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By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
LOS ANGELES —Journey back to the “Golden Age” of radio and television, and, you will promptly ascertain that, especially in terms of audience acceptance, pairing a real-life husband and wife was a brilliant programming strategy that tended to produce blockbuster results.
Consider such instantly familiar classic examples as George Burns & Gracie Allen; Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball; Ozzie & Harriet Nelson; and Jim & Marian Jordan as “Fibber McGee & Molly,” whose 24-year radio run concluded in 1959.
Contemporary “Windy City” radio partisans will surely cite “Don Wade & Roma,” who were staples on WLS-AM, Chicago for over 25 years; Don Wade succumbed to brain cancer last September.
Fairly recently (then-married) couples Chet Curtis & Natalie Jacobson on Boston’s WCVB-TV, and Jim Lampley & Bree Walker on Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV co-anchored the news together on their respective stations; 74-year-old Curtis lost his fight against pancreatic cancer five months ago.
These are simply representative examples (certainly not approaching a definitive list) of the effective, albeit not now revolutionary concept.
Consequently, while it will hardly be precedent setting when Los Angeles-based Brent Seltzer and his wife Meg McDonald debut next Monday (6/23) on the Genesis Communications Network for their daily, two-hour (1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, ET) broadcast, it nonetheless promises to be a wonderfully refreshing burst of fresh air to talk radio.
Boston Herald Radio Launches August 5 at 6:00 am ET. The concept of the full-blown, digital-age “media station” predicted and described for the past decade by Michael Harrison and other radio industry visionaries will be taking a giant leap toward coming to fruition at 6:00 am ET on August 5. The Boston Herald newspaper is unveiling its ambitious new initiative “Boston Herald Radio” – a Boston-centric news/talk/sports radio station that will begin its life as a venue for four live three-hour shows running weekdays from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. These programs include:
– 9:00 am to 12:00 noon – “Morning Meeting with Jaclyn Cashman and Hillary Chabot” (Cashman is a former Springfield, MA TV anchor/reporter and multimedia consultant and Chabot is the chief political reporter with the Boston Herald.)
– 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm – “Sports Town with Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle” (Meterparel is a former WEEI personality and current Boston College play-by-play announcer and Royle is an Emmy-award winning Major League Baseball reporter, TV/radio host.)
This will be the first news/sports/talk radio platform in the Boston market backed up by a full multimedia newsroom under the brand of a major newspaper and one of a handful of such operations beginning to pop up around the country. News reports will be provided throughout the broadcast day by Boston Herald editors and reporters. Feature elements will include Boston Herald music, TV, movie reviews, political and business reports, style and food segments as well as live reports from staff reporters who travel with all four major teams and provide extensive high school sports coverage. The stream will be managed by Backbone Networks (the same company working on the forthcoming mid-August launch of TalkersRadio) and carried by Tune In as well its home base on the Boston Herald website and its mobile news and sports apps. The shows will be streamed from a studio adjacent to the Boston Herald newsroom. The studio team includes executive producer Tom Shattuck (formerly of WRKO and WTKK) and two part-time producers (Shattuck pictured at right, is here with Backbone Networks VP of engineering development George Capalbo, at left). Boston Herald editor-in-chief Joe Sciacca tells TALKERS, “Consumers want news and information that is mobile, and they want to be active participants connecting and collaborating on the issues of the day, not passive receptors being lectured to. That is our mission in print, online, in video presentations and now Boston Herald Radio.” Sciacca adds, “I see myself not as a newspaper editor but as the leader of a news organization that creates high-quality, original content for use across platforms — whether it is print, web or broadcast.” According to TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison, who was writing and speaking about the potential of newspaper websites providing radio broadcasters with powerful platforms to operate on the internet as long as 10 years ago, “This amazing development in Boston marks the tipping point in the evolution of the digital-age news and entertainment platform. The brilliant and obvious idea of newspapers and radio stations rubbing their two sticks together (literally and figuratively) will send sparks flying that will potentially proliferate into a 21st century ‘media station’ wildfire. By ‘media station’ I mean an online platform that has the cultural stationality of a radio station, a television station, a newspaper and a magazine combined – all in one location – fueled and synergized by the combined resources of each.” Harrison maintains that the internet alone is not a practical platform. He says, “By itself, the internet has no form, no definition and no prestige, similarly neither do the so called ‘airwaves’ of 20th century audio and video media. The key is to build prestigious, well-defined platforms that will sail across the internet — the way ships, yachts and ocean liners sail the seas and the way glorious theaters give Broadway its pizzazz or great stadiums separate the big leagues from sandlot baseball. If an actor, dancer or musician is performing ‘on Broadway,’ that could mean they are doing their act on the stage of the Winter Garden or on the sidewalk in front of the Winter Garden. It is the same thing with the internet. Prestigious, well-resourced platforms give you a place to put the key to monetization: a box office!” Walter Sabo, CEO of the New York City-based consultancy firm Sabo Media (whose clients have included SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Parade magazine and numerous leading radio firms and talent), says, “When Jeff Katz or Michael Graham are on the air doing their shows in a studio right next to the Boston Herald newsroom, they will be one door away from an-in house news gathering and processing operation that employs hundreds of journalists. This is a brilliant move!” Sabo adds that his firm has been developing a new division for the past several months that will specialize in advising newspapers in executing this kind of move, stating, “I have been hearing from a number of publications – dailies and weeklies – that are very interested in pursuing these exciting new opportunities, but they realize that they not only need people with on-air broadcast experience, but people who have broadcasting management insight as well. The Boston Herald was smart to hire Tom Shattuck.” Summing up the synergy aspect of his new media station, Boston Herald editor-in-chief Sciacca tells TALKERS, “Our multimedia reporters are producing award-winning video reports every day, producing broadcast-quality segments with compelling interviews and streaming content. Is this a TV newsroom? An online newsroom? A radio station? A newspaper? It’s today’s Boston Herald.” He continues, “The power of Boston Herald Radio when it comes to breaking news will be incredible. Listeners can be confident they will be not only engaged and entertained by our talk shows, but will be insiders on breaking news in real time.” Boston Herald publisher and president Patrick J. Purcell (pictured at left with Joe Sciacca, right, in the Boston Herald newsroom) says, “Internet radio is exploding and it makes sense that the Herald rounds out our multimedia platform with talk radio programming. It’s perfect synergy. Boston Herald Radio will be fast-paced, uncensored, entertaining, completely interactive and, most important, very respectful to our listeners. We have a terrific team of seasoned hosts who are smart, respected and extremely versatile. They live in our communities and fully understand and appreciate the complexities of issues folks care about.”
Memo to Newspapers on the Verge of Launching Radio Stations on Their Websites: Do it Correctly! Noted radio consultant Walter Sabo is no stranger to working in the intersection between print media and talk radio. In a new advice column posted today (7/29), he offers several key points from a list of essential ingredients that are required for talk-oriented media stations based on publication websites to achieve success and longevity. He advises newspaper executives to hire experienced radio executives to lead the station as well as seasoned, accomplished talk hosts to execute it. He suggests protecting and growing the brand by taking advantage of the traffic already on the website and creating programming that delivers topics in which newspaper readers are already interested. Most of all, understand that talk show hosts are like newspaper columnists – more so than reporters. Listeners realize this and do not expect the spoken word of opinion to mimic the printed word of editorial fact and objectivity. To read Walter Sabo’s entire piece, please click here.
Another Report of a Cumulus Split from Limbaugh and Hannity. We’ve heard these rumors before about Cumulus Media dropping Premiere Networks’ Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and the latest comes from Politico. The mag reports that inside sources say Cumulus is not satisfied with the results of negotiations to reduce the cost of airing the Limbaugh and Hannity programs on their 40-some news/talk stations that carry them. Both contracts reportedly are up at the end of this year. As most industry insiders are aware, there are cash considerations as well as inventory that airs outside the actual programs associated with carrying Limbaugh and Hannity and that, presumably, is what the bone of contention is. Politico does report that a Cumulus spokesperson said the company does not comment on negotiations with talent under contract. Cumulus holds its Q2 conference call tomorrow morning but don’t hold your breath waiting for Lew Dickey to comment on the Limbaugh/Hannity issue. The tone of the Politico piece makes it sound as though this is about the politics of Limbaugh and Hannity and whether the “Sandra Fluke case” is still haunting the sales efforts. If that were the case, negotiations over the cost of the programs would be irrelevant. Ultimately, the Dickeys’ decision will likely be based upon whether they make enough money off of Limbaugh and Hannity to justify the cost while considering what the company could do with personalities such as Michael Savage, Mark Levin and Mike Huckabee to cover the time slots now held by Limbaugh and Hannity.
The Social Media Trick You Don’t Know You Know. Although the term “call to action” has a slightly different application in broadcasting than it does in social media, it is increasingly growing in importance as a concept to managing content in the digital arena. In a new column posted today (7/29), noted digital radio consultant and TALKERS columnist Chris Miller says that radio broadcasters can apply “call to action” concepts with which they are very familiar from their broadcasting experience to social media with merely a few tweaks and turns of a phrase. To read Miller’s entire column, please click here.
Entercom Splits KJCE-AM/FM, Austin Simulcast; New Lineup for KJCE-AM. The FM side of Entercom’s KJCE, Austin becomes an urban AC outlet as the new “96 R&B” featuring Premiere Networks’ Steve Harvey in morning drive. KJCE-AM remains news/talk as “News Radio 1370” with some additions to the lineup, returning Talk Radio Network’s “America’s Morning News.” Entercom Austin vice president and market manager Alan Kirshbom states, “By bringing back ‘America’s Morning News’ from 5:00 am to 8:00 am and moving Courtside Entertainment’s Laura Ingraham to live programming from 8:00 am to 11:00 am, KJCE once again proves it is Austin’s and Texas’ Talk Station.” The station is also bringing back Dial Global’s Dennis Miller to air from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm followed by Dave Ramsey and Premiere Networks’ Sean Hannity.
Radio One’s All-News KROI, Houston Partner with KHOU-TV for Weather. Radio One all-news “News 92 FM” announces a partnership with CBS TV O&O “KHOU 11” for the latter to provide weather for KROI. Radio One regional vice president Doug Abernethy states, “Why compete with the best when you can team up with the best? KHOU 11 has built a stellar reputation as a local weather leader in Houston and we are thrilled to welcome KHOU 11 and their outstanding meteorologists to join our 24-hour ‘News 92 FM’ team to provide our audience the best, most accurate, up-to-the-minute weather coverage.”
Syndicated Bill Michaels Sports Talk Program Adds Madison. Based at Entercom sports talk WSSP, Milwaukee, the statewide syndicated Bill Michaels program announces it will add Mid-West Family Broadcasting’s WOZN-AM, Madison “The Zone” beginning August 8. The midday sports talk show airs live from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and is in its second year of syndication. “We’re delighted to welcome another Mid-West Family Broadcasting station to the Bill Michaels Sports Network,” says Michael Keck, vice president and market manager for Entercom Wisconsin. “Bill’s enthusiasm and talent is contagious and that’s a big reason we continue to grow.” Michaels comments, “This is a dream come true. I feel like I’m now able to reach all Wisconsin sports fans. I’m anxious to connect with the strong sports fan base that is represented in Mad-town.”
‘The Black Sphere’ Radio Show Gaining Traction. The Kevin Jackson-hosted “Black Sphere Radio Show” announces it adds WEZO, Augusta, Georgia to its list of affiliate stations. Earlier this year the program added Salem Communications’ WGUL and WLSS in the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Sarasota markets. Program senior producer Mickey White says, “Kevin is gaining in popularity and we will be adding markets and new sponsors in the very near future. Kevin’s blend of entertainment with politics is getting lots of attention. We are in talks with stations across the country, including some large market stations in Nevada, Colorado and California and we expect to make a lot of big announcements in the near future.”
Man Arrested After Threatening WGAC, Augusta’s Austin Rhodes. A 25-year old Augusta, Georgia man was taken into custody last week and held on $2,600 bond after allegedly threatening WGAC, Augusta talk show host Austin Rhodes with bodily harm. After Darnell Tyray Chambers made what Rhodes considered a threatening statement about him on Facebook, he reported the threat as per Beasley Broadcast Group company policy. According to the Columbia County News-Times, police arrested Chambers on charges of making terroristic threats and acts.
KFI, Los Angeles Celebrates 20 Years of Bill Handel. Clear Channel news/talk giant KFI, Los Angeles is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Bill Handel as the morning drive talk personality on the station. Handel began hosting the program in July of 1993 but the station says it will officially celebrate the anniversary with an extravaganza for listeners in November but on Friday, July 26, Rich Marotta, Michelle Kube, Mike Nolan, Neil Saavedra and Gary Hoffmann reminisced about their favorite Handel moments during the 5:00 am hour of the program. To say that Handel is important to the station’s success would be an understatement. Handel is consistently one of the highest-rated daily talk radio programs in the country in terms of cume.