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Monday Memo: Split-Shift Success

| November 15, 2021

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Just reading about Gene Valicenti’s routine may exhaust you. In his 30th year on NBC10 Providence, he co-anchors the 6:00 pm weeknight TV newscast that sometimes beats the other stations combined. And in his 10th year on WPRO radio, his morning drive ratings hit #1 6+.

Begging-the-question: WHEN do you sleep? Gene chuckles “I take a nice nap during the day, and get to bed by 9.” And like many working remotely during the shutdown, he says “doing the show from home has been a blessing. More sleep, a later wake-up, and a more alert host!”

You can eyewitness this daily marathon in a recent profile by Rhode Island’s PBS station. And I asked Gene how he gets it all accomplished:

Your prep routine?

  • “My prep begins right after I sign off the radio at 9:00 am. So for the next show it really continues all day long, and the night before air. Everything is pretty much put to bed by the time I go to bed, and then tweaked in the morning if anything changes or breaks overnight.”
  • “We book all of our guests the night before, but have woken people up before sunrise. It helps that most of the market’s newsmakers listen to my show, and suspect I might be calling them early.” Having help…helps, and a producer each at the radio and TV stations are “constantly making calls, booking interviews, and gathering sound. And while texting is great, we do a lot of old school talking on the phone” throughout the day.
  • Both gigs benefit from double-duty: “Since I do the 6:00 pm news on TV, I have a good grasp of what people will be interested in on the radio the next day. In fact, a lot of my TV sound is cross-purposed for radio, and vice-versa. Often my morning radio interviews will break or advance a story that TV picks up on later in the day. Nothing is wasted. A good chunk of the week’s best sound from radio turns up on my Sunday political show on TV, keeping the symbiosis going all week long.”

What radio can learn from TV?

“Keep things moving topic to topic. I do sort of a “Today Show” for radio: guests, news, funny stories. Most segments last five to seven minutes, though we might go longer if I sense a topic that will light up the phones. It has to be ‘good’ to get on, and there’s always something to move onto next.”

What TV can learn from radio?

“That a compelling clip of radio audio works just fine without supporting video. People are more interested in what’s actually being said than flashy graphics, and whiz-bang special effects.” And because “a lot of people in the morning listen to TV without looking at it, we’re really not that far apart.” And in this case, competing morning media play-well together, as Gene does a live simulcast hit on NBC10’s morning show.

Live reads get results.

As with many local radio hosts, endorsement spots are key; and Gene’s are sold-out.

  • “I prefer to work off bullet points that allow for a more conversational style. If a read comes in scripted, I’ll use it as a guide, sticking to it for a few sentences and then jumping around ad-lib to keep it fresh.”
  • “Often I might reference the news of the day in some of my copy, tying in the sponsor in a humorous way: ‘For yesterday’s mess in Washington, Congress really should get X-PRESS Sweeping tonight.’”
  • And if you live in Southeastern New England, you’d have to have your head examined to buy a television anywhere BUT Pinnacle Discount Center in Warwick RI. At least that’s the clear impression you get when Gene Valicenti touts the deals – “including BOGOs!” – that Pinnacle’s “Uncle Bill” has “in-stock, today!” Gene says “You have an uncle in the TV business.”

Holland Cooke is the author of “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks.” On page one, he suggests, abruptly: ”Stop reading,” and links to a document that “explains the sweet spot between superstardom and obscurity, using the tools already at your disposal.” HC’s E-book is available exclusively from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). Holland is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice