High-Profile Tragedy Puts Talk Radio and News Radio in Unique Position. Friday’s horrific crime at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is putting radio – mostly talk radio and all-news radio – in a unique position, once again. Although some music stations, especially those geographically close to Newtown, covered the breaking news event on Friday, the aftermath of the killings was over the weekend and will continue to be the primary topic of discussion on talk radio and the focus of all-news outlets through the early portion of this week. TALKERS managing editor/West Coast bureau chief Mike Kinosian analyzes the recent important news events that have driven talk radio to increased audiences in November and what the Newtown massacre and other major news events may mean for the format into the December “Holiday” ratings period. Read Mike Kinosian’s analysis here. With regard to the formatics of handling a breaking news event such as this, earlier this fall, TALKERS spoke with programmers and hosts about their handling of the shootings at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater and many of their thoughts are relevant to coverage of this event as well. For programmers, hosts and managers who may have missed that piece, read it here.
Consultant Chris Miller Advises Radio Stations to Use Their Websites and Digital Tools to Their Full Potential in Serving Communities During Horrific Tragedies. Radio digital consultant and TALKERS columnist Chris Miller writes that radio has two worthy purposes on days like Friday: Keeping our listeners informed and offering a place for stress-reduction. Most importantly he says, “Do no harm.” To read Miller’s timely and important piece, click here.
Connecticut School Massacre Sets Media into High Gear; Radio Faces Challenge of How to Cover. The horrific massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut on Friday is another in a line of catastrophic events that put the radio industry into “emergency” mode. How to cover this news story is a challenge that programmers of all formats are facing. TALKERS magazine’s instant monitor scan of stations around the nation indicates a marked effort to discuss or at least acknowledge the horrific event that broke the peace Friday in Connecticut and is serving, perhaps, as a straw that breaks the camel’s back in our society’s collective nervous system regarding the seemingly endless string of mind-numbing violent events. This includes everything from music stations to sports talkers. Radio consultant and TALKERS columnist Holland Cooke offers advice for action going forward and analysis of some of what’s been aired so far. He also points to the print media as a tutor in this instance based on some of the front pages of newspapers around the world. (The accompanying photo is from a Berlin daily.) Read Holland Cooke’s piece here.
WVKO, Columbus Drops Progressive Talk for Gospel. Gary Richards has been leasing the class B AM station from Bernard Ohio Radio since the beginning of 2012 but announces he’ll return control of the station and it flips to gospel immediately. In a post at the station’s website, Richards spreads the blame around to everyone from the Obama campaign to local advertisers. He writes, “Once again, we had a good run with the station and we were happy to in some small way contribute to the success that the Democrats enjoyed in November. Unfortunately, it was not a two-way street and lack of advertising support from the Obama campaign all the way down to local races ensured that we will be unable to continue into the New Year. I put my time, money, heart and soul into doing what I believed to be important for the country, but those who benefited most from our efforts chose to spend their campaign dollars elsewhere. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice….Well, we can’t get fooled again. Also, a number of advertisers who supported the station in the past chose to turn their backs on us this time. I can’t say why, since they would not return our calls. I want to thank our advertisers, supporters and you the listeners for everything, and I hope that progressive talk can somehow return to Columbus in the future.”
Future of News/Talk WTKK, Boston Still in the News with More Domain Registrations. Questions about the future of Greater Media’s Boston news/talk outlet WTKK have been circulating over the past few weeks after the company had begun registering domain names that have hinted at a flip to an urban format – lots of domains with “beat” and “power” in them. More have been registered and, as is often the case, it appears Greater Media is toying with its competitors as new domain names using words such as “bone,” “groove” and “sportsradio” become public. Greater Media has publicly told the local media it’s always considering options for its stations but would say nothing more concrete. Let the speculation continue!
Cumulus Media to Air CBS Sports Radio Network on KC Translator. Cumulus Media – which is in partnership with CBS Radio on its soon-to-debut national sports talk radio format – announces it will air the format on Kansas City translator K272BZ-FM at 102.5 in January. Currently the 250-watt translator is airing Cumulus’ classic hits KCMO-FM.
Former New Jersey 101.5 Co-Owner Bob McAllan Wins Landmark Legal Battle to Bring New Jersey its Own TV Station. On Friday morning (12/14), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to grant two new VHF television licenses to former co-owner and creator of the mega-successful talk/music hybrid WKXW, Trenton (New Jersey 101.5), Bob McAllan. His company is PMCM-TV. It appears McAllan, a former chairman of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) is finally realizing his dream of “bringing local TV service to residents of New Jersey.” The Court ruling hinged on the interpretation of one word: “Reallocation” and the ruling grants a TV spectrum allotment to Bob’s enterprise for Channel 3 in Middletown (Monmouth County) an area of the Jersey shore that was ravaged by Sandy. McAllan’s shore-based radio stations at Press Communications stayed on the air for two weeks following the storm from remote locations. NJBA President Paul Rotella, who learned about the ruling while in Washington, tells TALKERS: “I was very happy for Bob and his colleagues since the NJBA supported Bob’s efforts to bring more full power broadcast TV coverage to the Garden State for decades. This long-awaited decision is good for all New Jersey residents and we congratulate Bob on his hard fought Court victory.”
News Anchor Joe Donovan Retires from WWJ, Detroit. The 37-year news staffer at CBS Radio’s WWoit retired from the all-news station on Friday, December 14 with a brief announcement in which he stated, “Good-bye Detroit. Thank you for listening all these years.” Donovan joined WWJ in 1976. He has been co-hosting the morning drive news program with Roberta Jasina. The Detroit Free Press reports CBS Radio will make an announcement about the station’s morning program in the near future.
WABC, New York Alumni Christmas Party. This photo is from the annual WABC, New York alumni Christmas party organized by former Sean Hannity producer Jill Vitale a.k.a. Flirty Flipper. The bash took place on Thursday, December 13 in NYC. Pictured here are former WABC morning men alongside former WABC program director Phil Boyce. From left to right: Boyce, Jay Diamond, Barry Farber and Curtis Sliwa.
Walter Sabo Leaves COO Position at Merlin Media. Noted radio consultant Walter Sabo has parted ways with Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media, the heavily venture capital-backed firm that acquired a majority share of three radio stations this past summer from Jeff Smulyan’sEmmis Broadcasting including WEMP-FM, New York and WWWN-FM, Chicago and is in the process of picking up a fourth from Harold Camping’s Family Broadcasting – WKDN-FM, in the Philadelphia market. Merlin launched a relatively experimental all-news format at these stations targeted to what Sabo described as “working families” with an emphasis on the 25-54 female demographic. The stations (FM News 101.9 in New York and FM News 101.1 in Chicago) received a tremendous amount of attention (and intense scrutiny) in the media before, during and after their launch prompted by former Tribune Company CEO Michaels’ negatively colorful and controversial profile, in addition to the fact that they were taking a startlingly innovative and youthful approach to delivering the all-news format. Sabo was recruited to serve as architect of this approach due to his impeccable reputation as a longtime champion of the concept of targeting female listeners on FM and proven track record for success with spoken word on FM as a longtime consultant for WKXW-FM, Trenton (New Jersey 101.5). When a notable rise in ratings failed to materialize in immediately subsequent survey periods coupled with widespread criticism by radio industry observers of the stations’ formats and execution – further exacerbated by Michaels receiving negative publicity in the midst of all this for being arrested on DUI charges – the heat was on and Michaels began facing enormous internal and external pressure to modify the programming approach. He succumbed and the Merlin stations began moving in a more traditional all-news direction putting them in head-to-head competition with CBS’s long-established, traditional and wildly successful all-news outlets in New York and Chicago (WINS, WCBS and WBBM). With this repositioning, the challenge of competing against successful, established news outlets has not produced increased ratings and the Merlin all-news initiative has become prematurely tagged throughout the industry as a monumental failure. Sabo’s withdrawal from day-to-day operational and programming decisions, including his subsequent departure from Merlin, has been quietly happening below the radar for some time now. Up until this article’s publication (1/2), there has been no official press release, acknowledgement or statement from either Merlin or Sabo confirming or commenting on his exit. However,TALKERS sources inside Merlin and close to Sabo confirm that it is indeed true with Sabo telling TALKERS,“At this time my work with Merlin is complete. The primary job was to build the most competitive team on and off the air – Merlin has the best. Our initiatives gave investors the confidence to buy a station in a third market and grow the company. GTCR deserves enormous credit for investing in the radio medium. FM spoken-word is so hot that the demand for Sabo Media services has never been greater. Our clients find that our decades of experience in the FM talk format protects their investment and shortens the profit horizon. More importantly my beautiful wife Katie is seven months pregnant during the holidays. That’s the news.” Sabo will continue to serve as CEO of his consulting firm Sabo Media and internet branding and marketing company, HitViews.
Fox Sports Radio Network Debuts New Morning Program Featuring Andy Furman and Artrell Hawkins. Today is the debut of Fox Sports Radio Network’s new morning show – “Fox Sports Daybreak” – heard from 6:00 am to 9:00 am ET and featuring former Cincinnati sports talk host Andy Furman and retired NFL defensive back Artrell Hawkins. Furman’s resume includes an 18-year run hosting “Sports Talk” at WLW, Cincinnati and, recently, the PM drive show at WQRT, Cincinnati. Hawkins is a contributor to the Cincinnati Bengals Radio Network. Furman has been hosting a weekend show with former NFL star Lincoln Kennedy for more than a year and that Sunday evening program with Furman and Kennedy will continue. Fox Sports Radio VP/GM Don Martin states, “We couldn’t be happier to have Andy and Artrell hosting our new morning drive program. The combination of a sports talk pro like Andy and a former professional football player like Artrell will be a great addition to our weekday lineup.” Fox Sports Daybreak replaces the Zakk and Jack program on the FSRN schedule.
Cumulus Media Flips WMTI-FM, New Orleans from Oldies to Sports Talk. The Big Easy gets a new sports talk outlet as Cumulus Media drops the oldies on WMTI-FM and goes sports talk with programming from Fox Sports Radio Network, Premiere Networks’ Jim Rome and a PM drive show hosted by New Orleans Hornets broadcaster Gerry Vaillancourt.
New FM Talk Outlet for Little Rock. Crain Media Group drops the active rock on KKSP-FM, Bryant, Arkansas (located to the Northwest of Little Rock) and debuts a talk format it’s calling “Fresh Talk 93.3.” The lineup includes market news personality Neal Gladner in morning drive, Talk Radio Network’s Laura Ingraham, Dial Global’s Clark Howard, Premiere Networks’ “Coast to Coast AM” and more.
Progressive Talk Appears on WVKO, Columbus. The station at 1580 AM is owned by Bernard Ohio LLC and its website indicates it’s doing business as Clear Conscience Communications. The progressive talk lineup that debuted on January 2 includes Dial Global’s Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann and Bill Press plus Mike Malloy and Leslie Marshall.
Chris Schoenewald Exits Virginia-Based “Daily Constitutional” Program. The regionally syndicated “Daily Constitutional” – based out of WCHV-AM/FM, Charlottesville, Virginia and co-hosted by Joe Thomas and Chris Schoenewald – is undergoing changes as Schoenewald is leaving the program to run for office. He plans to announce which office he’ll seek soon. Thomas tells TALKERS the program will continue. “Adam Forster of Virginia Living Television and private investigator/TV anchor Nikki Lewis will be purchasing Schoenewald’s share and we’re hopeful to continue to grow and help stations in this area program locally oriented talk while freeing up their resources for news and marketing efforts.” The “Daily Constitutional” airs live from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm ET. In addition, Thomas hosts the morning drive program on WCHV-AM/FM.
Sam Malone in Israel. KSEV, Houston morning host Sam Malone is pictured here inspecting the cockpit of an Israeli F-16 during a tour of the Hatzor Air Force Base while on a trip to Israel. Malone broadcast his program live back to his Houston audience (via the very capable technology of the Comrex ACCESS) during which he interviewed numerous Houstonians serving in the IDF, important Israeli media figures and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Malone tells TALKERS magazine his audience loved the content and his marketing department was able to get the broadcast event sponsored.
Iowa Caucuses, Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, Holiday Sports Action and New Year Retrospectives Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (1/2). Today’s Iowa Caucuses for GOP candidates, the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian leadership, college and pro holiday sports action and 2011 retrospectives were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday according to ongoing research from TALKERS.