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Saluting Black Broadcasters: Tajh Lewis, The Shadow Show

“You’d be surprised how many kids could have direction, if they just have people that look like them, that care about where they are and can give them the tools to get to the next level…”

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He was one of YouTube’s first stars while in High School. Tajh Lewis along with some friends focused on making relevant and relatable comedy for an audience he feels still doesn’t get enough story recognition.

“I was a high school kid at the time, just kind of looking at my surroundings. And I just wanted to make, like, relatable comedy stuff that related to people my age,” Lewis told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

Born in Manhattan, Tajh Lewis grew up in Brooklyn until the age of 9 and moved to Rockland County in New York. This experience motivated the then-young teen to develop his YouTube channel. “I started my channel, which is called The Shadow Show, around 2006 and just made funny skits and stuff. From there I started to develop more as a writer,” Lewis said.

He acknowledged the channel changed as he grew older, “It kind of evolved from being a high school kid to being Black in a PWI, which is a predominantly white institution, and then just kept evolving and evolving, evolving from my perspective.” He added his main thread is also his strength, “It was always making some type of relatable comedy. It was kind of a point of confidence for me. I might not be the biggest or the tallest or the strongest, but I can make you laugh.”

Over time, Lewis developed a series on YouTube, educating the public on Black American History. “It’s weird saying this in 2024, but [back then] there wasn’t a lot of representation growing up.” He added, “There’s not a lot of Black history that was told to me outside of slavery, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. The same culprits, right? So every February, I went out and did my own research.”

Tajh Lewis noted this work was intertwined with his comedic tagline “Real talk that’s real funny,” because he wanted viewers to learn and be entertained. “I was just like, there’s so many, contributions that we’ve done as a people. Not only music and athletics but also invention wise, engineering wise. There’s so many contributions we’ve made,” he said.

Lewis began his own production company in 2016, “Because I was writing, directing, acting in producing everything myself, I had a knack for video editing. So I started taking out more seriously, started doing more clientele work.”

The YouTube star is now taking his efforts to both the silver and streaming screens. He has a short film green-lit for 2025 and is developing a pilot. However, Lewis wanted it to be known what he develops isn’t just another “Black film” saying, “In media right now, I think the message got a little crisscrossed. I think Hollywood kind of was like, ‘Okay, you guys want to see yourselves? So we’re going to put you in everything.’”

While Tajh Lewis appreciates the effort he noted, “They just throw us in a bunch of stuff and they’re just greenlighting a bunch of stuff, but they’re not focusing on the story and making it good.”

He later added, “So then the narrative becomes ‘Why are we giving them the opportunity to do this and all of [these films] bomb in the theaters and nobody watches this stuff on streaming?’ It’s not that because they were Black, it’s because the story is bad.”

Lewis notes his media production company, Radio Digital, does not create and develop stories like Hollywood. Instead, its focus is on stories. “My CEO likes to say that, ‘We are the Black A24.’ We try to make thought-provoking, well-produced, off-the-charts story, off-the-charts cinematography, but from people who are mostly Bipoc. We’re all Black and Hispanic.”

Focusing on scripting, Tajh Lewis’ goal is to better represent minority groups in film.

“I would say, as a people we have different representations and different stories to tell that aren’t just from this disenfranchised, hood perspective. And I think stories can get too caught up in that.” Lewis also added, “On the flip side, we have the racial trauma, true stories that need to be told. But they’re told too much, whereas a Black person, I know what it is to be Black in America. I don’t want to go watch a movie about how hard it is to be me. You know what I mean? I want to have the same escapism as my white and European counterparts.”

His ideas are catching on. His short film Black is Black was received at film festivals around the country and won three awards. Lewis said of his team, “We have two big short films under our belt. One feature with Amazon.”

He added, “We just finished production for, a new short film we’re working on called Break a Leg. And that should hopefully be coming out 2025, but we’re in post for it right now.”

In all this silver screen effort, Lewis won’t be forgetting the platform that made him famous in the first place, YouTube. He will be re-branding The Shadow Show later this year. Like from the very beginning, the channel will continue to develop and grow just as Lewis does. This year will bring him an exceptional amount of new content influence as he is getting married and having a baby.

While preparing for two major life events Lewis is spending his time sharing his influence with young people at the Brownsville Recreation Center. “You’d be surprised how many kids could have direction, if they just have people that look like them, that care about where they are and can give them the tools to get to the next level, give them other variations of what their life can be.”

Tajh Lewis added, “You know, a lot of the kids right now they love music. So cool, you want to be in music, and you want to be a musician. It’s very hard to be in that industry. But you can learn how to be a sound engineer and how you can turn that passion into profit. Right? You can work your way up in that way. So maybe you’re not the talent necessarily, but you can be the songwriter. You can be the sound engineer, you can be the producer.”

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News Media Should Have Thrown Shade at Eclipse Hysteria

Just stop it. You know better.

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A photo of an eclipse

The news media coverage of the eclipse this week was borderline ridiculous.

“In the cozy corners of our homes, where the laughter of our children should resonate
with joy and curiosity, a shadow has been cast—not by the celestial ballet of the sun and moon during a total eclipse, but by the media’s relentless frenzy surrounding these celestial events. As a parent watching this unfold, I can’t help but feel a mix of frustration and concern.”

Those aren’t my words. They were posted earlier this week on LinkedIn by a man named Chuck Leblo. He continues: “. . . the media’s approach to covering total eclipses has shifted from educational and awe-inspiring to sensational and anxiety-inducing.”

I’ve never met Mr. Leblo. He describes himself as a strategist and professional problem
solver. More to the point, he’s a family man with uncommonly common sense.

“Gone are the days when an eclipse was a chance for families to gather, armed with nothing but protective glasses and a sense of wonder, to watch the moon dance with the sun. Instead, we’re bombarded with headlines screaming about potential disasters, the dangers of improper viewing, and an array of eclipse-induced calamities waiting to befall the unprepared.”

Chuck – (I sense a kinship, I believe he’ll allow me to address him by his first name) was blessed to be in the path of totality for Monday’s stellar phenomenon, as was I. Because of that, we were probably dosed with more frenzied hyperbole than most Americans suffered. Weeks ago we were warned that half of the planet’s population would surely descend on our neighborhoods, throwing our lives into chaos.

Headlines:
“The April total solar eclipse could snarl traffic for hours across thousands of miles” – USA Today, April 7

‘Plan now’: Dallas leaders urge residents to prepare for crowds, congestion during solar eclipse” – NBC-DFW, April 2

“Large crowds in the path of the total solar eclipse April 8th could put a strain on cell service” – TheWeatherNetwork.com, April 5

The governors of Arkansas and Indiana issued proactive states of emergency. Cities and counties from Texas to Toronto did too. This all hit home for me around two weeks ago when my wife ordered me to stock up on food and tp as we did during the COVID-19 crisis.

S—’s getting real.

As I write this on Tuesday, April 9, the day after the eclipse, I can’t find a single reported case of hotel and car rental madness anywhere in the U.S. Traffic snarls? I was out and about yesterday before totality. Traffic actually seemed less than usual, as it has been this morning.

I’ve heard some radio reports (aka rumors) suggesting that fear of traffic congestion has people holing up in bars and drinking heavily. Allegedly. No sign of that, either, officially
or anecdotally.

Zebras, ostriches and people huddled at Dallas Zoo as solar eclipse darkened the grounds – Dallas Morning News, April 9

That’s the biggest morning-after headline here in the largest city in the path of totality.

Chuck and I think the news media has jumped the shark. We’d be laughing about it over a beer if we ever met and it wasn’t so maddening.

“What message does this send to our children,” Chuck asks. “Instead of marveling at the wonders of the universe and the scientific principles behind such events, they’re left wringing their hands in worry. The media’s penchant for dramatizing natural phenomena has transformed a teaching moment into a source of stress. Our children, who look to us for understanding and reassurance, are met with our own concerns, magnified by sensationalist reports.”

On December 16, 1982, I was anchoring the news at KGNR, Sacramento, when a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber crashed shortly after takeoff from nearby Mather AFB. Rumors of nuclear weapons on board flashed through the community.

My boss, WGN of California G.M. Robert Henley, came into the studio and reminded me to keep our audience calm and reassure them that we’re still looking for facts. I knew that, he was just reminding me. We didn’t add any conjecture or speculation. We never said things like, “We’ve heard…” or, “What if…”. All we said was, “Here’s what we know right now…”

In that case, nine crew members died in the crash but there were no nukes on board. Local and national media handled the story with the proper, professional perspective that was beyond question in those days.

Professional news reports beyond question, just the facts, no hype. Just imagine.

If that bomber was to crash locally now I shudder to imagine the shock wave produced by local media following the lead of social media lies and hysteria.

“In a world where information is at our fingertips, it’s disappointing to see fear used as a
tactic to grab attention. The total eclipse should be a moment of unity, wonder, and learning, not a cause for anxiety.” – Chuck Leblo

Yesterday afternoon I stood in my driveway with my officially approved protective lenses and watched the total eclipse. Pushing 73, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before and will never see again. I shared the thrill with Chris, my teenage neighbor. We usually only howdy at the mail box but we shared some real neighborly excitement yesterday.

Chuck, his wife, and their eight-year-old son watched the eclipse with a picnic blanket in their front yard.

Chuck and I want to end the hype. Stop the bulls—. Just stop it. You know better.

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Kristina Koppeser Takes Pride in Leading Community Service at KYW Newsradio

We’re really proud of the Crystal Award nomination. I’m going to be there on Tuesday. So I hope I’m accepting and I’m accepting it.

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A photo of the KYW logo and Kristina Koppeser
(Photo: Kristina Koppeser)

As many in the industry head to Las Vegas for NAB, Barrett News Media was able to catch up with some of the speakers this year, including, KYW Newsradio Brand Manager Kristina Koppeser.

Not only will she be speaking on recruiting and talent retention she will be representing station as they are nominated for a Crystal Award.

Krystina Alarcon Carroll: How did you get into the industry?

Kristina Koppeser: I have been working in news media in some fashion for over a decade. Radio I kind of got into a few years ago. I’m actually new-ish. I worked in television before [radio] and before [TV] I work in traditional digital media. I worked at Twitter, now X, for a while, and [Twitter] is where I sank my teeth into breaking news for the first time in my career, and I really enjoyed it.

So that kind of parlayed a job into a Hearst Television role. Then the pandemic hit, my husband and I were living in New York City but the space was just not doing it for us anymore. So we started looking at other cities we could live in and I saw this opening for a digital managing editor got that job. Now I’m here and I’m running the station, two years later.

KC: So what are you going to be talking about at NAB?

KK: So I am doing a talk on recruiting, talent retention, which is something I think we’re all thinking about constantly in this industry. Radio is one of the oldest mediums, but I think as we move into the next generation and the 21st century, we’re kind of thinking about ways that we can diversify, not only what people are doing, but what audio is. Radio is still the bulk of our business, but people are on their phones now. So, that digital aspect is important.

Finding people who can learn both do both and are not afraid of trying new things is a really important part of what I’m doing.

We have a very diverse newsroom that I’m very proud of. It’s very reflective of Philadelphia, and I think that’s really important in our storytelling and making sure that we have people in our newsroom who know and understand the city in a way that I think less diverse newsrooms don’t have that kind of breadth of knowledge. So I’ll talk a little bit on that, but really, it’s about how to find the right people and how to kind of look for diamonds in the rough.

I’ve always in any job tried to go off the beaten path to find somebody who I think might not be a shoo-in on paper, but there’s something about them that I’m like, ‘I think that I can make this work,’ and I think I can find something about their background or whatever that might not be. I think I speak to that, too. I’m not a traditional radio person in that I’m running a radio station.

KC: Your station was nominated for a Crystal Award this year. Is volunteering something you look for in your team? And why is that so important?

KK: Not actively, because it’s one of those things where we have — the brand kind of attracts people who naturally are inclined to volunteer. We’re really proud of the Crystal Award nomination. I’m going to be there on Tuesday. So I hope I’m accepting and I’m accepting it.

But I think that people who do spend their time — their free time — giving back to the community is very much what it’s about. In our work and our personal lives, our community always comes first. I like to think of us as public servants. What we’re doing is we’re providing a public service through information to this city under the collar counties and South Jersey. So while it’s not something that I think is an absolute must, it comes up naturally in interviews.

If you look at the nominees, when I was talking to our staff about all the things that they did I was humbled and floored. We’ve got people who volunteer in anything from community theater, volunteer firefighting, the Boy Scouts, Gift of Life, American Cancer Society and National Brain Tumor Society, coaching youth sports, food programs, historical societies, and more.

We have all sorts of people from all different walks of life just donating their time, which I think is great. I can talk about it forever because I’m so proud of everybody and we have such an amazing group of people who are just really selfless. On top of everything else.

KC: What’s the advice you have for young people who are looking to follow in your footsteps?

KK: Oh, that’s a really good question. One piece of advice I have just in general is I say yes to everything that excites you, right? I talk to young students who are trying to go into broadcast and be an on-air talent. I say it’s great to have a goal but I think that it’s important to know that there are many paths to get there and that it’s not it might not be the first thing you do, and your career is going to be long.

It’s hard sometimes to communicate that to people who their professional life is only one year, right? So, I tell them to say yes. To look at every interview as a learning experience, to like the interview process can be rigorous and sometimes really, disheartening if you’re going to know if you’re not going to return back.

Another piece of advice I have for young people wanting to get started in the industry is focus on being versatile. Media is not just one thing anymore — social media skills, as well as broadcast skills — are essential to reporting and journalism. So learning early to be adaptable, and to find ways to become a newsroom “Swiss army knife” as I like to call it, puts you in a better position to learn and succeed.

All of those things are going to make sense one day and it’s hard to kind of find that faith, but I can look at my resume and I have said yes to a lot of very different types of roles over the years. But the reason I did that is because I knew that if I could try something different or new, challenge myself, I’d come out the other side more knowledgeable and a better candidate for whatever came next.

Lastly, be comfortable with chaos. Someone once told me that in an interview, and I was like, ‘I think I could do that.’ Everybody should be comfortable with chaos.

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Why News/Talk Radio Should Champion Debates in 2024 And Beyond

We should want them to get on stage because if not, it will only encourage those all the way down to our local level not to step on the debate stage.

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A photo of the 2024 Republican Presidential candidates
(Photo: Fox News)

This week, news broke that the major TV networks were working on sending letters to the Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns, essentially pleading with both men to commit to Presidential debates later this fall. And it should be of concern to each and every news/talk radio host in the country.

The letter, which included NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, and CNN and has not been finalized, notes that general election debates have “played a vital role in every presidential election of the past 50 years, dating to 1976,” with “tens of millions” tuning in to watch a competition of ideas for the votes of American citizens.

“Though it is too early for invitations to be extended to any candidates, it is not too early for candidates who expect to meet the eligibility criteria to publicly state their support for – and their intention to participate in – the Commission’s debates planned for this fall,” the letter states.

Biden has not publicly committed to debating Trump, although he has not ruled it out.

“It depends on his behavior,” Biden said in early March.

Trump has posted on social media that he will debate “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

I have seen many in the News/Talk radio space opine that the debates are overrated, don’t matter, and we should not care whether or not these two take the stage. But we should care. And we should want them to get on stage because if not, it will only encourage those all the way down to our local level not to step on the debate stage.

I can speak firsthand about how difficult it has been to get even our most local candidates, like mayors, to debate in recent election cycles. Candidates don’t want to do it, partly because the quality and depth of candidates get weaker by the cycle and because their consultants and advisors tell them not to debate. They perceive the downside to exceed the upside. No one will remember the good things you say, but if you have a massive blunder, it may sink your campaign.

It’s fecklessness from the candidate and control from the consulting class. And in the end, the biggest loser is the voter. They get bombarded with TV, radio, and digital ads while not really knowing how a candidate handles anything of substance, thinks on one’s feet, what their presence is like in the public arena, and so much more that allows voters to gauge the quality of a candidate beyond their political party identification and talking points.

If Donald Trump and Joe Biden never step on the debate stage this fall, you can likely kiss most debates goodbye. They’re already falling by the wayside in federal, state, and local races, and if the two Presidential candidates opt out, you will only see more of that down the ballot.

“If there is one thing Americans can agree on during this polarized time, it is that the stakes of this election are exceptionally high,” the TV networks stated in the letter. “Amidst that backdrop, there is simply no substitute for the candidates debating with each other, and before the American people, their visions for the future of our nation.”

This is the pitch that local TV and radio stations should also make to their area’s Senate, Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Mayoral candidates. Given the partisan nature of our politics, the voter may not need it, but they certainly do deserve it.

Selfishly, these are content generators, and can be revenue generators for TV and radio, but two things can be true at once. Yes, they’re good for our business, but they’re also beneficial for the voter.

Without them, it’s another barrier being put up between our candidates and the electorate. And nothing about that is American.

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