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Monday Memo: Reinvent Yourself

| October 5, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Recently here, I reviewed WGN America’s “News Nation,” three live prime-time hours that test a novel concept: Simply tell me what’s happening, without telling me how to feel about it. ICYMI: read it here.

News Without Noise, Part 2

Now comes “The News with Shepard Smith,” weeknights at 7:00 ET. If you haven’t yet, see it; and you’ll feel the kind of mojo radio misses.

  • Like WGN’s show, there are no talking heads. Its “With Balance, Not Biased” mantra is a heavy lift these days; but even on debate night, “News Nation” pulled it off. WGN America EVP Sean Compton – who has a talk radio background – told my RT America colleague Steve Malzberg that they have what he calls “a SWAT team of rhetoricians,” who post mortem each show for “vocal inflections and use of words” that could be misconstrued as biased.
  • Unlike WGN’s show – populated by affable strangers – the new CNBC hour has star power. FOX News Channel escapee Smith is someone we know well; and his confident manner is as welcoming as his polished copy is engaging.
  • Something both shows have in common: Great supporting cast. “News Nation” touts “5,500 journalists,” many of whom work with Nexstar stations; and Smith’s hour features what feels like a family of NBC/MSNBC/CNBC correspondents. On opening night, after familiar MSNBC numbers guy Steve Kornacki’s usual arm-waving-at-the-big-board appearance, Shep’ drawled “Nice to meet you Steve. Come back often.” And on both shows, all these contributors seem super-enthused to be there, the way local DJs on a hot station used to sound before the robots took over.

YOUR next move?

Have you heard The Michael Harrison interview with supermarket mogul-turned-WABC owner John Catsimatidis and Cousin Brucie, now back full-circle to WABC? You’ll hear a contagious “Why NOT?” that’s too rare lately.

As I write this, Michael Savage is telling listeners he will end his on-air show at year’s end and go podcast-only in January. WHO ISN’T podcasting lately? The iHeart galaxy of podcast stars that you might hear promoted in national spots on your air includes Hillary Clinton, whose show debuted on debate night.

When David Brinkley died in 2003, archival interview footage included him recalling the dawn of television. He was a NBC Radio news guy; and he chuckled that when those among him were asked to work on this new TV thing, they’d wonder why they were being punished. Ten years before Brinkley’s passing, Michael Harrison was telling the Talkers New York conference: “Use old media to promote new media.” Which explains all the commercials for podcasts we’re seeing and hearing on TV and radio.

Following-the-bouncing-ball, I transitioned from 70s AM DJ, through PD gigs to news, then new media, then consulting, and I’m now doing a TV show. Sitting too still has never been riskier.

Other than Friday nights…

With each day’s news topping what stunned us the day before, I have never missed “Hardball with Chris Matthews” more. As a viewer, I hadn’t settled on another 7:00 pm show, until now. If I weren’t otherwise occupied Friday nights at 7:00, I’d watch Shep’ then too.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page).  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice