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How Dori Monson Built a Radio Career and Success at KIRO

Both reflect a level of competition that keeps him at the top of both games. After 35 years in the industry and a 2-A Washington state girls championship hoops coach, Monson still has a fire in his belly for both passions. 

Jim Cryns

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Scanning the walls in Dori Monson’s home office, you probably wouldn’t know he was a Seattle radio talk show host with an Edward R. Murrow Award. The wall is all about family and a passion for coaching. 

Squeezed between photos of his wife of 35 years, their three daughters, and rescue dogs they consider family, Monson’s walls are vivid reminders of his other career: coaching girls basketball.

“There’s barely one wall in my office,” the noon-3 p.m. KIRO News radio 97.3 host says from the town, not far from the Scandinavian neighborhood where he was born and raised, “but it’s more like a scrapbook of my basketball coaching life than a showcase to my `day job.’” 

And yet, there is a lot of cross-over between the two for Monson, 60. Both reflect a level of competition that keeps him at the top of both games. After 35 years in the industry and a 2-A Washington state girls championship hoops coach, Monson still has a fire in his belly for both passions. 

His path was wildly unpredictable. 

As a 10-year-old, Monson wanted to start creating a life vastly different from the one he’d experienced up to that point: rough and tumble.

“I wanted to have a happy home,” the youngest-of-three kids said. “My father wasn’t around. Our phone was cut off. I bathed in cold water. All these things happen, and the only reference point you have is your own life.” 

But Monson was determined to break the proverbial cycle. 

“In retrospect, it doesn’t seem that terrible,” he said. “I thought I could change things going forward.”

One of his favorite games as a kid was the Sports Illustrated Superstar Baseball game. An obscure game, to be sure, a bit nerdy and wonky. But Monson was all over it. 

“It was this dice game,” Monson said. “You could manage players like Brooks Robinson.” 

At the time, the game retailed at $9.95, not a small chunk of change for a kid in the early ‘70s. 

“I talked my mom into matching my $5 when I could raise it,” Monson said. 

“That was a fortune. She agreed to match the money.”

Undaunted, Monson cut grass, swept driveways, anything he had to do to raise his balance of the money for the game. After finally earning his half, his mother was true to her word and coughed up her $5 match.

“I spent the next five years buried in that game,” Monson recalled. After several housing moves, he remembers losing “my original game but found another years later, and had to pay a fortune.”

Board games, he said, were easier on emotions. Real games broke his heart when he was seven years old. 

“The Seattle Pilots left town,” Monson said. “The trucks were headed north from spring training, and they were diverted to Milwaukee after the sale.”

Some of those nightmares still haunt his sleep. 

“I had a real love for the game in the summer of 1969,” Monson said. “I had a tree fort and strung an extension cord to the house so I could listen to games. I bought a baseball scorebook. Learned to keep score for as many games as I could.”

A self-described nerd, Monson recalls going to his local library to bolster his baseball skills. His goal: to carve a plan that would out-manage Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles – his favorite team. 

After graduating from high school early at 15, Monson went to the University of Washington. “I worked 70 hours a week at two jobs just to pay the tuition,” he said. “At 17, my life’s goal was to manage a warehouse.”

Then he met someone that would change his career trajectory and his life. 

“I was working in a warehouse one day, and I heard a commercial for the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting,” Monson said. “Tuition was close to $3,500 – an impossible amount of money for me at that time.”

But when the guest speaker and then KING-TV sportscaster Bill O’Mara met Monson through the school, the legendary hydroplane race caller made Monson a deal: “He told me he’d let me be his intern if I went to school and finished my degree,” Monson said. “It was a gentleman’s agreement. But he also said I had to graduate from college to make good on the deal.”

Monson went to UW Seattle for a semester but had to drop out because he couldn’t afford tuition. Two days later, Monson – who was living at home – heard a car coming up the drive.

“I don’t know how he knew where I lived, but Bill O’Mara came up to the porch and knocked,” Monson explained. “I knew he didn’t have a pot to piss in, but he peeled off six $100 bills and reminded me of our deal.

“This man had fallen on some tough times and was sleeping at his own radio station,” Monson recalled. “I went back and re-enrolled the next day.”

The Seattle radio talk show veteran credits the start of his radio career to O’Mara. O’Mara was still doing high school play-by-play into his 90s, and Monson recalls that “Sports Illustrated did a piece on him.”

In college, Monson majored in communications and did play-by-play work for the Huskies on the campus station. He knew he could do it because he’d been practicing in his room as a kid.

“I’d been doing my own play-by-play calls with the Orioles games when I was seven years old in the summer of 1972,” he recalls. 

Monson later got a job in sports at KING-TV to watch ball games and write timecodes. “I dug in and started knocking on station doors until I made something happen. I started doing high school recaps on Saturday morning. Then they gave me a shot doing morning sports.” 

Those segments were taped as Monson was finishing up his night work. 

“Then the new television news director told me I had to quit radio. When I asked why he said he didn’t have to tell me. I assume it was because he had something against the radio side and wanted to stick it to them.”

That’s when Monson had to choose. Would it be radio or television?

“I went in and met our radio news director Steve Wexler and told him I was thinking of choosing radio over television. He kind of grimaced and said he wouldn’t do that if he were me,” Monson said. Wexler told him even though he’d only been with the station for a week, he already knew he was going to make some changes and might go a different direction. In other words, Monson figured he was going to get canned.

Monson called his wife and let her know about his dilemma. She assured him he’d make the right decision. “I went to the television news director and told him I quit,” Monson said. “I had no backup plan.”

The next day he went back to Wexler’s office and said he’d quit the television job. “Wexler started laughing,” Monson said. “I told him if he still fired me, that’s his call. But he was fair with me. I asked him to just give me 30 days more to see if I got better in his eyes. See if I grew on him. Get some coaching. I think he liked my gumption because he agreed.” 

Since he no longer had to work nights at the television station, he could devote all his time to his radio gig.

“I came in even earlier and did some fill-in for the lead host. I wanted to make myself indispensable.”

His wishes came true. 

He’s been in his current position for 27 years and is known by everyone within listening distance. “The last couple of years have been great,” Monson said. “I have a couple of friends that dissect ratings, and they tell me we are the highest local news and talk station in the country for the past two years. That isn’t a formal study, but these guys know what they’re talking about.”

From 2010 to 2017, Monson balanced his radio work with his role as head coach of the Shorecrest High School girls basketball team in Shoreline, Washington. “I stepped aside three years ago,” Monson explained.

In 2016, his team won the Washington state 2-A girls basketball championship, and Monson was recognized as the state Coach of the Year.

Coaching has long been something close to Monson’s heart. He found it gratifying because he was able to impart life lessons to student-athletes. 

“Coaches were so important to me when I was a kid. My wife and I have been blessed with three daughters. Only my youngest played basketball throughout high school, but the others were active in tennis. My wife too.”

While he didn’t say he was all about destiny, Monson thinks there is some deliberate force in the universe.

“I don’t think some things that happen in life are by accident,” Monson said. “I had only one class in my entire college career with assigned seating. It was a children’s literary class, and my future wife and I were assigned to sit next to each other.”

Today, Monson hosts The Dori Monson Show on KIRO Newsradio, weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. It’s a life he loves. Monson’s daily show is topical. It allows him to share his thoughts, humor, and just be himself. 

“Seattle is a very liberal place,” he said. “I think people view me here as someone who can help balance the rest of the media. I have things to discuss that aren’t political. I want to be a companion for people stuck in traffic. Make them laugh. I take a great deal of pride in that.”

He said he and his staff break lots of news as they have a connection with listeners. “We get a ton of tips from listeners,” Monson said. “They turn out to be good stories for us as listeners have become fine-tuned to our show and what we talk about.”

Several years ago, it earned him an Edward R. Murrow award.

Monson said he took advantage of the challenges Covid presented. “It was a game-changer for me. I started doing my show at home and still do. I can still interact with my anchor at the studio and my producer.”

In the evening, he spends four to five hours preparing for the next day’s show. Monson’s show is the only one in prime time listening that doesn’t have a co-host. 

Monson said he’ll continue with this gig as long as he has a functioning voice and brain.

 “I love what I’m doing. I’ve worked 40 years to get to this point. I want people to hear what I have to say for as long as they want me to.”

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Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.

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Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.

In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.

Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.

It’s happened before.

Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.

It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.

In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.

We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.

I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.

It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.

Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.

The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.

At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.

And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.

Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.

Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.

Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.

As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.

Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.

There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.

The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.

As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.

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BNM Writers

Does the Republican Establishment Get It?

For many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections.

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In a move that seemed to go against the wishes of the patriotic American grassroots, the Republican party on Friday re-elected RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel. 

The media immediately took notice, as many on television and radio are now wondering why the party would re-elect a chairperson who has been so unpopular with the base of its party. 

Grant Stinchfield discussed this issue Friday night on his program, Stinchfield Tonight, which airs on Real America’s Voice network.

“Ronna McDaniel holds on to her chairmanship of the Republican Party. By a whopping total of — what were the numbers– 111 to 54. Harmeet Dhillon only received 54 votes. Mike Lindell 4 votes. This is proof to me that the Republican establishment is dug in,” Stinchfield — formerly of Newsmax — said. “Don’t tell me they’re out of touch. See, you tell me they’re out of touch, that implies ignorance. They’re not ignorant about anything.”

As sentiment for Dhillon grew in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, many influential politicians and party donors publicly offered her their support and endorsement. These included Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as well as donors Mike Rydin, Dick Uihlein, and Bernie Marcus.

Also on board were musician and outspoken conservative John Rich, along with the state GOP of Nebraska and Washington State. Countless journalists and media personalities, such as Charlie Kirk, Miranda Divine, and Lou Dobbs, also came out publicly in support of Dhillon. Former President Donald Trump remained neutral, not making a public choice of either of the three candidates.

For many of Dhillon’s supporters, the deciding factor was public sentiment across the party’s base.

“They’re reading the same chat boards. They’re getting the same emails I’m reading. I will literally post something about this race when I was supporting Harmeet Dhillon. There was not one comment – not one – that supported Ronna McDaniel. Everyone wanted change,” Stinchfield said, noting that the party elite saw the same groundswell of support for change.

“Now, nobody has an issue as Ronna McDaniel is some evil kind of person. I don’t believe she is. I believe, though, that she is part of the establishment. She’s been around too long as far as the establishment goes. And she’s been ingrained in doing business as usual. It’s not working.”

In making their choices known, many Dhillon supporters simply pointed to the scoreboard during McDaniel’s reign.

“Think about where we are. 2018, we lost the House. 2020, we lost everything. 2022, we won the House, but we should have really steamrolled the House and we should have taken back the Senate, which we didn’t do,” Stinchfield said. “That means we’re on a real losing track since she took over. I don’t like being on a losing track. I like being on a winning track.

“Something has got to change when you talk about all of this. So how does Ronna McDaniel get 111 votes and Harmeet Dhillon only get 54 votes, when everyone, every Republican voter I talk to said it was time for change?” pondered Stinchfield.

And even more than the losses, for many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections. The most recent example of which came in Arizona, where presumptive gubernatorial favorite, Kari Lake, was “defeated” when countless voting irregularities occurred in some of the state’s most deep-red areas.

“Under her watch, Democrats instituted a mail-in ballot scheme. That may be even worse than losing, when you talk about the House and the Senate and all these things. The fact that we now have a junk mail-in ballot scheme across the country under Ronna McDaniel’s watch is serious trouble. Very serious trouble,” Stinchfield said on Friday. “And so the reason it is is because the Democrats are rigging the system.”

For years – until Donald Trump descended the golden escalator and took the world by storm – the Republican party had the reputation of being the party of the rich. Rush Limbaugh used to refer to this wing of Republicans as “the country club crowd.” President Donald Trump flipped the narrative completely, offering a clear vision of hope and patriotism to working-class America.

Reputable polling — such as Richard Baris’ Big Data Poll — consistently showed Trump running well ahead of almost every Republican candidate during the 2022 mid-term election cycle. In other words, Trump still maintains considerably more support across the country than most of the individual Senate or House candidates experienced.

Many experts believe this is because voters still view Trump as an outsider, while they view the Republican party much less favorably.

“Let’s tell you how out of touch they are, how elitist they are,” Stinchfield said, calling out the GOP establishment. “This meeting that went on, do you know where it is? It’s at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch in California. One of the most expensive resorts in America. You’re lucky if you get a room for a thousand dollars a night down there on Dana Point. Now, it’s a beautiful hotel, but why is the Republican Party holding an event there? Then I went back and I looked at what RedState did. RedState went back and looked at some of the expenses that the Republican Party under Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was spending money on.

“Take a look at this. $3.1 million on private jets. $1.3 million on limousine and chauffeur services. $17.1 million on donor mementos. $750,000 on floral arrangements. Now you compare this to the Democrats. The Democrats spent $35,000 on private airfare. A thousand dollars on floral arrangements. A thousand. Not $750,000. A thousand. And the $17.1 million they spent on donor mementos, the Democrats spent $1.5 million.

“Democrats know where to put the money. It’s not giving donors gifts. Donors shouldn’t want gifts. If you give money, give money. You don’t need the fancy pin to put on your lapel.”

Following her loss, Dhillon warned her party that it must listen to the base, saying, “if we ignore this message, I think it’s at our peril. It’s at our peril personally, as party leaders and it’s at our peril for our party in general.”

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BNM Writers

The State of the Radio Industry and Technology

“As the industry continues to evolve, radio broadcasters must find new ways to monetize their digital offerings and adapt to changing listener habits.”

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After writing some three-dozen columns for Barrett Media, I often hear that I don’t provide a balanced view of the radio industry. Therefore, this week, I will write about the strengths and weaknesses of the radio industry. It may be a little simplistic, but it will make sense at the end. I promise.

The radio broadcasting business continues to evolve in the digital age, with strengths and challenges to consider. One of the most significant strengths of radio is its ability to reach a broad audience. Radio waves can travel long distances, allowing local stations to reach listeners beyond their immediate area. This makes radio a powerful tool for both local and national advertisers. Radio also reaches audiences in their cars, at work, and at home, providing advertisers with multiple touchpoints. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, radio reaches 93% of adults in the United States each week, making it one of the most widely consumed mediums. Furthermore, radio is a cost-effective form of advertising, with lower ad rates than other media forms. This allows small businesses to reach a large audience without breaking the bank.

Another strength of radio is its role in emergency communication. In times of crisis, radio can provide important information to listeners quickly and efficiently. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all radio stations to have emergency alert systems, allowing them to disseminate critical information to the public promptly. Radio can be a lifeline for communities during natural disasters, power outages, or other emergencies, providing updates on road closures, evacuation orders, and other important information. Radio can reach remote areas where other forms of communication may not be as reliable. This makes radio a vital tool for emergency responders, who rely on it to coordinate responses and disseminate information.

Despite these strengths, the radio industry faces several challenges in the digital age. One of the biggest challenges is competition from other media outlets, such as streaming services and podcasts. The rise of these digital platforms has led to a decline in traditional radio listening, which is likely to continue. 

According to a Nielsen report, traditional radio listening among adults aged 18-34 has dropped by 20% over the last decade. Additionally, many radio stations are struggling to monetize their digital offerings, which has led to a decline in revenue. However, radio has been able to adapt by incorporating streaming services, podcasts, and other digital platforms, which allows them to reach a wider audience and cater to changing listening habits.

Another challenge is the consolidation of the radio industry. In recent years, there has been a significant amount of it, with a small number of companies owning multiple stations. This has led to less programming diversity and less market competition. This can lead to a homogenization of content, with less local flavor and less opportunity for new voices in the industry. However, many smaller independent stations have survived by providing unique and localized content catering to the needs of their community.

Despite these challenges, the radio industry continues to generate significant revenue. The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) says that radio advertising revenue in the United States reached $18.9 billion in 2019. The radio industry has been able to adapt to the changing market, with many stations now offering a combination of traditional and digital programming. The industry has also been able to monetize digital offerings by incorporating targeted advertising, sponsorships, and other revenue streams.In conclusion, the radio broadcasting business is facing challenges in the digital age, but it continues to have an enormous audience reach and role in emergency communication. 

Additionally, the industry continues to generate significant revenue. As the industry continues to evolve, radio broadcasters must find new ways to monetize their digital offerings and adapt to changing listener habits.

If my analysis seems a little simplistic or this column doesn’t seem like my typical style, it’s because I didn’t write it. The column was written using artificial intelligence (AI). More specifically, by the hottest tech trend these days, ChatGPT.

How hot? Here are a couple of data points from a report in Axios.

  • In June, generative AI was covered in only 152 articles. Just six months later, the topic has generated roughly 12,000 news stories, according to MuckRack data.
  • At this year’s CES trade show, 579 exhibitors were listed under the show’s “Artificial Intelligence” category — more than double of those categorized as “Metaverse” (176), “Cryptocurrency” (19), and “Blockchain” (55) combined.

ChatGPT is AI technology that allows you to have regular conversations with a chatbot that can answer questions and help with tasks such as writing columns. 

ChatGPT is what Siri wants to be when she grows up.

ChatGPT is currently open and free while it’s in its research and feedback collection phase. If it’s not perfect, it’s certainly a lot of fun. It is also quite helpful when researching a topic (as long as the information you need is pre-2021). It is much more efficient and precise than Google, any other search engine, or Siri. I find myself obsessed with seeing what it knows and can do. If you try it, you probably will be too.

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