After the passing of conservative talk media icon Rush Limbaugh, I labored with what kind of piece I was going to write on the subject.
I certainly wasn’t going to pen a flowery, sentimental column. Not that I take offense to anyone that did. It’s just that the internet was going to be full of them and all from people who listened to Limbaugh far more than I ever did.
I wanted to do something that was more proactive and looked forward.
I was going to wait a couple of weeks, let the deluge of memorials and tributes to come in, and then I was going to submit a piece that I have been quietly working on for some time:
THE TOP CANDIDATES TO REPLACE RUSH LIMBAUGH.
I had a list of people that I felt, as a former programmer, were great talents and ideal fits to sit in front of the “Golden EIB Network Microphone.”
As I usually do, I made a slew of phone calls to my contacts at iHeart and in different talk radio circles, to gage their opinion on my list of candidates.
I didn’t get more than a few conversations in before I realized that the column I was about to write was fool’s gold.
The reality is…there is no replacement for Rush Limbaugh. There never will be.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. iHeart will eventually have to figure out something to offer the hundreds of EIB affiliates throughout the country from 12-3p ET/9a-12p PT. Maybe it’s Buck Sexton. Maybe Clay Travis makes the pilgrimage from sports to news (which, by the way, I think would be an intriguing choice). Maybe Tucker Carlson can be lured away from all the projects he’s working on for Fox News. Maybe it’s a combination of different people offered to different regions of the country.
No matter who gets to replace him in that timeslot, Rush Limbaugh left a void that can never be filled.
This truth has been staring us in the face for quite some time.
IF IT COULD’VE HAPPENED, IT WOULD HAVE BY NOW
Rush did not die suddenly. His terminal illness had been known for some time. Even before that, iHeart (and EIB affiliates) have been wrangling with the question of, “Is there life after Rush?”
Many thought that Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and even Ben Shapiro could be the heir apparent. However, none of them could command the high dollar rights fees that Rush affiliates were paying. How high? An EIB affiliate that I am very familiar with negotiated DOWN their yearly rights fee to a little over $100k recently. That was getting a discount.
Not to mention, many conservative voices have all found greener pastures on the digital frontier. Beck has made a fortune building The Blaze. Shapiro turned The Daily Wire into a profitable, growing content platform that has attracted high dollar investors.
Why would they want to replace Rush? They don’t NEED the money or exposure. Plus, as the old saying goes, you never want to follow a legend.
WE’RE IN A DIFFERENT ERA
Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist and press aide to Mitt Romney, summed up the current situation perfectly in a recent article in the New York Times:
“There’s so many different platforms to interact with conservative voices, and there are so many more voices. If you’re pro-Trump, you’ve got Breitbart and Newsmax. If you’re more of a moderate Republican, you’ve got The Bulwark and Charlie Sykes. I follow 25-, 26-year-old conservatives on Instagram who are sharing two-minute videos that young people connect with personally. I don’t think you’ll see it ever again where one person is the king of this realm.”
The media landscape is far more cluttered today and that trend is only going to continue. There are multiple voices for every flavor of Republican out there and all of them are available on demand. Because of that, no one person can take the mantle of “King of All Conservative Media”. In a way, Rush has already been replaced, not by one person, but by many others who were likely influenced by his success.
Williams also makes a great point when talking about young talent and younger consumers. Those who fit into the Millennial or Gen Z classes don’t have the attention span to listen to a 3-hour radio show, regardless of it being live or on-demand. Short from programming delivered on social media channels such as YouTube or Instagram have not only proven to be more popular with people of those generations, but also drives far more engagement.
WHAT CAN AFFILIATES DO?
At some point, “the long goodbye” that is being offered to Rush affiliates will end.
So, if you are one of them, what should you be doing?
You have two choices: hope or be proactive.
You can hope that iHeart will offer you a palatable replacement. You can hope that there is another syndicated show you can time-shift or slide into Rush’s old timeslot.
However, as a colleague of mine once told me, “hope is not a strategy”.
Stations should be taking the money they were paying Rush and re-investing it into building out local programming.
Sure, the popular decision will be to take the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense and put it back towards the bottom line. That’s the safe play.
As I’ve argued before, now is a great time to not be safe, but to be bold. Take that money, or even a PORTION of that money, and GO LOCAL.
Find a talent that connects to your audience and build out their brand to better your own.
There are conservative voices out there, its all a matter of finding them and grooming them to be great. Maybe it’s a former political official…like Joe Scarborough. Maybe it’s a talented youngster who volunteers at the local college radio station…like Sean Hannity. Maybe its an ivy league educated writer and author like Ben Shapiro. Maybe it’s a tandem that has good chemistry together.
Talent is out there. It’s on local stations to find it and cultivate it.
There never will be a big, bold voice like Rush that can deliver the way he did for so many years. That era of spoken-word media is over. It’s on individual radio brands to find their own way.
It’s Not a Vaccine Mandate, It’s a Test Mandate
“Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?”
I feel I must disclose my feelings on Covid-19 before my column this week so everyone knows my bias.
If you want to take the horse dewormer medicine, Ivermectin, for Covid-19, I DON’T CARE.
If you want to wear a mask in a crowd indoors or out, I DON’T CARE
If you don’t want to get a Covid-19 vaccine, again, I DON’T CARE.
In terms of full disclosure, I have been vaccinated. As far as I know, I haven’t had Covid-19, and only my dog has had some form of Ivermectin.
With that out of the way, can we talk about how President Biden’s mandate is being discussed and reported on? This is not a liberal or conservative issue, and it’s not a CNN vs FOX News issue. Most everyone has an opinion on it, yet most don’t care to find out what was actually proposed. Even the White House is misleading folks with its own policy.
This is not a vaccine mandate, it’s a test mandate.
President Biden’s policy has made two changes. All federal workers must receive a vaccine. You don’t have to work for the federal government, but if you do, you must be vaccinated. Again, not a mandate. No one is forcing you to work for the federal government. That’s your choice.
Delta Airlines implemented a policy charging employees $200 if they choose not to be vaccinated. As a result, thousands have received the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid the penalty. That is their choice.
Schools, public and private universities, hospitals, and companies big and small have made similar rules. If you want to work or attend, you must get a vaccine. Not a vaccine mandate, big difference.
Companies make all sorts of rules, some smart, some dumb. I know a radio station that will not let their on-air hosts talk to the media (dumb). My company policy says, I can’t eat food in the studio (smart). You can agree or disagree with a policy, and if you choose not to follow it, that is your choice. Nobody from the government is going to come to your home, hold you down, and jab a needle in your arm. Yet I’ve heard that said a few hundred times in the last few weeks.
Part two of President Biden’s policy says that if you are a company with over 100 employees, your employees will be required to have a vaccine or get tested weekly to see if they are Covid-19 positive. Again, this is not a vaccine mandate. It’s just a test, once a week. A test mandate, if you will.
Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?
I talk to neighbors, callers, and friends, and they’re all arguing over something that isn’t happening. Some have gotten really angry and stood defiant. They will not, under any circumstances, be forced to get a vaccine.
“How about a test?”
These are crazy times. We talk past each other, we debate our own set of facts, we get to choose the news we like, and disregard and disqualify the news we don’t. I’m afraid we have crossed some type of rubicon. Everyone is arguing and debating a policy but nobody knows the actual policy.
If you think taking a test to find out if you have a life threatening virus that could harm you, a family member, or a coworker is government overreach, I DON’T CARE. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted by the screaming. But if you are going to argue about it, you should do yourself a favor and know what the policy is before you decide you are for it or against it.
Few Media Outlets Were Brave Enough to #NeverForget Both Sides
Saturday marked 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001.
Everyone has a 9/11 story. Where they were. How they reacted. What they remember about that treacherous day in America.
Consuming media coverage and memorials over the weekend, there was one very common theme.
Unity. Unofficially the word was said 42,365,789 times this weekend.
Listening to the radio, I heard one newstalk host romanticize about how the entire country came together as one, and he didn’t feel we did the same fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before the NFL kicked off on Sunday, both Fox and CBS aired extended memorial video montages. The New York Yankees and New York Mets played the Subway Series and on Saturday wore hats representing the Fire and Police Departments of their city.
Netflix, Hulu and Peacock dropped streaming documentaries.
All of this coverage focused on the heroism, the devastation that destroyed 2,996 families, and the unified aftermath. Stats were dropped about the sales of United States flags hitting all-time highs. The patriotic shirt and bumper stickers industry was booming for months.
Let’s be clear – this aforementioned coverage was extremely important.
The following might be controversial, so I unfortunately feel obligated to include the following disclaimer:
I think 9/11 memorial coverage is necessary. #NeverForget is important. I’ve often thought that we don’t talk enough Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans also died, maybe that’s a generational coverage thing. So, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, we should keep these stories prominent and always celebrate the heroes of that harrowing day.
Now that my stance on 9/11 coverage is very very clear…
We should also talk more about the racist hate-crime filled society we created for Muslims, Arabic speaking Americans, Sikhs, and anyone who appeared middle eastern or had dark brown skin. We should also never forget those innocent people whose lives were extremely affected during the aftermath.
Their stories are important. Acknowledging the ugliness can assist in learning from those mistakes.
Although the coverage wasn’t front page, there were news outlets brave enough to hit on those topics over the weekend. I wanted to take time to highlight them, quoting some excerpts that may be tough to read:
Anita Snow and Noreen Nasir of Associated Press for ABC News: “Sikh entrepreneur Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed at his Arizona gas station four days after the Sept. 11 attacks by a man who declared he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads” and mistook him for an Arab Muslim.”
Kiara Alfonseca for ABC News: “Mosques were burned or destroyed and death threats and harassment followed many Muslims in the weeks following the attacks, according to congressional testimony from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011. Some victims were beaten, attacked or held at gunpoint for merely being perceived as Muslim, the organization said.”
“But, you know, as often as you will speak to other Muslim and millennials especially, they feel like we feel like we’ve had to answer for the crimes of other people,” Warsi said.
He says linking the Islamic faith with these attacks was damaging mentally and physically.
“I myself have been discriminated against been a victim to hate crime with physical assault, just because I’m Muslim,” Warsi said.
Dorothy Hastings for PBS: “Since 2001, Muslims have been the second most frequent target for religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the federal hate crime data.”
Newstalk program directors, news directors and journalists should always strive to tell both sides of the story. It’s not the feel-good unified story, but nothing about journalism is easy. The industry isn’t for propaganda.
There are tough truths that need to be told. It’s part of the job.
The stories are important. The coverage is necessary.
The Weather Channel Was Go To Outlet for Hurricane Ida Coverage
The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City.
Hurricane Ida continued to wreak havoc on Wednesday, Sep. 1, as the storm that rocked Louisiana the previous weekend unleashed its fury upon the northeast.
The Weather Channel was the primary outlet for Ida coverage. Here was their ratings track as the storm reached New Jersey and New York that evening, according to Nielsen Media Research:
- 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.391 million viewers; 158,000 adults 25-54
- 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET: 0.461 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
- 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET: 0.348 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
- 11:00 p.m.-midnight ET: 0.269 million viewers; 100,000 adults 25-54
- midnight-1:00 a.m. ET: 0.230 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
- 1:00-2:00 a.m. ET: 0.198 million viewers; 63,000 adults 25-54
3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park from 8:51-9:51 p.m. ET — the largest amount of rainfall there within a one-hour period on record, a mark previously set just eleven days prior (Aug. 21) by the effects of Hurricane Henri’s storm (1.94 inches). 8.4 inches fell in Newark, New Jersey throughout the entire evening. Over 50 people in the northeast perished due to Ida.
The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City. Fox News Channel provided 10-minute special reports in the overnight of late Sep. 1/early Sep. 2:
- 1:00-1:10 a.m. ET: 0.875 million viewers; 213,000 adults 25-54
- 2:00-2:11 a.m. ET: 0.692 million viewers; 166,000 adults 25-54
- 3:00-3:08 a.m. ET: 0.526 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54
CNN’s “Newsroom Live” began at 2 a.m. ET, reporting on Hurricane Ida. It averaged 411,000 viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54 for the hour.
On the following morning of Thursday, Sep. 2, the governors of New Jersey (Phil Murphy) and New York (Kathy Hochul) held separate press conferences addressing the aftermath of Ida. Fox News, averaging 1.6 million total viewers and 265,000 in the 25-54 demo from 10-11 a.m. ET, aired most of these conferences until bailing on them when the topic of climate change was mentioned.
CNN (967,000 viewers/228,000 adults 25-54 from 10-11 a.m. ET) and MSNBC (Murphy: 843,000 viewers/90,000 adults 25-54 from 10:19-10:38 a.m. ET; Hochul: 778,000 viewers/86,000 adults 25-54 from 10:38-11:12 a.m. ET) both aired the Murphy and Hochul press conferences in full.
Here are the cable news averages for August 30-September 5, 2021.
Total Day (August 30-September 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.548 million viewers; 259,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.744 million viewers; 84,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.653 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.247 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.201 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.140 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.096 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (August 30-September 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; September 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.642 million viewers; 434,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.260 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.876 million viewers; 202,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.259 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.218 million viewers; 62,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.199 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.163 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.054 million viewers; 6,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.312 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.130 million viewers
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.846 million viewers
4. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.841 million viewers
5. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.620 million viewers
6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.519 million viewers
7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.506 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.489 million viewers
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.393 million viewers
10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.317 million viewers
19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.763 million viewers
125. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.199 million viewers
190. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.909 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.778 million adults 25-54
2. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54
3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.654 million adults 25-54
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.634 million adults 25-54
6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.613 million adults 25-54
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.574 million adults 25-54
8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.569 million adults 25-54
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.564 million adults 25-54
10. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.552 million adults 25-54
32. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54
71. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.282 million adults 25-54
87. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
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