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Tom Krasniqi – 620 WDAE

Jason Barrett

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When you first get an opportunity to work at a sports radio station, you’re not thinking about how the lessons you learn might serve you one day down the line. You’re just hoping to remain employed and in the company’s good graces. The thought of crossing state lines and building a brand as an on-air talent in another market is the furthest thing from your mind.

Once you’ve been in the industry for a while though, it’s amazing how the people you once spoke with, met, or shared a press box with, emerge as industry friends or connections. In some cases they even become direct competitors or colleagues.

mikedogWhen I started my career, I worked in upstate New York, about an hour from New York City. Everyone’s goal in that market was to make it to WFAN. ESPN New York didn’t exist, sending snail mail to ESPN in Bristol, CT and being considered for employment was thought to be a pipedream, and local radio had its perks but only provided a small portion of what was possible in sports radio.

It was in local radio in upstate NY though that I became familiar with Tom Krasniqi. I was hosting afternoons on 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie and had just been promoted to Program Director of the radio station. I was determined to develop the second coming of WFAN (which was very unrealistic) and I started interviewing people who shared the same passion and vision as I did for sports radio.

As I searched for people who understood my vision, I came across Tom Krasniqi’s resume and aircheck. Although he was still new to the business, so was I, and I liked what I heard. Plus I saw that he had spent time at WFAN so I reached out and arranged a meeting.

He showed up, and three things stood out. First, he was easily the sharpest dressed guy in our building. Secondly, he towered over me, and third, he had a lot of passion for sports talk radio.

As we talked about sports, radio and professional experiences, I could tell that we had a lot in common. Tom had recently worked for WFAS in Westchester and was trying to find a spot which would allow him to develop further as a sports talk show host. After our interview ended, I spoke to my bosses about the possibility of adding him and they gave me the green light to do so but shared two things that I knew would make it difficult to attract a good candidate.

  1. The offer had to be part time and at minimum wage
  2. The radio station had just been sold and a format flip could be coming

Sensing that it wouldn’t be a positive situation for Tom or anyone else, I elected not to make an offer. We did speak and have a great conversation and I knew he’d end up landing in a good situation because he was young, talented, and hungry.

weokAs luck would have it, my radio station in Poughkeepsie did flip formats a few months later from sports to spanish, so it’s a good thing that I never asked Tom to head north. That allowed him to focus his time on other opportunities, and after landing some work in New York City, he eventually migrated south to Florida where he began building his brand in Tampa.

Tom got a break in 2004 when he was hired as an anchor and host by 1010AM. Five years later that led to an opportunity at ESPN 1040am where he eventually became the station’s afternoon drive host. It wasn’t until 2012 though when he earned his biggest opportunity, working for 620 WDAE, Tampa’s leading sports radio station.

“TKras” as he’s known to his audience, started as an anchor, host, and Bucs reporter on WDAE. Two years later when the radio station had a chance to upgrade their local programming schedule, Tom was named host of the 9a-12p midday program, alongside Ronnie “Night Train” Lane, his former on-air partner at ESPN 1040.

tkras5Since teaming up, the pair have not disappointed. In the recent January ratings, “Ronnie and TKras” delivered the highest ratings on WDAE. Their show focuses primarily on the local Tampa sports scene and the chemistry and difference in the way each of them sound and approach topics is easy to detect.

Given that many in the sports format may not know Tom’s story, background, or the way his program has climbed the ratings ladder at WDAE, I thought it’d be interesting to catch up with him and get some insight on how he’s progressed over the years, and what he believes is important in creating great sports talk radio for a local audience.

Q: Who did you listen to growing up that influenced you to want to pursue a career in the sports radio business?  

A: From the very first day of existence back in 1987, I grew up listening to WFAN in New York.  Steve Somers, Chris Russo & Mike Francesa were the inspirations for me. When I finally got a chance to intern & work there, it was a dream come true. I was able to get an up close view as to how to be a compelling sports talk host from these guys. Being able to pick their brains was invaluable to me. It was instrumental in my development.

Q: Prior to landing at WDAE, where did you work previously and what were the best/worst parts of those career experiences?

tkras9A: Prior to WDAE, I was a sports anchor and host at Genesis Communications 1040-AM in Tampa. Before that, I spent nearly 6 years at all-sports 1010am in Tampa also as a sports anchor and host. All in all, I’ve been in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market for more than 12 years. I enjoyed the people I worked with and the opportunity to cover some of the greatest moments in Tampa Bay sports, namely the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals and the 2008 World Series. The downside? Cutbacks in recent years by corporate entities has hindered the business greatly.

Q: How did you end up landing on the airwaves of WDAE? 

A: They were aggressive in pursuing me back in 2012 and that was really attractive to me. It’s a great feeling to be wanted. They had a plan for me to come in — cover the Bucs, sports anchoring and filling in as a host on occasion. Fortunately, I was able to establish myself to the point where I was able to land a regular hosting gig. I’m grateful to iHeartMedia for that.

Q: When it comes to your show, what do you read, watch and listen to in order to help you prepare and create content? 

tkras3A: I’m online reading and researching about 4 hours per day, sometimes more. I’m watching games at night and always observing the mainstream sports networks, ESPN, Fox Sports, NFL, MLB & NHL Network. I’m always interested to get the national perspective to the local Tampa Bay area teams.

Q: During the span of a 3 hour show, how many topics do you try to  introduce to the audience? 

A: It’s a heavy emphasis on the local sports scene, Bucs, Rays & Lightning, as well as the major college sports in Florida with some relevant national topics mixed in. I’m always eager to express my opinion on the hot button issues, both locally & nationally.

Q: Why do you believe recycling/not recycling content is a smart strategy? 

tkras10A: I believe recycling content is an effective strategy to a certain point. The average sports radio listener doesn’t stick around for long. Of course, we always love the P1 fanatics but they’re few & far between. What I always like to do is take a different angle to the same topic, advance the story when we touch upon it again later in the show. For example, The Lightning win last night. Early in the show we mention the big plays & analyze what happened. When we bring up the topic later in the show, I try to advance it. What’s next? Who’s playing well? Who needs to pick it up? Injury updates, that sort of thing. Recycle, but keep it fresh with updated content.

Q: How much value do you place on callers being a part of your show? Why do/don’t they matter to you? 

A: I always enjoy interacting with callers. It can be highly entertaining at times but it should never be the end all, be all when it comes to hosting. You don’t want to rely on it constantly. At the end of the day, people are tuning in to hear YOUR opinion.

Q: When you lay out your 3-hour program, what’s your approach to adding guests?

tkras7A: Unless there’s a big story developing, you never want to jam your show with wall to wall guests. You want to bring people on that bring something to the table, opinions, insight & entertainment value.

Q: As it pertains to social media, how important do you think it is for an on-air talent to be accessible in the space? How do you incorporate it into your show? 

A: Social media these days is very important to sports radio! You want to interact with the fans and at the same time, use it as a tool to promote your brand/show. Tease subject matters & invite them to listen in when you’re ready to make a big prediction or offer a hot take on a topic. Twitter/Facebook are great tools to push your content and reel in new listeners. You never know who’s listening.

Q: If there’s one area of sports radio today that you believe is sub-par and needs to be improved what is it? 

tkras6A: I think it’s always the race to try and break news first, rather than get it right. I also believe in objectivity when it comes to local teams. You want to be fair & balanced. Do I want to see the local teams succeed? Absolutely! We’re the radio home to the Bucs, Rays & Lightning. When they do well, we do well. But at the same time, you have to remain objective & avoid being a homer. And stay away from the personal attacks and cheap shots. That’s how you gain credibility.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your broadcast career?  

A: Be humble. Work hard & stay resilient. Never say no to opportunities when they come along. Be versatile. Learn how to cover the field as a reporter as well as being a producer, anchor and eventually a host. Start at the bottom and work your way up. That’s the only way you’ll learn responsibility and when that hard work eventually pays off, it’s that much more gratifying. If you can’t conquer the task in front of you (board-op, reporter, producer), what makes you think you can tackle the bigger jobs with more responsibility? My good friends Ian Eagle and Sweeny Murti of WFAN instilled that in me years ago and I’ll never forget it. Great piece of advice that I pass along to others today.

tkras12Q: As you look to the future, what is it you still want to accomplish?   

A: I hope to continue doing what I do. I pride myself on being entertaining, passionate and opinionated.  I’m never satisfied with status quo. I’m always striving to improve. At the same time, I’m blessed to be living a lifelong dream and I’ll always be grateful for being in this crazy business.

Tom Krasniqi aka TKras can be heard weekdays from 9a-12p on 620 WDAE in Tampa. For more information on his show with Ronnie “Nighttrain” Lane, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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Fred Toucher: Paul Finebaum Deserves Credit For Building His Empire

While joking about callers into Finebaum’s program, the Boston sports radio host did give the longtime college football voice props.

Jordan Bondurant

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Paul Finebaum
Courtesy: Joe Faraoni, ESPN Images

Some radio shows have just developed an audience that is completely unique to the talent and their personality. Boston host Fred Toucher said Tuesday that Paul Finebaum is a prime example of having that unique audience.

Toucher on his 98.5 The Sports Hub show has had a long-running bit highlighting some of the best calls from Finebaum’s SEC Network and nationally-syndicated radio show.

Toucher and co-host Jon Wallach listened to one caller from The Paul Finebaum Show Monday show, and Fred joked that when the callers start getting nonsensical with their deep southern accents, the entertainment factor is in not understanding what is being said half the time.

“Paul Finebaum’s show is so incestuous, that you just don’t even have to name what you’re talking about. You don’t even have to say what the hell’s going on,” Toucher said.

“It’s spoken in code, because every normal listener understands what it is you’re saying,” Wallach responded.

Toucher and Wallach did give Finebaum his flowers for being one of the preeminent voices in college sports.

“He has the best job in talk radio in this country,” Wallach said. “He has a built-in stable of listeners, he has built-in subject matter he can always go back to. And I don’t know about the ratings nationwide, but the ratings in the south are phenomenal.”

Fred said you had to tip your cap to Finebaum where it’s due.

“Give him a lot of credit for building it,” he said. “Cause now it’s you built this empire and now you can watch it flourish.”

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Jason Benetti: White Sox Exit Had More To Do With the Tigers Interest in All I Do

“Benetti addressed his exit from the Chicago White Sox during a lengthy conversation with Parkins and Spiegel on 670 The Score.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Last month it was announced that longtime Chicago White Sox announcer Jason Benetti would become the new TV play-by-play voice of the Detroit Tigers.

Benetti on Parkins & Spiegel on Tuesday said the decision to leave his post in Chicago after eight seasons was not an easy one.

“The Tigers asked me a lot of questions about who I am, what I value, and what I care about in a telecast,” Benetti said. “And what I care about in a team and a team that I want to be on with a crew.”

“White Sox fans have done a lot for me in a lot of ways. But the Tigers and their aim to want to have the entire range in a telecast, and the way they’re building, was so appealing to me,” he later added. “And it all comes down to the idea of The Voice, where somebody hears you. And they had eight years of stuff that they watched. It all was out there, the entirety of what I do, and they said, ‘We want that.’ That is appealing to me and will be endlessly for my entire life.”

Jason Benetti was asked if he had ever given thought to the idea of being a career-long White Sox broadcaster, but Benetti said staying in one place for 40 years just isn’t who he is. When he felt like he can’t or shouldn’t leave his hometown team, that was when he knew he had to take the Tigers up on their offer.

“I know what it’s like to be comfortable. I know what it’s like to be in one place,” he said. “And part of what makes me, me, is I don’t like when other people tell me you can’t. But I really hate when my own mind tells me I can’t. Because sometimes in the past I’ve listened.”

“That’s when I really have to push back on myself,” he added.

Jason Benetti mentioned that there were little things that he wasn’t such a fan of when it came to working with the White Sox, things like eating on camera or singing, but you can’t exactly pinpoint one specific thing as the reason why he decided to move to Detroit.

“I’m just saying all this to tell you all that it is super complicated and there were a ton of factors,” he said. “But in the end, it really is a thing that I felt like I was pulled to do.”

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Joe Benigno: No Ground Rules in Texting Jets Head Coach

“What else do you want me to say? There’s nothing else I can say.”

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Joe Benigno

With a losing streak that has reached five consecutive games and questions surrounding the team, the New York Jets endured several rounds of negative publicity on Monday. A report from Dianna Russini of The Athletic stated that Wilson was reluctant to reassume the starting quarterback responsibilities, while former WFAN host Joe Benigno revealed that head coach Robert Saleh told him in a text message that he does not like Wilson.

While Saleh addressed the first matter in a press conference yesterday and gave a vote of confidence to his quarterback, there has been several discussions surrounding what Benigno revealed Monday on WFAN. Benigno recognized that he misinterpreted what Saleh said and appeared on Boomer & Gio on Tuesday morning to clear the air. Rather than not caring for his quarterback, Joe Benigno revealed that Saleh was incredulous to the fact that he wanted Wilson to start again after suggesting to him for weeks that he should be benched. The matter was a topic of discussion to open Tuesday’s edition of the show, and Benigno called in to try and defend his actions.

“Well look, I wouldn’t call [it] me hammering him,” Joe Benigno said. “You think I’m sitting there hammering him; is that what I’m doing?”

Benigno did not seem to grasp an understanding of what he did to Saleh, who morning show co-host Gregg Giannotti surmises received a deluge of messages and feedback about the purported narrative. Giannotti presented a hypothetical situation to Benigno where he promulgated information that Benigno did not like his co-host Evan Roberts based on what he was told by him. After asking Benigno whether or not he would consider the action by Giannotti to be an example of throwing him under the bus, he concurred that it would constitute such a classification.

“Okay, well that’s what you did to Rob Saleh yesterday!,” Giannotti replied. “That’s my point.”

“I defended myself in the way that I have to,” Joe Benigno said back. “What else do you want me  to say? I shouldn’t have done it.”

Benigno has fostered a relationship with Saleh where they text back-and-forth about the team, but there have not been ground rules established in their interactions. After Giannotti inquired pertaining to whether or not certain things were off-the-record, he was surprised to learn that there were no set limitations about what to and not to disseminate. This caused him not to want to know whether or not Benigno heard from Saleh himself yesterday after the reaction it elicited.

Morning show co-host Boomer Esiason continued the discussion by asking Benigno how the owner of the Jets would feel if someone revealed information that was obtained through a text message that was willingly sent by the head coach. He also averred that Saleh would likely have plenty of time to text with Benigno in the future, surmising that he would be losing his job after the team’s performance this season. Benigno still did not understand how he harmed the reputation of the head coach, causing Giannotti to recapitulate what he had explained earlier.

“The fact that he wants to continue texting you about the team after this makes him look like a stone-cold moron,” Giannotti said, preceding his remarks by explaining that he intended to demonstrate no disrespect to Benigno. “If he didn’t learn his lesson this time around and he’s still going to go back and talk to you about the team, then he shouldn’t be the head coach because that is idiotic. I can’t even imagine the stuff that he heard yesterday from people.”

Although Benigno is not sure if Saleh will still text him about the team, the morning show co-hosts seemed to feel that he reached an understanding about the implications and consequences of his actions. After the call concluded, Esiason inferred that Benigno was feeling “sick to his stomach” about what he did on the air.

“Alright, well look,” Benigno said. “I guess only time will tell, alright. What else do you want me to say? There’s nothing else I can say. Obviously I made a mistake here; something I shouldn’t have done; totally misinterpreted it; and what can I do about it now – not much.”

“What you did actually,” Giannotti answered. “I think what you can do about it now is what you did, which is understand what happened; that’s all. At least we understand that you understand now, so now we can move on with an understanding.”

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