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Covid Makes Local Races More Important Content Than Ever

“There has been more focus in the past six months on county commissioners, city council members and health directors who the heavy majority in communities could not name before the lockdowns began in March.”

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It’s the home stretch of the 2020 Election season. As of this writing there are 41 days to election day. And while so much of the focus is obviously on Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden, there is a unique angle for local hosts that should be capitalized this election season. 

The Presidential race is naturally the sexiest of the bunch, but the local races are ones that are likely to gather more attention than usual. This can all be attributed to the lockdowns from COVID-19. There has been more focus in the past six months on county commissioners, city council members and health directors who the heavy majority in communities could not name before the lockdowns began in March.

Fauci: 5 Steps to Avoid a Lockdown for Coronavirus

 

Suddenly, these people have become some of the most talked about folks in towns, cities and counties across America. 

Many of them may also be on the ballot. And while some are not on the ballot (appointed health directors), those local individuals you vote for are the ones making the appointments. It’s obvious that millions more Americans go to vote during Presidential election years and often times they skip voting on some of the down ballot races or will pick someone based on the letter that defines their political affiliation next to their name, or heck even something completely different. 

But due to how the lockdowns are being handled across the country, many Americans seem to be waking up to the reality that while the Presidential race is the heavyweight fight we all want to follow for the drama, these local elected leaders are the ones who often times have a much bigger impact on our day-to-day lives. Everything from trash pick-up services to fixing pot holes to shutting down businesses based on questionable medical advice, it is these politicians, not Donald Trump or Joe Biden, who are directly affecting your quality of life today. 

As a local talk show host, that gives you another arrow in your quiver to highlight and discuss during a hot election cycle. And while so many local shows will sound similar the last 40 days of a presidential election season, diversifying topics, highlighting the local races, and sharing with the audience the importance them in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, will strike a nerve. 

In the Kansas City metro, we’ve seen a surge of attention given to weekly county and city commission meetings on Zoom, same thing for school boards, as many begin to realize its their neighbors who are impacting them in the COVID-era, and that getting worked up over Trump’s tweets or Joe Biden’s bumbling over his words, might be fun, but is misplaced energy. 

Zoom glitches, briefly grinding US schools to a halt - Beaumont Enterprise

I’m not suggesting spending hours each day on a show interviewing every county commissioner candidate in your region. But carefully and smartly picking key races that can swing commissions, councils or school boards one way or the other will help you stand out, highlight the importance of local issues and leaders in your community and ultimately separate you from a piped-in syndicated show that is hitting many of the national talking points that we are all hitting on every day. 

And if there is ever a time to do it when people are yearning for this kind of information, it’s now. If there is anything good to come out of this pandemic and the lockdowns, it hopefully will be a surge in interest in local politics and elections, and let’s hope that interest carries beyond November 3rd, 2020. 

BNM Writers

Bitcoin and the Economic Breaking Point

This bitcoin bull remains as optimistic as ever, at least according to his comments on the widely-acclaimed What Bitcoin Did podcast, hosted by Peter McCormack.

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Bitcoin is down nearly 80% from its all-time high of 2021. Virtually everything is down, so that’s not a surprise. Yet many of the most influential and cerebral names in the space remain as optimistic as ever about the asset’s future.

“I see it as a cleansing,” Preston Pysh said of the current crypto bear market. “It sure hasn’t changed my opinions on anything.”

This bitcoin bull remains as optimistic as ever, at least according to his comments on the widely-acclaimed What Bitcoin Did podcast, hosted by Peter McCormack. He spoke recently on the program about the latest cryptocurrency exchange collapse – this time the popular FTX exchange led by Democratic mega-donor, Sam Bankman-Fried.

“I’m a little shocked at the size of the scam that was being played on everyone, and when you’re dealing with private equity, not a publicly-traded company when you can kinda peer into the books, it’s a little hard to kinda know what you are dealing with,” Pysh said of the latest exchange implosion. “I didn’t see FTX blowing up in literally, seconds. When you can’t peer into the numbers and you can’t actually see what’s being done, like, it’s kind of hard to be able to see something like that coming.”

Pysh is the co-founder of The Investor’s Podcast Network.  He is also an entrepreneur, author, investor and cryptocurrency proponent. As he has said on this, and other programs, he believes this tumultuous period of time has been part of the well-known Bitcoin cycle. All part of Bitcoin’s ebb and flow, which he believes will eventually turn positive once again.

For his part, McCormack drew a distinction between the recent scandal and other start-ups in the industry who appear to be approaching things in ethical ways.

“This is somebody who’s come in recklessly and damaged the industry. Damaged individuals, damaged businesses, damaged peoples’ holdings in Bitcoin. There is some dark consequences for this,” McCormack said. “And I know people hate regulations. And I know people hate the likes of Coinbase being so friendly with regulators. But at the same time, it’s like well, they’re building proper businesses within the infrastructure.”

“This is what a bottom starts to look like. Now, how long does this go? I don’t know. It really depends on how much the central bankers allow it to persist. But they have got to get the inflation prints lower,” Pysh said.

While many bitcoiners believe the future of “digital gold” is bright, no one can confidently predict the near-term future. The next Bitcoin halving – when the newly-issued supply is cut in half – is scheduled to take place in roughly 15 months. This traditionally has spurred a years-long bull run for the asset.

“We swallowed a lot of bad news to still have Bitcoin at $16,800,” McCormack pointed out, seeing the big picture, decade-long trend of the asset.

“This is extremely healthy stuff as far as I’m concerned,” Pysh said, pointing out that it is a blessing to clear out the weaker industry exchanges and businesses now. “All of those activities, could you imagine building on top of those? Like, if we weren’t going through this tightening right now, and let’s say they were releasing the floodgates again, you’re just going to have more of these types of activities that are going to get built on top of this. You want to talk about a real meltdown. That would be really concerning.”

Pysh has long voiced his opinion that Bitcoin is here to stay and will continue appreciating far into the future. He’s not alone. 

Gregg Foss. Michael Saylor. Ben Armstrong. Benjamin Cowen. Rob from Digital Asset News. James from Invest Answers. Anthony Scaramucci. Mark Cuban. Kevin O’Leary. Robert Breedlove.

These thought leaders, along with countless others, believe Bitcoin’s brightest days lie ahead. Their price targets for a decade out stretch well into seven or eight figures. And many analysts believe it will be off to the races once the Fed pivots from its hawkish approach on interest rates.

“It feels like the massive headlines regarding the economy, regarding inflation, it feels like things are starting to calm down a little bit,” McCormack offered on last week’s program.

“You’re CPI is coming down a little bit, but you have to remember, prices are still going up. Prices are still going up. It’s the rate at which they’re going up, and that’s really important for people to understand that difference,” Pysh said, pointing out that the world economy may be at a breaking point. “And so the speed at which they’re going up is slowing, but I don’t think they’re aggressively – I would call that deceleration – the deceleration is not really all that much.” 

In other words, Pysh says regulators are between a rock and a hard place because their actions, thus far, haven’t reduced inflation as quickly as they’d hoped.

“There’s nothing I could tell you that they could be doing better because the situation is so dire,” Pysh said. “If you put me in the seat at any of these central banks, I don’t know that I could really do policy different. And this is a huge, like, foot stomp for me. I love banging up central bankers with the best of em. But if you’re really going to get at the inherent problem, you have to go upstream of that. And when you go upstream of that, it’s fiscal appropriators that are the actual problem.” 

In essence, he believes those who spend the money – politicians and bureaucrats – are mostly to blame, for spending more than is coming in. Across the United States, and across the globe.

“The central banker is the one who’s adjusting the money supply to try to work with what’s being spent, the fiscal appropriators,” Pysh said.

It may be that both the near-term and long-term future for Bitcoin, and the world economy as a whole, hinge on the actions of these people. 

Appropriators, regulators and central bankers. All eyes remain on them.

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BNM Writers

Jack Swanson Found Success in Radio Much More Than Happiness

Swanson worked at WLS from 1973-79. Swanson said it was a radio era that included Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, Tommy Edwards. Legendary personalities.

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I’ve had more jobs than Jack Swanson has had hot dinners. Unlike Swanson, I’ve been canned from a few. There’s always the job you loved, and sometimes you wish you could go back. 

“I quit WLS and in many ways I regret it to this day,” Swanson said. “I quit every radio job I had, never fired. If today I could wave a magic wand I would have stayed at WLS in Chicago.”

Swanson worked at WLS from 1973-79. Swanson said it was a radio era that included Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, Tommy Edwards. Legendary personalities.

“One of the best collections of talent ever,” he said. “As my career went on, I was generally more successful than I was happy. I found I always performed better when I was around really crazy-talented people. I think you’ll always perform better on a great team.”

Swanson explained that just doesn’t happen today as great teams are very expensive. 

He worked at KGO a total of three times. Every year he’d sit down with the GM and there was a ‘come to Jesus moment.’ 

“As PD, it was not uncommon to get a budget dropped in front of me and the GM would glare at me and say, ‘Do you have everything single thing in this budget you need to become number one?’ Now that’s a whole new kind of pressure.”

Reading between the lines, Swanson said what they were really saying was, ‘You’d better bring me a winner.’ To accomplish that, you always need a few dollars more. When you have the appropriate budget, you get better performance all around. 

“From your on-air people, producers, and other staff. It’s a great environment when people feel appreciated. Like they’re being paid what they’re worth.”

The third time at KGO, Swanson quit after only three weeks. 

“I just wanted out,” he explained. “I had a three-year contract so that complicated things. The nice people at Cumulus indicated they might sue me if I left. I figured, ‘Have at it. If you want to sue an old man, do your worst. The truth is I didn’t think they knew what they were doing. I had to negotiate a departure.” 

Talking about KGO and their abrupt shift of formats, Swanson said he thinks ownership got desperate. “I don’t fault what they did. They were in a corner. Their money people were getting very edgy. But what fills that gap?”

Unfortunately, San Francisco currently has no local talk station despite being the fourth-largest radio market in the country. KSFO is also programmed, all syndicated. 

“Tragically, it’s all radio from a computer,” Swanson said. “Radio is a crazy business. People don’t want to invest because they generally want to keep their money.”

He said all the time people say radio isn’t what it used to be.

“Not even close,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t honor and respect radio. You should let your talent shine wherever you can let it shine. Back in the day at WLS, it was possible to make money. It’s not really possible any more. It’s like 1,000 points of light. Anybody can go on Amazon and purchase a Mr. Microphone and have their own show and talk to the world.”

The fact that podcasts are the new popular kid on the block isn’t lost on Swanson. With 2.4 millions podcasts today and counting, Swanson said there are just too many, a sensory overload.

“They’re like exploding stars, scattering around and trying to find an audience,” he explained. “There are only so many hours in a day.”

His resume is extensive; VP and general manager at KING AM/FM, VP of programming at KGO/KSFO, director of news and programming at KCBS Radio.

Swanson began his radio career as a news anchor and reporter for WLS Radio in Chicago before becoming the News and Program Director for KGO. 

“While I was at WLS, it was owned by ABC, and we had 25 full-time new people.”

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the best radio program director in America, and the best news talk PD for four years and the best programmer for three years by Radio Ink and Radio & Records.

Having spent most of his time in major markets, Swanson has great respect for people who spent their careers in small, or medium markets.

“If you’re on the endless chase to be in a bigger market, when you get there it can be hollow. If you find a city and community you like, it can become a great home forever. There aren’t any gold watches in radio. My advice to talent is to listen to your stomach. There’s nothing more important.”

Some people are naturally good at what they do, but a PD can only take you so far.

“It’s like being a football coach,” Swanson said. “You can’t make your quarterback a star, he has to do that himself. My career has been satisfying. I’d say it has been 85-90 percent luck. Being in the right place at the right time. That’s absolutely true for my career.”

He’s had great success in radio. But now, things are different. 

“I definitely wouldn’t encourage young people to get in the business or pursue a journalism curriculum,” Swanson said. “Years ago, I had a group of students come into KCBS, journalism students from the University of California. About 13 kids came in and said they wanted to see the real world of broadcast journalism. They asked me for advice and I told them if they were intent on the degree, for God’s sake don’t go on for a masters in journalism. One of the students told me they were all in the masters program. I don’t want to say we’re dumb in radio, but we’re not the smartest people.”

When KGO was part of the ABC group, and ABC was sold to Disney. Swanson was stunned. They sold all the stations for a great deal of money.

“I asked why they were doing it? This was 20 years ago. An executive at ABC told me radio had no growth potential and that’s what they wanted. They took all the money from the sale, billions of dollars, and put it into Pixar. While I was angry at Disney, they saw the writing on the wall.” 

In 1994, Swanson was to program KSFO. He’d done that once and didn’t want to go back. 

“KSFO was a dog, but the essentially offered me a blank check to fix it. So I went back. Within a year I took the station from 36th in the market to number two, just behind KGO.”

Swanson said they went all conservative at KSFO. This was before the Fox News Channel. Limbaugh existed, but there were no all conservative stations with the exception of one in Seattle.

“There were mostly religious stations with conservative hosts, but nobody was listening,” Swanson said. “They waved the flag and I personally didn’t know people like that. Suddenly there was  a need to provide a place where people could say what they never dared to say out loud.”

Anybody in the business will tell you the line between journalist and opinion is evaporating. “They are broadcasting information that we want to hear to make us feel right about our beliefs,” Swanson said. “People may not believe when someone tells them they love them, but they always believe them when they say they’re right.”

He said when he went to school, students tried to find the truth as best they could understand it. Swanson said he’s not so sure that can happen anymore.

“When I started in news, I had an AP and UPI teletype in my station,” he explained. “I knew everything that was going on and listeners didn’t know any breaking news. We had no morning news, no news channels, newspapers came out twice a day. Radio was the only way to learn immediate things. What a responsibility it was.” 

Swanson said the most important things politicians can do today is listen. He explained they stopped listening a couple of years into their careers.

“They no longer hear their constituents. They just say what their base wants them to say.”

Does he have an encounter with someone that he holds dear? Not really. 

“I did encounter Richard Nixon once,” Swanson said. This was during the heat of Watergate and Nixon was in Madison. 

“The President was walking toward Air Force One and the national press was all over him,” Swanson said. “With Watergate crushing him, He wasn’t about to talk with anybody. I was behind the press line and I yelled out, ‘Mr. President, your tan looks great. Where did you go to get it?”

Swanson said Nixon stopped, pivoted and looked his way.

“Nixon turned around and came toward the press line and we chatted a bit. I think he just liked the fact that someone wanted to talk with him as a human being.”

For a moment, Nixon wasn’t such a Tricky Dick. 

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BNM Writers

The Donald Trump Conundrum For News/Talk Personalities

I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

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With 721 days to go until the 2024 Election, Donald Trump decided it was time for him to officially jump into the race. He could not wait any longer. And on Tuesday night, in a speech that lasted more than an hour, he decided to move ahead and officially kick off 2024, one week after the 2022 midterms ended. 

This has created an interesting dynamic for talk radio. Not only does it give reason to quickly move on from the over-analyzing of dissecting what happened in the midterms, but Trump is generally good for business, especially when he has been (mostly) off the radar the last two years. 

And as is always the case with Trump, the opinions and emotions will be strong across the aisle.

But with the opinions and emotions so strong across the aisle, what’s the play for News/Talk hosts?

Many are comparing this to 2015-16, when conservative-leaning media broke down pro-Trump or never-Trump, and it changed the landscape and careers for some, depending on which side of the aisle one landed on. 

However, there are stark differences this time around.

Those who would call themselves conservatives would all agree that the policies implemented by Donald Trump were a success. Whether it was economic policy, foreign policy, trade policy, or judges appointed, the 45th President kept to his word on all of the above and they were all highly-successful, especially before the pandemic. 

There is no true “never-Trump” angle amongst conservatives like there was in 2016. The question this time around is simply: “Is Trump the best person to move Trumpism forward? Or is there a better option to keep the movement moving ahead?”

That’s a very different conversation amongst the news/talk audience, that if handled properly, should not result in audiences turning on their favorite personalities, regardless of which side of the conversation one might come down on.

For these reasons, I don’t foresee a “civil war” amongst conservatives in the way we saw it six years ago. 

And for our audiences, there will be hosts who lean more Pro-Trump or Pro-DeSantis (or whoever else), but I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

That doesn’t mean not having an opinion. That’s ultimately our job. But if we form that opinion, on either side, through the prism of, “We’ve still got 18-24 months of this, things will change, and here are the pros and cons of what I’m thinking…”, it creates an environment that invites listener interaction and makes your show the place to voice opinions on both sides of the issue.

Also, that audience interaction will remain our great leverage in this conversation that cable news, newspapers, and social media can’t duplicate with the same intimacy. So let’s take advantage of it and it will also give us an on-the-ground feel for where the audience is in our market in a way the political consulting class can only dream of.

That’s how we can win this 2024 news cycle, that, yes, believe it or not, has already started. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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