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The Problem with Television News in America

Jon Stewart offered a critical look at television news – its goals, its methods, and the product it offers up every day to millions of eager eyeballs.

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Apple

The sh***y model of news that we are fed is based on an antiquated system that is not reflective of who’s watching it.”

Jon Stewart offered the insight during last week’s opening moments of his Apple TV+ program, “The Problem.” The program offered a critical look at television news – its goals, its methods, and the product it offers up every day to millions of eager eyeballs.

Many have grown accustomed to hearing news critiques from more conservative American enclaves. But to come from the liberal side of the spectrum was both refreshing and, as Stewart himself predicted might happen, just the match to ignite a blowback from inside the industry.

“Generally, our news media has been collected into two major categories, for the most part. You got your, what they call the mainstream, liberal corporate media. And then you got your right-wing, also mainstream, corporate media,” Stewart said, “One side of this media equation believes they are purveyors of truth and justice. The guardians of our democratic republic. The other side is effective.”

Stewart did not hold back during the program, stating that television news has largely become a vessel to deliver ratings-tested material to willing and eager viewers. In his opinion, the industry focus is now on delivering what the viewer wants, rather than on what the journalist believes is worthy of time or trust. He feels a journalist’s job should be to lay out the facts and truth as he sees it and let the chips fall where they may.

The host didn’t hide the fact that his bias may lead him to see a specific tilt to a story. His main point, however, is that television news should provide what the journalist believes to be true, rather than offering up what they think will simply be popular or agreed with by their audience.

Stewart zoned in on the issue of “Critical Race Theory,” offering up a montage of conservative media opinion, referring to CRT as “poison,” “marxist,” “communist,” and “racist.” He blamed the conservative media for creating the issue and “lighting the fire” of outrage across America.

“The right-wing media, working seamlessly with their political arm, made that happen,” Stewart said. “That’s how fucking good these guys are. If you’re going to battle this coordinated effort – political and media together – we’re gonna need a hero.” Stewart feels that this narrative was born not from truth but rather from the corporate media’s effort to create the hullabaloo only to exploit it to the max.

“Unfortunately, if they are the one thing that stands between America and chaos, we are in trouble. Because rarely has there been an institution that has such a distance between its aspirations and its execution,” Steward said. “The media keeps informing us how incredibly important they are to our survival because knowing keeps us free. But when given crucial informational tasks, they instead build us prisons of what the fuck are you people talking about?”

The program then moved on, with its host saying the media was correct in its initial pursuit of the Trump “Russia conspiracy.” However, he said they quickly descended into absurdity, hurting their credibility in the process. Stewart played montage after montage, featuring mainstream media claims of “bombshells” about President Trump and featuring the qualifier, “if true.” Most of these “bombshells” turned out to be either untrue or far different than what had been portrayed. Try as they did, the media’s claims of “walls closing in” on the former president turned out to be nothing more than false promises to their eager audiences.

“The media is such an important part of a democracy’s immune system, but can the saviors of our democracy be saved themselves,” Stewart asked.

“The problem is that we’ve become moral imbeciles, as we are being spoon-fed little pieces of outrage day by day, no, stay with the story, stay with the story. You can’t lose any number. The death knell is if your numbers go down,” said Chris Stirewalt, former Politics Editor at Fox News. “That’s why we only get one story at a time. Producers know that that will work and that will rate, so we’re going to stick with the thing that people are expecting and that they know, because if you take it away from them, they may get mad, the number may go down, and they may go someplace else to get it.”

During his time at Fox, Stirewalt was known for his wit, political expertise, and, when the situation dictated, for offering a less-than-popular opinion.

“I think what people don’t realize is that it’s a ratings-driven business, but it’s also driven by meetings. People have meetings and make decisions every day that affect the tone, tenor, and direction of coverage,” Stewart said. The panel added that producers are guided by ratings showing minute-by-minute audience reactions, a trend that allows decision-makers to remain focused on the stories and angles that attract and keep the most eyeballs.

The table is set, giving the audience what the networks feel they want and will pay for, regardless of what many of the producers and journalists feel are, in actuality, the most important and relevant stories or angles of the day.

“There are meetings that set the agenda for the network, that set the agenda for the morning shows, that are gonna set the evening show agendas. You have to divvy up who’s gonna have which guests because you can’t have everybody shared on every single show,” former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien said. “And then the shows themselves have specific meetings. What are we gonna start with? What are we gonna end with? Who’s the guest? How long do they get? I think this idea of, hey, we just report the news, is ridiculous because, of course, it’s a zero-sum game. If you’re covering something, then that means you’re not giving coverage to something else.”

In addition, social media is now the shiny new object attracting news producers and compelling them to chase left and right. The excitable cat is trying to land his paw on the laser pointer.

“You can see a television news story in which people are like, this idiot said this about this idiot on Twitter, and they treat it like it’s a whole new story,” Stirewalt said. “So it has permeated the thinking in very profound ways, and it’s made us dumber,” Stirewalt said in the ten years he was at Fox; he saw the business change from keeping away from ratings talk to relying on it before all else.

Stewart added that when he started the Daily Show at the age of 35, he led with what he believed in, hoping it would attract an audience, rather than starting with what he thought the audience would want and “backing into it.” In his words, this purity of intention led to a more honestly-rooted journalistic effort.

“I think what this is really about is a lack of courage of changing the model,” Sean McLaughlin, V.P. of News at E.W. Scripps, said. “The part about the minute-by-minutes, you’re looking at data that is already incredibly flawed from the beginning.” He explained that today’s hyper-fragmentation makes the Nielsen-collected data much less reliable than in years past. And even then, many have felt that the reliance on a relatively small set of households recording their viewing patterns was an already-skewed method, to begin with. “At some point, you just start realizing, I wonder if what we’re looking at is any degree of realism at all,” McLaughlin added.

O’Brien said most newsrooms now perform under essentially the same set of unwritten rules.

“I think for most of the journalists working there when I was there, they loved journalism, as I did, and I do. But I think the mission was to do the best job you could do and win,” O’Brien said. “Win as in the ratings. Win is making sure that you’re getting picked up by the New York Times. Win is not about educating the public. It’s not so complicated.”

The prevailing theme of this episode of “The Problem” was that television news has become an all-too-tailored production. Especially in cable news, the product has become opinion-driven entertainment.

“What differentiates news from entertainment is that sometimes we have to tell you what you don’t want to hear,” Stirewalt summed up. “We are supposed to be the vegetables. We are supposed to be the nutrient-giving portion of the plate. Not dessert. What cable news has tried to do, and what local news sometimes does, is get the green beans in the shortbread, and you’ve got now you’ve turned the news into entertainment, and you’re treating entertainment like news. Both of those are bad things. News should be news; entertainment should be entertainment.”

The episode concluded with a conversation between Stewart and former Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger. Iger felt news organizations may currently be on the defensive because they feel they’ve been under the microscope like never before.

“My advice to them was to not hear the noise as much, to continue doing the job that we’ve entrusted them to do,” Iger said about his 30-plus years overseeing ABC News. “Which is, to tell the truth, to state the facts. To present the news in an accurate and a, fair and a timely basis. But we never sought to drive ratings or even bottom-line success at the sacrifice of what we consider to be quality. It wasn’t part of our discussion.”

BNM Writers

Chad Benson Is Changing The Conversation

Benson hosts his morning show on KTAR, and later, he has the nationally syndicated “The Chad Benson Show” on Radio America from 2-6 p.m. on weekdays.

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He’s not Joe Exotic, but he’s kind of a lizard king. He’s not quite as festooned as Pete Davidson of SNL, but he’s on his way. 

“I love to get ink,” says Chad Benson. With tattoos, he says you’re either in for a penny or in for a pound. “They’re addicting,” he says. “I like to wear my art on the outside.”

He gets his love of ink honestly, as his father had tattoos, and many of his friends have them as well. “If I wanted a new tattoo, friends told me to put the idea in a figurative drawer for a couple of months. If I still wanted it two months later, then I should get it.”

Benson’s left arm tells an entire story. His next tattoo will be an indelible part of him soon.

“I’m getting one of those old-school microphones,” Benson said. “Like the one, David Letterman had on his desk.”

Oh, and the lizard thing.

“If anybody listens to my show, they know I love lizards. I always have.”

If he gets a tattoo of a lizard, he’ll be the happiest guy in the world. His kids love the lizards too. “Some lizards are tough to get and expensive,” Benson explained.

Benson, his lizards, and tattoos are very busy. He hosts his show on KTAR in the morning, and later in the day, he has the nationally syndicated “The Chad Benson Show” on Radio America from 2-6 p.m. on weekdays.

When he was young, he was also a pretty talented jock, playing some professional soccer in Europe. Benson was signed by the Bristol Rovers, the Falkirk Scotland, and the Portsmouth Football Club.

“It certainly was fun,” Benson said. “I’m pretty certain I went further in soccer because of my drive rather than talent.” He said there weren’t as many Americans in the game when he played; it was a different scene.

After getting hurt a couple of times, he asked himself what career could he go into where he could still wear shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and not tear up his knee. It came down to a choice between beach-bum and radio.

“I came into talk radio in a different way,” Benson explained. “I never wanted to be the ‘next’ Rush Limbaugh; I just wanted to be me. They say you’re the ‘next’ so-and-so just because you’re younger. You’re not really doing anything much different.”

On his shows and in life, Benson said he likes to stay grounded. “I grew up in Los Angeles, and most of my friends are progressives,” he said. “We don’t base our friendships on politics. We just talk. I look around, and we all live in this insane world.” 

Benson said a lot of folks just want to argue over the dumbest things, but all they really want to do is argue. “I’ve got news for you; you’re not always going to get everything we want.”

There’s too much-misinformed emotion in the world, he says. “You can’t start a conversation by calling the other person a piece of shit. I’m a fact-based guy, and I’ll look at the other side.” 

In that manner speaking, Benson’s neighborhood isn’t very crowded.

“I like to say we’re in the ‘exhausted majority,” Benson said. “It’s funny when people say you don’t care about something if you don’t pick a side. Some say you’re wearing a mask to stop a virus, or you wear one because you hate Trump. It’s insane.”

After a bit of prodding, I asked Benson if he thought most News/Talkers believed in most of the stuff they peddle or if it was part of their job. 

“In general, I would say a majority of them are full of it, and they know it,” Benson said. “The scary question is, does the audience know it? I’m friends with several ‘talkers,’ and they’re not over the top in real life. They understand it’s a job, and they have to sell tickets.” He said it goes the other way. Some hosts act like they’re all progressive, but he knows them better.

On-air or off, Benson has some concerns about who we are collective. 

“Yes, we are pretty stupid on the whole,” he said. “We’re no longer coming at things in an honest conversation. We have to win the discussion or argument. It’s about beating the other side, not being right. Most would rather win on something small then you’d have something over others. All they care about is the ‘win’ and did I beat the other side.” 

Benson reminded me that even gladiators didn’t kill other gladiators–it was bad for business. He said part of the argumentative equation is we don’t hold people accountable any longer. 

“People just move on from a situation,” he said. “All that matters is how loud you are. When Radio America syndicated me, they said it was important to change the conversation.” Benson said his show isn’t about being a one-trick pony. Instead, he shoots for a mix, say a goal of 75% politics, and 25% of what everybody else is talking about. 

“We talk about the Johnny Depp trial, Roe vs. Wade. I have a super-young audience, and it really doesn’t skew hard right or left. I have a lot of independent listeners, so we don’t want to pigeonhole our content.”

When he’s not talking about Depp’s wife defecating in their marital bed or the Supreme Court leaks, Benson says he likes spending time with his family. But don’t invite him to a baseball game; it’s not going to happen.

“Baseball is so boring. Pitching changes, what shift is on. Who cares?”

Other than me and Alexander Doubleday, I can’t say.

Benson worked as a producer for Robert W. Morgan in the latter years of the legends’ career. Morgan was a legendary broadcaster who paved the way for Don Imus and virtually everyone else that followed. 

“Imus even talked like Robert,” Benson said. “The last few years at KRTH with Robert W. weren’t always easy. He was a tough SOB. He wouldn’t last a day in today’s era of ‘wokeness’ or with any human resources department.”

Regardless, Benson said Morgan was brilliant. “He pushed us hard to prepare well for the show. There were three of us producers who watched local television for three hours every night to find things to address. After that, we scoured VHS tapes for a couple of hours and pulled things off for his use on the show.” The cuts would often consist of something stupid the mayor said, and they’d gauge the audience’s reaction. 

“If the audience reacted well, we’d use it a couple of times an hour.”

I’d read a very salient message on one of Benson’s websites. He said we can still purchase Mein Kampf in bookstores, but not some Dr. Seuss selections. 

“That’s the kind of weird world we live in,” Benson said. “This world of ‘wokeness.’ Part of the problem is we’ve allowed the extremes to dominate.”

He likened the state of things to a carnival ride. “You know those big swinging rides that go back and forth like a pendulum? Well, sometimes the sweet spot is right in the middle. We never seem to get that.”

Is he getting tired of the grind of two shows in a day? Hell no.

“I’m 51; I have an 11-year-old and a three-year-old,” Benson begins. “I drive an hour to the station and do some pre-production. After that, I do a show from 6-9. When I’m finished with that, I start prepping for my afternoon show.”

He says he still has time to watch Viking-themed shows on television, play with his lizards and get some new ink now and again.  

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Return Of White House Correspondents Dinner Draws Just Under 2 Million Viewers

“The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).”

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For the first time in three years, the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) returned in Washington, D.C. on Apr. 30. The 2022 event was emceed by comedian Trevor Noah.

In his set, the “Daily Show” host cracked several jokes about the news media — especially towards Fox News. In one if the memorable lines of the night, Noah told the dinner audience, “It is risky making jokes these days… I mean, we all saw what happened at the Oscars… What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway, and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?”

The 2022 White House Correspondents Dinner averaged 1.85 million total viewers in the 10-11 p.m. Eastern hour on CNN, according to Nielsen Media Research. The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).

President Biden is the first sitting U.S. President in six years to have attended the WHCD — a nugget even he had amusingly quipped, “It’s understandable: we had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID.”

Prior to 2018 (but with the exception of 2014), the White House Correspondents Dinner had also been broadcast on MSNBC and/or Fox News Channel, in addition to its regular CNN outlet. For four out of the five-year period from 2013 thru 2017, the event had regularly drawn well over two million viewers combined across multiple networks. Like this year, CNN was WHCD’s lone broadcaster back in 2014, having then delivered just 1.09 million viewers.

The high recent watermark for the WHCD was set in 2016, for President Barack Obama’s final Dinner and which was emceed by then-Comedy Central host Larry Wilmore. That drew 4.9 million viewers, including 3.02 million from CNN alone.

The following is a year-by-year viewership track for the past eight White House Correspondents Dinners (focusing on the ceremony’s final hour):

2022: 1.85 million (CNN)

2019: 0.95 million (CNN)

2018: 1.35 million (CNN)

2017: 2.38 million (1.69 million on CNN, 0.69 million on MSNBC)

2016: 4.90 million (3.02 million on CNN, 1.14 million on FNC, 0.74 million on MSNBC)

2015: 2.60 million (1.18 million on CNN, 0.89 million on FNC, 0.53 million on MSNBC)

2014: 1.09 million (CNN)

2013: 3.24 million (1.49 million on CNN 1.49, 1.11 million on FNC, 0.64 million on MSNBC)

Cable news averages for April 25-May 1, 2022:

Total Day (April 25-May 1 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.497 million viewers; 242,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.686 million viewers; 74,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.541 million viewers; 109,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.134 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.119 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.117 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.113 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (April 25-30 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 1 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.319 million viewers; 360,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.179 million viewers; 123,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.755 million viewers; 156,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.174 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.155 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.139 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.070 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.048 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.572 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.538 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.498 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.472 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.465 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.346 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.194 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.128 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.072 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.884 million viewers

30. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.122 million viewers

41. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.853 million viewers

 • Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.723 million viewers

 • Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.571 million viewers

 • The Daily Show (CMDY, Mon. 4/25/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.428 million viewers

 • Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.424 million viewers

 • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.227 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  CNN, MSNBC, HBO and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.639 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.591 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.521 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.511 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.509 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.490 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.478 million adults 25-54

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.456 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.425 million adults 25-54

46. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.291 million adults 25-54

55. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.274 million adults 25-54

85. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.237 million adults 25-54

137. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 4/26/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.170 million adults 25-54

147. Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.163 million adults 25-54

211. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.132 million adults 25-54

 • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.073 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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KOA’s Mandy Connell Went From Earning a Living in the Air to On it

Connell said a lot of her life has worked out that way. Serendipitous opportunities have always seemed to come her way. 

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Mandy Connell once earned her living in the air, not on it. This was during an era they served full meals and champagne, not just a bag of crumpled, stale peanuts. You had leg room and didn’t have to kiss your knees from New York to Denver.

“I was still in school at Florida State University,” Connell said. “I met a Delta Airlines flight attendant in a bar, and she said she thought they were hiring.” Initially, the woman at the bar said it might take months to get an interview, but Connell was hired and started training as a flight attendant a few weeks later. 

Connell said a lot of her life has worked out that way. Serendipitous opportunities have always seemed to come her way. 

This next bit of happenstance changed her life–for a second time.

She was mostly on “reserve,” but when holding a rare regular schedule one month, Connell was chatting with another flight attendant about a mid-air fight between passengers a couple of weeks before. “She asked what I did, and I jokingly told her I jumped on the P.A. and gave the passengers a blow-by-blow description for those that didn’t have good seats.”

When she described the fight, there was a gentleman passenger nearby who heard Connell talking.

“The man told me I should be on the radio or television,” she said. “He gave me his card. I thought, ‘Great, this guy wanted to get me on his casting couch.’” On her return trip the next week, the man was again on the flight she was working, this time with his wife.

“He pointed at me and told his wife I was the woman he told her about.”

It turns out this man was Dick Robinson; someone Connell calls a radio legend. 

 “He owned the Connecticut School of Broadcasting,” Connell said. “He still does.”

“One thing led to another, and I was offered a scholarship at Robinson’s Connecticut School of Broadcasting.” She said Robinson’s daughter was about her age, and he sent her to pick Connell up at the airport. “We had lunch at his home. He showed me his office, and there was a wall completely filled with photographs with him and everybody; the Pope, presidents, just about anyone who was anyone.”

Upon graduation from broadcasting school, Connell took an internship in Miami at WINZ. “I was with Clear Channel when they launched the first digital system,” she said. “I was an unpaid intern, and I was helping paid people learn Audiovault.” That led to some promotions. “Then I got a crappy job two night a week from 7 to 3 am, doing weather on the top of the hour. It was a lousy job but a magical experience.”

Like most jobs in radio, you never forget your first.

After that gig, Connell said a solid opportunity came when she was hired as a producer of a radio show on 104.1 in Orlando. “I had a falling-out with the host of the show,” Connell said. “I made some mistakes I won’t do again. Don’t date the host is all I can say..” Connell said that was a huge career lesson for her, but she learned how to run a radio show. 

Self-described as ridiculously honest, Connell said she’s not afraid to upset the rules if they’re bad rules. “I just think living honestly is a good way to live. I’ve taken my work seriously.”

Her show airs daily from noon-3 pm on KOA 850 AM and 94.1FM in Denver. Connell starts her workday by gathering ideas for the show. “I get up at six, take my daughter to school, and I’m ingesting the news all morning. I don’t start my show until noon. I mostly focus on things that strike my fancy.”

She said topics that can drive a reaction from listeners are always in her mind. “We just did a show about a poll about Black Americans and things that mattered to them. We unpacked everything in there. That was super cool.” She said some hosts might take a snippet of that topic, but she quickly discovered it had so much more to offer. 

Connell said she wouldn’t talk about anything on her show unless she got excited about it. “I don’t like taking topics into the next hour. People tend to repeat themselves, and nobody wants to hear that.” At the same time, Connell knows new listeners come along every hour, so it’s a judgment call. 

Her show covers news of the day, ridiculous topics you talk about with your friends, and interviews with newsmakers and shakers Connell finds interesting. “No day is like another, and every day is a potential train wreck. And I mean that in the best possible way.”

When I spoke with Connell, there was a leak from the Supreme Court regarding abolishing Roe v Wade. You’d think that would be an A-list topic for a talk show. That is not the case with Connell. 

“Even though I talked about it on my show, it’s a loser topic. The leak from the Supreme Court would have been the top story on any other day.”

It’s not going to sway people one way or another. They’re already entrenched in their views.” 

The future of radio is something Connell thinks about all the time. 

“For us, we are looking at streaming options as a huge part of the next era,” she said. “I don’t know if the radio industry goes away permanently. It’s like when cable came out in the 70s. Everybody was sure network television was going away. I’m loath to say radio will go away.”

Does she march to a different drummer? Connell thinks so. “I tell my daughter my brain doesn’t work like other people’s brains,” she said. “I think my gift as a talk show host is because I look at things that are disconnected and bring them together. Some people think I’ve lost my mind, but it works for me.” Connell sometimes said her show could be schizophrenic, and she likes that.

On her show, they do a question of the week, and it is often a bit out there. “It’s always a philosophical question, no specific answer,” she said. “Sometimes our answers make us sound like bad people,” she jokes. 

 Connell admits she leads a simple and relatively dull life off the air. 

“I’m a combination of a newshound and introvert. I only read on vacation, but most of it is for the show. I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside table that are mocking me.” Film and television are out too. 

“I hike a lot,” she said. “I don’t ski, golf, but boy, can I walk.” She’s doing this hiking in Colorado. You know, the same terrain dangerous wild animals call home. “I’ve never seen a mountain lion or moose. Those moose can kill you.”

She said while Covid-19 was truly a global tragedy, it wasn’t so bad for her. “I got to work from home. I don’t like running around like a crazy person. I’ve got a full studio in my home.”

“I tell people all the time; Covid was very good for me. I was able to shut down and evaluate what was important in my life.”

One thing is certain. When someone tells Connell to ‘Take a Hike,’ she’s more than happy to oblige. 

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