Aurora Tragedy Sparks and Challenges Talk Radio. There are few events that news/talk radio programmers in the age of cutbacks fear more than a major story that captures the entire nation’s consciousness breaking on a weekend when their stations’ key stars are off and brokered or syndicated “how-to” shows are on. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre came very close to being such a story, except that it technically broke on a Friday morning, giving weekday hosts the opportunity to at least address it in the early stages of information being available and programmers a full day to organize a weekend strategy. This type of blood-chilling, high-drama story takes days to develop as information slowly disseminates amidst knee-jerk speculation, leaving a number of news/talk outlets incapable of fully diving into it on a Saturday and Sunday when personnel is at a minimum and “regular” programming takes a break from core stationality. Regardless, the industry has had all too many unfortunate chances to learn from this problem in recent years and according to TALKERS monitors across the country and conversations with programmers, there was a far better state of readiness to appropriately handle the Aurora tragedy than for similar instances in the past. Initial reports indicate that the main topics and debates being fueled by this mega-story are gun control, violence in entertainment, and the relationship between mental illness and crime. There has also been strong interest in talking about appropriate parenting prompted by the fact that a child and an infant were in attendance at the midnight movie. As an example of news/talk radio taking control of this situation, Salem Radio Networks VP of programming, Tom Tradup tells TALKERS, “On SRN News, we gave the shooting priority coverage — including three hours of Special Reports — and we are featuring perspective from Murphy Wells, a KNUS, Denver reporter who is part of the local morning show at KNUS with studios in Aurora. Also Larry O’Connor, editor-in-chief of Breitbart.TV guest-hosted a special edition of the Hugh Hewitt show on Friday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET focusing exclusively on the deaths and injuries in the shootings.” At WGN, Chicago, program director Bill White tells TALKERS, “On Friday Jonathon Brandmeierlead with the story throughout his morning show after it broke during our live overnight show. Jonathon spoke with witnesses who were in the multiplex when the shooting occurred and authorities from Aurora, and he actually confirmed the death count to 12 before most media outlets. He also took calls from Chicago and throughout the Midwest as listeners coped with the tragic news.” In Boston at Greater Media‘s WTKK, program director Grace Blazer says the station was live and local from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm both Friday and Saturday. ”We ran the important new conferences from Denver with President Obama and Mitt Romney. We spoke with reporters live from Denver plus local experts such as Jack Levin, Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University and author of several mass murder books, and Ty Burr, film critic from the Boston Globe, who discussed violence in the Batman movies. On Saturday, Paul Ferrazzani, a registered instructor from the Firearm Safety Academy in Medford, Massachusetts gave listeners the inside scoop on our gun statutes.”
Fox Sports Radio and Mile High Sports Remember Colorado Shooting Victim. By now, most of us who work in the media are aware that one of the victims of Thursday’s movie-theater shootings was a young woman named Jessica Ghawi who had just missed being a potential victim of a similar shooting in Toronto in June. The San Antonio native had interned at Lincoln Financial Media’s KKFN, Denver earlier this year and was due to speak with Mile High Sports Magazine editor-in-chief Doug Ottewill about her sports media career the next day. On Friday, Mile High Sports and Fox Sports Radio talk host Peter Burns spoke with Fox Sports Radio’s “Loose Cannons” about Jessica. Burns told the program’s listeners, “Her mom told me early this morning, ‘I want you to talk as much as you can. Celebrate everything that Jessica did, and celebrate everything that these victims did.’ And I’m glad that you guys are giving me the time to celebrate that and talk about how amazing of a person she is, rather than giving a minute or 30 seconds to this coward that did this.” Burns recounted how Ghawi wanted to set up a charity to help the victims of the Colorado wildfires and was working toward that goal when her life ended tragically on Thursday night.
Cox Media Group Realigns Corporate Management to Fit New TV Signals and Announces Radio and TV Properties to Be Sold. Twenty-seven radio signals in six markets are going on the block as Cox Media Group announces a realignment of its business strategy that will include the sale of several TV operations and some corporate officer changes to dovetail with the recent acquisition of several TV stations. The only spoken-word format up for sale is the new sports talk FM WZNN, Birmingham that had been part of the Paul Finebuam-Cumulus contract dispute that’s since been settled. The rest of the signals are music FMs and AMs or ethnic outlets in Birmingham, Alabama; Greenville, South Carolina; Hawaii; Louisville, Kentucky; Richmond, Virginia; and Southern Connecticut. There are five TV signals in four cities going on the market. As to the corporate structure changes, former group VP Kim Guthrie is named Cox’s new senior vice president responsible for radio markets, and former Austin American-Statesman publisher Jane Williams is the company’s new senior vice president responsible for TV markets, both reporting to Bill Hoffman, EVP over broadcast. Other additional leadership changes effective immediately include: former group VP Rich Reis who becomes VP and GM of digital operations reporting to EVP Neil Johnston; former group VP Ben Reed is now VP and market manager of Atlanta radio reporting to Kim Guthrie; former group VP Jay O’Connor, as previously announced, is the new VP and GM at KIRO-TV, Seattle. EVP Mike Joseph continues to oversee CMG’s newspaper operations and CMG Ohio. Cox Media Group president Doug Franklin states, “This simplified structure will enable CMG to capitalize on continued growth and synergies, while retaining its size financially. All of our media outlets, regardless of size, are valuable, profitable brands with strong futures thanks to the hard work and dedication of our talented professionals who serve their audiences, advertisers and communities. We thank the leaders and employees in the locations we’re selling for their outstanding contributions to this company over the years and the valuable service they will continue to provide their respective communities.”
Cuts Hit St. Paul-Based American Public Media. MinnPost.com’s David Brauer reports 10 employees of the St. Paul, Minnesota public radio company American Public Media are being let go as the organization deals with the changes in the contemporary media business. Brauer reports engineer Rick “Scooter” Hebzynski, public relations staffer Christina Schmitt and digital archivist Jenel Farrell are three of the casualties and that Current.org is saying “Marketplace” D.C. chief John Dimsdale also is being let go. Minnesota Public Radio CEO John McTaggart writes to staffers in a memo: “There’s no question today’s constantly changing media landscape presents challenges, but we at APM also see opportunities. The changes we are making today are really about APM’s future and help to position us for future audience service and growth. We are reorganizing around two key areas: content and development. We are aligning our priorities to focus on two main divisions that create value for our audiences and cultivate vital relationships with our members, donors and funders. The result is a more streamlined organization design that gives us a strong footing as we look ahead.” To that end McTaggart announces MPR COO Dave Kansas leads the content division SVP and chief development officer Randi Yoder heads up the development division.
Longtime KFI, Los Angeles Traffic Reporter Recovering After Crash. Los Angeles traffic reporter Mike Nolan suffered fractured ribs and a broken collar bone in the Friday evening crash of a Cessna single engine plane he was piloting near the Corona Municipal Airport. KFI’s Neil Saavedra tells the Los Angeles Times Nolan was flying with a student and family friend – who was not seriously injured – when the crash occurred in Riverside County. Saavedra tells the paper Nolan – a KFI employee since the mid-1980s – had more than 40 years of experience as a pilot. He was headed home to land in time to take off again for his two last traffic newscasts when the accident took place. The plane lost power and hit electricity lines.
Odds ‘n’ Sods. WTKK, Boston talk host Doug Meehan is broadcasting live from Camp Harbor View this Thursday morning to help raise awareness and funds for the special camp that offers hundreds of children who live in Boston’s at-risk neighborhoods the opportunity to have fun and learn at summer camp. Thursday’s broadcast will feature coverage of the camp’s 5k road race event…..WFAS, Westchester, New York talk host Lisa Wexler, whose program airs live on the station from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm daily, will have her show re-broadcast from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily beginning tonight. WFAS GM Marty Sheehan says, “We are very proud of all that Lisa has accomplished in the short time she has been with us. We want to meet the demand to hear more of Lisa and introduce more of our audience to her show.”…..Sports USA is making the Little League World Series U.S. Championship and International Championship games available to radio stations across the country. The games are being played the weekend of August 25 and 26. Ad sales are being handled by Skyview Networks.
Sirius About Fantasy Football. Sports talk hosts and celebrities invaded the Hard Rock Café in New York City’s Times Square over the weekend for SiriusXM’s Celebrity Fantasy Football Draft broadcast. In addition to SiriusXM talk hosts Steve Phillips, Jay Thomas, Scott Ferrall, Steve Covino and Rich Davis, celebrities including actor George Wendt, guitarist Zakk Wylde and Jaguars running back Maurice Drew-Jones took part in the promotion. Pictured here are DirecTV/Premiere Networks talk hosts Nick Di Paolo and Artie Lange who also took part.
Media Matters Begins Paid Ad Campaign in Eight Markets Against Rush Limbaugh and Conservative Talk Radio. The Associated Press is reporting that Media Matters for America will spend some $100,000 on an ad campaign in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Macon, Georgia and Cedar Rapids, Iowa asking people who hear the ad to call the Rush Limbaugh affiliate in their market and say, “We don’t talk to women like that in our city.” Clearly, Media Matters is not backing off its attack on conservative talk media and any success it can claim for harming Limbaugh’s program – or conservative talk radio in general – will help bring in more donations to its cause. And, according to Premiere Networks spokesperson Rachel Nelson, therein lays the rub. “This is not about women. It’s not about ethics and it’s not about the nature of our public discourse. It’s a direct attack on America’s guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech. It’s essentially a call for censorship masquerading as high-minded indignation.” As this ideological and tactical war escalates, more important voices are entering the fray with a variety of takes on the issue. For example, leading progressive talker of radio, television and live performances, Stephanie Miller tells TALKERS, “I, for one, as someone in radio for over 25 years, know that advertiser boycotts can cut both ways and hurt everyone in the radio business. The other side can just as easily take something I said, or Ed Schultz said, and goes after our advertisers and stations, and then where does it end? ‘You send one of ours to the hospital; we send one of yours to the morgue’? If advertisers decide that talk radio in general is too controversial, we all lose!” Miller tells TALKERS that she intends to extend invitations to both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to appear as guests on her nationally syndicated morning radio program (simulcast beginning Monday on Al Gore’s progressive Current TV) to present their side of the story in a non-confrontational setting. Dial Global-syndicated progressive talk host Thom Hartmann is also bothered by the anti-Limbaugh campaign. “The Limbaugh boycott is bad for all talk radio; it’s harming progressive talk radio by shrinking the pool of companies willing to advertise on any type of talk radio. If people want to be activists “against” or “for” a show, they should call station management, not advertisers.”
America’s Radio News Network Gives CNN Radio Affiliates Free Trial of its 24-Hour News Service. With the CNN Radio news service going away after April 1, Talk Radio Network CEO Mark Masters says his company is offering the more than 1,100 CNN Radio affiliates the chance to take the America’s Radio News Network 24-hour top- and bottom-of-the-hour news service for 45 days contract and inventory free so they can make up their minds about their new news service without having to make a “snap decision.” Masters says, “This is a simple courtesy extended to those former CNN stations giving them a six week ‘pressure relief valve’ where they could sample our fine product inventory free without pressure, giving them extra time to make the best decision. Obviously we think that we are the best choice, but this offer was meant as a thoughtful courtesy to those stations that have not yet made up their minds – we don’t want them to be ‘high and dry’ on April 2.” Masters says because of the growth of America’s Radio News Network’s long-form programming and the demand for short-form top- and bottom-of-the-hour news brought on by CNN’s sudden departure from radio news ARNN recently announced that it had moved up its schedule for the launch of its second news network to accommodate the needs of radio stations looking for “agenda free” short-form news. ARNN EVP John McCaslin says, “We’re so confident that this is the best top- and bottom-of-the-hour news product on the air, we are willing to allow stations to air it, without inventory requirement contract free through May 15. So, all you have to ask yourself is, ‘What am I going to do with over 700 extra minutes of local inventory, if I take ARNN up on its free sample offer?’”
All-News KROI-FM, Houston Fires Morning Anchor Scott Braddock. It’s an unusual case but not unheard of and certainly becoming more relevant as intellectual property issues become more common in the industry. Radio One’s KROI-FM, Houston recently dismissed morning drive news anchor Scott Braddock after he appeared on crosstown, non-commercial outlet KPFT-FM to discuss the Texas sonogram law and play audio of an interview that also had previously aired on his employer’s station. He tells the Houston Chronicle he did so without asking permission and believes he had the right to air the audio, equating it with a reporter’s notes. Radio One disagreed, stating it violated the terms of his contract – a contract Braddock says he had not signed – and it had no choice but to let him go. Braddock says Radio One is overreacting and wonders why a station that worked hard to get him to come to Houston from Austin for the job would let one of its prime talent go as it works to get the nascent all-news outlet off the ground.
Denver Woman Charged with Felonies After Telling Tale of Escaping Jury Duty on KOA. Last October Susan Cole appeared on KOA, Denver’s Dave Logan program and told the story of how she got out of jury duty by dressing bizarrely and pretending to suffer from mental illness. Unfortunately, Denver District Court Judge Anne Mansfield was listening and, due in part to Cole’s memorable performance in court, investigators were able to figure out who she was. According to the Denver Post, Cole used the name “Char from Denver” on the radio program and investigators linked her to her pen name Char Cole. She published a book that details her struggles with domestic abuse under the name and offered it to investigators to prove her life story and the mental illness claim, but she was unable to show she suffers from PTSD which she claimed at her jury appearance. It’s unclear what penalty, if convicted, the 57-year-old Cole faces.
Sales: H&H Communications’ Al Herskovitz Announces the Winners of His 2012 Hersky Awards for Talk Radio Sales Excellence. For the fifth year running, sales and marketing pro and TALKERS columnist Al Herskovitz recognizes some of the industry’s shining stars in the sales, commercial and ad copy arenas. Read Al’s humorous yet insightful piece here.
KILT, Houston AM Drive Co-Host Marc Vandermeer to Leave Radio Show. The NFL’s Houston Texans are taking their broadcasts in-house and current KILT morning drive co-host Marc Vandermeer will leave the CBS Radio sports outlet to become director of radio broadcasting for the team. KILT serves as the flagship for the Texans and Vandermeer tells the Houston Chronicle he’ll still be affiliated with the station. “It’s awesome to be able to work for an NFL team and to be involved in all aspects of their radio programming. I’m not saying goodbye to Sports Radio 610, so I will still maintain my relationships there. It’s the best of everything for me.” Program director Gavin Spittle tells the paper Vandermeer will exit in late May or early June and he will begin looking for a replacement to work alongside co-host John Lopez.
KKFN, Denver Re-Ups with Talk Host Alfred Williams. Lincoln Financial Media sports talk host (and former Denver Bronco star) Alfred Williams signs a contract renewal to remain in the co-host seat alongside Darren “D-Mac” McKee on the 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm program. In a statement, Williams says, “I am excited to continue to be a part of ‘The Fan.’ I love getting to interact locally with the Denver sports fans everyday and am happy to know I’ll be able to do it for many years to come.”
WRNN-AM/FM, Myrtle Beach Host Tara Servatius Exits Blog Position After Controversial Image Draws Criticism. Morning drive co-host Tara Servatius has left her position as a blogger for the non-profit John Locke Foundation after she used a doctored photo of President Obama in drag with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in front of him to accompany the piece about the president’s opposition to the North Carolina marriage amendment. Servatius apologized for the photo stating, “I am genuinely sorry my inclusion of the photo along with my blog post has caused controversy for the John Locke Foundation. If it has offended anyone, I sincerely regret that. That was certainly not my intention. It was meant to illustrate Obama’s southern political strategy, nothing more. An honest reading of the piece itself shows there is nothing offensive in it.” WRNN-AM/FM owner Next Media Group says the issue will not affect Servatius’ status with the station.
Los Angeles Sports Talk Personalities Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian to Host Daily Internet Show. Southern California sports talk personality Joe McDonnell, who’s been doing sports update work at KNX, Los Angeles, will begin a daily internet sports talk show with former radio partner Doug Krikorian, according to the Orange County Register’s Gary Lycan. The McDonnell-Douglas show will air from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm on a yet-to-be announced URL. McDonnell was a major presence in the Los Angeles sports media scene going back to the 1980s but he disappeared from sports talk radio after leaving KLAC in 2008. He made the local news after undergoing gastric bypass surgery and losing some 400 pounds several years ago. The new show debuts on April 9 with a live broadcast from Legends Sports Bar in Long Beach.
Republican Primary/2012 Presidential Campaign Again Tops Talkers TenTM News/Talk Chart. The GOP primary race and the greater 2012 presidential campaign again tied for the most-talked-about topics on news/talk radio during the week of March 19-23 landing atop the Talkers TenTM chart for another straight week . Coming in at #2 was Iran’s nuclear weapons program tied with U.S.-Israel relations. At #3 was soaring gas prices tied with President Obama’s approval ratings and at #4 was the controversy over the slaying of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the most-talked-about stories and people of the week as heard on news/talk radio across American based on ongoing research from TALKERS. View the entire chart here.
TALKERS Weekly Affiliate Roundup. “Free Talk Live” featuring Ian Freeman and Mark Edge picks up major market affiliate WWRL, New York…..Dial Global’s Michael Smerconish adds Boise affiliate KYWN.