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Talking Through Tragedy With Will Palaszczuk

Tyler McComas



May 20, 2013. 

A day I’ll never forget.

I had been in the radio business a little over two years. Just 23 years old, my main duties included producing various shows throughout the day, setting up live remotes and doing color commentary for high school football games. This particular day, I was headed to set up a remote for the afternoon show that began at 2:00. I was to arrive at Norris Marine at 1:30, a boat store in my home of Norman, located less than three miles away from the city of Moore, Okla. 

Spring days in Oklahoma typically mean warm, muggy days with the chance of thunderstorms. Living in this state, you accept the fact that severe weather is routinely going to be a part of your daily life. That’s just how it is. As Will Rogers, a famous columnist, radio personality and actor, amongst other things, once put it, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.”

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A quote all Oklahomans know by heart became a stunning reality on May 20th. 

The potential for severe weather was high that day, but it didn’t seem that way, as I drove across town under bright, sunny skies and warm weather. Though two lives were claimed the day before due to tornadoes, the early afternoon hours were nearly picturesque and gave a snapshot of an ideal spring day. 

At 2:30, the show was off and running after two opening segments. As usual, I was still on-site at the remote, just in case the connection went bad and kicked the show off the air. By then, nobody could turn their attention away from the skies that had went from sunny to dark and ominous in a matter of a few minutes. Seemingly, out of nowhere, the risk of a severe tornado was suddenly imminent as a nearby TV filled live shots of the storm located just a few miles away from our location. 

At 2:56, an EF-5 tornado with a width of over one mile, dropped on the ground. It raced towards Moore, a city that had been devastated by a similar tornado just 14 years prior. For 40 minutes, the deadly twister traveled 14 miles, causing billions in damage and claiming the lives of 25 people. 

By the time the storm had dissipated, two hours still remained in the show. One would probably assume the show would be cut short, however, with new affiliates just signing on, the two hosts were required to stay on the air during the entire four-hour broadcast. In one of the darkest days in the history of the state, how could one be expected to carry on with a sports radio show? How insignificant must talking about sports feel when people just lost their lives a few miles down the road?

To this day, I still admire how both of those guys, Teddy Lehman and Dusty Dvoracek, were able to handle that afternoon and finish the show. Even for the most experienced show hosts, there’s no blueprint to know how to handle a situation like that. No esteemed university, successful program director or thick textbook can teach you how to conduct a sports radio show amidst tragedy in a nearby area. 

Image result for Teddy Lehman and Dusty Dvoracek

That’s the prevailing thought I had last week, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the coastal states. Several college football games were cancelled as the incoming storm was almost sure to bring along flooding, heavy damage and loss of life. When Monday came around after the damaging weekend, what was a sports radio host in South Carolina supposed to talk about? Do you discuss the weekend of college football and NFL action, just to provide an escape for people? Do you offer updates on the aftermath of the hurricane and dedicate your entire show to it? Again, there’s no blueprint for how to handle a unique situation such as this. God willing, none of you reading this will ever have to experience it. 

But some have, including Will Palaszczuk a host on SportsTalkSC in South Carolina. Though Palaszczuk does his show in Columbia, which didn’t suffer near the damage that other surrounding coast cities did, several affiliates of the show across the state suffered heavy damage from the hurricane. 

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Sometimes, your role as a show host in this situation is to carry on as normal. Try your best to do a normal show to serve as an escape for the listener. Other times, it’s to inform and offer condolences to the situation at hand. Maybe the best way, is to mix in both, providing the best of both worlds to the listener. Regardless, it comes down to your instinct. Trust it. Whatever feels right at that time, go with it. 

Palaszcuk doesn’t have a handbook to teach him how to handle a show during a week like this, but he’s making due and moving forward the best way he knows how. How exactly has his show handled it? He answered that question and more during a tragic time for his state of South Carolina. 

TM: Where are your affiliates at and which ones were affected the most?

WP: Our show broadcasts out of Columbia, SC, but we have affiliates in the upstate areas such as Clemson and Greenville, and other affiliates in affected areas such as Florence and Myrtle Beach. Altogether we have about 30 affiliates, all across the state. 

TM: Knowing last week that this storm was coming, and football games across the coast were being canceled, how did you guys brace for it?

WP: Our role is unique as a network sports talk show. We feel like our local affiliates are handling the micro situation as far as whats happening with local communities. We set our role as the sports talk show, we want to run a sports talk program, but we also want to be sensitive to the fact that there’s another thing going on.

We didn’t ignore the issue, but felt our role was to create a diversion. We knew there were a lot of stations that were going wall-to-wall with weather coverage, especially in the affected areas. From that standpoint, we wanted to provide what we think is our best option of programming, which is a sports talk show. We do that, but with the sensitivity that there will be certain events that are impacted by the hurricane.

We covered South Carolina’s game being cancelled, we had the athletic director on the evening it was announced. Clemson didn’t make a final call on their game until Friday, but we had their athletic director on to discuss the decision for them to decide to play. Having the relationship we do with both of those athletic departments, gave us the ability to go to them and let them voice the reasoning behind the decisions to a statewide audience. 

It’s different, having covered a lot of these on a local level, I spent a lot of time in the Midwest and as you know in Oklahoma, you cover a lot of tornadoes and things of that nature. You kind of have to go into almost a news, wall-to-wall type mode. But like I said, in this instance, our role was unique that we’re a sports talk network that provides sports to a number of affiliates. We just felt our role was to create a diversion. 

TM: Did you get a lot of positive feedback from that? 

WP: We didn’t get as many calls as we would in a normal week, just because people were so preoccupied. The one thing we did get a good response from, was the interviews with both athletic directors. We got a lot of praise in that regard. Just the fact we were able to handle it from an outreach standpoint that we were able to get both of them on.

The one thing we try to do, is take the pulse of the South Carolina people. It was hard in this state to not be cognizant and mention the storm. We couldn’t totally ignore it, but I don’t think it would have served us any good to go wall-to-wall with it. That doesn’t serve our general purpose. 

TM: What about social media? Your own, the show’s account, was that very dedicated to news stories or was it business as usual there, too? 

WP: We put out, anytime there was a cancellation, especially with our smaller schools in the state. We had a couple of those. We try to use our page as not only a news gathering situation, but also to inform and show people the content we provide. 


TM: How much did the cancellation of football games change the way you cover college football in the state? 

WP: Well, between my partner and I, one of us is usually at a South Carolina or Clemson game. We usually split that duty up. One of us is at one, the other is at the other. It just happened to work out that my partner was at Clemson and I was at home. We didn’t see it being productive for us both to go to games, in case something was to break, especially since the storm was supposed to go through Columbia that day.

If anything was to break, I was on standby in case anything happened. Fortunately, nothing did, at least in our part of the state. But there were places that did get hit hard and we acknowledged that, right off the bat, on Monday. There are some parts of the state that are still largely affected, and we’re sensitive towards that.

Image result for south carolina hurricane damage

The big story, sports wise, is how South Carolina is going to make up that game. As an impartial network, our role is to, sometimes, ask the tough questions. When we had Clemson’s athletic director on, we asked how he would respond to the people that are critical of his school still playing a football game during this time. I would think you’d probably get a fair answer, but it’s probably still open to criticism, because of the fact there were a lot of those emergency personnel that could have been used in other parts of the state.  

TM:  Maybe sometimes, we, as show hosts, can lose sight of what’s really important. Was this a good reminder for you that it’s all about serving the audience and really providing an escape for them?

WP: I do know, that at least for those two hours, it was an escape from the Weather Channel and things of that nature. When you are a producer of a consumer product, such as a sports talk show, you also, by default, are a consumer as well. You’re consuming what the masses are consuming, which is a lot of weather related news and apps. We were all in the same boat and it makes you feel very connected with the listener.

At least from our perspective, we wanted to make sure that those who wanted to come to our show for sports talk, got sports talk, but with the understanding that we were mindful with what was going on. Even though it wasn’t going on outside of our window, it was going on outside the window of several people listening to us. We continued to pump out info for how people could donate to the relief effort, the Carolina Panthers put out a t-shirt that goes straight to relief efforts, and we pumped that on Monday.

It’s something where we feel we’re the voice of the people in our state. We recognize who we are, and what our role is. In this particular situation, we believed it was to be to provide an escape. 


BSM Writers

Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood

“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Derek Futterman




The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.

It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.

During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.

“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.

“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”

Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.

“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”

Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.

Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.

“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”

When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.

“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”

Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.

“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”

Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.

Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.

“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”

No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.

At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.

“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”

According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.

“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”

As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.

“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.

Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.

“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).

Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at

“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”

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BSM Writers

Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

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When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee. 

The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.

McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.

McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.

The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.

There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored. 

It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.

It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.

Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.

And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.

If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.  

Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.

If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable. 

It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.

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BSM Writers

5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit

“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”

Jeff Caves




Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain. 

Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:

  1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.  
  2. GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
  3. LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either. 
  4. SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email. 
  5. WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food. 

You’re welcome. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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