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The George Santos Story Requires A Poker Face From Journalists

There is a thesaurus full of adjectives to describe the goings on and while the late-night talk and morning zoos can have all the fun they want, the news has to play it straight.

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My plan this week all turned with a simple daily read-in.

An inherent risk of doing the news is coming across content that you as an individual find ridiculous, puzzling, or downright hilarious. Perhaps others might even feel the same way but the deal is, not everyone shares the same perspective or sense of humor.

We live in a world inside and outside of journalism where there is no shortage of people who are offended by mere words or images or the combination of such and/or the manner in which they are presented.

In fact, I imagine someone will find something here along the way to be resentful or irritating.

Like countless other professions, we in this field are expected to perform our duties with skill and acknowledgment. Many times, that is an easy task but sometimes it’s not. When it isn’t, the reasons have nothing to do with disrespect or insensitivity.

The difficulty lies with the absurd or at least the common perception of what’s deemed illogical, irrational, or ludicrous.

I think however, things become easier with an ongoing story or series of events. Take the controversies encircling Congressman George Santos (R-NY). The revelations began scarcely two months ago yet seem to add on to a virtual tote board almost daily.

There is a thesaurus full of adjectives to describe the goings on and while the late-night talk and morning zoos can have all the fun they want, the news has to play it straight.

Network and local news anchors and reporters run the risk of appearing almost deadpan in their delivery because comedy is not what they are there for. They are not what’s funny, it’s the truth or at least the information they’re presenting that’s funny.

Nevertheless, they have to tell it cold. That’s not easy.

With stories like Santos’, I’m pretty sure an almost journalistic immunity is developed over the days and weeks as new information whether they be claims, accusations, or questions emerge regularly.

More challenging are the sporadic tales of truth that fall into an undiagnosed category yet are still news and are in fact, information worthy of dissemination.

Take a simple local burglary as an example: a theft from a local hotel room. Neat, straightforward, and makes for an easy anchor read over the surveillance photo of the suspect who got into somebody’s room and made off with a Gucci bag, a Fendi bag, and a hairless cat named Princess.

That anchor read best be off-camera and not with an over the shoulder shot of the suspect. Unless your anchor is a statue.

I’m sorry, nobody should be the victim of a crime and nobody should have their pet stolen but where I come from, if you start talking up hairless cats…somebody’s giggling.

We all know what happened to Mr. Bigglesworth and Rachel’s impulse buy.

Radio people, you’re on your own.

Day in and day out, regular people do stupid things or criminals get caught with their pants down and as long as nobody dies or is hurt and fortunes are not lost, it can usually become a kicker story and everyone is happy and gets a laugh in the process.

But life and news stories don’t always work that way. Sadly, and uncomfortably, people die awkwardly or get hurt in strange ways. The mere telling of the tale becomes uncomfortable or there are details so pertinent yet clumsy that they must be included.

If you look at the words macabre or dark, they are often followed by the humor. But most times, a journalist cannot go that way while telling a story.

And of course, there are no shortages in the objections to depictions and descriptions society once found historically and socially acceptable. Many legal and community challenges develop over team sports names, club monikers, etc.

People have opinions.

These stories usually present little or no challenge to the journalist as there has developed over time a growing dialogue and positions of support on all sides to addressing the issue or change proposed.

There are always exceptions or at least some stories like this harder than others to tell while walking in a straight line.

I refer back to some read-in content summarizing a movement calling to end the use of the word “mummy” for what or who we have come to know as mummified remains. From what I’ve read, museums in the UK are moving away from the term in favor of longer descriptions as the singular term is perceived to be dehumanizing.

Unexpected perhaps, but worth pondering.

There’s no effort to decry or defend the position here but the perception of a viewing, listening, or reading audience is predictably likely to be mixed and varied, ranging from a fist in the air, “right on” to an eye-rolling, “seriously?”.

Those telling this story need to know that so they can drive the information home head on without veering off the road of stoicism and professional passivity.

It’s times like these when a true poker face is a gift.

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CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ Benefits Most From Prince Harry’s Media Tour

Harry’s highest-profile interview came on Sunday, Jan. 8, when Anderson Cooper spoke with him for “60 Minutes” on CBS.

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Prince Harry made the rounds of press appearances in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in early January to promote his newly-released best-selling memoir “Spare.” In the tell-all book, he claims the fractured state of his relationships with his brother Prince William and his father, King Charles III.

Harry’s highest-profile interview came on Sunday, Jan. 8, when Anderson Cooper spoke with him for “60 Minutes” on CBS. According to live plus same day data from Nielsen Media Research, the hour drew the newsmagazine’s season-high figure of 11.216 million total viewers, which included 2.2 million in adults 25-54. In the following seven days, it added another 1.248 million to lift the total audience tally to 12.464 million viewers. (In addition, the interview’s excerpts aired on Monday’s, Jan. 9 edition of Cooper’s weeknight “360” show provided the top total audience results for CNN — as indicated in the show rankings at the end of this article — for the week ending Jan. 15.)

Also reaching a season-high was the delivery of next-day streaming of “60 Minutes” on Paramount+, CBS App, and CBS.com — five times higher than the season average (CBS did not disclose raw figures); also, the highest for a “60 Minutes” episode since October 2020. In addition to Prince Harry, the episode also featured Lesley Stahl’s profile of Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer.

Harry’s chat with Michael Strahan for ABC’s “Good Morning America” took place on Monday, Jan. 9. “GMA” led its morning competition in total viewers with 3.39 million for that date, although this did not represent a boost — this was at its average viewer number for the entire week (Jan. 9-13, 2022).

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, it was a more lighthearted spot for Prince Harry on CBS late-night talker “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He took tequila shots with host Colbert, mentioned his viewing of Netflix royal drama “The Crown,” and appeared in a skit with actor Tom Hanks. The Jan. 10 edition delivered 3.2 million total viewers, which marked the top “Late Show” audience since its special Super Bowl night episode in 2021 (4.86 million on Feb. 7, 2021). Based solely on weeknights, it was the highest figure since former President Barack Obama’s appearance following the 2020 presidential election (3.49 million on Nov. 24, 2020).

In the United Kingdom, ITV news anchor Tom Bradby conducted “Harry: The Interview” for its original 90-minute broadcast there back on Jan. 8, posting 4.2 million viewers (not enough to beat the 5.25 million Britons of its competing telecast from BBC, drama “Happy Valley”). It re-aired in the U.S. as a condensed one-hour version on CBS on Saturday, Jan. 14, drawing 3.07 million viewers based on Nielsen’s live plus seven-day figures.

Having recovered from being hospitalized for blood clots in his lungs and leg, famed weatherman Al Roker made his emotional return to “Today” following a two-month absence on Friday, Jan. 6. The NBC morning news program averaged 2.96 million total viewers, which was still not enough to beat ABC’s “GMA” (3.14 million) that day. However, in the key 25-54 demographic, NBC was the clear leader by drawing 812,000 within the demo. Its margin of +111,000 in adults 25-54 over “GMA” (701,000) was the show’s biggest single-day demo lead over ABC’s morning news program since Dec. 13, 2022, and its best Friday demo win in over eight months (since Apr. 22, 2022).

Cable news averages for January 9-15, 2023:

Total Day (Jan. 9-15 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.470 million viewers; 183,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.659 million viewers; 67,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.448 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.139 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.114 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.110 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.107 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.103 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (Jan. 9-14 @ 8-11 p.m.; Jan. 15 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.208 million viewers; 266,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.009 million viewers; 98,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.514 million viewers; 113,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.153 million viewers; 46,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.152 million viewers; 46,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.141 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.114 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.100 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.046 million viewers; 5,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.981 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.758 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.609 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.482 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.475 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/13/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.469 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.419 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.275 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.225 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.201 million viewers

35. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 1/9/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.131 million viewers

159. Anderson Cooper 360 “The Harry Interview” (CNN, Mon. 1/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.882 million viewers

375. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 1/9/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.327 million viewers

380. Highway Thru Hell “(1102) No Thru Road” (TWC, Sun. 1/15/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.321 million viewers

397. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 1/13/2023 1:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.297 million viewers

429. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1321” (CNBC, Wed. 1/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million viewers

574. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.192 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.515 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.509 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.499 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.457 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.417 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.407 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.396 million adults 25-54

8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.393 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.368 million adults 25-54

10. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54

39. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 1/9/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.247 million adults 25-54

90. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Wed. 1/11/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.178 million adults 25-54

177. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 1/13/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.122 million adults 25-54

257. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1321” (CNBC, Wed. 1/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.089 million adults 25-54

465. Highway Thru Hell “(1102) No Thru Road” (TWC, Sun. 1/15/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.055 million adults 25-54

579. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54

608. Kudlow (FBN, Thu. 1/12/2023 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.039 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

Have Rational Americans Rejected the Global Warming Narrative?

On Friday, Newsmax host, Rob Schmitt, began his evening program by discussing what he saw during the meeting of the international lobbying organization.

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Perhaps Senator Ted Cruz summed it up best nearly a decade ago.  

First, it was global cooling. Then it was global warming. Today, the new marketing phrase is “climate change.” But in each case, Cruz said the proposed solution was always the same – “massive government control of the economy, of the energy sector and every aspect of our lives.”

Many watched that theme continue to play out last week as the World Economic Forum met in Davos, Switzerland. On Friday, Newsmax host, Rob Schmitt, began his evening program by discussing what he saw during the meeting of the international lobbying organization.

“The World Economic Forum spent most of this week conjuring up our next disaster,” Schmitt began. “The most wealthy and powerful people on earth, eating caviar and watching fear porn, performed live on stage by people who are hyper-incentivized to scare the hell out of you. To make you feel like the world is ending tomorrow.”

In the opinion of the plain-spoken Schmitt, “the crisis must be amplified because the response has not been as drastic as those hungry to control the world would like.”

As he often does, Schmitt distilled this worldwide discussion down to its impact on hardworking, patriotic Americans. Importantly, he believes worldwide elites are no longer able to scare middle-class America and, therefore, have begun conflating threats from the weather with those from illegal immigration. 

“These people are happy to hijack a crisis as well. After Joe Biden invited all of Latin America to surge our border in early 2020, leftists suddenly found a very convenient label for the millions of people pouring across the Rio Grande into the Southwestern United States. Now we all know why these people are coming into this country. It’s very obvious to us,” Schmitt said. “But shameless liberals actually believe Americans are dumb enough to think that these people walked a thousand miles through Central America because Managua is one degree warmer than it was when LBJ was in the White House.”

Schmitt continued, highlighting the evolving language used by the elite left. In much the same way “global warming” became “climate change,” he called out their latest twist of phrase.

“Climate refugees. A subtle way of indicating the southern borderland rush is your fault, rather than your government’s,” Schmitt noted.

Hoover Institute Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson, joined the program to offer his thoughts on the WEF and its impact on everyday American citizens.

“There’s some predictability that we all knew would happen at every one of these World Economic Forums. First of all, there would be very wealthy people and they’d never be subject to the consequences of their own ideology. So, there’s a lot of private jets. And you would think from the rhetoric that seafront property, like the Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate, wouldn’t be worth anything,” the erudite Davis Hanson said. “But all of these people, if you go to Europe or the California coast or the East Coast, most of the very people who are most worried about climate change have seaside estates, which supposedly according to their own rhetoric would be the first to be flooded.”

Often considered a calm voice of reason, Davis Hanson believes that, at some point, the track record needs to be evaluated.

“When Al Gore gives these prognoses of Armageddon, we look back at what he said. Earth is in the balance and prior things about the icecaps shouldn’t exist now. But every time he’s wrong he never corrects or he never apologizes,” Davis Hanson said.

“People who want to control the world are fully aware that it’s convenient to have a crisis to do so,” Schmitt added. 

Davis Hanson, who has authored or edited 24 books, summed up the elites’ philosophy, noting, “One thing they all have in common is the contempt for the middle class. They really do not like people who are trying to be upwardly mobile and muscular, and they feel that these people consume too much energy or they’re not morally or intellectually their equals and therefore they shouldn’t get the exemptions that they enjoy.”

“The longer that these same people give predictions. I mean Al Gore is getting up there now, and he’s been doing this for fifteen, twenty years,” Schmitt pointed out. “They have to start worrying that some of the things I said twenty years ago are not coming true. People are going to start holding me accountable for that.”

With well-respected scientists split on whether or not humans have any impact on the weather, the issue has become one of the more politically divisive of our time. In fact, the now-deceased co-founder of the Weather Channel, John Coleman, once called the notion “baloney.” During a 2014 interview, he went on to say,  “Climate change is not happening, there is no significant man-made global warming now, there hasn’t been any in the past and there is no reason to expect any in the future.” 

“It reminds me of out in the old West, people were selling these elixirs and that was their profession they made money on. And that’s what he’s peddling, gloom and doom,” Davis Hanson told Schmitt on Newsmax, again referencing former Vice President Gore. “If he really was sincere, he wouldn’t have sold his cable company to a carbon emissions state like Qatar, that was sponsoring Al Jazeera. And then he wouldn’t have tried to beat the capital gains new tax raises, which he did. And John Kerry wouldn’t have a yacht that he tries to move around different harbors to avoid taxes. Because they all believe in high taxes and more government and they all violate those in their personal lives. They have contempt for us. That’s the common denominator.”

In his runaway hit 2019 book, The Case for Trump, Victor Davis Hanson pinpointed many of these exact themes – the ones that President Donald Trump corralled to catapult himself to the White House. In the book, Davis Hanson notes that Trump alone had the instinct to defend “the working people of America’s interior, whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn.” 

“When you look at the world and you see the way that people in power behave, it seems that freedom is the hardest thing for any society to hold on to,” Schmitt said. “The more that you look at the world, in my opinion at least, it’s amazing that anybody in this world is free.”

As with so many other issues, Davis Hanson believes the indomitable American spirit must continue to provide rational fortitude against any such deleterious force aiming to bring the United States down a peg or two.  

“I think they ultimately will always target the United States because it is traditionally the freest of all countries. And that’s the one obstacle for trans-national governance, has always been the middle class in the United States. The practical, common-sense American that distrusts big government,” Davis Hanson concluded. “And that was the purpose why this country was founded, and they despise it. And they’re always trying to change the institutions of the United States somehow. We’re always told, look at Greta over there in Sweden or look at what the E.U. is doing, and we’ve got to emulate this. We’re losing confidence that we’re the only sane country in the world I think.”

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BNM Writers

In Case of Emergency Break Glass – Keeping AM/FM Radio on Every Vehicle’s Dashboard

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles.

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During the Jacobs’ Media CES webinar the other day, Fred and Paul Jacobs reminded participants that AM/FM radio may not be a standard feature in automobile dashboards of the future. The day may come when consumers have to add broadcast radio as an option and pay to have it in their vehicles. If it happens, it would be a disaster for broadcasters and the public during an emergency. 

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles. Manufacturers and political leaders must understand that keeping AM/FM radio in vehicles is a matter of national security. 

By keeping broadcast radio free and standard in all vehicles, manufacturers will ensure that radio has the distribution to maintain the extraordinary reach it has enjoyed for decades. 

Broadcasters need to help bolster the case by doing the two things radio does best: Local and immediate. If broadcasters fail to deliver on these two promises, the case for keeping AM/FM radio standards in dashboards becomes less persuasive.

Thinking about the need for radio to be local and immediate reminded me of an event when I was Operations Manager of WCCO-AM, Minneapolis. 

Late one night, over a hot holiday weekend during the summer of 2018, I received a phone call from producer Sheletta Bundidge. She learned that protesters were assembling in the community. A few days earlier, the Minneapolis Police had shot and killed an African American man named Thurman Blevins. 

We had a quandary because although WCCO is the news radio station in the Twin Cities, there was nobody in the newsroom to cover the growing protest because of personnel cuts. After rearranging schedules, somebody else covered her producer’s shift, and Sheletta covered the growing gathering from the host chair. 

The outcry against the shooting of Thurman Blevins turned out to be a harbinger of what would come two years later when protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer created the most significant changes in race relations in over a generation.

That night in 2018 demonstrated Bundidge’s alertness and tenacity. She earned an expanded role at WCCO-AM and was named one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year from Minnesota in 2022.

Another situation, just a couple hours after the Jacobs webinar, portends the promise and perils facing radio managers. Two-time Rock Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby passed away at age 81. 

The first alert I received was from TMZ at 5:18 ET. Other news services may have broken the story sooner, but most of the notifications I received came about a half hour after TMZ.

I wondered how long it would take for the local Classic Rock station to play CSN(Y) or any form of his music. It was disappointing when it didn’t play any until an hour later. 

In fairness, most Classic Rock stations have stopped playing CSN(Y) and haven’t for several years. The music fits better with Classic Hits today. However, Crosby’s image is more consistent with Classic Rock and the musicologist air personalities the format features. 

I examined music logs for stations in Mediabase’s Classic Rock panel in the top 15 markets. Three stations played CSN(Y) within five minutes of the news of Crosby’s death:  KGLK/Houston, WSRV/Atlanta, and KSLX/Phoenix. WDRV/Chicago responded within 15 minutes, and several others within the half hour.

I spoke with David Moore, Operations Manager, Brand, and Content Director for 100.7 KSLX, 93.3 KDKB, and Oldies 92.7 KAZG, about getting information about the passing of legendary musicians like Crosby on the air quickly. (Full disclosure: Moore and I have known each other for many years). 

Moore said, “I’m obsessive about stuff like this. When a legendary rocker dies, people will tune into the Classic Rock Station. It’s an opportunity. We have to be at our best. We’re live here most of the time, and somebody can get in quickly.” Moore credited his staff: Mark NeanderPaul mornings and Karen Dalessandro in the afternoons. While they run Alice Cooper’s syndicated show at night, Moore points out that Cooper lives there, “so he’s local.” Moore said he learned the news from Steve Goddard, from the cluster’s Oldies station and that they pushed the information out on their dedicated station apps for both stations.

Moore recognizes that this is what radio has to do for survival. “This is where people go when this stuff happens. Even somebody who isn’t a hardcore Classic Rock fan will tune in when a cultural icon passes away.” Moore adds, “Spotify can’t do what we can. SiriusXM will, at best, take a while, and it still can’t talk about when the artist was here (Phoenix, AZ).”

A few stations didn’t play Crosby’s music at all. It’s unclear if it was a conscious decision because he is no longer relevant on their station, if nobody was there, or if nobody could add songs not already in the library (which I suspect was the case on at least a couple of stations).

Several stations took a few hours and played CSN(Y) later in the evening. One took until 7 am the following morning, suggesting the day had already been voice tracked.

KSLX was one of several stations that reacted immediately and locally. Kudos to the programmers and jocks that promptly brought the information about Crosby to their audience. 

Although Crosby’s death wasn’t an emergency, it is instructive to show why AM/FM radio must remain standard in vehicles. In an emergency, stations must react quickly. Reacting to Crosby’s death shows that your audience can count on your station in a crisis.

Radio’s challenges continue to increase. Maintaining a place as a standard feature on the dashboard of every vehicle will be the most critical test the industry will face. Proving it is a matter of national security means that radio must deliver immediately and locally. Broadcasters can’t fail those tests. That’s something to consider as management examines headcount and staffing issues.

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