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Salem Media CEO David Santrella Wants to Do Well While Doing Good

Santrella said to stick to the parts of leadership you handle well and don’t delve into areas where you’re not as strong.

Jim Cryns




David Santrella and I have a few things in common. In other areas, we lack any similarities at all.

We’re both from Chicago and very close in age. Santrella graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, and I took a few classes there. We’ve both been married to incredible women for about three decades. That’s where the similarities end. Today, Santerella is CEO of Salem Media Group; I live in a van down by the river and write pieces like this.

Oh, and we both like red wine. My bottles cost about $10 bucks; he has a wine cellar.

Not just any wine cellar; it’s a piece of art. Santrella is doing some remodeling around the house and has commissioned a wine cellar from an artist and metal fabricator. 

“He’s creating an incredible piece of utilitarian art,” Santrella said. “From wrought iron. It’s a wine cellar with doors, but it’s something to see.”

The artist/wine cellar builder has to figure out a way to keep the compartment at 57 degrees at all times. With an aesthetic eye, he has to figure out how to keep his art mechanical. 

“When you hear that wine should be served at room temperature, that’s a rule that comes from Medieval Times,” Santrella said. “Seriously. They didn’t have furnaces, so the room temperature was 57 degrees. That was room temperature in those days.” 

While he said he doesn’t have a favorite wine, he definitely prefers reds to whites. 

“The cellar will hold 250 bottles, with 200 of those being red. I have friends that have wine cellars, and some collect wines. I select some of them, but knowledgeable friends  help me pick some and suggest must-have wines for a rounded selection.”

When you are C.EO. of a large media company, there are other things on your mind besides wine. 

“I used to have a bad habit of waking up at 5:00, grabbing my phone off the nightstand, and start reading emails,” Santrella explained. “After years of doing that, I felt conflicted. I decided to change that habit and start my day reading the Bible. Absorbing the word of God, not merely listening to the radio.” 

Now his day begins when he takes the Bible off the nightstand. 

“I read the Bible once a year,” Santrella said. “I don’t use the readings in the Bible for directions on a particular day. Whatever my plan is for the day, sometimes the readings will speak to that.”

It’s not like he’s reading a horoscope. He said that reading Matthew 5:16 each year may mean something the next time he reads it. Nothing is cast in stone. 

“It’s like staring at a photograph,” Santrella said. “The more you look, the more it unfolds. You may not have noticed the butterfly in the photo the first time you saw it. It’s always a little different.”

Santrealla was born near Chicago in Niles, Illinois. His father owned a Conoco gas station at the triangle of Milwaukee and Touhy in Niles. He said he spent a lot of time there filling cars, wiping windshields, checking the air pressure in the tires, and changing oil. 

At Maine Township High School in Park Ridge, the proverbial light went on for him. The school had a radio station, WMTH, powered with a hair-curling 16 watts.

Santrella walked into WMTH when he was 14 years old and immediately knew radio was what he wanted to do.

“I knew so early that it puzzles me how so many kids today have no idea what they want,” he explained. “They seem directionless, and they’re 24 years old. I’m not passing judgment. I know it’s harder to grow up today than when I was a kid.”

Living in Niles, he grew up a Cubs Fan. His wife, Barbara, was a vehement Cubs fan.

“When the Cubs won the World Series, I don’t think she sobbed more at our wedding or when our kids were born,” Santrella said.

In the infamous Steve Bartman incident, he said you could feel the oxygen leave the city. Santrella agreed that anyone else in Bartman’s seat would have done the same thing. Bartman was a fall guy because he had an unfortunate seat under the ball. 

He thought he wanted to make his living on the air at Columbia College. While dating Barbara, who was in the insurance business, he realized he wanted to marry and have kids with her.

“I also knew radio could be a tough life,” Santrella explained. “When you’re moving around all the time from job to job, it’s not conducive to having a family. Not good for kids.” 

At WCRX, Columbia’s radio station, Santrella snatched a copy of Radio and Records magazine off a coffee table and saw a job ad in the Springfield, Illinois market.

“I figured Springfield wasn’t that far away and could lead to a job in Chicago eventually. I might get discovered. It was for a morning guy, and I thought that would be amazing. The next line, I read the compensation. It was $8,000 a year plus Burger King coupons.” 

They basically told the person who took the job that they would earn enough to eat or live. Not both. You just had to pick one. 

“If the job included Wendy’s coupons and Frosty’s, things might have turned out differently,” Santrella jokes.

While in school, he said he had the greatest possible college job in the world. 

He was working in marketing at the powerhouse WMAQ in Chicago. He was assigned to drive the WMAQ White Sox van for station VIPs. 

“All I had to do was take clients and advertisers, then take them to Comiskey Park,” Santrella said. 

He was told all he had to do was pick them up, drive them to the park, be nice, and not take tips. That’s when he had a Eureka moment. 

“All these executives and sales representatives lived in nice houses, seemed to have good lives, and didn’t have to move around the country as much as a radio personality would. That’s when I decided to go into that side of the business.”

While at WMAQ, Santrella said he constantly approached the station’s sales manager to speak with him. 

“Haunted him is more like it,” Santrella said. “I wanted to be in sales, and since I had no experience, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. So, I talked my way into a sales job at WEAW. Plus it was close to my house. I started there and was doing pretty well.”

After a while, he summoned the courage to call the sales manager at WMAQ, the same guy he haunted.

On the phone, he said, ‘Jimmy, this is Dave Santrella. I’m working up here at WEAW in sales and wondered if I could get your advice on something.’

All of a sudden, Jimmy found himself helping Santrella, a guy who wasn’t even working for him. A month later, Jimmy called Santrella and said he was creating a job for him.

“I think he just saw me as a driven kid or just took pity on me. Either way, I got the job.”

Change is one of the many constants in life. Of course, some changes are easier than others, especially when you’re the CEO of a large company.

“It’s always about where we’re going as people,” Santrella said. “We need to understand what the important things are and how we get there. How we are accomplishing that goal, particularly now, going through a real metamorphosis as a company.”

Santrella said to stick to the parts of leadership you handle well and don’t delve into areas where you’re not as strong. 

“If you need brain surgery, would you rather have the hospital CEO do your surgery, or would you rather it be the best brain surgeon in the place?”

I took that to mean that just because you’re CEO of a large media company or hospital doesn’t mean you should be involved in the nuts and bolts of all operations. 

Jesus Christ said, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s. Those are words to live by; they also make good business sense. 

“That’s the reality,” Santrella said. “When you go to a restaurant, the owner may not be a chef or know the first thing about food preparation. I have been blessed with Phil Boyce, our senior vice president of spoken word format. He works with all of our talent. I just couldn’t be as good as Phil with what he does. I’m a sales guy. My background is sales. If you want me to look at your sales presentation, address how to make it better, I’m qualified to do that. If you want to know how to work with talent, talk with Phil.”

Santrella said people in his organization approach him all the time when they’re planning to make a big change. 

“I ultimately have to sign off on larger issues. At the end of the day, I’ve got to trust their recommendations and ideas. If we are not going to renew a contract or if we’re going to replace someone on-air, I will ask if there is some reason for those moves, ask why it’s happening. But I’m not going to interfere unless I think it’s a horrible mistake.”

While money is necessary for any company to survive, to Santrella and Salem, it’s not everything. 

“We have a mantra that says we want to do well, but we also want to do well while we’re doing good. Money to Salem is simply the fuel for what we do; it provides for the mission.”

In one word, impact. 

“We want to do things to make people’s lives better,” Santrella said. “Whether it’s coming to the aid of a family in need or providing assistance through other avenues. In the programming we carry. For Salem, the result of doing good for others is doing well financially.”

On the broadcasting side of things, Santrella likes to keep things civilized. 

“When we have people that oppose us on the air, it’s never a ‘you’re an idiot’ kind of conversation,” he explained. “We may disagree with a stance, but we treat them with dignity. We form our own opinions based on fact. We’re not making stuff up. We produce our news through the research we’ve done. That research allows us to form a certain opinion.” 

Santrella said he and Salem have a deep desire to help others. 

“You start with an honest desire to do that and keep that as an undercurrent in your life; you now give people something that will help. It makes things so much easier.” 

Keeping a nicely stocked wine cellar doesn’t hurt either. 

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




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, 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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Barrett Media Writers

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