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Mary Sandberg Boyle Uses Grit, Determination to Lead WGN Radio

Boyle came up on the programming side, so she’s hyper-aware of what is on her air and believes morning shows are essential on any station.

Jim Cryns

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Mary Sandberg Boyle started her radio program in her parent’s home when she was ten. She operated with a minimal signal and no license. But, on the upside, she was her boss. 

“It was a play radio station,” Boyle jokes. “It was called KMS radio. My sister’s name is Katy, and we used the ‘K’ because she wouldn’t do it if she didn’t get top billing. I was the ‘M’ and ‘S’ for our last name. I’d do the weather, talk up to a song. All she did was dance to songs like, ‘Who Can it Be Now?’” 

Boyle is a Chicagoland native and a University of Illinois at Chicago graduate. She is now the vice president and general manager of WGN Radio. 

“First, I went to school at St. Mary’s in Winona, Minnesota. I didn’t care for college campus life. It was a bad fit.” 

When she came home, she was reminded the University of Illinois-Chicago was close by on Taylor Street.   

“In school, I landed a great internship through UIC with a headhunting firm. I was paid good money, and people told me it was a fantastic internship. I was in communications, and I never thought I’d have a career in radio.”  

At about the same time, Boyle experienced one of those ‘dream come true’ moments when she got another internship. This time for popular radio host Kevin Matthews.  

“I listened only to talk radio growing up, especially Steve Dahl and Kevin Mathews,” Boyle explained. “Then I heard Kevin Matthews was looking for an intern. I couldn’t believe it,” Boyle said. “Watching him work was mesmerizing. But I also had to work the street festivals, which was not as much fun. It was a dream job. Who could think you’d ever get a job like that.” 

How quickly things change.  

She said the station wasn’t making money, and one day Matthews was gone. 

“They flipped formats overnight.” 

Boyle wasn’t used to the cutthroat nature of radio. The abruptness of total change. 

“I arrived at work and asked Kevin why he wasn’t doing his usual morning prep,” she said. “He told me he’d been fired that morning. Matthews was a hero of mine, and here we were taking pictures off the wall of his office, and I was crying.” 

After Matthews was fired, Boyle had bad taste in her mouth about the industry.  

“I didn’t know if I wanted to be like some of the people in the radio business.” 

After the Matthews’ gig, she worked for a food brokerage company in Lincolnshire. That’s where she learned how diced tomatoes were shipped from California to Chicago.  

Boyle bounces back like a Super Ball and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In another life-changing moment, her father gave her a buzz on the phone. 

“He said he heard on the radio that Steve Dahl was looking for an assistant,” Boyle said. “He asked me if I’d heard what Steve said on the air. I had. I told him I wasn’t going to answer an ad I’d heard on the radio. But he insisted I apply.” 

She got the job. What a surprise. 

“Coming to work with Steve Dahl was surreal after I’d listened to him for so long.” 

Boyle said she enjoyed the way Dahl would talk about something like remodeling his kitchen while he was dieting, and he’d complain. “Of course, he had nothing to really complain about. It was just his on-air topic, and it was hilarious. That’s what made him brilliant.” 

Besides being good at his craft, Boyle said Dahl was an excellent businessman and made smart decisions. She said she’s known many people in the business whose ego kept them from making sound decisions.” 

“I’m a black and white person. In short, not a lot of fun,” Boyle said. “When I was occasionally on the air with Steve, he’d make a comment to open the conversation. I was too literal. I couldn’t keep it going. Steve called me a ‘bit killer.’” 

Surviving Dahl’s possibly good-natured swipe, Boyle was determined to improve. So she signed up for Second City’s writing program.  

“I think I was the only person at Second City who had no aspirations of being on stage or on air. I wasn’t a performer. I think it taught me how to take one for the team. Maybe not taking myself so seriously.” 

Boyle said she’d worked hard to avoid being pigeon-holed. “Once you’re painted as something, it’s hard to get people to see anything else.” 

“Second City taught me if things don’t go well, you have the chance to rebound.” She said if things don’t go as planned, you can make adjustments.  

“Even though I was a writer, they made us do improvisational exercises. I didn’t want to be a performer, but they still made us do exercises where you move your mouth in a funny manner. That’s not what I wanted.” 

Boyle said they had an unplanned reunion show with Dahl and his former partner Garry Meier, and it was a career highlight. They had a falling out, but both enjoyed successful solo careers. 

“We aired from Oak Street Beach during the Air and Water show in 2006, and I thought it was the greatest thing I’d experienced since I’d been in radio.” 

Possessing grit and determination, Boyle wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do. For a short time, Boyle was a casting director for a film for Vision Films. 

“I was somewhat bullied into doing it,” she jokes. “They needed someone who was organized and direct.” She worked at Vision Films during the production of one film. “I also realized the work was intermittent. After one project is complete, there is some downtime, and then you start securing locations for the next project. It’s a tough existence until you work your way up that food chain. I was also working a morning show at the same time.” 

In 2015, Boyle joined 720 WGN. She was instrumental in developing and launching a weekday morning business show, “The Opening Bell,” that debuted in 2016.  

“I was brought on board to launch a business show. So I became a business expert.” 

In addition, Boyle has elevated the station’s newsroom and guided it through the launch of NewsNation, the company’s cable news network, to which the newsroom contributes audio content. 

How does she start her day? 

In the morning, her first order of business is a workout. Specifically, hot yoga. 

“I’m not a fluffy person,” Boyle said. “It’s the only time each day I have a chance to stay away from news and turmoil in the world. It detoxifies you. My workouts are the only part of my day where I feel I have complete control.”  

“I used to work morning shows and get up at 2 a.m. So, getting up when I do now is like sleeping in.” 

After heat-fused yoga, she’ll scan sources for top stories and potential disasters overnight.  

“We’re fortunate to be connected as a company to 200 stations across the country and a national news station, so I have access to copious amounts of information.” 

Boyle came up on the programming side, so she’s hyper-aware of what is going out on her air. She believes morning shows are incredibly important on any station. 

“Morning shows are on an island, so I feel it’s important to check in with them,” she said. “I think it bolsters confidence to know I’m aware of what they’re doing. I often give them a vote of confidence, and I think that goes a long way. I think it shows you’re part of it. Not all people in my position pay that much attention.” 

Highland Park shooting.  

“I first heard about it when I was at home with my husband watching Wimbledon,” Boyle said. “He got a text in a group chat that a friend’s relative said there was a shooter at the parade in Highland Park. They thought they heard shots.”  

Boyle explained that’s when the news person in her kicked in. 

“I talked to my boss, Sean Compton, and our news director, Ryan Burrow. I turned to our partner, WGN television, to see what they had on the air. I live five miles from the shooting scene. First responders were pulled off of other parades to assist. I had people reaching out to me with the assumption I knew more than they did. I didn’t.” 

At the station later that day, host Jon Hansen was coming in to host at 2 p.m., and he offered to come in early. “Personally, I know so many people who were at the parade, and we tried to have an accounting of where they were.” 

Boyle said you couldn’t be in this business and not be consumed by news. And it can be exhausting. 

After a tragedy like Highland Park, she said there’s a fine line between new information and repetition. “That’s where we have to navigate with callers, decide how late into the evening to go with the wall-to-wall coverage.” 

“We’re the only live and local station 24 hours a day. It costs money to run a newsroom, but with our television partner, we can tap into their sound.”  

She said WGN hosts have great interactions with listeners. The callers shared why the tragedy scared them. Another caller might say they need to do more to prevent future tragedies. Boyle realizes people will have different ideas and opinions but asks callers to remain cordial. WGN Radio is a safe place where people can interact.

In a dream world, she gets to bed at 9:30. Normally; it’s closer to 10:30. 

“Next to my bed is The Best of Royko: The Tribune Years.” Mike Royko was a longtime columnist for the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times. Royko was somewhat of a cult figure in Chicago.

“Mike Royko had an amazing personality, and I loved reading the book,” Boyle said. “I loved the take he took on life. He’d talk about simple things, like how a jerk walks across the street.” 

And now, KMS radio ends its broadcasting day. 

BNM Writers

Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business

“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

Jim Cryns

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To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.

Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”

She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.

“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”

McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.

“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”

McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.

Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.

“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”

McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.

“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”

For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.

“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”

At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.

“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”

After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.

“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”

She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.

“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”

She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.

“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”

The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.

She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’

McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.

“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.

McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.

“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”

McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.

She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.

“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.

“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”

McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’

“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”

Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.

“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”

Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.

“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.

That’s got to be a southern phrase.

McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.

“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”

Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”

She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.

“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”

McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.

“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”

A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.

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BNM Writers

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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