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Mia O’Brien is Raising The Bar at 1010 XL

“I firmly believe if anyone wants to get into the media business, you have to know how to tell stories and you have to know how to work the gear,” said O’Brien. “You learn how to do that in local news. They throw you into the deep end nine times out of 10, and I was definitely prepared for my next step in my career and beyond.”

Derek Futterman



Mia O'Brien

It all started during one summer at broadcasting camp. Indeed, that is where Mia O’Brien’s foray into sports media began, drawing inspiration from lead instructors and decorated New York sports broadcasters Ian Eagle and Bruce Beck early into her high school days.

While many aspiring media professionals attend seminars and participate in other modes of instruction before college, few get to learn in the number one media market in the country, let alone from two of its most prominent air talents. As a native of Freehold, New Jersey, O’Brien took advantage of every opportunity to familiarize herself with professional teams, most notably the New York Yankees, and find her own unique style to differentiate herself from her competition.

“I attended that camp every summer for the next three summers, building my way through the advanced and elite versions of the [program], and then I was a counselor for two summers at the camp,” said O’Brien. “….The camp has evolved over the years, but it was the most critical step for me into getting into the field and also having a blueprint of sorts of how I would attack this career.”

Energized by her innate will and determination, along with the experiences she had had in her first summer at the broadcasting camp, O’Brien began doing freelance media work as a high school student. Whether it was serving as a summer camp videographer, a broadcast and digital media intern with the New Jersey Jackals, or as a social media and communications intern for her local assemblywoman, O’Brien always remained open to any opportunities that would help her advance her career. From participating in the broadcasting camp, she also worked as a student reporter for MSG Networks on its MSG Varsity channel during her junior and senior years of high school, an anomaly in and of itself – no less in “The Big Apple.”

O’Brien began studying at Ithaca College in 2011 as a Park Scholar, and immediately began partaking in various extracurricular activities, including Ithaca College Television, WICB Radio and the Student Government Association. By her junior year, she was named the sideline reporter for the Ithaca College Bombers football team and hosted The Gridiron Report, a football magazine television show – doing it all as the only woman on-air at the entire school. One year later, she was voted as senior class president. During her free time, she volunteered as a coach at the Ithaca Youth Bureau and helped at a local school, all while maintaining a high grade-point average and freelancing as both a sports reporter for WENY-TV and college football columnist for AOL Sports.

While many of her college experiences were linked to media as a whole, some of them may not have had an obvious correlation to what was her career trajectory; however, all of her activities ultimately served as means to an end. An example of such – aside from her role in the media industry, O’Brien recently completed her first semester adjunct teaching at the University of North Florida within its leadership department.

“When you’re in college, when you’re early in your career, do everything,” said O’Brien. “You never know what random skill or random club you’re a part of then leads to a job down the line.”

Ithaca College is one of a handful of schools known for its communications program and success in placing graduates in favorable positions to land jobs thanks to its vast alumni network and state-of-the-art facilities. Yet one does not need to go to schools known for communications, according to O’Brien, so long as wherever they go not only has the necessary equipment and facilities – but also opportunities. At some larger and prominent communications schools, those can be especially tough to come by.

“You need to make sure at your school there are games you can call – whether that is live-streamed on the internet, radio broadcasts, TV, it doesn’t matter,” O’Brien emphasized. “[You need] the opportunity to get reps calling games or get reps reporting on games and turning packages.”

Upon her graduation from Ithaca College, O’Brien relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to take her first full-time television job as a multimedia journalist and sports anchor at KGAN/KFXA, the locale’s CBS and FOX affiliates, respectively. While it may seem like a smaller market from the outside, Cedar Rapids is within driving distance of several sports hubs, including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee, and has several NCAA Division I programs including the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.

“To get to cover three major D-1 programs at 22 years old in the heart of Big 10 country is a rare, rare opportunity,” said O’Brien. “It’s obviously changed a little bit now with the evolving nature of local news. At the time, it was not easy to jump right there.”

O’Brien made a sacrifice going from Ithaca to Cedar Rapids in an effort to galvanize her career, and was the only woman reporting on sports in the state for quite some time. Even though it is not a major market in terms of size, the daily grind was enough to allow her to garner and refine the skills necessary to continue to move upwards in sports media. She would not have had it any other way though, and remains grateful for what it taught her to this day working in a different region of the country.

“I firmly believe if anyone wants to get into the media business, you have to know how to tell stories and you have to know how to work the gear,” said O’Brien. “You learn how to do that in local news. They throw you into the deep end nine times out of 10, and I was definitely prepared for my next step in my career and beyond.”

O’Brien’s reputation as an on-air talent from her early days in the industry was as someone who possessed great creativity, candor and congeniality; however, the first of those three “C’s” was suppressed during her time in Cedar Rapids. Upper management’s philosophy of local news and its purpose did not align with O’Brien’s long-term goals; therefore, she left Iowa after three years and moved to Jacksonville to take a job with First Coast News. Then, everything changed.

“It was [because of] the ownership group at First Coast News that I was truly able to embrace the creative person that I was at Ithaca [and] that I wanted to be in the field,” O’Brien stated. “….I can’t thank them enough for that opportunity to really tap back into that side of my brain and also giving me the opportunity to really attack any and every project I wanted to…. Whatever it was, they said ‘Here’s the trampoline – go jump on it.’”

For over two-and-a-half years on local news television in Jacksonville, O’Brien reported on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida Gators, along with other local high school and college sports teams.

She decided to make the move to work in radio on a full-time basis this past March. While the move may have seemed confusing to those on the outside, following a similar path to other women in the industry, including Vanessa Richardson of ESPN 97.5 Houston, made it less daunting for O’Brien.

After working as a co-host for the all-women sports show Helmets & Heels on 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio for just over six months, O’Brien accepted her first Monday-to-Friday job at the station. In her new role, O’Brien has teamed up with Joe Cowart, Leon Searcy and Matt Hayes on XL Primetime, a midday trio that had fostered a working chemistry to create an entertaining and informative radio program. The co-hosts, along with show producer J.J. LaSelva, were welcoming and offered their assistance to O’Brien to help her assimilate into the show, and it was assistance that she certainly valued. Yet she knew through her previous experiences in media that chemistry is not fostered instantaneously and cannot usually be expedited. Thus, she studied the rhythm of the show and eventually found points where she could contribute.

“Getting used to the workflow; getting used to ‘Okay, this is where I step in [and] this is where I step out and I let everybody else talk.’ I knew it wasn’t going to be an overnight fix,” said O’Brien. “It’s still not completely 100% perfect and it never will be, but it definitely took a little bit of time.”

In terms of professional sports, Jacksonville, Fla. revolves around its NFL team, and the city also has franchises in the East Coast Hockey League and Indoor Arena League. Additionally, it is home to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, and the PGA Tour’s PLAYERS Championship often takes place just outside of the city. Being able to talk about the local teams, along with national sports news, has been a welcome change for O’Brien, who had grown accustomed to stringent time limits on her reporting in local news.

“We can talk NBA; we can talk other sports on radio because we have three hours a day to fill,” O’Brien said. “That’s been really fun because in local television, we don’t necessarily have that because… you’re only getting a minute-thirty for a story [and] three minutes for your sportscast so you’re really hyper local-focused. In radio, we can talk about whatever we’re feeling; whatever the news of the day is, and that has been really exciting because I do have a lot of interests.”

Even so, much of the listening audience in Jacksonville craves content related to the Jaguars, whether it be during the season or the offseason. O’Brien does more than just co-host the station’s midday sports radio show, but also manages its multimedia content, meaning she must have even more of an awareness of what resonates with the audience and the alacrity to deliver it to them.

“You have to pick and choose how you are strategic in what you put out there in terms of the content,” said O’Brien. “It’s been a learning process; it has been a learning curve… but it’s exciting and the hope is obviously down the line we’ll have an even better idea of what our audience wants.”

One of the ways in which 1010 XL/92.5 FM Jax Sports Radio has penetrated into the digital age of radio is by making sure all of its shows are supported with video, to ensure fans have multiple means of consumption and engagement. The 1980 hit single Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles has been proven wrong, according to O’Brien, for video is now enhancing the brand of the radio star and the content and ratings of their radio station.

“By streaming, not only do you tap into more potential consumers, but for us on the digital/multimedia side, it’s so much easier for me to press inpoint, outpoint [and] crop that clip if there’s a great moment from a show and then stick it on Instagram… TikTok… or Twitter,” said O’Brien. “It promotes our posts [and] gives the consumers an idea of who [the hosts] are and what they look like.”

One of O’Brien’s ongoing projects is working on the documentary series The Book of Bo, a look into the career of former Jacksonville Jaguars’ tackle Tony Boselli. The series will be released in various chapters, and will be made available in video form on Facebook and YouTube for fans to watch. Additionally, O’Brien has been appearing across station programming to play clips from each upcoming episode to create buzz and promote the series as a whole.

“I think it’s really cool that the station has supported initiatives like that, and moreover my general manager Steve Griffin has been amazing in terms of whatever I need, they go get for me,” said O’Brien. “They are ready to tap into the future and step into what multimedia sports coverage is going to be 10-20 years down the line, and I don’t think a lot of terrestrial radio stations could say that.”

Terrestrial radio as a means of transmission and paradigm on which to base content is not being eliminated; rather, it is simply being modified to be part of a multi-platform approach to creation and subsequent dissemination. Through this modern approach, stations like 1010 XL/92.5 Jax Sports Radio are able to remain at the forefront of innovation and find new ways to expand their body of consumers.

“I think what’s really cool is that the terrestrial radio station is obviously the backbone to everything we do; that’s what gives us the ability to take risks like what we’re doing with this project and so many others,” O’Brien explained. “But at the same time, you can still utilize it; it’s not like it’s going away. We are keeping terrestrial radio – that’s not going anywhere – it’s how we generate so much of our content. We can use the multimedia channels to also generate content that we can then put on terrestrial radio as well.”

Throughout this story, a theme you may have noticed is how O’Brien was consistently one of, if not the only woman working in sports media from the time she attended broadcasting camp. Although she has occasionally worked with other women in the industry, including ESPN’s Emily Kaplan who just served as the network’s lead hockey reporter during the Stanley Cup Finals, she never saw her situation as unique. Rather, she accepted it as an aspect of the intrinsic meritocracy of sports media and was thankful for her other colleagues for viewing her as another member of the team.

As the conversation around diversity has been amplified though, it has shifted her perspective and opened her eyes to the disparities that regrettably exist in sports media. O’Brien hopes to serve as an inspiration to girls looking to work in sports media, and is always willing to extend a helping hand to those who need it.

“That’s something I think I would have done anyway, but I think a lot of the conversations around women in sports and encouraging women to reach out to each other and to have this bond and commiserate about some of the nuances that go on in the industry – I think that has encouraged me not to just dismiss it as: ‘Well, I’m just one of the guys.’”

O’Brien is currently the only woman on the Jaguars’ beat on a day-to-day basis, continuing to prove women can work in all facets of the industry. There are obvious implications of the imbalance ingrained within parts of the industry, yet by taking action, people – whether they are directly affected or not – can right these wrongs to foster an environment of inclusivity and equity. Nonetheless, O’Brien and other women working in sports say they are selective in terms of what complaints they choose to publicly voice.

“The more flexible and adaptable you can be and the more you can laugh and just move past and kind of pick and choose your battles, the better off you’re going to be,” O’Brien said, “and also knowing there’s other women out there going through similar situations.”

It is evident that O’Brien enjoys the spontaneous nature of her career, being able to work on multiple projects varying in size and scope to bring content to sports fans inside and outside of Jacksonville. Much like Samantha Ponder, the former host of College GameDay on ESPN, O’Brien values versatility in media, and likes being able to do multiple things such as sideline reporting, hosting and audiovisual post-production work. As long as she continues to find new ways to differentiate herself in today’s media landscape by utilizing and enhancing the repertoire of skills she has been cultivating since broadcasting camp, O’Brien will “Catch ya later,” on whatever platform you choose.

“I knew very early on that sitting at a desk wasn’t going to be my M.O., and it still isn’t,” said O’Brien. “I also enjoy changing it up – whether that’s working on a video project one day; working on a podcast project the next day; meeting with clients a third day. I feel very lucky that this is a very big step forward towards that ultimate career goal of being a Swiss-army knife. Not that I wasn’t before, but I especially am now.”

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Has Stephen A. Smith Outgrown First Take?

“Stephen A. Smith is irreplaceable at ESPN so long as the network wants to be in the First Take business. Smith is smart enough to know that won’t be forever.”

Demetri Ravanos



Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Stephen A. Smith has clearly outgrown First Take. He’ll never say it, because he knows the brand’s success depends on him. However, one look at The Stephen A. Smith Show and it is clear, this is a guy that doesn’t need to spend weekday mornings shouting about Jalen Brunson’s effective field goal percentage anymore. 

Think pieces have been written about what the podcast says about Smith’s ambitions. Plenty of radio hosts have had fun at the expense of the ESPN star’s proclivity for going off-script in ways that might make the Walt Disney Company uncomfortable. None of it has changed The Stephen A. Smith Show

The podcast has taught us that Stephen A. Smith can pull from deep knowledge about the Pixar Cars universe, he will defend his right to use R. Kelly’s music to set the mood, and we have learned that the man loves a big ol’ butt


Personally, I like this unabashedly horny, politically vague, and more well-rounded version of Smith than the one I see on ESPN. The guy yelling “How dare you” when Chris Russo tries to argue that some dude who handed the ball off 85% of the time is a better quarterback than Patrick Mahomes is not a human being. He may truly believe his point, but the conviction is goofy. The guy giving truly awful advice for microwaving fish feels real. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about but he is confident that he does.

I don’t claim to know what ESPN will or should do when Smith’s contract comes up for renewal. The First Take star has made it clear that he expects to be made the network’s highest paid talent. He’s certainly entitled to that opinion. He has the numbers to back it up, but the TV business has changed. ESPN is on its way to being a digital product, which will most certainly change its finances and priorities. 

If you’re paying the $30 or $40 per month that we expect ESPN to charge for its a la carte service, you’re not doing it for First Take. You’re not doing it for PTI or The Pat McAfee Show either. It’s all about the games. They are and will always be ESPN’s most valuable asset. I would imagine that in the coming years, the network will take a hard look at just how much anything else is actually worth.

Who from the “embrace debate” universe has crossover appeal? Probably no one. Games attract a large audience. Sports talk? That’s more of a niche. 

Everyone reading this has a very distinct feeling about Skip Bayless. Most of the world doesn’t though. Bayless has leaned hard into the act. It’s important to him to put on the best sports debate show TV has to offer. That’s a perfectly admirable goal, but the ceiling is pretty low. 

Most people aren’t going to go looking for something like that. If Bayless ever wants out of FS1, his options would be limited at best and possibly non-existent at worst.

Stephen A. Smith has big ambitions. He wants to act. He wants to host shows outside of the sports realm. He wants to produce. He may want to run for office. If ESPN determines it doesn’t need to pay over $10 million per year for the star of a show that is largely consumed on mute in airport bars, then he needs to prove he can do those things at a level that gets him paid.

Most of the comments about Smith’s podcast have to do with what it could make him in the eyes of ESPN. I think it is important to consider that as ESPN evolves, maybe no single show or talent will be particularly valuable to the network, at least not to the tune that it currently is. So we have to look at Smith explaining how to skirt the issue of lying to date about how well you can cook differently.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I read Brian Stelter’s Network of Lies, which is about the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News and the network firing Tucker Carlson. No matter how you feel politically, I recommend it, because it gives some great insight into how a network built on talking head shows operates.

At Fox News, where every host has the same opinions, the network is the star. Sure, people rise up and gain a following, but Stelter points out all of the presumed stars that have not hurt Fox by leaving and he theorizes Carlson will eventually be one of them.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I listen to Smith shout that he just needs a woman “to be a solid 7.” Has he read Network of Lies? Smith is friends with Sean Hannity. Has he had conversations about how valuable an opinionist is when he only preaches to those already converted? 

Stephen A. Smith is irreplaceable at ESPN so long as the network wants to be in the First Take business. Smith is smart enough to know that won’t be forever. Even if ratings for the show never slip, changing economics could force the network’s hand at some point. 

That is why Stephen A. Smith wants you to know how he feels about big, juicy booties. Maybe sports talk on television will have less value amidst television evolution, but talent that can entertain and make an audience pay attention never will. Smith is betting that he can make you care about what he has to say regardless of what he is talking about.

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Steve Czaban is Helping Mold Sports Radio’s Future at 97.3 The Game

“I’ve seen some really messed up stuff but I’ve seen good stuff as well and I’ve seen good stories.  I just try to lend that perspective…”

Avatar photo



Steve Czaban
Courtesy: 97.3 The Game

After a long run in Washington, DC, Steve Czaban made the move in May 2019 to host the morning show on 97.3 The Game in Milwaukee.  Being part of the Milwaukee/Wisconsin market was nothing new to Czaban as he held down a 30 to 45-minute feature on “Bob and Brian”, the number one FM show in the market for almost a quarter of a century.

The show became so successful that Czaban signed a contract extension in April of 2022 and the show continues to soar.

“The show has gone great,” said Czaban.  “We’re double the nearest sports radio competitor in town and we’re top five target demographic in men 25-54.  I really have been loving it.  It’s the best group of guys and just vibe that I’ve had a sports radio station pretty much in my career.  It’s been a very good situation for me.”

It’s not easy for a talk show host to transition to another market because you really have to have an intimate knowledge on the teams, the players and the fans in a town in order to have a fighting chance to be successful.  When Czaban made the move from DC to Milwaukee, the experience of dabbling in the market certainly helped him to talk about everything Packers, Bucks, Brewers and Wisconsin sports, but it’s not something that comes easy.

In fact, he wonders how other people can do it.

“I didn’t go into it cold,” said Czaban.  “I think if anyone in our business goes into a market cold, I don’t know how you do it because you just have to have a certain base of historic knowledge of this player, this team, this game, this moment and this incident to call upon to at least be fluent in the language of the local sports market.”

So, in order to have that fluency in a new market, you have to literally channel your inner Rodney Dangerfield and go “Back to School” and that means doing your homework to get you ready for your new gig.  You don’t just bag your bags, move to a new city, turn on the microphone and talk about the teams in town without knowing what you’re talking about.

Steve Czaban says there is a textbook for what to do, but it’s certainly a challenge.

“The advice would be if you’re a host and you’re entering a new market and you don’t really have any connection or history, then I would absolutely do a cram session,” said Czaban.  “Every night, flash cards, reading everything, watching YouTube highlights and at least for the first six months if now a year, make sure to tread lightly because there’s a good chance you’re going to walk into a rake if you start talking about “they should never have traded so and so.”  Well, there’s more to it.”

Czaban has spent his career trying to help young talent break into the industry and grow.  He’s had a knack for bringing new people along and educating them on the business and the highs and lows that come with it.

Sort of like a head coach developing quality assists who go on to become head coaches themselves.

“I don’t know what kind of a coaching tree I have,” said Czaban.  “But I do make sure to try to explain to the younger people around me like my producers and what not because I’ve seen so much in the industry.  I’ve seen some really messed up stuff but I’ve seen good stuff as well and I’ve seen good stories.  I just try to lend that perspective of having been in the circus for 30 plus years.”

Many of those years were spent as a host in Washington DC, Czaban certainly spent a lot of time talking about Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders owner Dan Snyder had his part in the fall of the once-proud franchise.  He still has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in DC and how the sale of the team from Snyder to a group owned by Josh Harris had an affect on sports radio in Washington

Czaban says the sale and the fan reaction had a huge impact in a positive way.

“They definitely had a surge,” said Czaban.  “I was very happy for everybody still on the air doing sports radio day to day at seeing the bad man run out of town who wrecked the franchise, lost the team, name, logo and soon to be history that he was finally gone.  I think it was definitely good but now with the Commanders being so bad, there’s hope with a new owner but there’s a lot of cleaning out that has to be done first.  I think the guys on sports radio are going to be very busy this next year or two.”

Transitioning to full-time hosting duties in Milwaukee a few years ago, Czaban saw the Aaron Rodgers era with the Packers wind down.  After the Packers traded Rodgers to the Jets this past off-season, the keys to the offense were transferred over to Jordan Love.  While there were some growing pains inside Lambeau Field at the start of the season, the Packers have rebounded.

Not everyone in town thought it was going to happen and some hosts patience ran thin…but not Czaban.  He had gone through too many lost seasons in Washington to realize that you just can’t throw in the towel until a season is done.

“There were guys on my show and on other shows (when the Packers were) at 2-5 they were like “season is over, they’re going nowhere” and they were event talking about draft position,” said Czaban. “I was the only guy saying whoa the season can be over when it’s over.  We have all the time in the world for that but it’s not over now.  Now, I kind of look pretty smart.”

Steve Czaban also looks very intelligent for being able to do something that not many people in the sports radio industry can do.  He was successful in one market for a very long time and has made the transition to a new market and is, once again, having success with a tremendous sports talk show.

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Brian Murphy is Preparing to Write His Next Chapter at KNBR After Layoffs Ended ‘Murph and Mac’

“I don’t want to say, ‘This too shall pass,’ or, ‘Time heals all wounds,’ but you’re only as good as your next ratings book.”

Derek Futterman



Brian Murphy
Courtesy: Brian Murphy on Instagram

After the morning show signed off at KNBR last Wednesday, co-host Brian Murphy was called into a meeting with Cumulus Media market manager Larry Blumhagen. Although there had been signs of potential changes, Murphy had partnered with Paul McCaffrey for nearly 18 years and survived all of the turmoil.

A simple look around the building represented proof of an alteration, evinced by reductions in the number of stations under its roof. A once powerful news station, KGO-AM, underwent a sudden format flip last year after nearly a century on the air. A few years earlier, alternative rock station KFOG was eliminated from the company’s portfolio as well. KNBR has weathered the storms, but not without alterations to the station’s programming department.

“I would say everything has shrunk,” Murphy expressed, “and that includes sending us on road trips or to Super Bowls, etc.”

Layoffs have reemphasized the importance of the quantitative bottom line, sometimes overshadowing the qualitative utility and widespread impact derived from talent and popular shows. It is partially why the deluge of palpable support after Murphy learned in a short meeting that McCaffrey was being laid off was surprising and reinvigorating. But first came an immediate, jarring feeling surrounding the decision.

“Truthfully numb,” Murphy said regarding his sentiment after learning what happened. “I guess it’s a cliché to say that people go into shock, but to know that Paulie and I wouldn’t be together was something that didn’t register. I mean, it registered, but it didn’t register until fully; the next 48 hours is when it really started to really hit.”

McCaffrey was one of seven laid off at KNBR that day. Morning show producer Erik Engle, former programmer Lee Hammer, host F.P. Santangelo and members of the outlet’s digital department lost their jobs as well. Even the long-running KNBR Tonight evening show, which aired for decades was canceled, and replaced with CBS Sports Radio programming. While Murphy always hoped that the morning show would continue in the iteration before the end of his contract, he is now facing a new reality without his longtime colleagues.

“I think what we were disappointed by was sort of an abrupt and premature end, particularly to our partnership, which I think we’ve learned from an incredible outpouring of social media is way more than we knew,” Murphy said. “We learned our partnership for whatever reason connected to a lot of people for a long time. It’s funny they say radio is dying, but radio sure is personal and effective in many ways baked on what we’re hearing from our listeners.”

During the next two days, Murphy was off the air and contemplating his future. There were moments where he thought about leaving KNBR. However, he knew that he had a contract to fulfill and a family to support. Additionally, the person that he was set to work with on Monday and beyond – Markus Boucher – had contributed to the morning show for nearly four years, rendering familiarity and comfortability.

“There’s a chance that Markus and I could do this for a long time; we’ll see how it goes,” Murphy said. “Maybe things go great and that would be awesome, and I’m definitely leaving that door open. For whatever reason, we recover from the pain of losing my partner for almost two decades and the next chapter works out.”

In 2023, KNBR has experienced two subpar quarterly ratings books. The decrease in performance has affected all dayparts on the outlet. Murphy knows that when the San Francisco Giants do well, it generally leads to KNBR succeeding. The station did improve in its summer and fall books for 2023, but there already were repercussions being felt.

“I just know that that happened and it damaged people’s perception of the station, but I don’t think it was an accurate reflection of all of our listenership at all; I just don’t,” Murphy said. “I know for a fact that we still had a huge audience, and it’s evident by what happened after the news; just so many people reacted and people in the demo too.”

Even though he knows it does not directly relate to his role as an on-air host, Murphy believes that the local advertising market was damaged because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the city. San Francisco was one of several major metroplexes that instituted strict health and safety protocols in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which had an effect on sports talk radio consumption. With more people working remotely and fewer people commuting to the office, the transition to digital content and audio on-demand offerings has hastened in order to realize previous levels of engagement and keep the format alive.

“KNBR is going to have to weather this storm,” Murphy said, “and there’s this feeling of, I don’t want to say, ‘This too shall pass,’ or, ‘Time heals all wounds,’ but you’re only as good as your next ratings book.”

The station recently held an all-staff meeting to discuss its direction, which has been somewhat complicated by three program directors at the outlet over the last five years. Following the departures of Jeremiah Crowe and Kevin Graham, Adam Copeland took over the responsibilities last month. The layoffs took place two weeks into his tenure, causing some people to question how involved he was in the decisions and whether or not he advocated for the morning show.

“I think these things come from beyond San Francisco,” Murphy said. “Our headquarters are in Atlanta, and I think something this big – like I said, it wasn’t just Paulie Mac; it was seven people. Paulie Mac is personal for me, but that to me says, ‘Well, that’s obviously a big budget decision that’s being made at a level far above the San Francisco program director.’”

Although Copeland has minimal previous experience as a program director, Murphy is confident that he will be able to effectively lead the station through his energy, youth and passion for the medium. Copeland grew up listening to KNBR and worked at the station over the last several years as a producer and host, eventually earning a spot in afternoons alongside Tom Tolbert. Copeland remains in that time slot, pulling double duty for the radio station. His relatability and familiarity with the craft is something that Murphy views as an advantage.

“I think people are pretty excited that we have somebody who cares as much as Adam Copeland does about KNBR,” Murphy said, “I think if there’s anything to be optimistic about in 2024 that despite this ending to 2023, it’s that we have a program director who’s all-in on the station.”

Thinking about what comes beyond the immediate future though is not within Murphy’s mindset. At the moment, he feels it is too soon to determine if there will be a potential Murph & Mac reunion on a digital platform. Instead, he is focused on being able to continue to serve San Francisco sports fans without his longtime on-air partner. Murphy realizes how fortunate he was to have someone like McCaffrey by his side and valued both his consistency and dependability on a daily basis.

“Every single segment he was the same energetic, relentless, hilarious partner who only wanted what was good for the show – not what was good for him; not what was good for me – he only wanted what was good for the show,” Murphy said, “and it was such a lesson for this newspaper guy to learn, for lack of a better word, showbusiness.”

When Murphy entered the studio Monday to host his first show without McCaffrey, everything felt surreal to him on the air. There was ostensible tension in the room and from listeners about how he would address the news, and share his feelings with the audience. The program ended with a monologue from Murphy regarding McCaffrey, something that he is grateful Boucher did not raise objection to and that he was able to make his statement on the air.

“The 49ers had just destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles, which actually was a huge positive break for us because it allowed everything to happen Monday with the backdrop of great positivity because that was a huge game for the Niners and people were pretty jacked up about that game,” Murphy said. “So I opened the show by saying, ‘I know it’s corny, but that one was for Paulie.’”

The shock and surprise from McCaffrey being laid off is hardly evanescent, but Murphy is now thinking about how to optimize the morning program with Boucher. Predicting what may come next is an arduous task. Murphy considers himself fortunate to have had nearly 18 years hosting with McCaffrey, and he is now thinking about the next chapter of his time at KNBR while having reference for the enduring legacy of Murph & Mac.

“For whatever reason, I’ve never lost my absolute joy and passion for the sports world – sports content; sports stories; sports history; sports media – everything about it,” Murphy said. “And so every morning when my alarm goes off and my feet hit the floor, I’m like, ‘Let’s go! I’m stealing money. This isn’t work.’”

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