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Lars Larson’s Journey Through Radio & Television

Larson said he was out of radio for less than a year and learned there was more freedom working in radio. 

Jim Cryns

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Nearly thirty percent of the world’s goods are manufactured in China. If you flipped veteran News/Talker Lars Larson over and checked his nether regions for a stamp, you’d find one that reads, Made in China.

“I was born in the good part of China. In Taiwan,” Larson explained. “This is the Democratic, self-determining China. It has its own leaders, stands up to mainland China, all that good stuff.” Larson still has a soft spot in his heart for Taiwan. His parents were both in the Navy, and they traveled quite a bit. 

After both of Lars Larson’s parents left the Navy, his father went to school on the G.I. Bill and studied forestry. At one point, the family lived in Inglewood, California, when he was a kid. Larson said the area was then known for old ladies and sedate streets. “It’s not a place you want to drive through today,” he said. “I do remember playing in the yard, watching the Culligan man drive up.”

He’s only been what he calls racially profiled once in his life, and it was in Inglewood. Larson was visiting Los Angeles on business, doing some promotions for the Unicef Telethon with Lou Rawls, and rented a car. He thought it would be nice to take a drive and find his grandmother’s old house. He was a kid when he was last in that area and didn’t know the address. Instead, he was going to ‘feel’ his way around.

“It was the middle of the day, and I was searching for her house,” Larson said. “A cop lit me up and pulled me over. He drove alongside me, rolled down his window, and said, “What are you doing here?”

Larson innocently explained to the officer how he was looking for his grandmother’s house. “The cop looked at me like I was the dumbest person in the world,” Larson said.

“It’s really not safe for you to be driving around here,” a bewildered officer told Larson. Larson finally got the message and drove straight for the highway. What he lacked in street smarts was compensated by a strong survival instinct. 

The family lived in Missoula, Montana, and Mount Rainier National Park. “It’s great to live there as an adult,” Larson said. “But when you’re a kid, you’re essentially bear-bait.”

(Thanks for the tip. *Don’t move to Mount Rainier with the kids.)

His father worked for the National Park Service had its upsides. The living conditions weren’t one of them.

“Do you remember the Quonset huts on the Gomer Pyle show?” Larson asked. “A tin shack with a door? That’s what we lived in. Very shaky housing, but then again, that was part of the deal. It was a wonderful experience.”

The family also lived in Northern California. “When you hear people talk about Northern California, you might think of San Francisco,” Larson said. “Well, we lived twenty miles from the Oregon border. That’s Northern California.”

Larson’s mother was killed in a car crash when he was young. His father kept on, as fathers with kids must. He got a job as a State Park ranger in Tillamook, Oregon, known mostly for its cheese production.

The 10-year-old Lars wanted to be a space scientist, an astronaut. “I really didn’t have the math skills,” he said. “I’m okay at math, just not good enough. I was good at speech and debate. I had four solid years of each in high school.”

His listeners today are probably glad the man had questionable ciphering skills. “I thought about law school, but I’m glad I didn’t go in that direction.”

In Tillamook, Larson met a man who took over the local radio station, KTIL. That man’s name was Larsen. “It wasn’t spelled like my name, not the way God intended it,” Larson jokes. “For the rest of my life, I had to explain I didn’t get my first radio job out of nepotism. That Larsen was no relation at all.”

The radio guy Larsen invited several high school students to intern at the station because they were good at speech; the young Larson was one of them. “When the internship was over, he let the other kids go but asked me to work with him. It was a 10 to midnight shift, and I was only 15-years-old.” Larson said. This was even before 8-track carts were around. Guglielmo Marconi was barely cold in his grave. “We used reel-to-reels,” Larson recalled. “It was awful.”

He was on the air for the last two hours of the day. “They shut down at midnight to save money,” Larson said. “These days, that’s rare. The only day I ever deliberately skipped school was to go and take the third-class license test to work at the station.”

Primarily not required today, people on the air back then needed to have the ability to take readings off the transmitter, and sign off on the transmitter log.

“I had to have that third-class license on the wall,” Larson said.

Aside from his 10 to midnight shift at KTIL, the unofficial Mighty 1590, as they called it, Larson said he’d fill in for the news anchors when they were off. “We were full-service,” Larson said. “We had a morning news program, top of the hour news, bottom of the hour weather. There wasn’t much car traffic on the roads where we were, so that wasn’t much of an issue.” 

The station carried high school football and basketball games, as well as Oregon State games. “If the Trail Blazers were on, we’d bump the other and then pick up the high school or college game in progress when it was over.”

He said he loved his time at KTIL. “I learned everything there. A lot of people at the station were young, in their 20s. They tried to make you laugh during your newscast, set your news copy on fire.”

Wow. Those really were the good old days of radio.

Larson said like many small radio stations did, they would read obituaries on the air. “There were forms that people filled out,” he said. “Basically, it was a form where you filled in information. It read something like, ‘Friends will be sad to learn the passing of ________ after a long battle with _________. People would just fill in the blanks, and we had a stack of them to read.”

Here are these young radio kids telling a community of 4,000 people who passed away. “It’s one thing to make somebody laugh during a newscast,” Larson said. “It’s quite another to try and make them laugh during an obituary. But they tried.” Boy, did they try.

“One night, I was reading an obituary,” Larson began, “and we had a very large Swiss community in Tillamook. So, I began, “Friends will be sorry to hear of the passing of Oscar Mayer. That’s when I lost it. You can lose your composure during the weather, but not there.”

Larson attended the University of Oregon in Eugene but quit after a year to work in radio and television.  

“I took some more classes at Gonzaga,” Larson said. “I plugged away at it for a while, but it just wasn’t working for me. I got a job offer in Spokane at KXL in March of 1980. I was there for nearly four years when I got into television.”

Larson said he was out of radio for less than a year and learned there was more freedom working in radio. 

“For one thing, technologically, television is overly complicated just by its nature,” Larson said. “I bet that idiot Brian Stelter at CNN has about 25 people behind him putting that show together. On the radio, it’s just you and maybe one other person.”

Have we touched a nerve with Stelter? 

“He’s such a political partisan,” Larson explained. “Nothing he says is supported by facts. Having been an investigative reporter myself, I took it very seriously. What I’m doing now is largely entertainment, but I am also a journalist.”

Larson said when he was a television managing editor, it was his duty to make sure the news wasn’t slanted or unsubstantiated. “My job was to take opinions out of the stories,” he said. “If a reporter came to me with something that was not attributed, I let them know it was their opinion.”

As a former news anchor, there were people who questioned how he could deliver the news on television, and at the same time, give his opinionated views on the same topic on the radio.

Larson provided an informative illustration of this apparent conflict. “There’s an Irish cop,” he began, “and he’s sent to protect an abortion clinic. He may not agree with abortion, and it’s his job to hold people back who agrees with to facilitate the young women. It’s not his job as a cop to shut this place down. He’s supposed to do his job. There are people in that situation all over the world, working in a field they might not totally agree with.”

Larson says he recalls Walter Cronkite delivering a daily commentary throughout most of his career. This was aside from the news he’d just delivered to the nation. “I don’t think he was unbiased on the news, but he did a commentary,” Larson said. “You can trust someone to give the news without bias, but he still has a radio show to do.”

We’re all caught in the crosshairs of news and propaganda today from both sides of the issue.

“When you read an old-school magazine, you could identify when a piece was well-written,” Larson said. “You’re thinking, ‘Huh. I wonder who this guy is who wrote this?’ You could read their bio at the bottom of the piece and see they support the NRA or they’re with the Civil Liberties Union. You see where they’re coming from.”

He hosts his daily program from noon-3 p.m.with his Northwest show on 570 KVI, taking calls and talking about life in the Pacific Northwest. He has earned more than 70 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional journalists, and the National Press Club. Larson has also chalked up an Emmy and a Peabody for his reporting and documentaries.

I could almost hear Larson’s blood pressure rising through the telephone when he talked about the fledgling Disinformation Governance Board, designed to stop disinformation from spreading on the Internet.

“Tell me that’s not right out of 1984, The Ministry of Truth,” Larson said. The ministry is a fictional department in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.

“This is all Orwellian stuff. It’s whitewashing, gaslighting in its highest order. This is being conducted under the auspices of Homeland Security, the people who are supposed to be catching terrorists and other dangerous people. Suddenly, their job has become monitoring American speech for disinformation.”

If you have not read 1984 as of yet, I get the feeling you might be picking it up soon. 

BNM Writers

Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business

“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

Jim Cryns

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To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.

Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”

She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.

“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”

McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.

“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”

McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.

Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.

“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”

McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.

“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”

For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.

“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”

At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.

“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”

After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.

“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”

She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.

“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”

She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.

“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”

The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.

She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’

McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.

“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.

McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.

“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”

McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.

She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.

“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.

“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”

McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’

“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”

Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.

“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”

Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.

“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.

That’s got to be a southern phrase.

McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.

“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”

Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”

She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.

“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”

McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.

“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”

A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.

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BNM Writers

Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.

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Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.

In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.

Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.

It’s happened before.

Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.

It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.

In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.

We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.

I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.

It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.

Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.

The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.

At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.

And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.

Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.

Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.

Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.

As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.

Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.

There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.

The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.

As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.

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BNM Writers

Does the Republican Establishment Get It?

For many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections.

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In a move that seemed to go against the wishes of the patriotic American grassroots, the Republican party on Friday re-elected RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel. 

The media immediately took notice, as many on television and radio are now wondering why the party would re-elect a chairperson who has been so unpopular with the base of its party. 

Grant Stinchfield discussed this issue Friday night on his program, Stinchfield Tonight, which airs on Real America’s Voice network.

“Ronna McDaniel holds on to her chairmanship of the Republican Party. By a whopping total of — what were the numbers– 111 to 54. Harmeet Dhillon only received 54 votes. Mike Lindell 4 votes. This is proof to me that the Republican establishment is dug in,” Stinchfield — formerly of Newsmax — said. “Don’t tell me they’re out of touch. See, you tell me they’re out of touch, that implies ignorance. They’re not ignorant about anything.”

As sentiment for Dhillon grew in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, many influential politicians and party donors publicly offered her their support and endorsement. These included Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as well as donors Mike Rydin, Dick Uihlein, and Bernie Marcus.

Also on board were musician and outspoken conservative John Rich, along with the state GOP of Nebraska and Washington State. Countless journalists and media personalities, such as Charlie Kirk, Miranda Divine, and Lou Dobbs, also came out publicly in support of Dhillon. Former President Donald Trump remained neutral, not making a public choice of either of the three candidates.

For many of Dhillon’s supporters, the deciding factor was public sentiment across the party’s base.

“They’re reading the same chat boards. They’re getting the same emails I’m reading. I will literally post something about this race when I was supporting Harmeet Dhillon. There was not one comment – not one – that supported Ronna McDaniel. Everyone wanted change,” Stinchfield said, noting that the party elite saw the same groundswell of support for change.

“Now, nobody has an issue as Ronna McDaniel is some evil kind of person. I don’t believe she is. I believe, though, that she is part of the establishment. She’s been around too long as far as the establishment goes. And she’s been ingrained in doing business as usual. It’s not working.”

In making their choices known, many Dhillon supporters simply pointed to the scoreboard during McDaniel’s reign.

“Think about where we are. 2018, we lost the House. 2020, we lost everything. 2022, we won the House, but we should have really steamrolled the House and we should have taken back the Senate, which we didn’t do,” Stinchfield said. “That means we’re on a real losing track since she took over. I don’t like being on a losing track. I like being on a winning track.

“Something has got to change when you talk about all of this. So how does Ronna McDaniel get 111 votes and Harmeet Dhillon only get 54 votes, when everyone, every Republican voter I talk to said it was time for change?” pondered Stinchfield.

And even more than the losses, for many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections. The most recent example of which came in Arizona, where presumptive gubernatorial favorite, Kari Lake, was “defeated” when countless voting irregularities occurred in some of the state’s most deep-red areas.

“Under her watch, Democrats instituted a mail-in ballot scheme. That may be even worse than losing, when you talk about the House and the Senate and all these things. The fact that we now have a junk mail-in ballot scheme across the country under Ronna McDaniel’s watch is serious trouble. Very serious trouble,” Stinchfield said on Friday. “And so the reason it is is because the Democrats are rigging the system.”

For years – until Donald Trump descended the golden escalator and took the world by storm – the Republican party had the reputation of being the party of the rich. Rush Limbaugh used to refer to this wing of Republicans as “the country club crowd.” President Donald Trump flipped the narrative completely, offering a clear vision of hope and patriotism to working-class America.

Reputable polling — such as Richard Baris’ Big Data Poll — consistently showed Trump running well ahead of almost every Republican candidate during the 2022 mid-term election cycle. In other words, Trump still maintains considerably more support across the country than most of the individual Senate or House candidates experienced.

Many experts believe this is because voters still view Trump as an outsider, while they view the Republican party much less favorably.

“Let’s tell you how out of touch they are, how elitist they are,” Stinchfield said, calling out the GOP establishment. “This meeting that went on, do you know where it is? It’s at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch in California. One of the most expensive resorts in America. You’re lucky if you get a room for a thousand dollars a night down there on Dana Point. Now, it’s a beautiful hotel, but why is the Republican Party holding an event there? Then I went back and I looked at what RedState did. RedState went back and looked at some of the expenses that the Republican Party under Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was spending money on.

“Take a look at this. $3.1 million on private jets. $1.3 million on limousine and chauffeur services. $17.1 million on donor mementos. $750,000 on floral arrangements. Now you compare this to the Democrats. The Democrats spent $35,000 on private airfare. A thousand dollars on floral arrangements. A thousand. Not $750,000. A thousand. And the $17.1 million they spent on donor mementos, the Democrats spent $1.5 million.

“Democrats know where to put the money. It’s not giving donors gifts. Donors shouldn’t want gifts. If you give money, give money. You don’t need the fancy pin to put on your lapel.”

Following her loss, Dhillon warned her party that it must listen to the base, saying, “if we ignore this message, I think it’s at our peril. It’s at our peril personally, as party leaders and it’s at our peril for our party in general.”

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