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The American System Is Broken

“I’ve often suggested a bulldozer will be required to remove Trump from the White House. I’ve amended that today to an army of M117 Guardian tanks, Stryker Combat vehicles, LVSR Wreckers and maybe a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, all coordinated by Dana White.”

Jay Mariotti

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The only sure loser is America. Or, I should say, the two Americas, as this presidential slog of two tomato cans only widened an ideological gulf that leaves us red in exasperation and blue in the face. All the election did was re-confirm a toxic reality: We are a bipolar country that will continue to wage a civil war despite Joe Biden’s vow “to unite, heal and come together as a nation’’ — and if you doubt the social divide, wait until Donald Trump launches a 24-hour TV channel programmed for half the U.S. population.     

It wouldn’t be America, 2020, without a stupefying slugfest ending in coast-to-coast stench. The Democrats think the stink comes from Trump, who, in a remarkable last-stand media session, called himself a victim of election fraud and vowed to send packs of legal bulldogs to the Supreme Court. Trump thinks the stink is grounded in a wide-ranging conspiracy, and while he’s going to do need actual evidence before any judge considers the election was “stolen,’’ I will say this: Trump’s claims aren’t completely inane when an archaic, reckless process invites corruption and inefficacy.     

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,’’ he said. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.’’     

Sour grapes? More lies? It’s difficult to trust a president who still thinks the coronavirus is fading into the wind — and a man who likely won a stolen election in 2016. Still, every wee-hours TV shot of a scene out of yesteryear — workers opening mail-in ballots, then placing them in piles on collapsible tables beside trash cans in dimly-lit warehouses — left me with the same haunting conclusion: We can trust neither Big Tech nor human beings to elect a president in the 21st century. It’s a broken system that should be condemned and overhauled, disposed into the same Washington dumpster as the irresponsible mainstream media — who never have looked worse in their failed bias-brainwashing — and the pollsters, who showed once and for all that they’re either nerds on the take or just inept.     

There is no transparency — from Trump, from the Democrats, from the media, from the prognosticators, from the electoral process. There is no integrity. There is no faith.     

Therefore, there is no America.     

The clumsiness of it all only fed Trump’s suspicions that the vote was rigged via dishonest counting practices and phony media slanting. Rather than let him finish his speech Thursday evening, the three major networks that have contributed to dubious election reporting — ABC, NBC and CBS — suddenly dumped Trump and returned to regular coverage. “We have to cut away here because the president has made a number of false allegations,” NBC’s Lester Holt said. Was it their role to cancel the President of the United States? When, after all, he still extended the election into triple-overtime, still showed enough clout to remain a disruptive force into the future and still had enough supporters — a projected 70 million-plus votes — who wanted to hear him. At a critical juncture of an astounding moment in time, the networks wanted to control the narrative of a desperate and defeated Trump, bleeding in the 15th and final round, losing his mind once and for all. Sorry, it is not their place to do so. If he’s lying, let the American people see him lie. They have a right to decide for themselves.     

I’ve often suggested a bulldozer will be required to remove Trump from the White House. I’ve amended that today to an army of M117 Guardian tanks, Stryker Combat vehicles, LVSR Wreckers and maybe a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, all coordinated by Dana White. It’s useless to plead for dignity from a man who has little (hell, Kanye West conceded quickly after landing only a few votes, probably because he missed filing deadlines). Instead, a thick, gobsmacked anxiety will continue to hang over America, with ugly protests reflecting the premise of voter fraud. As Trump was tweeting, “STOP THE COUNT’’ and “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED,’’ people in the city streets were chanting, “Count Every Vote!’’ This is America now.    

If only our future could be as optimistic as Biden thinks. “Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well,’’ he said. “But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.” Envy of the world? Say it ain’t so, Joe. The world is laughing at us, and likely soon to be laughing at you.     

Assuming Biden survives Trump — and his legal weaponry — and takes over the most unforgiving political hotseat in the history of humankind, he’ll be treated with kid gloves by media who have no shame. There is no doubt about this: They did try to fix the race with deceptive, one-sided coverage. What happened to the so-called “Blue Wave,’’ an assumption the Democrats would control the White House and Congress? As seen all week, four years of Trump-bashing backfired on organizations that allowed wishful-thinking agendas to slant coverage — and projections. The pollsters must go away, starting with the now-miserably-unreliable Nate Silver, who once called 50 states correct for Barack Obama but since has crashed twice on Trump forecasts (he gave Biden an 89 percent chance of winning). The amateurs at MSNBC, meanwhile, literally looked ready to cry as Trump was making it a long race, with Nicolle Wallace abandoning hopes for a Biden landslide and saying, “You can see the hopes and dreams of our viewers falling down and liquor cabinets opening.’’ Later, host Brian Williams stayed with the booze angle when, referring to a Democrat guest, he said, “Wondering how much closer he is to the liquor cabinet.”     

They excoriate Trump for four years, then want to get drunk when they are embarrassingly wrong about a predicted landslide defeat. Just what they teach in journalism school. “What’s journalism?’’ you ask. I think it died, too, this week.     

With nearly every major news outlet needing major chiropractic surgery — leaning in yoga-like contortions to project a winner according to naked in-house schemes — we wanted to believe in an equilibrium-based news source when we can’t believe in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other hysterically anti-Trump organs. They didn’t learn lessons from four years ago, when Trump’s supporters — many blue-collar, many rural, few reading elitist websites — helped him win and shocked editors who pretended those sectors didn’t exist. Nothing changed this time, with the ivory towers assuming 2016 was an aberration and that Biden would win big. The Post, in a purported poll with ABC, said before the election that Biden was up 17 percent in Wisconsin. They were shot full of holes like a piece of Dairyland cheese.     

It was shocking to see Fox News, long considered Trump’s unapologetic rooting section, incur his wrath by calling Arizona for Biden early and becoming the first network to credit Biden with as many as 264 electoral votes. Trump was so enraged, he reportedly called Fox patriarch Rupert Murdoch and ranted. “Many Americans will never again accept the results of a presidential election,’’ said the network’s popular host, Tucker Carlson, who lashed out at mainstream media for pro-Biden bias. As for CNN, I’m amazed at how John King breaks down every new blip from some distant Georgia county with a barrage of data; but eventually, I was ready to strangle him, too.     

The traditional news networks weren’t immune from stumbling. Before the election, NBC projected a “slight lead’’ for Biden in Florida, while CBS was trumpeting Texas as an “unlikely battleground.’’ Wrong. And wrong. Those networks plead for our trust, but they blow it because they are influenced by the same corporate directives that taint Fox News and CNN and, well, most American media.     

How refreshing to see one sturdy, tried-and-true organization show how am election should be reported. The Associated Press never has plunged into the we-broke-it-first cesspool, refusing to predict or name a winner until finality is certain. Nothing was different this year in the most volatile election in modern U.S. history, when only a fool trusted what was reported on a cable network or a traditional legacy site. Even Jack Dorsey got it behind his Amish farmer-meets-ZZ Top beard, listing the AP among only seven outlets that Twitter trusted for results. So I believed the AP when it called Arizona early for Biden. The news service uses 4,000 freelance local reporters who carefully wait for vote counts from every county in the 50 states, then report results to hundreds of AP entry clerks who grill the freelancers and verify the information for publication.     

“There’s no winner in the presidential race. That’s OK,’’ an AP headline said in mid-week, above a story explaining that “the closer the margin in a state is, the more votes are needed for The Associated Press to declare a winner.’’ Professionalism and patience. What a concept.     

Which is in direct contrast to race-baiting that often sounds like an act for attention and traffic. Case in point: The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill, who wrote, “If Trump wins re-election, it’s on white people.’’ She might want to ask Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County and Texas who embraced Trump at the polls.  

The credibility is gone and not retrievable. If the media entered the election with a low trust quotient, they’ve completely lost the American people. And this comes from a guy — me — who has been in the industry since I was 18, has made a comfortable living from it for decades and has been alarmed to see a rapid deterioration of transparency starting with the Internet boom. When we need reality in this country, we get self-styled b.s. EVERY DAMNED DAY.     

If nothing else, Trump would leave Washington knowing that his derisive term for the media — fake news — is a permanent staple of the national lexicon. I just didn’t feel like seeing it drop into my in-box at 6:43 p.m. Pacific time. “DEFEND THE RESULTS! THE DEMOCRATS WILL TRY TO STEAL THIS ELECTION!’’ said the e-mail, signed by Donald J. Trump himself. He also wanted me to help bankroll his lawyers, asking for $2,750. Or more. “Donald Trump is going to court to stop votes from being counted,’’ Biden tweeted. “We have assembled the largest election protection effort in history to fight back.”     

I was going to pass along the e-mail to a Trumper I know. But in a week when the U.S. — in other news — recorded a single-day record for COVID-19 infections, I am exhausted and ready for someone else in the top office, even if that someone else soon will have me wanting someone else. If this crazed American episode was, as Biden said, a “battle for the soul of the nation,’’ that soul is bludgeoned.

BNM Writers

The Donald Trump Conundrum For News/Talk Personalities

I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

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With 721 days to go until the 2024 Election, Donald Trump decided it was time for him to officially jump into the race. He could not wait any longer. And on Tuesday night, in a speech that lasted more than an hour, he decided to move ahead and officially kick off 2024, one week after the 2022 midterms ended. 

This has created an interesting dynamic for talk radio. Not only does it give reason to quickly move on from the over-analyzing of dissecting what happened in the midterms, but Trump is generally good for business, especially when he has been (mostly) off the radar the last two years. 

And as is always the case with Trump, the opinions and emotions will be strong across the aisle.

But with the opinions and emotions so strong across the aisle, what’s the play for News/Talk hosts?

Many are comparing this to 2015-16, when conservative-leaning media broke down pro-Trump or never-Trump, and it changed the landscape and careers for some, depending on which side of the aisle one landed on. 

However, there are stark differences this time around.

Those who would call themselves conservatives would all agree that the policies implemented by Donald Trump were a success. Whether it was economic policy, foreign policy, trade policy, or judges appointed, the 45th President kept to his word on all of the above and they were all highly-successful, especially before the pandemic. 

There is no true “never-Trump” angle amongst conservatives like there was in 2016. The question this time around is simply: “Is Trump the best person to move Trumpism forward? Or is there a better option to keep the movement moving ahead?”

That’s a very different conversation amongst the news/talk audience, that if handled properly, should not result in audiences turning on their favorite personalities, regardless of which side of the conversation one might come down on.

For these reasons, I don’t foresee a “civil war” amongst conservatives in the way we saw it six years ago. 

And for our audiences, there will be hosts who lean more Pro-Trump or Pro-DeSantis (or whoever else), but I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

That doesn’t mean not having an opinion. That’s ultimately our job. But if we form that opinion, on either side, through the prism of, “We’ve still got 18-24 months of this, things will change, and here are the pros and cons of what I’m thinking…”, it creates an environment that invites listener interaction and makes your show the place to voice opinions on both sides of the issue.

Also, that audience interaction will remain our great leverage in this conversation that cable news, newspapers, and social media can’t duplicate with the same intimacy. So let’s take advantage of it and it will also give us an on-the-ground feel for where the audience is in our market in a way the political consulting class can only dream of.

That’s how we can win this 2024 news cycle, that, yes, believe it or not, has already started. 

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BNM Writers

Post Midterm Elections: A Fresh Approach?

Among the predictable messages that come after election results, no matter how long they take is “we need to do better”.

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The leftovers from the midterm elections are still in the refrigerator but I’m looking forward to either finishing them or tossing them out.

I will not feed them to the dog, I love dogs too much.

Among the predictable messages that come after election results, no matter how long they take is “we need to do better”. That’s generally a given after looking at either side of a political scorecard but in this particular case, I think it resonates a bit more, for us.

We, the news people, need to do better. Actually, we need to be better. 

And, of course, we can be.

Once again, this is not an attempt at cheerleading nor is it a shot in the arm. 

I am no more a clean thinker than anyone else on the planet but I believe I share a common vulnerability; fatigue.

The hamster wheel that is a job like ours perpetuates a buildup, a film of apathy and when it comes to covering politics, or more accurately the antics of politicians and candidates, it’s a difficult ride to dismount. 

But once again, we have that regular opportunity to alter the game plan again. 

The faces are now changing in leadership (a little) and prominence (somewhat) but of course, some things will remain familiar. 

The House is flipping, 45 wants to be 47 and the old arguments will now feature a few new, differing voices.

It is these potential differences, I believe now as much as ever, our audiences want us to steer towards. If you ask yourself, “how weary am I” from the last two years of diatribe, in-fighting, out-fighting and people in power being just plain mean, ask yourself, “how weary are they?” … our audience?

I could name names, point fingers and cite examples but the joy of this business is the fact that anyone reading this (thanks, by the way) can think of countless citations all on their own.

 So, what is happening right now?”

Will another run at The White House come with a different approach by the now again candidate?

Congress has yet another opportunity to be something other than what they have been.

What will we do? 

Will we be different?

I would ask, should we be different but I already think we should, so ask yourselves.

Legislating, campaigning, and communicating… are all becoming more and more feral.

And we, in this business, wait for it, we pursue and we cannot wait to cover it.

Our broadcast sense of neutrality and non-partisanship deteriorates by the minute. 

Hell, we even add to it all.

We are on the hook for some of this, make no mistake. 

I’ve asked this before, but what’s more disheartening than hearing or seeing a veteran, tenured and respected anchor/reporter wearing their political and personal leanings in their coverage.  Former Presidents are Former Presidents, yet suddenly Donald Trump is Ex-President Trump. I never heard, of Ex-President Obama or Bush or Clinton or Hoover.

False Claims have now become Lies

We lash out in the only way most of us know how, in our writing. Are we being clever or clandestine or just unscrupulous? At a minimum, it’s immature.

If you really need that badly to step into your own stories using addition or omission, go get a talk show.

(This is not a positional complaint by the author here, it’s about how we report the news. Anyone wishing to know where this former cop-current newsperson stands on issues social and political, feel free to send a detailed list of questions. You’ll either be fascinated or incredibly bored.)

We are supposed to know what’s important and relevant and what is not. 

When we ignore that ability, we become exactly what we at least once didn’t wish to be.

What actually is happening in the story constantly takes a back seat to the language, the insults, and the juvenile name-calling that we’ve become so accustomed to. So much that it falls into our coverage without us even thinking about the issues that are actually being batted about, they are lost or diluted.

And that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.

It’s a lot easier to republish somebody’s rehearsed soundbite or republish a tweet than actually tell the story with detail and non-partisanship.

There is no wrong in reporting incendiary remarks or behavior when it is actually news but we are regularly caught in somebody else’s trap, an individual looking for coverage, for attention. They need facetime or namespace and they use us to do it. 

We did a weak job because the same people will do it again tomorrow. We put them in control of our jobs.

Afterward, we look at the work we just produced and realize we just got hosed. 

But, I say with a distinct level of insufferable naiveté, our job is our job, our work is our work.

We shouldn’t let somebody else take the wheel.

The truth is still out there and we don’t run from it, we pursue it. At least we are supposed to go after it.

The job is to clear away the brush, the camouflage.  Real journalists (I will never call myself one, I simply stand in awe of them) will sidestep the rhetoric, all veil and the deception. They can do that and still be creative, engaging and accurate.

The lawmaker, the politician, the candidate all hold dominance over the news media when their soundbites and exclamations drive the story. 

We can only control what we do.

I would much rather it be we to effect change as opposed to someone like Kari Lake or another politician or wannabe thinking it will be up to people like her to “reform” the media.

So, what are we going to do differently this time around? 

And before we arrogantly start thinking that it’s not we, who need to change, think again.

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BNM Writers

KRLD’s Drew Anderssen Wants The Audience to Feel Positive About The Future

Anderssen sought a unique way to get himself into the business of radio leading him to his position at NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and Texas State Networks.

Jim Cryns

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You can always send in the traditional resume for a job. Maybe get a referral from a friend. Nepotism is almost a sure thing. Drew Anderssen sought a unique way to get himself into the business he loved. 

“As a kid, I was a chronic caller to radio stations, so I think that kind of made me, in effect, an intern,” Anderssen jokes. “I was always a fan of radio. I listened to the Edge in Dallas. It was an alternative station. It was a thrill to hear my calls on the air.”

Anderssen grew up in Dallas and moved back home. In May, Audacy hired Drew Anderssen to run the day-to-day operations at NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and Texas State Networks. Most recently, Anderson served as Brand Manager at WSB in Atlanta and spent the previous 24 years with Cox Media Group (CMG). 

“I wanted to be at Audacy,” Anderssen said, “but I also have a lot of family in Dallas. My dad has some health concerns, so that was also a driving force to come home. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d ever have left WSB. I still have a great relationship with Cox.”

Anderssen started his career with CMG in 1998 as operations manager of News-Talk KRMG in Tulsa, OK. In July 2012 he transferred to the PD post at sister WDBO in Orlando and added operations manager stripes in 2016. Prior to joining CMG, Anderssen spent several years in promotions, research and programming in Texas and Oklahoma.

Anderssen went to college at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. In addition to his career in radio, Anderssen makes no apologies for being an entrepreneur, owning several different businesses in diverse areas. 

“I find time for my businesses,” Anderssen said. “I’m able to continue my radio career as I put good people in the right positions. Once you get past the startup phase, you can step away with confidence. That’s why I like to expand my personal footprint beyond radio. I love entertainment and I love to make money.”

Well, there you go.

Anderssen was also blessed or cursed with a very curious mind. Get this; he does some pretty good impressions. 

“I can do essentially any character from In Living Color or newscasters,” Anderssen said.

Fire Marshall Bill? Wanda? Walter Cronkite, Ron Burgundy?

“Some of them were spot-on, and gave people a laugh,” Anderssen said. “My original plan was to go to medical school. I was a pre-med major then I got hit by the radio bug.”

His parents were concerned, perhaps a bit disappointed with their son’s career interest. It’s always convenient to have a doctor in the family. But how often do you really need a radio guy?

Anderssen said his education at Midwestern State had a practical and hands-on approach. 

“I was already working at the college radio station. It gave me an entry into media. I was having fun. My parents wondered when I’d get a ‘real job,’ figured I was never going to make a living. Who in this business didn’t hear that?” Anderssen said. 

He inherited his business acumen from his father, who owned a broadcasting school, among other interests. Elkins Institute of Radio Broadcasting was one of his ventures. 

“I imagine a lot of people in the industry today went through that school,” Anderssen explained. “It dissolved and is no longer around. My dad’s first job after he got home from Vietnam was to recruit people to enroll at Elkins.”

His career has allowed him to assess change and perhaps the direction of radio. 

“I think 20 years ago, maybe longer, we lived in an environment where the news brand wanted to be everything in terms of providing information,” Anderssen said. “Politics is a story generator for all news. I want people to come out of those experiences feeling positive about the future. This is what I love. We live in the greatest country, but I think that has been up for debate the last four years. I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”

He said we’re seeing a lot of targeted audiences with podcasting, a natural progression considering the intimate medium.

“We will see a lot more in the podcasting realm, some with great successes,” Anderssen said. “A lot of podcasters seek out that niche, make huge investments,  planting the flag, so to speak.”

Personalities like Nikki Medero and Mark Thompson immediately created a YouTube presence after KGO in San Francisco eschewed news in favor of gambling in October. 

“I think it makes a lot of sense to do that,” Anderssen said. “Sometimes you need to make a quick pivot. A lot of people may be in for a wakeup call. If you’re not in YouTube and other similar spaces, you’re missing an opportunity. I’d rather see people in our industry be more proactive than reactive.”

He said brands are built with platforms. The best thinkers in broadcasting had better be pondering how to leverage different platforms. 

Podcasts have created a bit of an identity dilemma for talent. Does talent carry over their ideas and opinions into the podcast realm? That can be concerning if they carry the journalistic mantle in the radio gig. 

“I think most talent in the business is seeking out that diverse relationship with their listeners,” Anderssen explained. “If some of our home-grown talent finds a national audience with their podcast, that can be a good thing for a radio brand. We can adopt a sort of 360-degree look at leveraging content across platforms. Build the individual and the platform.” However, Anderssen said on their podcasts, his talkers are obligated to pay homage to their local call letters. 

Earlier in his career, Anderssen said he was responsible for integrating radio and television newsrooms to work with some kind of synergy. He said in his experience he’s seen a bit of radio–envy among television broadcasters in the ability to express themselves. 

“Radio people are able to tell stories TV people can’t tell,” Anderssen said. “That’s the reason I think a lot of TV people want to get into radio. I knew a lot of reporters who wanted to explore more in-depth stories. Television reporters are handcuffed with a two-minute segment, and that can be frustrating. Especially with topics they’re passionate about.” 

“Journalists crossing over into their own views on a story is a concern,” Anderssen said. “I think there’s been a debate on where that line is for years. That line becomes grayer all the time. We’ve learned that television people are more often displaying their leanings and opinions on broadcasts.”

Anderssen said he thinks radio and television consumers want a human connection with the people they listen to. The connection takes on an emotional component. 

“The consumer is in their car and wants to come away with a feeling. You must be real to provide that connection and feeling.”

 “From a traditional news standpoint, you don’t want any of your people taking on an on-air opinion with a story,” Anderssen said. “You just want to deliver the story, not get caught up in some political Left or Right. We don’t want to put our brand in a position to take sides. We live in an extraordinarily divisive world. That said, you can find yourself in a bind.”

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Barrett Media Writers

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