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.
When 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.
- The offer had to be part time and at minimum wage
- 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.
As 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.
Since 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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.
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.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Brent Dougherty Signs New Deal At 104.5 The Zone
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to commit long term, again, to continue to help make 104.5 The Zone the best radio station in the country.”
Things are going very well for 104.5 The Zone. The Cumulus station is coming off of a strong Fall ratings book, and now it has secured the future of its signature show Brent Dougherty has a new deal that will keep the 3HL host on the station for the foreseeable future.
“I am blessed to be able to work with the most talented people in radio, both on and off the air,” Dougherty told BSM. “I am so excited to have the opportunity to commit long term, again, to continue to help make 104.5 The Zone the best radio station in the country.”
Brent Dougherty has been part of The Zone since 2008. He was well-known to Nashville sports fans long before that, having previously served as the Sports Director at 1510 WLAC.
Dougherty announced his new deal last week on Twitter. On Monday, he told Barrett Sports Media that re-signing was a no-brainer, given his teammates.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to work with Dawn Davenport, Ron Slay, and Joe Hunk on a day-to-day basis. We know that there is always room to grow. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and will continue to do that every day. Win every day – always and always.”
While all of the teams currently in Nashville were already there when 3HL launched in 2010, Dougherty knows the landscape is so much different now with a population boom and the changing options for sports media. He says that he is optimistic that both the show and 104.5 The Zone will play a prominent role in shaping sports fans’ conversations in Middle Tennessee for years to come.
“We as a radio station have tried to grow with Nashville hand-in-hand. 104.5 The Zone is the voice of Nashville sports. It was that way when I came to work at this radio station in 2008. We are blessed to have such loyal and passionate listeners and are so thankful for their participation and their desire to take ownership over what we do.”
David Schultz Out At 105.5 WNSP
“I had a blast covering the Jaguars, Tide & Tigers, Saints, and high school sports and then sharing my opinions.”
WNSP is looking for a new afternoon show. A source tells Barrett Sports Media that David Schultz has been let go.
Schultz served as the Program Director as well as the host of The Game Plan in afternoon drive. Michael Brauner has been his co-host since last April.
David Schultz came to Mobile in August of 2019, replacing Creg Stephenson and Randy Kennedy, who is now heard on crosstown rival Sports Talk 99.5. Before coming to Alabama, Schultz hosted mornings on 103.7 The Game in Lafayette, Louisiana. He is also a former contributor to WQAM in Miami.
“To the listeners of WNSP, it has been my honor and pleasure driving you home from work since August of 2019,” he wrote on Twitter. “I had a blast covering the Jaguars, Tide & Tigers, Saints, and high school sports and then sharing my opinions. I appreciated your patience as it took this ‘yankee’ a bit to get used to his surroundings. Thank you very much for bringing me into your homes, cars, and phones.”
The station’s permanent afternoon plans are far from solidified. BSM has learned that Mark Heim — who currently hosts The Opening Kickoff on the station — will cover the shift in the interim.
Audacy, New York Mets Announce Addition of Keith Raad, Pat McCarthy
“The Mets are excited to have Keith and Pat join WCBS 880 as part of the Mets broadcast.”
Raad joins the crew after spending last season announcing games for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. He has also been the voice of Wagner University football and women’s basketball since 2017.
McCarthy — the son of Philadelphia Phillies television voice Tom McCarthy — has served as the voice of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the AAA-affiliate of the Phillies. He has filled in on Phillies broadcasts during the past two seasons, in addition to working as a football, and men’s/women’s basketball announcer for Princeton and St. Joseph’s Universities.
“The Mets are excited to have Keith and Pat join WCBS 880 as part of the Mets broadcast,” said Andy Goldberg, Executive Vice President, and Chief Marketing Officer, New York Mets. “Having Keith called up from Brooklyn, and being a local New Yorker to keep it in the family is what the Mets are all about.”
Raad will serve as the play-by-play and color commentator on the club’s broadcasts, while McCarthy will host the pregame and postgame shows, and step into the play-by-play role held by Howie Rose during select broadcasts.
“As we round the bases towards Spring Training, we’re proud to officially welcome Keith Raad and Pat McCarthy to our popular coverage of Mets baseball alongside Mets Hall of Famer Howie Rose,” said Chris Oliviero, Market President, Audacy New York. “Once again, the Mets offseason has created anticipation and optimism for the 2023 Amazins’ and we’re looking forward to being the audio home for every moment on-air and digitally.”