings across the country and around the world.

That sounds simple enough but often there are specific shortcomings and concessions to be made when a station is under a business arrangement with a particular news network. That’s usually the case in news radio.

Whether it’s a commitment to clearing too much network commercial inventory or restrictions on carrying live or special programming without additional costs, it’s not unusual for newsroom staff and management to wish aloud that they were part of one of the other news network clients.

“Why can’t we be a ____ affiliate?”

The truth is, depending on a local station’s wants and needs, the grass can very well be greener on the other side, it just probably is a tad too expensive to make happen. In other cases, that local station’s competitor in the market is already the desired network’s affiliate and maybe they’re not making the best use of what they have access to.

Problems, problems, problems.

So, like WTOP, like WBZ in Boston, 1010 WINS in New York, and more than a handful of stations around the country who are able to do it, there is a potential solution for content improvement: Engage the competition in that quest for dominance in the market. Easier said than done I understand as no doubt there are often varying types of roadblocks to the concept.

Those aside, I find myself more engaged with stations that feature content from multiple network sources and the novelty of hearing differing perspectives and reporters during the course of a broadcast day.

While it may be more interesting a concept to people in the business, the audience does not lose in the process. There are plenty of news devotees who check in throughout the day, especially when the wheels are turning in DC, Gaza or Ukraine or countless other locales. These people want the best and the newest information and no, to that effect they do not always have to have it first. To benefit from a CBS report in the morning, AP, BBC and later ABC or Fox throughout the broadcast day is what a true news junkie might well be dreaming of.

I have spoken of or alluded to on prior occasions the increasing limitations or the eroding quality a network may be providing its affiliate and therefore its audience. From a local newsroom standpoint, nothing is more frustrating and debilitating than waiting far too long for network fed audio cuts of the State of The Union Address or a news conference on a major event to appear for download and use on air. It’s difficult to find and be victimized by the limitations in live coverage of breaking news simply because the network cannot staff the additional channels or editorial desks.

It’s certainly a problem that all the networks face and when that happens the affiliate stations and the audience are the real losers.

It’s certainly not uncommon for the networks and locals to make use of their TV partners or digital/newspaper associates for their coverage so at this stage of the game why not improve the product as a whole. Our audience knows when newspapers fold, news radio stations disintegrate, and information is difficult to find or rely on.

TV Newscasts rarely disappear, ever notice that? In fact, they keep adding them throughout the day. I still am befuddled by that.

For news radio, why not keep what is left around for as long as possible by making it all as good and as strong as possible?

Will Fox News Radio really care so much about competition as long as some of their content is clearing on a station or in a market where it previously wasn’t? Will they not share with ABC or CBS or AP?

Those are not rhetorical questions; I really would like to know as I’m no whiz kid when it comes to the business end of broadcast journalism.

Think of it as a mini merger of sorts, not of businesses or corporations, but of resources. Competition is put to the side in favor of two or more providers getting a piece of the pie. The location station improves its product while those content providers fill the gaps in service left by one or the other.

The station can clear top and bottom of the hour newscast from one network, special reports and live coverage from another, even produced wraps, voicers and actualities from either, both or a third player.

Naturally, there are rules to play by but I’m fairly sure those in the business end of things are capable enough to make things work if it means additional revenue or even staving off bankruptcy and insolvency. (Those words usually get somebody’s attention)

Also, I do realize there are some smaller news radio content providers that I have not mentioned. I would welcome them or encourage local stations not to count them out when considering adding more content. Variety, they say…

Using the services of more than network offers options, it strengthens the overall product and it very well will be helping to do what we indeed hope it will: keep the medium alive.

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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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