The entertainment world took center stage (so to speak) in the news world for the week ending Apr. 3, due to the Mar. 27th incident at the Oscars of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage after Smith deemed Rock’s joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, offensive.
The oddest news moment to result from the infamous slap aired on Fox News Channel on the Apr. 1st edition of their 7 p.m. program “Jesse Watters Primetime.” During the hour, Watters interviewed Mel Gibson. The actor appeared visibly uncomfortable when host Watters asked him about Smith’s slap and what the reaction might have been if Gibson committed the slap upon Rock. Gibson did not respond, and his handler abruptly ended the interview. The hour drew 2.8 million total viewers and 467,000 in the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Among all cable news telecasts for the week, it ranked 20th in total viewers and 15th in the demo.
Unsurprisingly, entertainment news programs enjoyed a boost because of the Oscars controversy. “Daily Pop Live,” the hourlong weekday morning program on cable network E!, attracted 138,000 viewers on Mar. 28 and 139,000 on Mar. 29 – the two days following the Academy Awards. This marked a 45 percent jump from its average levels of the show’s three prior weeks (95,000-viewer average).
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky continued his U.S. press tour, guesting on the Apr. 1 edition of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report with Bret Baier,” — that delivered 2.56 million total viewers and 452,000 adults 25-54 in the 6–7 p.m. hour. Zelensky then made a surprise appearance (via tape) at the 64th Grammy Awards from Las Vegas, Nev., on Apr. 3. He told the audience to “fill the silence with your music; fill it today to tell our story.” His speech was followed by a performance by John Legend, who was joined by several Ukrainian musicians and singers. The half-hour when this portion of the Grammys had aired (10–10:30 p.m. ET) on CBS posted the ceremony’s peak audience at 9.84 million total Viewers.
Cable news averages for March 28-April 3, 2022:
Total Day (March 28-April 3 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.618 million viewers; 271,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.698 million viewers; 78,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.620 million viewers; 142,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.188 million viewers; 56,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.138 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.132 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.129 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.104 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (March 28-April 2 @ 8-11 p.m.; April 3 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.529 million viewers; 380,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.129 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.731 million viewers; 182,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.220 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.204 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.164 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.150 million viewers; 30,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.061 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.044 million viewers; 9,000 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. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 3/28/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.849 million viewers
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/28/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.738 million viewers
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/30/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.676 million viewers
4. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/29/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.651 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/31/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.624 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/30/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.556 million viewers
7. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/31/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.541 million viewers
8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/29/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.477 million viewers
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 3/30/2022 9:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.287 million viewers
10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/1/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 3.255 million viewers
80. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/28/2022 9:00 p.m., 60 min.) 1.657 million viewers
152. The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN, Mon. 3/28/2022 4:00 p.m., 60 min.) 1.013 million viewers
163. Real Time With Bill Maher “595” (HBO, Fri. 4/1/2022 10:00 p.m., 57 min.) 0.947 million viewers
• Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 4/3/2022 11:06 p.m., 35 min.) 0.477 million viewers
• Forensic Files “Cloak of Deceit” (HLN, late Fri. 4/1/2022 1:00 a.m., 30 min.) 0.357 million viewers
• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7208” (TBS, Thu. 3/31/2022 10:00 p.m., 30 min.) 0.294 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. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 3/28/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.619 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/31/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.589 million adults 25-54
3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/29/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.582 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/30/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.581 million adults 25-54
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/28/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.576 million adults 25-54
6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/29/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.550 million adults 25-54
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/1/2022 8:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.532 million adults 25-54
8. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 3/28/2022 9:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.528 million adults 25-54
9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/30/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.528 million adults 25-54
10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/1/2022 5:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.519 million adults 25-54
73. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Wed. 3/30/2022 7:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.279 million adults 25-54
117. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/28/2022 9:00 p.m., 60 min.) 0.225 million adults 25-54
169. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 4/3/2022 11:06 p.m., 35 min.) 0.179 million adults 25-54
211. Real Time With Bill Maher “595” (HBO, Fri. 4/1/2022 10:00 p.m., 57 min.) 0.157 million adults 25-54
220. Forensic Files “Cloak of Deceit” (HLN, late Fri. 4/1/2022 1:00 a.m., 30 min.) 0.154 million adults 25-54
240. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7208” (TBS, Thu. 3/31/2022 10:00 p.m., 30 min.) 0.142 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/
Millionaire Maker Brian Buffini Offers His Best Advice
The goal of Brian Buffini is to share some simple, yet profoundly impactful, advice to help listeners rise above the negativity in financial news.
Regardless of how negative the current financial news cycle has become, one influential entrepreneur is offering his best advice to help others steer clear and aim for future prosperity. Forget recessions, market collapses and higher debt, and keep your focus on building better days to come.
This was the approach of podcast host Brian Buffini, on the most recent episode of his popular program, It’s a Good Life.
The goal of Buffini’s program was to share some simple, yet profoundly impactful, advice to help listeners rise above the negativity in the financial news. And also to become a millionaire.
“This is not just something I’ve studied. This is not just something I’ve read about, which I have. This is something I’ve lived in my own life. I’ve been a millionaire since I was 26 years of age,” Buffini began. “And I don’t really ever talk about that. I don’t know if I’ve ever even said that before. But a lot of you on the podcast, being new to me and what I do, and so I wanted to share with you. There’s some great principles here that I want to help you.”
Buffini came to America from Ireland with only a few bucks in his pocket, before suffering a major motorcycle accident that left him thousands of dollars in medical debt. He earned his real estate agent license, and eventually built a company dedicated to coaching and teaching other agents to attain higher levels of success. Over time, he repaid his loans and began to grow a substantial net worth.
“We have to understand that the culture’s view toward money, the typical person’s view toward money, what’s promoted on TV, what’s marketed, is not a formula for success financially. The culture’s view is success, economic success, is the ability to buy more stuff, and then typically people have to go work much harder to go and afford the things that they bought,” Buffini said. “And typically people are paying for that which they can’t afford just yet. So they’re paying with future earnings. They’re paying with future interest expenses. And they’re on the wrong side of it.”
One can rely on Fox Business or CNBC for the day’s macro-economic news or latest stock quotes, but Buffini believes the key to success is much more personal and habit-driven. And once you have an individual plan, your personal financial transformation will begin to happen.
“The first thing, before we get into investing and how to go build a fortune, is that you have to first go to work, you build your business, you do the things you need to do. You have to have a working budget. You have to spend less money than you make,” Buffini, author of the hit book, The Emigrant Edge: How to Make it Big in America, said. “You have to control what goes out. It’s the one thing you’re in total control of. You have to control what goes out. And then if you will do that, then you can earn more than you are currently spending. Then you can create what’s called a surplus.”
Buffini says the American culture needs to look past the divisive labels some attach to millionaires. He says the goal should be to be able to invest whatever surplus we have, in order to grow it and be able to do amazing good for our families, friends and those in need.
“I know full well that the majority of people listening to this today may have some financial difficulties or challenges, but I want to paint a picture of where you can get there,” Buffini said. “If the son of a house painter from the southside of Dublin can build himself a fortune 30 years ago, and build it up and create it that it becomes generational. Without being the smartest guy in his school. Without all the different advantages. I came to America, I got run over by a car. In and out of hospitals and lots of bills and had kind of a tough start. And I built a fortune, well by golly anyone listening to this can.”
Buffini reviewed the economic “state of the union,” and it’s not pretty.
He said the average retirement age in America is 63.
The median retirement savings in the country is only $17,000.
One in three people has saved zero dollars for retirement.
The average savings for an American is only $4400.
73% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings.
The average household has $132,000 in debt.
Yet, to put it in perspective, Buffini says the poorest Americans still rank in the top 20% of earners worldwide.
So how can Americans gain control, build a fortune and become able to help others in need? Buffini lays out these tips, along with the biggest decision that he says can lead one to become a millionaire.
Invest in what you know.
He quotes Warren Buffet, who said, “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.”
“We are not long-term culture anymore,” Buffini said. “Even financially, it used to be companies would analyze by the quarter. Then it became the mid-quarter, and now it’s by the day. The dynamic is, if you plant three seeds in the ground and you pull them up two or three days later to see if they’ve grown, good luck with that.”
Stay the course.
“You gotta be consistent is what that means. If compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world, the one thing you’ve gotta have for compounding to take place is consistency,” he said.
“Peter Lynch, who was really the leader of Fidelity fund management, said know what you own and know why you own it. You’re re-evaluating annually, and you’re saying ok, here’s how it did and here’s how it didn’t do. Here’s what I was hoping for, and here’s what we got,” Buffini said on the program.
“Now if you’re willing to hold down your expenses and what you spend money on, you’ll create more income than you have expense and you’ll create the surplus,” Buffini said, getting to the biggest decision that he says can make someone a millionaire. “And with that surplus I want you to then make this decision. And if you’ll make this decision, you can become a millionaire, you can build a fortune. You can change your family’s fortune for generations to come.”
Decide what you want most – appreciation or cash flow.
“The vast majority of people shoot for both things at the same time, unintentionally, and miss both targets,” Buffini said, calling on his 30-years of real estate and coaching experience. “Well of course we want both. I want to be able to eat ice cream and lose weight. I want to be able to not work out and get fitter. I want both! The truth of the matter is that when you try to have both things happen, usually neither one does.”
Buffini says if we’ll focus on one, oftentimes we’ll naturally see some of the other. But without focus, most people can guarantee neither.
Profound advice from someone who started with nothing, fought through adversity to accomplish a great deal and has helped others walk the path toward earning that same success for themselves.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
WWL’s Scott ‘Scoot’ Paisant Wants Radio to Stop Eliminating Its Strongest Elements
Scott Paisant said from the very beginning of his career, he’s been intent on having fun after a general manager suspended him
When you think of Wolfman Jack, the iconic American radio jock with the gravelly voice, him ripping off your cocaine might not be the first thing that comes to mind.
“At the time I was pissed,” said Scott Paisant (a.k.a. Scoot.) “If I knew where he was buried I’d still spit on his grave,” Scoot jokes.
Scoot was backstage at a Rolling Stones concert where the Wolfman was introducing Mick and the boys.
“Everybody backstage was doing coke and I’d just bought a vial. I asked Wolfman if he wanted some. He said ‘sure.’ Then he took the vial and walked away. That was going to be my little vial for the weekend. I was so disappointed.”
I mentioned to Scoot it was almost worth it that Wolfman was a coke-hog. Now he’d have a great story to tell. Wolfman Jack stole my cocaine. That would be a great opening story at any party. Scoot had another similar story. He was at a strip club in New Orleans where a young woman took a liking to his sweater.
“It was a nice club on Bourbon Street,” Scoot explained. “I was wearing this long, cool sweater and a stripper asked me if she could try it on. She did and told me she’d give me a free lap dance if I gave it to her. I told her no. Friends have always chided me for not taking the dance as it would have been a great story. I told them it’s a better story now because I said ‘no.’”
Scoot is back home in New Orleans on WWL-AM-FM-WWL and has worked in prestigious markets across the country including Philadelphia, Miami, Denver, Seattle, Portland and San Antonio. His first radio gig was a part-time job as a producer for Bob Ruby’s Morning Show on WWL radio.
Scoot said he worked alongside a very popular jock named Captain Humble early in his career. They appeared on each other’s show, not on the same show.
“He was a good guy who enjoyed life,” Scoot said. “He was stoned all the time, loved his pot. When I was new in the business in the early 70s, I found a way to associate with him. He was a big deal and FM was still king of the underground.”
Scoot took part in what might be termed performative radio. At the Superdome, he organized a jazzercise class that filled the stadium. Replete with leg warmers, Scoot was the MC.
“There are a lot of things I used to do that wouldn’t fly on the radio today,” he said. “I used to do a gay character named Sid Showcase. I’d play the sound effect of a knock on the door and a door opening. I’d say, ‘Sid is coming out of the closet.’”
He did other characters with different accents.
“They were major parts of my show,” Scoot said. “In the 80s, it was a different moment in time. I don’t do that kind of stuff today.”
Scoot did an episode on his YouTube channel which focused on people’s fixation on whether he was gay.
“I did that because I felt I needed to show how ridiculous people are when they judge people for whatever reason,” Scoot said. “It was a way of pointing out how I’ve been judged purely on the way I look. The only thing that makes you gay is if you’re ‘gay.’”
Scoot said he has friends in Denver who have commented he is the gayest straight person they’ve ever known. Apparently, if a man has an eye for fashion or an eclectic taste, you are relegated to assume something about them.
“I’ve even had women that I’ve dated tell me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t wear that.’ We all have that voice inside us that nobody can hear but us. Not everybody has the courage to follow that voice. People like to think I’m gay because I stand up for gay rights, equality in general. We have no right to judge people. My wife and I went to see a tribute for Donna Summer at a gay club on Bourbon Street. Not because I was gay but because Donna Summer was the Queen of disco and that club honored her the best. I just want to live in a kinder world. Not just for gay people but for politics as well. It’s sad when someone can’t appreciate the fact others have a different point of view.”
He said from the very beginning of his career, he’s been intent on having fun. A GM once suspended him for something he said on the air, something today people wouldn’t blink at.
“I was listening to the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter debates,” Scoot said. “I comment on the air they were master-baters.”
Colbert, Kimmel, or Fallon probably said something more controversial last night. The suspension would have been a great PR stunt, but Scoot doesn’t think the GM saw it that way.
With stations dramatically flipping formats today, emphasizing different areas of broadcasting, Scoot said it hasn’t been too surprising.
“A lot of major corporations are taking away the strongest elements radio has to offer,” Scoot said. “We’re eliminating the intimate conversations hosts can have with listeners. We have so many pre-recorded shows.”
You can get your music anywhere. It’s the connection people crave.
“Once that connection is gone I don’t know why people would have any use for a radio station. It seems the trend is to whittle everything down, so streamline things for the bottom line.”
Scoot thinks that can be the death knell for radio.
“After we had a hurricane down here, I had people come up to me and say ‘Thanks for being there for us.’ We’re still live and intimate. Tens of thousands of people tune in to someone they have a relationship with.”
During the immediate effects and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, WWL was for a time one of the few if not only radio stations in the area remaining on the air.
To stay relevant to young listeners, Scoot is doing a lot of social media stuff, and working on a podcast.
“There are still a lot of people in their 20s and 30s that listen to what we do, they just don’t show up in the ratings. They’re not going to fill out a card telling someone what they’re listening to.”
Evelyn Benoit, a prominent player in Louisiana horse racing, has been so taken with Scoot, she named a horse after him–Scootiera.
“It’s official, approved and everything. He’s got a good bloodline,” Scoot said.
Benoit said her horses’ names have great meaning to her. The names have to be approved by officials. She said she and her trainer went through the stables to find the right horse to name Scoot.
“This is just a microcosm of the fun I’m still having on the radio. I could probably coast on my name and reputation in this market, but I still get up every morning and deliver the best I can every day.”
Scoot has a very calming voice and presence on the air. He said that’s because he strives to be ‘real.’
“People want authenticity,” Scoot said. “I want to be natural on the air. If something is bothering me, I might bring it up. If I think of something on the way to the station, I make it part of the show.”
Sadly, Scoot said we may have to accept these shootings as a ‘new normal.’
He has taken some hope from the midterm elections, saying people are showing up to make a difference.
“I get people that call the show that lean Left, and I’m in a red area. I’d like to think I can provide an alternative to Right-Wing extremism. Too many people are taking the path of least resistance, swallowing the rhetoric.”
Like a comic reads a room, in preparing for his show Scoot said he reads his audience. Scoot and I spoke the day after the most recent gun-related massacre in a Walmart in Virginia.
“I have to wake up on a beautiful Wednesday morning after another shooting and make a decision. Do I bring up yet another horrific topic? I have to determine if and how much I’ll go into a shooting today as they’re so commonplace. How much can an audience take?”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has also served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his book: On Story Parkway: Remembering Milwaukee County Stadium, available on Amazon, email email@example.com.
After Decades of Reporting, Jim Avila is Enjoying Giving His Opinion
Throughout his amazingly diverse and essentially unparalleled career, Avila covered the White House during Obama’s second administration beginning in 2012.
Jim Avila is a man who thinks before he speaks. He measures his answers before responding.
Throughout his amazingly diverse and essentially unparalleled career, Avila covered the White House during Obama’s second administration beginning in 2012. Before that, he covered agencies in Washington D.C. for the ABC bureau, mostly assigned to international issues.
Working for WBBM television in Chicago, Avila got to know Barack Obama when he was a community organizer on the South Side.
“I did an investigative story about asbestos in a housing project for WBBM television,” Avila said. “Obama was part of the community organization that was going to change things. He had an ongoing professional relationship with Martha Allen, a reporter for the Chicago Reporter. I got to know him through her.”
That investigation stemmed from Allen and Obama peeling up a tile from a kitchen floor and sending it to a lab, which found it contained between 30 and 50 percent chrysotile asbestos. Allen’s muckraking exposé was picked up by the Tribune and Channel 2’s Walter Jacobson, creating a PR ruckus that eventually forced the Chicago Housing Authority to remove asbestos from five projects.
Avila won an Edward R. Murrow award for that investigation. In Chicago, he also covered the mayoral administrations of Harold Washington, Jane Byrne, and Richard Daley.
During his coverage of Obama, he grew to know David Axelrod, and they played basketball together. Axelrod had a long relationship with Obama, going back to his organizing days and was an advisor on his presidential campaigns.
“I knew David well,” Avila said. “He was very influential in Obama’s career and had been with him since Obama was a state senator. Ax was an advisor to some of the biggest political names in Chicago. Over the years I kept in touch with him. I was out of day-to-day news when Obama ran for president. But I kept in touch.”
After Avila returned to day-to-day news, he reconnected with Axelrod, oftentimes at White House press conferences. When asked if he thought the Obama he knew as an organizer and state senator in Illinois could be President of the United States, Avila wasn’t quite sure.
“I always knew Obama was charismatic,” Avila said. “I think the first time I really knew he was going somewhere was when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I was 35, Obama was about 28 years old. You never know for sure, but I always knew he had the charisma.”
Avila said he wasn’t surprised when President Obama became the first Black elected president, he said he is still surprised a woman hasn’t been elected.
There was a huge hatred for Hilary Clinton by so many people. Avila said she would have made a solid president, but was lacking in the charisma department that both her husband and Obama possessed.
“The Republicans made Hilary a huge target, just like Nancy Pelosi,” Avila explained. “These were powerful and marked people who were targeted over and over. When people do it for a long time that enters the psyche of the American public.”
He said there is always a danger to a democracy when 30 percent of the country has gone off the deep end. “They’ll respond to that kind of rhetoric, legitimizing a hatred that was already out there,” Avila said.
Covering the White House was on Avila’s bucket list. After his family, for Avila, covering the White House during the Obama administration was the highlight of his career. The icing on the proverbial career cake. He said he still vividly remembers walking up the driveway to the White House.
“Not just the first time I did it. I felt chills every single time I went there,” Avila said. “You walk up to the secret service shack, show them what is called a hard pass. They put your stuff through the magnetometer. After that you walk up the driveway toward the press room. It was the White House, with the Marine standing outside the door. There is no experience like it. I was always aware that I was one of the lucky few. I was the first Latino correspondent to sit in the front row of the White House press room, and it has brought me to tears several times. It was one of the most gratifying and patriotic feelings I’ve ever had.”
While covering President Obama, Avila said he didn’t take it easy on him, even though he’d known him years before.
“He knew our job was to ask him the tough questions,” Avila said. “I never experienced any pushback personally. I did a one-on-one interview with him when I first became a White House correspondent. When I asked the first question, he’d say, ‘There’s Jim Avila, someone I’ve known for a long time.’
Avila said that doesn’t mean it was always a feel-good interaction. “One time I referred to him as the Deporter in Chief, and he wasn’t happy with that. He didn’t attack me. He didn’t call my bosses or anything like that.”
In 2012 while the President was in Malaysia, he warned if Syria used chemical weapons against their own people, that would be a ‘red line’ and the United States would require a U.S. military response. Syria did cross the ‘red line’ and used chemical weapons on their own people.
“We didn’t do anything about it,” Avila said. “I was the first reporter to ask the President a question on this topic. I reminded him that he said he would respond and he didn’t. I asked him how he could explain that.”
Immediately afterward, Avila said three other reporters from different networks asked the President the exact same question. President Obama was clearly frustrated, he didn’t get angry. He didn’t call them enemies of the state.
While President Obama didn’t call the press corps out on that repetitive question, someone else did.
“One of the White House traditions, when you’re overseas, is you have dinner with the White House staff,” Avila explained. “Susan Rice, who was Obama’s foreign policy advisor, was not so understanding. She told us we overdid it that day with that particular question. She said we dragged the issue to the ground, and the president had answered it. Why was it asked five times? I had no problem asking tough questions. I had no problems asking press secretary Jay Carney tough questions. Same thing with John Earnest.’
Now years later, Avila said he does think the question was asked too many times.
“Here’s the dynamic in that,” he explained. “Especially when the president is in the room the reporters want to be seen asking a tough question for their broadcast. Even if it was the same as the previous question. Susan Rice had the right to say what she did.”
Since he ended his coverage of the White House, things have changed. When the Trump administration suspended CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials, Avila said if he’d still been there, he would have stood up for Acosta’s questions.
“Jim Acosta is a friend of mine,” Avila said. “He would have had an ally. I would have held Trump’s feet to the fire. I would have objected to every lie, and corrected him after every lie he told.”
Now retired, Avila can be an average citizen, taking a position on anything he chooses and voicing it. He’s personal friends with Mark Thompson, a longtime host on KGO in San Francisco, and now the host of his YouTub show.
“He’s got lots of energy. He’s a smart guy,” Avila said of Thompson. “I mostly go on his show because I get to say what I want to. As a reporter, I never had the luxury of revealing my own thoughts. Now I have the freedom to do that.’
The life of a network correspondent is demanding, at times it can push you to a breaking point. It certainly has costs and demands you make tough choices.
“There was so much traveling and everything else, it was tough on the family,” Avila said. The pressures and the demands of the job took its toll on his marriage. He and his wife divorced.
“We continue to raise the kids together,” he said. “We go on vacation together once a year with the kids. We did our best to keep it together, but the life of a correspondent is difficult for a family. I think I’m forgiven for that. It certainly was difficult for them to not have their dad around all the time. I did most of the traveling when they were kids, one was very young. I made sure after the divorce I only lived a block away from the family house in Oak Park, Illinois.”
Avila keeps up with former colleagues and their work. This past weekend he watched Chuck Todd’s interview with former Vice President Mike Pence.
“While I’m not a big fan of Chuck Todd, and am usually critical, I felt sorry for him during the Pence interview,” Avila said. “Pence lied, made overstatements and exaggerations. I felt bad for Chuck. How often could he be expected to continue to interrupt Pence to correct him. It’s a no-win situation for an interviewer.”
Avila believes Pence could be equally as dangerous to the country as Trump.
“He made one good call by helping save our country, and he deserves some respect for that,” Avila explained. It may have pissed off Trump’s base, but he said Pence did the right thing.
“If Pence decides to run for president, I don’t think he’ll win,” Avila said. “He was complicit in so many things. His stance on abortion will end his run with 70 percent of the population who are pro-choice.”
Regarding the midterms, Avila said the youth in America, many voting for the first time, were critical in the outcome.
“The kids showed up for the midterms,” Avila said. “I talked to Mark Thompson about this on his show a couple of weeks prior to the election. He’s a pessimist and I tend to be more of an optimist. Mark said there would be the predicted ‘red wave’ in the elections. I was convinced the American people would make the right choices. I told him I thought the ‘red wave’ talk was B.S. Women were registering to vote in record numbers. I don’t know about you, but I know the women in my life don’t easily forget things. If you do something to hurt them, they’re not going to forgive that in a few months. I also think Biden made a shrewd move in forgiving some of the student debt. That brought a lot of younger voters to the Democratic side.”
Avila thinks Republicans were out of touch when it came to abortion.
“They kidded themselves and figured things would break even,” Avila said. “Especially with women, it was a big mistake. I think that and the disregard for democracy cost them the midterms.”
In regards to gun control, Avila thinks as a country we’ll come to terms with some regulations, but not immediately.
“The biggest problem is money in politics,” he said. “The money given to politicians from groups like the NRA is staggering. I’m a little more pessimistic about gun issues. As long as the Republicans control the house we won’t see much change. I do think in a couple of years we may see background checks.
I hate to sound like the old guy who tells kids to get off his lawn, but I’m not optimistic about the future of either television or radio. I only see people watching local television for news and sports. They have too many options. They can get everything streamed to them.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has also served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his book: On Story Parkway: Remembering Milwaukee County Stadium, available on Amazon, email firstname.lastname@example.org.