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How Dori Monson Built a Radio Career and Success at KIRO

Both reflect a level of competition that keeps him at the top of both games. After 35 years in the industry and a 2-A Washington state girls championship hoops coach, Monson still has a fire in his belly for both passions. 



Scanning the walls in Dori Monson’s home office, you probably wouldn’t know he was a Seattle radio talk show host with an Edward R. Murrow Award. The wall is all about family and a passion for coaching. 

Squeezed between photos of his wife of 35 years, their three daughters, and rescue dogs they consider family, Monson’s walls are vivid reminders of his other career: coaching girls basketball.

“There’s barely one wall in my office,” the noon-3 p.m. KIRO News radio 97.3 host says from the town, not far from the Scandinavian neighborhood where he was born and raised, “but it’s more like a scrapbook of my basketball coaching life than a showcase to my `day job.’” 

And yet, there is a lot of cross-over between the two for Monson, 60. Both reflect a level of competition that keeps him at the top of both games. After 35 years in the industry and a 2-A Washington state girls championship hoops coach, Monson still has a fire in his belly for both passions. 

His path was wildly unpredictable. 

As a 10-year-old, Monson wanted to start creating a life vastly different from the one he’d experienced up to that point: rough and tumble.

“I wanted to have a happy home,” the youngest-of-three kids said. “My father wasn’t around. Our phone was cut off. I bathed in cold water. All these things happen, and the only reference point you have is your own life.” 

But Monson was determined to break the proverbial cycle. 

“In retrospect, it doesn’t seem that terrible,” he said. “I thought I could change things going forward.”

One of his favorite games as a kid was the Sports Illustrated Superstar Baseball game. An obscure game, to be sure, a bit nerdy and wonky. But Monson was all over it. 

“It was this dice game,” Monson said. “You could manage players like Brooks Robinson.” 

At the time, the game retailed at $9.95, not a small chunk of change for a kid in the early ‘70s. 

“I talked my mom into matching my $5 when I could raise it,” Monson said. 

“That was a fortune. She agreed to match the money.”

Undaunted, Monson cut grass, swept driveways, anything he had to do to raise his balance of the money for the game. After finally earning his half, his mother was true to her word and coughed up her $5 match.

“I spent the next five years buried in that game,” Monson recalled. After several housing moves, he remembers losing “my original game but found another years later, and had to pay a fortune.”

Board games, he said, were easier on emotions. Real games broke his heart when he was seven years old. 

“The Seattle Pilots left town,” Monson said. “The trucks were headed north from spring training, and they were diverted to Milwaukee after the sale.”

Some of those nightmares still haunt his sleep. 

“I had a real love for the game in the summer of 1969,” Monson said. “I had a tree fort and strung an extension cord to the house so I could listen to games. I bought a baseball scorebook. Learned to keep score for as many games as I could.”

A self-described nerd, Monson recalls going to his local library to bolster his baseball skills. His goal: to carve a plan that would out-manage Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles – his favorite team. 

After graduating from high school early at 15, Monson went to the University of Washington. “I worked 70 hours a week at two jobs just to pay the tuition,” he said. “At 17, my life’s goal was to manage a warehouse.”

Then he met someone that would change his career trajectory and his life. 

“I was working in a warehouse one day, and I heard a commercial for the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting,” Monson said. “Tuition was close to $3,500 – an impossible amount of money for me at that time.”

But when the guest speaker and then KING-TV sportscaster Bill O’Mara met Monson through the school, the legendary hydroplane race caller made Monson a deal: “He told me he’d let me be his intern if I went to school and finished my degree,” Monson said. “It was a gentleman’s agreement. But he also said I had to graduate from college to make good on the deal.”

Monson went to UW Seattle for a semester but had to drop out because he couldn’t afford tuition. Two days later, Monson – who was living at home – heard a car coming up the drive.

“I don’t know how he knew where I lived, but Bill O’Mara came up to the porch and knocked,” Monson explained. “I knew he didn’t have a pot to piss in, but he peeled off six $100 bills and reminded me of our deal.

“This man had fallen on some tough times and was sleeping at his own radio station,” Monson recalled. “I went back and re-enrolled the next day.”

The Seattle radio talk show veteran credits the start of his radio career to O’Mara. O’Mara was still doing high school play-by-play into his 90s, and Monson recalls that “Sports Illustrated did a piece on him.”

In college, Monson majored in communications and did play-by-play work for the Huskies on the campus station. He knew he could do it because he’d been practicing in his room as a kid.

“I’d been doing my own play-by-play calls with the Orioles games when I was seven years old in the summer of 1972,” he recalls. 

Monson later got a job in sports at KING-TV to watch ball games and write timecodes. “I dug in and started knocking on station doors until I made something happen. I started doing high school recaps on Saturday morning. Then they gave me a shot doing morning sports.” 

Those segments were taped as Monson was finishing up his night work. 

“Then the new television news director told me I had to quit radio. When I asked why he said he didn’t have to tell me. I assume it was because he had something against the radio side and wanted to stick it to them.”

That’s when Monson had to choose. Would it be radio or television?

“I went in and met our radio news director Steve Wexler and told him I was thinking of choosing radio over television. He kind of grimaced and said he wouldn’t do that if he were me,” Monson said. Wexler told him even though he’d only been with the station for a week, he already knew he was going to make some changes and might go a different direction. In other words, Monson figured he was going to get canned.

Monson called his wife and let her know about his dilemma. She assured him he’d make the right decision. “I went to the television news director and told him I quit,” Monson said. “I had no backup plan.”

The next day he went back to Wexler’s office and said he’d quit the television job. “Wexler started laughing,” Monson said. “I told him if he still fired me, that’s his call. But he was fair with me. I asked him to just give me 30 days more to see if I got better in his eyes. See if I grew on him. Get some coaching. I think he liked my gumption because he agreed.” 

Since he no longer had to work nights at the television station, he could devote all his time to his radio gig.

“I came in even earlier and did some fill-in for the lead host. I wanted to make myself indispensable.”

His wishes came true. 

He’s been in his current position for 27 years and is known by everyone within listening distance. “The last couple of years have been great,” Monson said. “I have a couple of friends that dissect ratings, and they tell me we are the highest local news and talk station in the country for the past two years. That isn’t a formal study, but these guys know what they’re talking about.”

From 2010 to 2017, Monson balanced his radio work with his role as head coach of the Shorecrest High School girls basketball team in Shoreline, Washington. “I stepped aside three years ago,” Monson explained.

In 2016, his team won the Washington state 2-A girls basketball championship, and Monson was recognized as the state Coach of the Year.

Coaching has long been something close to Monson’s heart. He found it gratifying because he was able to impart life lessons to student-athletes. 

“Coaches were so important to me when I was a kid. My wife and I have been blessed with three daughters. Only my youngest played basketball throughout high school, but the others were active in tennis. My wife too.”

While he didn’t say he was all about destiny, Monson thinks there is some deliberate force in the universe.

“I don’t think some things that happen in life are by accident,” Monson said. “I had only one class in my entire college career with assigned seating. It was a children’s literary class, and my future wife and I were assigned to sit next to each other.”

Today, Monson hosts The Dori Monson Show on KIRO Newsradio, weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. It’s a life he loves. Monson’s daily show is topical. It allows him to share his thoughts, humor, and just be himself. 

“Seattle is a very liberal place,” he said. “I think people view me here as someone who can help balance the rest of the media. I have things to discuss that aren’t political. I want to be a companion for people stuck in traffic. Make them laugh. I take a great deal of pride in that.”

He said he and his staff break lots of news as they have a connection with listeners. “We get a ton of tips from listeners,” Monson said. “They turn out to be good stories for us as listeners have become fine-tuned to our show and what we talk about.”

Several years ago, it earned him an Edward R. Murrow award.

Monson said he took advantage of the challenges Covid presented. “It was a game-changer for me. I started doing my show at home and still do. I can still interact with my anchor at the studio and my producer.”

In the evening, he spends four to five hours preparing for the next day’s show. Monson’s show is the only one in prime time listening that doesn’t have a co-host. 

Monson said he’ll continue with this gig as long as he has a functioning voice and brain.

 “I love what I’m doing. I’ve worked 40 years to get to this point. I want people to hear what I have to say for as long as they want me to.”

BNM Writers

Journalism and Opinion Don’t Mix

Those of us traveling spent a lot of time on airplanes, in hotels, and in airport lounges, often with a copy of USA Today tucked under our arms.



About a dozen years ago, I was still racking up frequent flyer points. Those of us traveling the schlepper circuit spent a lot of time on airplanes, in hotels, and in airport lounges, often with a copy of USA Today tucked under our arms.

USA Today was ubiquitous at the end of the flip-phone era before smartphones were widespread. Most airlines and major hotel chains provided it free. So, before we could fire up our then seven- or eight-pound laptops, we often skimmed through USA Today.

I’ve been traveling again this summer. Although I have digital subscriptions to more publications than I care to count, it feels good to get a little ink on my fingers now and then. 

Much to my surprise, it took considerable effort to find a physical newspaper at an airport newsstand, but I eventually did find the day’s USA Today. More shocking was the three-dollar newsstand price, especially as the paper is perhaps 30 pages long.

As amazed as I was by the difficulty finding a paper and the cost, I was dumbfounded when I looked at the front page. Although USA Today runs marketing and non-news content above the masthead (in the ear), I don’t recall a pure opinion column under the masthead in the top right column. 

In most cases, editors reserve the top right column for the day’s most important story, while others prefer to use the left column. An event of ultra-importance often stretches across the top of the paper. 

Where I expected to find a news headline, in the top right column, I found USA Today columnist Nancy Armour and a column titled: “Deshaun Watson gets laughable suspension.” The sub-headline continued: “Retired judge imposes measly penalty as NFL lets women down again.” I did a doubletake to ensure I wasn’t looking at the editorial page; I wasn’t. It wasn’t even the front page of the sports section.

I looked online at the front page of other papers from the same day:

The New York Times: “U.S. Drone Strike Kills Key Plotter of 9/11, Biden Says” (top right column). It also ran a front-page story about Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan and Ukraine moving its first grain shipment since the Russian invasion.

The Washington Post: “U.S. strike kills bin Laden’s successor,” all the way across the top directly under the masthead.

The Wall Street Journal: Featured the Ukraine grain story across four columns in the middle and the Pelosi story in the top right column.

The Boston Globe had the drone strike story in the upper left column. It featured a two-column headline on the Massachusetts state legislature finishing a marathon session

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune had a local story about hospital errors during the Covid pandemic all the way across the top. The Pelosi story was in the top right column. 

Other major U.S. newspapers also led with stories about the drone strike, Pelosi’s Taiwan trip, the Ukraine grain shipment, and other items of local interest.

USA Today had a story about Kansas voting on a statewide abortion referendum on its left column and the Deshaun Watson opinion piece in the right column. There was nothing about the drone strike, Ukraine, or Pelosi’s trip on the front page. Let’s forget about the editorial decision not to include information on the front page of most other U.S. newspapers; it’s a minor point.

USA Today, which has jokingly been called “McPaper,” may never have been the gold standard in journalism, but this seems straightforward, black and white. The news section is for information and not opinion. There is an Editorial, Op-Ed, or Opinion section where columns like Armour’s belong. It wouldn’t be so troubling even if it were on the sports section’s front page. 

Placing an opinion column in the news section is bewildering. Putting it on the front page in the top right-hand column is beyond disconcerting; it’s downright stupefying!

I asked USA Today how long they have been putting opinion columns in their news section. A spokesperson for Gannett, which owns USA Today, responded via email with the following: “USA TODAY clearly labels opinion columns as such, and it is not uncommon to appear on the front page.” 

Although I don’t recall previously seeing opinion columns in the lead news spot, Gannett’s response suggests they have done it before, although for how long isn’t clear., Gannett apparently thinks it’s “not uncommon,” however, I can’t think of another leading newspaper that follows this practice.

In this age of misinformation and disinformation, mixing opinion and news blurs the lines further. 

While USA Today has taken the leap of openly mixing news and opinion, the trend has been creeping into journalism for the past several decades. Digital and social media have changed how information is both consumed and edited. This topic requires further and deeper exploration, and we’ll continue it next week.

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BNM Writers

Vin Scully Weaving Conversation Made Him Well-Rounded

Scully was part of the best broadcasters that know how to use that extra pause for added emphasis and let a story breathe for a moment.



By now, you’ve likely read many tributes to legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, who passed away earlier this week at 94 years old.

When you’re the voice of one of Major League Baseball’s most famous franchises (Dodgers) in the two biggest media markets in the country (New York and Los Angeles) for multiple generations (1950-2016), there are so many different angles and stories to tell. What he meant to baseball, to Los Angeles, and to broadcasting, in general, have all been covered incredibly well.

But what can talk hosts of any format learn from Vin Scully? Plenty.

The beauty of YouTube is being able to type in the “Vin Scully broadcast” and get everything from the 1957 Dodgers vs. Giants game to the 1977 All-Star game to his final sign-off in 2016.

I spent time this week listening to some of these games and realized there was plenty that broadcasters, not just those who call baseball games but talk show hosts as well, could learn from Scully.

First off, Vin Scully was not afraid of silence. There were times when he would let the sounds of the stadium tell the story for him on the radio. TV broadcasters are used to this, but in radio, there’s typically less silence, understandably so.

However, the power of silence works, regardless of the format. While talk shows don’t have that background noise of a stadium that can become part of the “show,” the carefully placed and wisely chosen moments of silence can tell a story. The best broadcasters know how to use that extra pause for added emphasis and let a story breathe for a moment.

Let the audience digest what was just said. It can be overdone, but it can be incredibly effectively used. And in an era of overdone, overhyped, hot takes, this broadcasting quality seems to continue to fall by the wayside.

Vin Scully’s breadth of knowledge exceeded baseball. Sure, Scully was a baseball nut; it’s what he did for a living. But his ability to weave history, pop culture, and everything in between into his broadcast was a reminder that being well-rounded as a broadcaster on air makes you a real person.

For news talk hosts, in particular, being the person hosting four hours in a row on nothing but Washington D.C. politics gets repetitive, boring, and eventually, all starts to sound the same. Similarly, I think about Rush Limbaugh when he talked about technology, his iPhone iOS update, and sports. This all takes us, the listener, under the hood into a broadcaster’s interests and builds an even stronger connection with an audience.

Then, there was pure joy. Imagine going to the same job every day for 66 years and maintaining the same enthusiasm for nearly 10,000 games. I’m sure Scully had his bad days like the rest of us, but to keep that kind of enthusiasm, passion, and joy for that length of time is unmatched.

That remains arguably the most important reminder to all of us who are fortunate enough to do what we do for a living. We got into this because we love it. We love communicating. We love story-telling. We love creating content.

And whether your content is a baseball broadcast, football broadcast, news talk show, sports talk show, or all-news format, we can all learn plenty from listening to a Vin Scully broadcast.

Now go check out YouTube and thank me later. You won’t regret it.

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BNM Writers

Marty Lenz Was Shaped By The Gridiron

Lenz said his participation in football has helped him develop a strong work ethic and understanding.



After talking with Marty Lenz for about an hour, I don’t know if Halloween is his favorite holiday. I’m not even sure if Halloween is his favorite movie.

“I interviewed Jamie Lee Curtis when she was promoting her podcast, Letters from Camp,” Lenz said.

“You would think the daughter of Hollywood royalty Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh would be talking about Hollywood things. I liked her because she was willing to show her insecurities.”

Lenz said Curtis is still lovely.

“People only see the star. We were talking about Letters from Camp, and I asked her about things that matter to her and she answered candidly. I was blown away.”

Lenz said in his experience, there are times in an interview when the conversation goes places he never imagined.

“I have a great producer. We’ll have some questions in preparation in case I get stuck. I do like to approach my interviews generically, see where they go.”

He said smart people know the questions that are coming. Curtis knew the Halloween questions were coming. But Lenz said he likes to disarm his guests by asking them questions they may not have been expecting. Something apart from what they do for a living. He eventually got around to what Curtis is best known for.

“Turns out she was glad I asked about the movie. I had to know how she felt about the iconic character.”

Lenz said his all-time favorite interview was with Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, among other musical incarnations.

“We were having a lovely conversation about his background in Missouri, the art of music, the Doobie Brothers, working with Kenny Loggins. He got caught up in it and enjoyed the conversation. His PR person interrupted on the phone and told him it was time to stop. McDonald told the PR person ‘no’, he was having a good time.”

His father was a pharmaceutical salesman and taught Lenz an appreciation for many things, including respecting women.

“He empowered my sisters,” Lenz explained. “This is what was great about my late father. He told his girls they could do anything a guy can do. I learned from my sisters how to treat women. My sisters would say, ‘don’t ever treat a girl this way, or that way.’ We talked about sexual harassment in the workplace. I knew at an early age what is and is not appropriate and respectful in the workplace, and beyond.”

Born in Pennsylvania, his family were die-hard Steeler fans.

“My dad was friends with Art Rooney Jr. They went to school together at St. Vincent’s, a small college. When the Steelers had training camp, we’d always head out there. When St. Vincent had reunions, we’d go down there too. Those are the days with Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swan.” Lenz said whenever the Steelers came to Denver, they’d get tickets to old Mile High Stadium and cheer on the Steelers.

Lenz was also a Pirate fan as the Rockies hadn’t been formed yet.

“When I was a freshman at Colorado State, I was a long-suffering Boston Red Sox fan. We were watching the 1986 World Series game in our football dorm. I was literally crying when the ball went through Buckner’s legs in 1986 for the Mets and Red Sox World Series game.”

He should know “there’s no crying in baseball”.

In his job, Lenz uses his charm and personality as co-anchor and co-host of Colorado’s Morning News on KOA Radio 850AM/94.1FM in Denver. He has been with KOA Since 2018.

Lenz is a 1986 graduate of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and received his B.A. in 1990 from the Speech Communication/Broadcasting department at Colorado State University where he played wide receiver for the Rams from 1986-1990.

Few of us know what it feels like to get hit over the middle when catching a pass. My body hurts just to think about it.

“Surprisingly, it has little to do with the size of the defensive back,” Lenz explained. “It’s more of the angle they get on you, where they’re coming from.”

Ron Cortell was a free safety at Colorado State, and Lenz said you’d never see him coming.

“He’d be looking at the sky on his way in and hit your right in the middle of your chest. He was a great tactical hitter and could elevate his body.”

When you’re in that position, you have to gauge where the pressure is coming from. When you get extended, your arms up in the air, that’s when you’re most vulnerable.

Fortunately for Lenz, he has a high threshold for pain.

“I could take a certain amount of punishment. Toughness is being able to take abuse and get it up. I did have a high level of tolerance.”

He grew up appreciating some of the old-time players, those that played for the love of the game rather than for huge dollars. Not that they had a choice. Players like Mike Curtis with the Baltimore Colts, or Jack Lambert of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dick Butkus of the Bears.

“They didn’t know the threats and risks the game posed, as we do today. Players earned peanuts and the game was all they know. It was physical for them and that was part of the appeal, the machismo thing to show they were meaner than you were.”

We’ve evolved. The game has evolved. “I have a real reverence for a lot of those guys,” Lenz said.

Quarterbacks took a ton of punishment, receivers were pummeled downfield.

“My idols were Lynn Swan and John Stallworth. They played in an era when the ‘chuck rule’ didn’t exist and didn’t get the cushion and rules of today’s wide receivers get.”

Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw didn’t have the best statistics, about 50 percent in completions. Lenz said he accomplished those completions while getting his brains knocked out every other snap. It was difficult to concentrate on accuracy because he had maniacs on the Raiders coming across the line, intent on putting him in a coma.

Lenz said his participation in football has helped him develop a strong work ethic and understanding.

“You learn to work with diverse thought, people of different backgrounds,” Lenz explained. “You realize you have people around you. Colorado State was a great school. I learned as much on the football field as I did in the classroom.”

Lenz said as a player, you learn quickly that every player on the team has immense talent, not just you.

“Then you see kids brought in from Texas and California, some real talent and it gives you some perspective. It’s about earning your spot, not where you’ve been or what you did. All those lessons add up. Some days you have to grind and do the best you can. It’s cliche, but every day you either get worse or better.”

Lenz loved football, and radio. He became interested in radio when he was in the 8th grade.

“I wanted to be one of those crazy FM jocks,” he explained. “I was a music nerd. One of those guys who walked around with a Walkman in the 80s.”

After doing the crazy jock thing for 10 years, the industry started to change. There were fewer jobs.

Lenz began looking for something more intellectual. His approach on the radio has been the philosophy of award-winning talker Christoper Gabriel; discourse, not discord.

“You need good conversation to advance dialogue to evolve. You don’t need to beat people over the head. It’s not a great idea to spend too much time talking to politicians. They’re intractable. I always try to find how I can cover old ground in a new way. I’m naturally curious. I advocate for my listeners. What would they ask, what would they want to know.”

As an example, a recent guest on Lenz’s show was a military guy, a tactical specialist.

“I asked him what it was like killing a terrorist, how you go through with something like that.”

There is no way for us citizens to even comprehend that kind of assignment, and Lenz wasn’t afraid to ask the question.

“He was a Lieutenant Colonel, and I just wanted to get his response on a visceral level. His emotions about something so emotional. Or if emotions even entered the equation.”

Since he attended Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Lenz said people are always interested in his thought on Columbine and the Aurora shooting.

“My coverage on those types of coverage on horrific tragedies is similar to other coverage. At the same time, I try to figure out the mistakes we’ve made in society, figure out what we’ve learned, and whether the gun issue is really mental health issue.”

He’s not trying to win any converts to the way he thinks, it’s not going to happen. Lenz said he’s not an expert on guns or why people go on a rampage.

He leaves that to people who are more knowledgeable.

“When something like Uvalde happens, I bring in Frank DeAngelis, who was the principal at Columbine. He’s my old coach. He has a particular understanding. He’s somebody people seek out. I try to seek out people who bridge for solutions.”

In many situations, Lenz said he avoids bringing in politicians to weigh in on extremely sensitive topics like Uvalde or Columbine.

“They’re only interested in building their brand,” Lenz said. “That permeates a lot of our leadership roles. People have a disconnect with Congress. On the one hand they hate Congress, but love their Congressman.”

He loves his job on KOA, and the people he works with. But there are some fundamental divides.

“Where I work, I’m dealing with residue of having Rush Limbaugh (and some conservative talk) that plays ‘footsie’ with some that deny or refuse to acknowledge ‘easily and readily accessible observational reality’. It makes my job a little harder. ”

Lenz believes if you turn out to be wrong on a topic, own it.

“Many times in interviews, I’m not an expert. I’m asking questions based on what I understand. If I’m wrong, tell me if I’m wrong. I don’t know what I don’t’ know. And I’m okay with that.”

If more people admitted when they were wrong, like Marty Lenz isn’t afraid to do, we’d be in a better place.

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Barrett Media Writers

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