Sports media pro Charlie O Malonee is promoted to assistant brand manager for Audacy’s sports talk KIFM-AM, Sacramento “ESPN 1320.” In this role, Malonee will support the station’s content strategy, talent, operations, and branding. He’s been serving as a producer for the station since 2019. Audacy regional president Stacey Kauffman says, “Charlie O’s experience as a producer and deep understanding of our station’s content has been instrumental in KIFM’s success. With this new role, Charlie O will continue to elevate our content strategy, support our talented team, streamline operations and reinforce our distinctive branding. We are confident that his passion and dedication will help take ‘ESPN 1320’ to the next level.”
Broadcaster Bekah Berger, who began her radio career as an intern in the WPRO-AM, Providence newsroom, is named co-host of the “The Giovanni in the Morning” show on Cumulus Media’s CHR WPRO-FM. After her internship, Berger joined WPRO-AM as call screener for “The Buddy Cianci Show.” In 2008, she was named promotions director for WPRO-AM and hosted a weekend show called, “This Week in Entertainment With Bekah Berger.” She also served as producer for WPRO-AM’s morning drive “Gene Valicenti Show.”
By Holland Cooke
By 2009, I had been making my living consulting and coaching talk hosts for 14 years, but I myself had not yet hosted a talk show. Like Rush Limbaugh before he went-talk, I had lots of on-air time under my belt as a music DJ. And that same skill set contributes to talk radio success: “Play the hits” (topics) and convert Cume to AQH (technique).
This month and next, when so many take vacation time, guest-hosts are often local somebodies who are not career broadcasters and don’t share our second-nature performance routines. For their benefit, these tips, based on my experience on both sides of the mic:
My hosting debut was “The Jim Bohannon Show.” And Jimbo told me I was only the third person to ever guest-host, after Joan Rivers and Chris Matthews jump-started their broadcast careers there. But, to these listeners, who-the-heck was I? Lacking the back-story of an A-list comedian or former presidential speechwriter, I simply told the truth, saying, “I’m Jim’s pal, Holland Cooke” as I quickly invited callers into the hour’s topic or teed up the guest. I had promised myself I would avoid “The Sitting-In For Rush Syndrome:” unscripted monologue about myself and blah-blah-blah until the first break. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison – himself a well-traveled guest host – recommends nonchalance and warns against, “It’s such an honor to be here!”
So, if you’re filling-in, that’s Tip #1: Cut to the chase. Don’t devalue the show by committing lots of time explaining that the familiar host is away and who you are. Tee-up what the show is about this hour… why it matters to those listening… how they will benefit from not wandering-off when they hear a stranger… and how to join-in.
Demonstrating this technique when “FOX Across America” host Jimmy Failla is off: my long-suffering client Paul Gleiser. His day job is owning KTBB, Tyler-Longview, Texas; and his side hustle is guest-hosting Jimmy’s show, which he’s done a half-dozen times this month. Understanding Tip #2: You’re a guest in someone’s home, Paul asked Jimmy for advice. Always in-character, Failla quipped “Drive it like you stole it!” So Gleiser is all about call count, teeing-up TWO tempting propositions, one topical, the other a softer “Bonus Question.” As I write this, he’s asking, “Which Democrat do we [Republicans] want to run-against in 2024?” and – as new employment numbers are announced – “The WORST job you ever had?” Callers are telling stories.
That’s Tip #3: Invite callers. Admittedly, my debut was a snap, with Jimbo’s show on 500-plus stations. But later, when then-PD Bill White had me do three nights on WBT, Charlotte, he texted me after my first hour to say that I had taken more calls that hour than other hosts get-around-to in a week. In a recession, I asked if callers were “Seeing ‘green shoots’ of recovery?” and “The best car you ever owned?” They all told stories about both. “DON’T beg for callers,” Harrison says. And bring more than just your voice, i.e., guests and sound bites from news feeds. Gleiser: “Prep like the phone is broken.”
Tip #4: Invite participation multiple ways. Many listeners would rather text than call. Do so and you’ll sound accessible and at-the-speed-of-life. And follow @smerconish to see how (effectively) he polls listeners via social media.
Tip #5: “Know what the show was about yesterday,” Gleiser urges, because political topics tend to change little day-to-day. Avoid this trap: The guest host’s outspoken narrative is a point that’s already been talked-to-death BUT this is HIS shot on a big show, so this is HIS turn to me-too the unison. Better approach: Come up with a new wrinkle; like Paul’s aforementioned “Who [Democrat] do we [Republicans] have the best chance of beating in 2024?”
Tip #6: Empower callers, by asking their FEELINGS, rather than asking for facts or their expertise. They’re not experts. Instead, use The Magic Words (“you” and “your”): “Should you be fined for installing or replacing your gas stove?” Or empower them with access to a guest they can Q+A about matters that matter to their lives. When the fill-in host is “a somebody” – the mayor or an athlete or an expert – the host him/herself is an opportune topic. As we say when inviting calls to hosts who broker weekend airtime: “The lawyer is in, the meter is off.”
Tip #7: Establish a relationship with the producer “BEFORE the show” Gleiser advises: “Don’t just show up.” Ascertain who-does-what. In some cases, the producer will have booked guests and may suggest or assign call-in topics. Or – in Jimmy Failla speak – you’re driving, if the producer is simply call-screening and running-the-board (which you should NOT attempt if you’re not an experienced broadcaster or if you are unfamiliar with this particular station’s set-up).
Tip #8: Keep re-setting – succinctly, “matter-of-factly” as Michael Harrison puts it — introducing yourself and your guest-or-topic — when you’re going-into and coming-out-of breaks, and at the beginning of each hour. Why: Listeners are constantly tuning-in.
Tip #9: Always and only announce the call-in number immediately after you tell them WHY to call. Most common mistake I hear, even from experienced hosts: They give-out the phone number at the very beginning of the show or hour or segment, then (eventually) they tell you why to call, possibly minutes later (an eternity in live radio). So, they’re haunted by those dreaded “regulars” who already have the number memorized. Make announcing the number the punch line, whether you’re asking opinions on topic du jour or offering access to a guest they’ll want to interact with. ‘Seems like a little thing, but this can make a big difference in how popular you make the station sound.
Tip #10: “Be a convenience to the station,” not high maintenance. Harrison: “If you’re a diva they won’t ask you back.”
Tip #11: Afterward, give it a listen. If you do this for a living, wait a week, so you hear your work with fresh ears. Not a broadcaster? Was there a segment worth sharing on your blog or via social media? Did you or a guest explain something real useful? On Twitter, link to an audio clip of “Pet Pro Dr. Donna Johnson’s tips for helping your critters keep their cool during a long, hot summer,” so you’re useful to those who weren’t listening live. For LOTS of clicks and shares, include pictures of cuddly kittens and puppies.
Tip #12: If you are a career broadcaster, “always be available (and prepared) on short notice,” Michael Harrison recommends. 😉
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download; and the E-book and FREE on-air radio features “Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins;“and Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke
iHeartMedia Los Angeles announces it is naming Ann Ingold producer for news/talk KFI-AM 640’s morning shows, “The Bill Handel Show” and “Wake Up Call.” KFI program director Robin Bertolucci says, “Ann’s had an illustrious career in LA radio, from LOVELINE’s inception on KROQ through the show’s network syndication and MTV. We’re thrilled to have Ann joining our iHeart LA team.” Ingold was most recently serving as producer on ITV’s weekly live Facebook Watch program and consulted Los Angeles radio shows for Audacy and Meruelo Media. She comments, “I want to thank Robin and everyone at KFI for being so welcoming.”
One of the most colorful figures in the modern radio industry, Dave “Chachi” Denes is this week’s guest on the award-winning PodcastOne series, “The Michael Harrison Interview.” Denes is president and co-founder of Benztown, a Southern California-based, multi-faceted firm specializing in high-quality imaging support for music and spoken-word radio stations across the nation. Denes co-founded Benztown in 2008 with international radio producers Andreas Sannemann and Oliver Klenk, both based in Stuttgart, Germany. Since 2008, the company has grown to include an international syndication arm, Benztown Radio Networks that provides radio stations around the world with top-of-the-line programs by such talent as Rick Dees, Todd-N-Tyler, R Dub! and more. Today Benztown has studios in Los Angeles, New York, and Stuttgart, Germany. Denes is also executive producer of the more recently launched Benztown + McVay Media Podcast Networks establishing a beachhead in the burgeoning podcasting industry. Through Benztown, Denes hosts his own radio industry-oriented podcast titled, “Chachi Loves Everybody.” Denes began his radio career in the late 90s at great music stations including KFMB-FM, KIIS-FM, KOST-FM and KBIG-FM in Southern California where he worked as a producer and eventually a renowned program director. Harrison and Denes talk about their respective careers as well as the past, present and future of radio. Don’t miss this! Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.
Talk Radio Legend Michael Jackson Passes at 87. Talk radio host Michael Jackson, who achieved legendary status during his career in Los Angeles, died on Sunday (1/16) at his home in L.A. at the age of 87. Jackson, who retired from radio in 2007, had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for the past 10 years. He is best remembered for his iconic work at KABC, Los Angeles that lasted from 1966 to 1998. TALKERS founder Michael Harrison (who served as a talk show host on rocker KMET in Los Angeles between 1975 and 1986) issued the following statement: “Michael Jackson was one of the all-time greats – a founding father – of talk radio. During his 32-year run at KABC, his very presence gave the station prestige and national stature as one of – if not THE – first very rare commercial outlets fully committed to the spoken-word format. Michael Jackson and KABC were synonymous with the phrase ‘talk radio.’ It should also be pointed out that his heyday in the format began prior to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 which, in my opinion, marked the beginning of the modern era of talk radio. That made him the member of an exclusive club of radio performers whose historical relevance and influence on things to come in the broadcasting industry are incalculable.” Jackson’s longtime producer Lyle Gregory remembers Jackson in a piece you can read here.
Monday Memo: Podcasting ‘Will Continue to Explode.’ In a marketing piece to the advertising community, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman sees “no signs of growth abating.” In this week’s column, consultant Holland Cooke outlines opportunities at the station level. Read it here.
Pending Business: Early Warning. According to the “sales calendar,” January is over, and the first quarter is headed toward spring. Radio sales pro Steve Lapa says it’s time for an early review of your sales game plan. “Like any other performance skill, practice, evaluation and repetition makes for improvement. The skills required for success in today’s sales environment may be different from the last few years.” Read about Lapa’s six questions you can ask yourself here.
Chicago Sports Personality Les Grobstein Dead at 69. Windy City sports media personality and WSCR “The Score” overnight talk host Les Grobstein was found dead at his home in suburban Elk Grove Village on Sunday, according to a report from Chicago media writer Robert Feder. He reports that WSCR operations director Mitch Rosen said Grobstein had been away from his show since last Wednesday due to illness. During his career, Grobstein was sports director at WLS-AM, Chicago for 10 years. He served at sports talk WMVP from 1991 to 1997. He began his overnight stint with WSCR in 2009.
Pioneering Talk Host Susan Bray Dies at 79. A number of news outlets are reporting that former talk host Susan Bray (pictured here on C-SPAN) died in her native Australia last week at age 79. The Des Moines Register has a nice story written by her longtime friend Julie Gammack, who would replace her on WHO-AM. During her career, Bray worked at such outlets as WHO-AM, Des Moines and WWDB-FM, Philadelphia. She earned the nickname the “Saucy Aussie” because of her ribald sense of humor. After a long talk radio career in the U.S., Bray, who had married American Ed DeLong, returned to her hometown of Mudgee, Australia where she and DeLong ran a bed and breakfast.
Maine Station Fires Sportscasters After Body Shaming Incident. The owner of Houlton, Maine radio station WHOU-FM has fired two sportscasters who were caught on a hot mic body-shaming female basketball players during a game between two high school teams. Jim Carter and Steve Shaw were calling the game while watching it on a livestream and made comments about the weight of some of the teenage girls. Carter is a former coach from another school and Shaw had been the athletic director at one of the schools playing in the contest that night. Carter told the Portland Press-Herald that he has apologized to the superintendent of one of the schools, adding, “I don’t even know what to say. Hopefully everybody can get through this and be OK.” Northern Maine Media owner Fred Grant posted a notice of the pair’s dismissal on the station website saying, in part, “Our mission has been to highlight the best of our communities, our schools, the programs we love, and most importantly – our students. Last night, two broadcasters made comments that were not only inappropriate, they were also blatantly wrong. Those broadcasters were terminated… We’ve heard from many of you, and many have shared clips of the event in question. While it’s wrong that it happened, I’m going to ask each of you to help us shift the focus back on the excellence we see every day in our students. If you’ve shared the video post, I’m hoping you will take it down, not to downplay the incident, but to better help all of our students move on to the important work and events in their lives.”
MIW Names Three to Board of Directors. Three new members are joining the board of directors for Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio. Haley Jones of MRC Data, Melissa Mitchell of Bonneville International, and Brittney Jackson of Urban One/Radio One are joining the board of the organization that “consists of top-level female radio professionals who use their experience, influence, and resources to help other women in radio develop management and leadership skills.” Jackson currently serves as the general and digital sales manager for Urban One/Radio One in Richmond where she is responsible for recruiting and developing new talent, leading multi-platform sales efforts, and increasing annual revenue. Jones serves as head of independents for MRC Data where she oversees independent labels, small radio groups, and managers with music intelligence for today. Mitchell is Bonneville International’s director of finance, corporate controller and is based in their Denver market. MIW board president Ruth Presslaff says, “We are extremely fortunate to have not one, but three powerhouses join our board. Their success speaks for itself; it’s their willingness to pay it forward for the good of women and our industry that makes each so special and appreciated. I’d be remiss in not thanking the three members leaving our board as their terms end: Kay Olin, principal of Olin & Associates, and past MIW spokeswoman, whose constant leadership, dedication, and long term participation profoundly impacted MIW and me personally; Valerie Blackburn, principal at VKB Consulting, whose financial expertise led MIW through the arduous process of establishing a formal 501(c)(3) status; and Beth Neuhoff, president & CEO Neuhoff Media who provided invigorating energy and challenging ideas that MIW will push ever forward.”
Cowboys Great Chad Hennings Takes Part in SRN News Series. Pictured here is Salem Radio Network VP of news Tom Tradup (left) with three-time Dallas Cowboys Superbowl champion Chad Hennings. Hennings is in the SRN studios working with Tradup on a special, week-long series on SRN News aimed at getting men involved in Christian ministries. The five-part series titled, “Get Off the Bench,” begins airing today (1/17)
Tuscaloosa Sports Talker Jay Barker Arrested on Assault Charges. Former University of Alabama star quarterback Jay Barker was arrested in Nashville and charged with aggravated assault after allegedly trying to ram the car his estranged wife was riding in. Barker hosts the midday show on Townsquare Media’s sports talk WTUG-HD2/W256CG, Tuscaloosa “Tide 100.9” and is married to country artist Sara Evans. She filed for divorce from Barker in August.
COVID-19, Midterm Elections/Trump & the GOP, Texas Synagogue Assault, Djokovic Booted from Australia, NFL Playoffs, Winter Weather, and Martin Luther King, Jr Day Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The high rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Joe Biden vaccine mandate; the battle for control of Congress in November midterm elections and Donald Trump’s influence in the GOP; the Texas synagogue hostage incident; Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic is kicked out of Australia ahead of the Australian Open after violating the country’s COVID protocols; the NFL’s Wild Card weekend; intense winter weather hitting the Eastern U.S.; and the Martin Luther King, Jr weekend and holiday were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.