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What Sid Rosenberg and Mike Gallagher Learned By Visiting Israel

“It changed everything for me. We came back and joined a Temple … I’m a lot more serious about the religion than I was before I went.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Mike Gallagher and Sid Rosenberg in Israel
(Photo: Mike Gallagher, Sid Rosenberg)

After the October 7th terrorist attacks in Gaza, news/talk radio hosts Sid Rosenberg, Mike Gallagher, and Tony Katz each individually took trips to Israel to share stories from the Jewish state.

On Sunday, October 8th, the NFL’s New York Giants were set to play the New York Jets in a regular season that happens roughly once every four years. For Sid Rosenberg, the day should have been a joyous one as one of the biggest media members in the market.

However, the day was a somber one for the 77 WABC morning host. He posted a video on Instagram that Sunday morning, sharing his true feelings about the situation, stating he could hardly be bothered to care about the football game that day after the attacks.

It didn’t take him long to declare that he would visit Israel. In fact, just over six weeks after Hamas killed an estimated 1,100 Israelis on that fateful Saturday, Rosenberg told his listeners he would be hosting his wildly popular morning show from the Middle East.

He told Barrett News Media he became motivated to cover the story on the ground from Israel — a country he had never been to before — while watching the events unfold that early October day.

“I’ve always wanted to go, obviously as a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, and once that day happened October the 7th, I vowed I would go at some point, hopefully sooner than later,” he shared.

“I was so horrified by what I had seen, what I had heard, what was coming next that it really shook me. And, you know, it’s one thing to talk about it when you’re here watching the news most of which you can trust, I knew how to go and see it for myself. I had to go and talk to the Israelis in the streets … So, I wanted to talk to the Israelis in the streets and find out how they were coping with all of that. It’s one thing when you cover this story from your city, it’s another one you actually go to the destination.”

Mike Gallagher, who hosts The Mike Gallagher Show for Salem Radio Network and Salem News Channel, made the trek to Israel in late February and early March. He told Barrett News Media that, like Rosenberg, he became motivated to tell the story of the attacks from the nation on October 7th. He shared he felt it was a “very important component of what I do for a living every day on the radio.”

He added that the reaction from his audience was an intense gratitude.

“Just enormous appreciation for going over there,” Mike Gallagher said of his listeners. “Just a lot of support for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. They’re providing armored ambulances to paramedics and emergency first responders, and helmets, and food, and supplies. Our audience stepped up big time to help the fellowship. So their generosity was really inspiring and overwhelming.

“But there was just a deep gratitude that we went through the effort of going over there,” he continued. “My goal was to bring our audience to Israel, rather than trying to cover the headlines the way we grew up in the United States. And I think the audience was very, very grateful that we went.”

Mike Gallagher added that one of the takeaways from the trip was the sheer brutality of the terrorists during the attack. The Israeli State Department compiled a 47-minute video of closed-circuit television footage, along with footage show by Hamas, which showed the “euphoria and the joy”, Gallagher said, the fighters received from executing the attacks.

Sid Rosenberg was quick to admit he was not the most religious Jewish person, but visiting the Holy Land had a profound impact on his faith.

“I don’t observe Shabbos, I don’t celebrate every holiday, and I still don’t. But I’m a lot more serious about the religion than I was before. We’ve joined a temple. I’ve been to many, many people’s houses for Shabbat dinner since October 7th which I’d never done before in my lifetime,” he shared.

“I’ve got people listening every day in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and if I could provide them with some support and some hope that things will get better, that’s what I try to do every day. It has completely changed me. It has made me a more proud Jew than I’ve ever been. And I look to help any Jew that I can, here and abroad, at every opportunity I can.”

As the coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas continues, Gallagher shared how impactful visiting Jerusalem was in helping to truly understand the conflict.

“It gave me a clarity and an insight that I could have never gotten had I just been sitting in my studio in Florida talking about it on the air,” he said.

Sid Rosenberg, who was the first host to take his show to the Middle East nation, said there needs to be an authenticity if other hosts want to make the same pilgrimage he made.

“Listen, you gotta feel it. That’s the bottom line. I felt it,” he shared. “Every show since then, I’ve had mentions of Israel and what these people are going through. I haven’t gone one day. I still find a way every day to include conversations about Israel, and what’s going on, I was torn up. So my advice is if you’re going to go there just to say you were there, don’t do it.”

Sid Rosenberg added that the reception he received from the Jewish people was second to none and that he could feel the unity and resolve from their spirits.

“If it’s not in your heart, don’t bother going. But if it is, I recommend you go. Go to the sites down south where the tragedies happened and try to see and learn as much Jewish history as possible. Because the more you learn, the more you’re going to find out that these pro-Palestinian rallies are nothing but a bunch of bulls—.”

Mike Gallagher shared similar sentiments. He noted that Salem Radio Network partnered with the Jewish News Service to provide him with studio space while he was in the country. However, the technology has made it much easier to do a trip like this.

“You just got to figure out how to get over there. It’s not cheap. It’s not inexpensive to fly to Tel Aviv, but it’s also not impossible,” said Gallagher. “I believe it’s what good hosts, good programming, and good content creators should be doing anyway. When you get a chance to bring your show to a place where headlines worldwide are being made like this, you should do it.

“Remotes have been part of my career for 40-plus years. I’ll be in Milwaukee this summer for the Republican National Convention. I’ve been to every convention for the last I think 28, 30 years. I like doing that. It can be tricky and distracting, but it’s important because you know the audience wants to be there. To be part of that breaking news is what it’s all about. I would encourage anybody who has a little ingenuity, creativity, and a little bit of a budget, to go over there and tell the story to your audience here in the United States. It’ll be transformational.”

Tuesday, May 14th, is Israel’s Independence Day as the country celebrates the 76th of declaring independence which was proclaimed by David Ben-Guiron.

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How Audacy Dallas Has Used Technology to Enhance Already Strong Brands

“What I try to explain (to our on-air staff), is that we’re no longer a radio station. We’re a brand. We’re more than just over the air.”

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A photo of Gavin Spittle and the Audacy logo
(Photo: Audacy)

We used to say sports was the toy department of news. I thought that sounded fun but most news and programming people back then said it condescendingly. Today, sports talk listening is eclipsing the more serious news/talk offerings of corporate or “local” radio. There are two such sports stations in Dallas: Cumulus-owned, multi-Marconi Award-winning 96.7 The Ticket, which always keeps its news/talk sisters, WBAP and KLIF, in its ratings dust, and 105.3 The Fan, the Audacy station that is consistently beating its all-news older sibling, KRLD.

I live in Dallas. It’s a huge sports market, home of the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, and Stars, as well as several NCAA Division I programs. The Fan and The Ticket are engaged in an epic daily battle between two superb management and talent teams. They’re both very good.

Gavin Spittle is the Vice President of News, Talk, and Sports at Audacy Dallas, radio home of the Cowboys and Rangers. I talked with him last week. I’m a fan of The Fan. The station is consistently hitting on all cylinders. Their show hosts are unfailingly informative and entertaining, blessed with the hard-to-find combination of brains, personal chemistry, and humility.

Most of all, they know their craft, staying focused on sports while weaving in an organic flow of personal observations and anecdotes that make you feel you know them. You wish you could sit down and have a beer with them, which you often can because they’re always making personal appearances at local events, family eateries, and barbecue joints.

Am I being too effusive in my praise of The Fan?

GAVIN SPITTLE: Well, thanks. I mean, you just quoted my playbook, Dave, as far as like what I look for in hosts. In sports radio I want to create that tree house feel, I want the listeners climbing up that tree to be a part of it or feel like they’re hanging with their buddies at a bar. That’s what I want The Fan to sound like. I want it to be conversational rather than just throwing out analytic after analytic.

One of the things that we pride ourselves on is having conversations, and that can include debates. The other thing that I will say is, and thank you for noticing, our staff is extremely tight. These guys talk to each other constantly, they genuinely like each other, and they want each other to win. That is a brand manager’s dream when you can put something like that together.

DW: The Fan is the flagship of the Dallas Cowboys and the reigning world champion Texas Rangers. Do those affiliations with major sports franchises pay for themselves in terms of prestige, audience, and profit?  

GS: We are very fortunate in Dallas to have two amazing partnerships where, yes, it is effective for us and it’s effective for them. It’s a very creative partnership where the contract only gets pulled if necessary and it’s like, how can we help each other? So, it’s not (just that) we carry the games. It’s how can we help each other?

Like, for instance, a perfect example is that one of the first appearances the Rangers made with the World Series trophy was in our Audacy showroom. That is so special, to say to our listeners, come see the World Series trophy. We had a line around the corner. That shows how tight and how much we value that partnership. And it’s the same with the Cowboys.

DW: Another thing that I love about your on-air talents is, on one hand, they’re unabashed fans of the teams that you carry, but they also level serious criticism of the teams and never sound like they’re forcing themselves to be unbiased; they’re just being themselves and that creates that tree house or bar atmosphere that you were talking about.

GS: I think that’s a key component when carrying a team’s games, that the team understands that you’re allowed to criticize them fairly, as long as it’s not a personal attack. I think that’s something that we have a lot of wiggle room with the Rangers and a lot with the Dallas Cowboys.

(Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones is a listener and it’s cool that he talks to the guys and has a relationship with them and that doesn’t mean you can’t be critical. We love the Cowboys, but we’re still going to be The Fan. If we allowed a team to dictate what we say our listeners would pick that out immediately and we wouldn’t be ourselves.

DW: Let’s talk technology. How great is it for you as a programmer to be able to embrace the new toys that Audacy is giving you on-air and with their app? We all remember the times we sat in our driveway while listening to a great live conversation so we wouldn’t miss any of it. You don’t have to do that now.

GS: No, the ice cream no longer has to melt. You take the app in and you back it up 30 seconds. You can back up and hear the whole show if you want to.

DW: This morning I was taking our dogs to the groomer and listening to The Fan and I noticed for the first time a little audio control panel within the main touch screen. And I’m going, holy crap that’s not just on the app. I can pause and rewind right here in my car. [Which is 10 years old and still has its original audio system.] 

Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s a technology not a lot of stations in this country have available yet. Radio operators are still trying to compete with the Internet while forcing themselves to send listeners to their websites for clicks. I keep thinking, guys, use it all!

GS: What I try to explain (to our on-air staff), is that we’re no longer a radio station. We’re a brand. We’re more than just over the air. We have so many Audacy app listeners, not just in North Texas, but across the country.  It is absolutely awesome when we get calls from Philadelphia or San Francisco. That’s really, really cool.

DW: Yes, you’re a brand and not just a radio station anymore. I love that. A lot of radio people are still trying to struggle between being a radio station and being a website. And you have to go, ‘Wait a minute, guys, you’re missing the whole point. It’s all of these things working together.’

GS: Yeah, absolutely. When a new technology comes out, we want to be at the front of the line and we want to be the ones doing the beta testing and we want to be the ones saying, let’s give this a whirl because, you know, we feel as though that’s the future. And once again, when you change that mindset, as far as an overall brand success, not a radio station success, I feel as though the radio station success obviously is going to be there.

—————————

I never met Gavin Spittle before this conversation. I like him as much as I love his radio station. We talked about sports and talk radio in-depth, including Gavin’s love of hockey, and his own Dallas Stars-centric podcast, Spits and Suds. To hear our full conversation go to my podcast, Conversations.buzz, or on your favorite podcast app.

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Fox News’ Pete Hegseth Still Has a Soldier’s Perspective

Hegseth’s new book, The War on Warriors: Behind the Betrayal of the Men Who Keep Us Free will release on June 4th.

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A photo of Pete Hegseth and the Fox News logo
(Photo: Fox News)

Christian, Veteran, and most importantly American Patriot. For Pete Hegseth, service and devotion to our country are undeniable. It’s his experience as a Veteran that inspired his latest book, The War on Warriors: Behind the Betrayal of the Men Who Keep Us Free.

“When only 1% of your population is actually serving, most people are disconnected from the wars that they fight or the service that they have. Which means it becomes an academic exercise whether or not you support the war or don’t support the war,” Hegseth told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

“Meritocracy, lethality, and preparedness,” is what Hegseth believes the military should be focused on, but he’s seeing today’s military is focused on everything else. “There’s been an infiltration of other priorities. Call them social justice, call them politically correct, call them cultural Marxism, call them identity politics, it’s all of the above.”

Things once used as political bargaining tools by the left have now become a necessary survival skill for patriots who want to stay in the service. “[These other priorities] made their way into the general class because the general class knew they needed to adhere to them in order to get promoted. So now you have a lot of warps and warts inside our formations. That has vets like me saying, ‘This is not the military I remember.’”

Awarded two Bronze Star Medals for his service, Pete Hegseth believes it’s common unity and mission that should draw those to the military. “We all get bad haircuts for a reason, we all shave for a reason, we all wear uniforms for a reason. Because we’re supposed to look the same. Because it isn’t about your individual identity. It’s about what you’re going to do for the group and your brother on your left and your right. That’s that’s the kind of ethos we need to restore.”

Hegseth noted when countries are at war, diversity is the last thing on your mind. “You swear an oath to defend the Constitution. You want your leaders to be laser-focused on men making sure they’re trained, prepared, and ranked properly based on how good they are at their job. The standards are high and [service members are] held to them so that if they have to go to war, they’re able to be at their best and come home.”

The Army Major made it clear that he did not enjoy writing this book.

“I’m not out to trash the military. I revere my time in the military. I want [the military] to be what it was for me, for other people, and not look like a college or a university playing identity politics.”

He recognized wars are not perfect but it’s the sense of duty which is most important. “I can still hang my hat on what I was committed to, what my brothers were committed to and that mattered. I want to make sure in future wars, these soldiers have the leaders they deserve and the ethos and the focus on mission that we as the American people in our leadership should be responsible to give them.”

When veterans come home, it’s that very same ethos they need help finding and channeling into civilian life. “[Something the average American might not know when it comes to the life of a veteran is] the gaping hole that is your sense of purpose. And you’re missing how disorienting it can be to be sort of outside of the brotherhood that you forged.”

“A combat tour changes you in ways you’re not even aware of at the time, especially when you see things and do things that shake you to your core. But you did those things with other people, and you did big, difficult, nasty, tough things in the middle of the night, in dangerous places where you never knew if you’d come home.”

Veterans rediscovering their sense of purpose in the next chapter of life is difficult but it could be something as simple as, “Teaching the next generation of third graders the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer.”

There are so many chapters to life after but the VA estimates that 17 veterans a day take their own life, some believe the true number is higher. “I’ve talked to a bunch of guys who say ‘I’ve lost way more dudes at home than I lost overseas to suicide.’ So, I think it does tie back to [purpose]. I think we don’t need to throw more pills at them. We don’t need to throw more government programs at them. We need to remind them of the ethos they had when they served.”

Hegseth noted the importance of faith, community, and peer-to-peer counseling as good ways to help veterans process what happened in the war zone and stay connected to those who love them.

While many talk about veterans on Memorial Day, it is a day to honor those who served our county, fought for our freedom, and never came back. Hegseth believes the best way to honor them is by civic ritual.

“Meaning parades or ceremonies. Find one. Be a part of it. Take your kids. Take your grandkids. It’s easy for us to say, ‘Ok, kids. Remember Memorial Day is the day that we remember all those men and women who gave their life for us.’ And the kids will go, ‘Yeah, Dad. Ok, thanks.’ You can’t expect kids to really process that and understand what that means or the gravity of it.”

It’s events like these that inspired Hegseth to join the Army.

“My parents used to take me to the Memorial Day parade and 4th of July parade in their tiny little farming town in southern Minnesota. I remember as a little kid looking up at these vets, and the whole city and the whole town is saluting and clapping, and it’s not a big town. Like 300 people, but everyone’s there. I remember thinking year after year as I watched it like, ‘Wow, this man is really doing something really important. Whatever they did seems important. And I feel like when I grow up, I think I should do something like that.’”

Today, the father of seven is preparing for the conversation with his sons if they choose to serve in the military. “What do I say to my kids? You know, the same question a lot of people are facing. What do I tell my kids if they are thinking about serving? And that’s the last chapter of the book is actually a letter to my sons. Kind of articulating that thought process to them.”

Hegseth made it clear while he is critical of current military status, “I still think we need our best putting the uniform on, and then we need to get them a commander in chief that they deserve.”

The War on Warriors was published by Fox News Books and is available for pre-order now. It hits bookshelves on Tuesday, June 4th.

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News/Talk Radio Hosts Should Embrace Topics From Every Avenue Possible

Bring your audience into the topic, set the scene, and make it relatable as you intertwine the cultural moment we find ourselves in 2024…

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A photo of Harrison Butker
(Photo: Benedictine College)

The Kansas City Chiefs again found themselves at the center of the sports and news universe this past week. By now, you’ve likely heard about kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech at Benedictine College, a small Catholic college in Atchinson, Kansas, that got picked up and covered worldwide. And, if you’re a radio host, you probably have an opinion on his speech. If you haven’t seen his speech in full or read a transcript, you can do both here and come to your own conclusion.

There are two enormous takeaways: one for sports radio and one for news/talk radio.

For sports radio, there needs to be a focus on diversity of opinion, not just diversity of looks. I scanned sports radio across the country, and the overwhelming sentiment was that Harrison Butker was wrong to say what he said, with most misrepresenting his comments during the commencement speech.

It was like they took copy from the MSNBC newsroom and regurgitated it on their radio show. But what happened? As of this week, Harrison Butker’s jersey was sold out on the NFL Shop. And it wasn’t just his men’s jersey that was sold out; his women’s jersey was sold out too.

And when it comes to the political leanings of sports fans, they are overwhelmingly traditional and right-of-center in every major professional sport.

A recent Harris Poll showed the political leanings of every league. A nationally representative sample of 4,116 U.S. adults age 18 and over showed that sports fans are slightly more conservative (55%) in their self-identification.

58% of college football fans identify as conservative (the most of any sport), 57% of MLB fans are conservative, and 56% of NFL fans identify as conservative. Even amongst NBA fans, 51% of their fans identify as conservative.

While there can be value in diversity of background, suits seem to be much more obsessed with favoring physical diversity traits over diversity of thought and ideology. At a time when sports, politics, and culture continue to mix, ensuring any outlet is ideologically representative of the audience is more important than focusing on the melanin levels of the individuals behind the mic and in front of the TV.

Now, for News/Talk radio, these cultural topics are worth discussing. Don’t view them as “sports stories.” They’re not. Harrison Butker is as relatable and engaging a story as we’ve had in recent weeks. 

It gets you away from the day’s politics and into a relatable, easy-to-discuss topic that will likely engage your audience. The day-to-day politics can be mundane and might appeal to the P1s, but broadening topic variety, especially when you can spin it in a relatable way that broadens your audience while still keeping your P1s entertained, is a win-win.

Every adult can relate to attending a graduation ceremony, hearing a commencement speech, and reacting positively or negatively. We’ve all done it as students, parents, uncles, aunts, or grandparents.

Bring your audience into the topic, set the scene, and make it relatable as you intertwine the cultural moment we find ourselves in 2024 and how the media has reacted, and you can weave it into politics if you so choose.

The angles and topics have been endless the last week and a half, with several layers to explore and discuss. You don’t want to beat a dead horse unless you’re in the market like I am in Kansas City, but exploring topics that transcend “traditional” News/Talk will only broaden the audience for your show.

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