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When Local Media Has the Upper Hand on National Networks

Local reporters can tell us more about what happened in their backyards and what it means to the people who live there than a network correspondent and crew hastily flown in for the evening news.

Bill Zito

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A photo of a TV camera during an interview

For as long as I have heard it discussed, the network has been the brass ring, the big prize, and reaching that “station” in one’s media career meant more than just some added prestige and an added zero on a paycheck.

As I have heard in numerous conversations with reporters, producers, photographers, etc. joining the three-letter club meant you had finally arrived in the business and all your hard work covering city council meetings, single-car crashes, and local fundraisers had paid off.

I suppose it’s still like making it to the show after toiling in the minor leagues for a few years but from where I sit, I am noticing not only a great deal more parity between network and local but an increasing reliance by one upon the other.

And rightly so if you ask me and it’s about time we recognized it.

I like what I’ve been seeing on the network newscasts of late; unfamiliar faces telling us the stories that are happening in their territory. This is not a new concept but it’s occurring more frequently and it’s something that I think will sustain broadcast news and bridge those wide gaps that exist between national and regional storytelling as well as those separating the network people from their local partners.

Let’s be real about the product for a moment. If you’ve ever been on the scene of the big story you may have been witness to an almost symbolic parting of the seas when the network shows up as if to say, this tale needs our blessing and our help to be told to a national audience so we have come to elevate it to the masses.

Yes, a bit of an exaggeration but if you go in for movie and TV stereotypes, think of when the FBI shows up at Nakatomi Plaza and announces to the LAPD that they’re taking over Hans Gruber’s hostage scene.

(From an ex-cop’s perspective, I have a few chuckles to share about that real-life concept and I can clue you in on what local cops say the letters FBI, ATF & DEA stand for. See me after class).

In any case, what once was is not what is now when it comes to news coverage. Big stories that happen someplace local (Don’t they all, really?) no longer become network property by default. It seems the news bosses often know a good thing when they see it so more, they are leaving it to the experts, the people who live there, who know where they are.

The locals.

Not that national correspondents lack the capacity to inform us on local news, it’s simply smoother to get the information from someone who knows what happened in the area before the story did and what it will mean now, tomorrow, and a month from now.

Frankly, I feel better informed by WCBS-TV Reporter Tony Aiello, who tells his stories right next store to where a tanker crash destroyed a bridge in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The networks provided heavy coverage of the mammoth storms and flooding in Texas but doesn’t KTRK’s Lileana Pearson have more than a leg up information-wise on what impact a cresting San Jacinto River will have on the neighboring communities?

WBTV’s Ron Lewis was certainly able to give national audiences a clearer, more intimate look at the tragic deaths of four law enforcement officers during a shootout with an armed fugitive in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fox 13 Seattle’s Dave Detling was quite adept at spinning animal yarns when four zebras escaped containment along I-90 in North Bend. And national audiences no doubt kept up as the search continued on for several days when one of them decided to stay out well past curfew.

Local reporters, photographers, and producers can tell us more about what happened in their backyards and what it means to the people who live there than a network correspondent and crew hastily flown in for the evening news. That’s not a knock against the network or the correspondent, it’s only common sense.

Some stories struggle for angles, sidebars, and follow-ups but they usually are out there and with the idea of local and national working together, there sits the prospect of quality comprehensive coverage.

Give me people who know their audience, their community, and what happens next when the big story happens to them. Let them tell us what it will mean with fresh, firsthand accounts. This is when we need more than a much more familiar name and face being spoon-fed information by a field producer or worse somebody a thousand miles away talking in their ear.

Luckily, I’m starting to believe the networks are realizing they are not making it work with generic, overplayed references and subjective facts.

Pass the microphones to those who were there from the start and will be there when network sat trucks pull away.

Along with being a public relations win and a feather in the cap of credibility, it’s potential victory in the ledger as networks and stations make their budget cuts every six months.

Furthermore, I think America deserves to see who’s out there among the markets, large and small. Do you think a local journalist in Chattanooga can’t tell a good story based in their city and make it relatable and informative?

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of room for the national correspondent. You know them, they show up on GMA or The Today Show and magically reappear for the evening newscasts. They’re seasoned and poised with not a hair out of place unless the bosses back in New York want it to be.

Meanwhile, the General Assignment Reporter in Des Moines is on their third story of the day but is graciously gifted with a photographer for the live hit on the network cast, unless of course, they truck in the network’s ace from Chicago, the one who’s never set foot in Iowa before today.

They say good business begins with good business practices. Okay maybe “they” don’t say that, perhaps it was only me and if that’s the case, I said it first and I want full credit and any subsidiary rights and merchandising deals that follow.

Read the trades, everybody is in financial straits, layoffs happen every month (read last week’s column) and the news executives are getting their names and faces splashed all over the place because their bosses are unimpressed with their results or just don’t trust them anymore.

Networks, locals, and the media companies that own most of the stations have to find new ways to make the old business work and step one is by improving the product and spending the money wisely.

Why be redundant?

If the local affiliate reporter can provide the national audience with the national story, why jet a team there to tell us the same things only diluted by geographic ignorance?

Believe it or not, the dwindling audiences can see, hear, and read the difference.

I for one, whenever possible always support local businesses.

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BNM Writers

Kraig Kitchin Knows and Values the Importance of the Radio Hall of Fame

“I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine a spotlight on the … brilliance of others. I don’t stop to think about if there’s a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Kraig T. Kitchin
(Photo: Kraig T. Kitchin)

When the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class was announced earlier this month, Kraig Kitchin was surprised by one name on the list: his own.

Kitchin — the co-founder of Premiere Networks — is the co-chair of the Radio Hall of Fame and said he was surprised to receive the honor.

“I was pleasantly shocked,” Kitchin said. “Incredibly humbled by the gesture. Very grateful to be recognized. I am first and foremost somebody who likes to shine the spotlight on the talent, and hard work, and creativity, and brilliance of others.

“I don’t stop to think about ‘Is there a place for me in the Radio Hall of Fame?’ as much as I think about ‘How do we best showcase and reward people who have really, truly made a forever impact on our industry?” I really didn’t put myself into that consideration set, but I’m humbled that others might have felt that was appropriate.”

Usually on the other side of the phone call informing someone they’ll be inducted into the next Hall of Fame class, Kitchin called finding out he would join the list of this year’s inductees surreal.

“I have spent the better part of the last 10 years doing everything I can to make sure that the Radio Hall of Fame is truly a destination for everybody in our industry, regardless of whether or not they’re in front of the microphone or behind the microphone,” he shared. “So, to have the opportunity to experience the sensation that I am really working hard to provide for so many others, it’s a sensation that actually immediately captures you in such a way that you are without words.”

Obviously, as the co-chair of the Hall, Kraig Kitchin holds it in high esteem. But there’s a deeper connection with the history of the medium and chronicling that history for future generations for the longtime radio executive.

“I think it is most important for our industry to have a vibrant Radio Hall of Fame and meaningful one that is just full of integrity in it’s decision-making process and the way in which they recognize and choose inductees,” he said. “We’re blessed to work in such an industry to begin with. You and I both know how special it is to be in a medium that you can connect with individuals on an everyday basis that you can develop a relationship that is so deeply interpersonal and does so much for different communities. And an industry that has sustained more than 100 years those kinds of relationships.

“So to me I’m really committed to making sure that our industry has a forever history of recognizing individuals who are just really making a difference and listeners minds and hearts, whether or not it’s one person at a time or decades and decades or service, whatever that might be, depending on the inductees that’s chosen.”

When asked what qualities currently define the radio industry, it didn’t take Kraig Kitchin long to rattle off his viewpoints.

“Resilience is one. Innovation is a second. Optimism in the face of a very tough economic circumstance is a third. Creativity amongst all else is a fourth,” Kitchin shared in rapid-fire succession.

“An innate commitment from an on-air personality to make a relationship — to set a date at the exact same time, day-in and day-out for five or six days a week for a forever period of time, knowing full well that if they make a date with a listener, there’s a very good likelihood that a listener is going to make a similar date with that on-air personality and maintain that relationship. I can’t think of another place in all of media where that implicit trust — without saying as much — lives on today.”

Joining Kraig Kitchin in the 2024 Radio Hall of Fame class are:

  • Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase (The Crook & Chase Countdown)
  • Lee Harris (Former 1010 WINS anchor)
  • Phil Hendrie (former comedy talk show host)
  • Jaime Jarrin (former Spanish radio play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers)
  • Kraig Kitchin (Co-founder of Premiere Networks and Co-Chair of Radio Hall of Fame)
  • Barry Mayo (former GM of 98.7 WRKS in New York)
  • Mary McCoy (longest female radio career, began in 1951)
  • Matt Siegel (former Matty in the Morning host in Boston)

Kitchin was incredibly complimentary of his fellow inductees, each by name and listing off their accomplishments off the cuff.

“It’s gonna shape up to be a great induction class,” said Kitchin. “I’m thrilled to see those individuals receive their induction this year, regardless of whether or not I’m fortunate enough to be in their class. I’m proud and very much looking forward to spending time in person with this fellow inductee class.”

The Radio Hall of Fame class of 2024 will be inducted in a ceremony on Thursday, September 19th at the Omni Nashville.

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BNM Writers

The Real Reson Why the CNN Debate is Coveted By Every Network

“This debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.”

Bill Zito

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A photo of the CNN logo on a tablet

Everybody wants in. It doesn’t really matter who is actually hosting Thursday’s Presidential Debate, (It’s CNN, if you care) you won’t have to look very hard to find it on TV, radio, live stream, social media, or perhaps even on the stage, performed artistically in real-time by interpretive dance troupes across the nation.

Some platforms will do it better than others, of course. TV and livestream coverage will fare most triumphantly, I expect as who wants to miss the facial expressions, the visible acrimony, and the overall frustration of two old men whose belligerent commentary and interruptions of each other will be mostly lost on an audience without visual reference. I still say radio should be permitted to utilize play-by-play and color commentary for their listeners.

“A crimson-faced former President Trump is repeatedly parroting the words, ‘Crooked Joe, Crooked Joe’0 over a muted microphone as a stoic, almost undemonstrative President Biden enters minute four of his rambling claims that Abraham Lincoln created the NASA program.”

I would listen to that and just watch the TV broadcast with the sound off.

There are differing opinions across the political arenas and perhaps a few pockets of voters, but I am comfortable holding the idea that this debate will answer more than enough questions as to where the candidates really are in this race.

The first face-off is likely to be the only one that matters and the smart news outlets know it and they are not going to let competition stand in their way.

News coverage, no matter where you find it offers carefully crafted, artfully edited, and strategically presented soundbites, video segments, and bits of sit-down interviews with the current and former presidents so this will be the first and most important chance for voters of all kinds to look, analyze and decide for themselves if one, or either of these men have enough left to do the job.

The parties and their lemmings already know who they want so they won’t care what they see, the undecided voter, who is often inaccurately pegged as the uninformed voter, will be scrutinized intently as really, this is their only opportunity to make the decision solely by themselves, without the buzzing of chronic zealots or intense political marketing.

Yes, there is a second debate scheduled (hosted by ABC, if you care) on September 10, but really, if you think about it, it could all be a moot point by then.

Everything is likely to be thrown into this week’s debate, by the candidates, the news outlets, the voters, everyone. A second outing three months later is unlikely to offer the same impact, no matter how close to election day it may be.

It rarely is lucrative to be number two. Apollo 12 landed on the moon just four months after Armstrong and Aldrin did in Apollo 11. Yes, poor Mike Collins was stuck up in the command module but without Googling it, name one astronaut on the Apollo 12 mission.

If you think about it, the networks and the cable channels are in a constant battle not only for ratings points but also for respect and relevancy. Their market is forever shrinking, being nibbled away by every other possible platform in existence. USA Today, a print and digital outlet, has hooked on by offering the debate on YouTube.

That’s just one option, by Thursday there will be others to join Fox News, NBC, and ABC piggybacking on CNN’s broadcast for what’s becoming NFL Sunday in regard to coverage plans, some outlets starting hours before and ending hours after the debate’s puck drop.

Let’s be realistic, if you’re watching Fox News, ABC’s or NBC’s platforms ahead of or following the debate broadcast, you’re a political geek. And that’s okay, own it.

The only way to differentiate between broadcasts is to flip around, and dip into everyone. Turn on the radio for a bit, sit on the couch with your phone, your laptop or your iPad, and take in a bit of everyone’s coverage.

Before and after, you’re only going to listen to what you want to see and hear but during the actual debate, you’ll choose whoever broadcasts the best picture. Let’s be sharp and crisp, folks.

And that’s what matters at the end of the day, who paints the best picture and who tells you something closet to the truth,

Choose wisely, my friends.

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BNM Writers

Has Donald Trump Caused the News Media to Change Its Tune?

Rick Schultz

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A photo of Donald Trump
(Photo: CNN)

It seems increasingly inevitable that in slightly more than four months, America will once again choose Donald Trump to be their President. Apparently, skyrocketing inflation, high prices, economic pain, open borders flooded with illegals, crime-ridden streets, and other Democrat party priorities and schemes don’t seem to be selling across the nation.  

Perhaps the biggest sign yet of what’s to come, along with swelling Trump support across inner-city America, is the drastic change of opinion across left-leaning Silicon Valley.  

Clearly, and to their chagrin, the mainstream media’s deceptive narrative-shaping efforts no longer seem to be working.

A few days ago, the widely-popular All-In Podcast hosted an exclusive interview with Donald Trump, to discuss his priorities for his next term in office. The interview made headlines not only for what the political frontrunner said, but also for the reaction of the program’s hosts.

“Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Mr. President,” co-host David Sacks began. “The All-In Pod’s basically the four of us having conversations. It’s kind of a spectrum of different views. We got, sort of like, a little bit of some Fox News, and then some MSDNC at the same time.”

“Well that’s ok,” Trump quipped. “Keeps it interesting.”

Two weeks ago, Sacks hosted a fundraiser for Trump, where many Silicon Valley leaders attended and made contributions to help the former President win another term. Many tech billionaires also stepped up to support President Trump on the heels of the event, including the famed Winklevoss twins.

“One of the things I think we heard a lot at that dinner was the difficulty that people in business were having under this Biden administration,” Sacks said. “You got the crypto guys who just want a framework. They just want the government to tell them how to operate and they can’t get that. You’ve got no M&A happening right now in tech. The real estate guys, they can’t get loans because interest rates are through the roof and there’s a credit crunch. So I think one of the common themes we just heard across that dinner was that it was just so hard to do business right now.

“And I guess maybe a good place to start would just be, what’s the number one thing or maybe the top three things you would do to get things moving again if you’re re-elected?”

“So I’d say regulation, regulation and taxes, ok. You know, I gave the biggest tax cut in the history of our country, and a lot to businesses,” President Trump said. “As you know, they were paying, people and companies were paying 40 percent, 45 percent, including state and city taxes in many cases. And we got it down to 21 percent. We’d like to get it down lower, actually. But we got it down and the revenues were better than ever. Even with the lower rate we had record revenues, which tells you a little about that.”

The All-In interview covered many of the most pressing topics of the day, including inflation, immigration, abortion, and the federal debt. As of the weekend, the podcast episode already had approximately a half-a-million views.

On the rash of murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed by illegal aliens urged into the country by Democrats, Trump pointed out that his secure border would have kept those criminals out of the country.

On abortion, Donald Trump said he does not support a national ban. He also noted that the real extremists are the Democrats, with their frenzied zeal for killing babies right up to the moment of birth, or beyond.

On the oversized bureaucratic state, Trump mentioned some areas he could trim the waste, including at the Department of Education.

Donald Trump also said he would de-classify the JFK files in his overarching effort to be more transparent than the current administration.

But perhaps one of the biggest revelations of the nearly-hour-long interview was how and why typically left-leaning tech leaders have reversed their opinions of Trump, when given the chance to talk with him without the usually-biased media lens.

Following the discussion, co-host and billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya prodded co-host and angel investor Jason Calacanis to give his opinion of the interview.

“I’m undecided, as you know,” Calacanis said, playing coy. “We had a limited amount of time with him.”

Just four years ago, Calacanis told CNBC, “I hate Trump with every fiber of my being and he’s the worst human being on the planet.”

“J Cal, just say it. You like him. Just say it, because it’s written all over your face,” Palihapitiya urged. “Just say it. You like him. You’re confused. You asked great questions and he just dealt with them head on. Just admit it, you like him. You like him!”

Calacanis smiled and said, “I like the fact that he came on the pod, I will say that.”

“I told you you’d like him! This is my point!” Palihapitiya said. “Whether you come out of this wanting to vote for the President or not, everybody needs to, I think, just sit in a room and hear him out.”

“He was very respectful, actually,” co-host David Friedberg said, noting that Trump did not take the bait when asked to comment on some controversial figures. “I was very surprised to hear how he respected Fauci and how he framed his response to that question. And I think that says a lot.”

Palihapitiya himself has admitted he was anti-Trump in 2016 and 2020, and he explained his thoughts on his co-hosts admitting they were surprised by Trump’s calm, rational tone and thoughtful answers.

“But can I tell you why you’re surprised? Because I think we have been fed – this is what I’m saying – we have been fed a narrative of what President Trump looks like,” Palihapitiya said. “Now, in fairness, we’re also being fed a narrative of what President Biden is like. And this is why you have to see these men up close and personal for yourself.

“Because, David, the fact that you’re surprised is less about the fact that Donald Trump has changed. It’s more the fact that you’ve been told a narrative and you’ve believed it. And so now when you see the actual truth you have to re-underwrite. Hold on a second, he’s actually pretty thoughtful. He’s pretty presidential. He doesn’t go off on people. That’s not what you probably thought going in because that’s not what the mainstream media portrays about what you should be thinking.”

Perhaps many voters have also wisened up to the manufactured, media-driven conspiracies that were never true in the first place. That Trump was a Russian agent. Or that he said white supremacists were good people. That he told people to drink bleach. That he verbally disparaged our troops. The media reported these things, and many, many more for years, even though they were knowably false. As a result, the voting populous no longer believes the fake news media that cried wolf.

A recent poll from one of the most accurate outfits, Rasmussen Reports, shows Donald Trump with a ten-point popular vote lead over Joe Biden. As many experts have pointed out, this favorability across the country is much larger than the margin of fraud they believe occurred in 2020.

So it seems that – despite the mainstream, corporate media’s best efforts – the wide swath of America stands behind Donald Trump and his plans to help the nation regain peace, prosperity, and security. Never before have we seen Silicon Valley, rural America, and a groundswell from urban culture converge onto the same team. 

This should make for an earth-shattering November 5th, which the media will have to cover, whether they want to or not.

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