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WBT Reporter Brett Jensen Couldn’t Avoid Ukraine

“I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

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Yes, Brett Jensen went to war-torn Ukraine during his vacation time. But it wasn’t like he went for a vacation.

“I do these long trips every year,” the Breaking with Brett Jensen host on WBT in Charlotte said. “I try to take my vacation days around July 4th to get that extra day. I’ll use 11 or 12 of the days and make it stretch through three weekends or 19 days.”

Jensen had been thinking about revisiting Ukraine after having been there for a week last year as part of an actual vacation, even though part of it was spending 36 hours in Chernobyl. He found his opening for the return visit.

“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office in Charlotte donated 30 sets of bulletproof vests to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, to be given to its aid workers on the frontlines,” he said.

Jensen explained Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides help to people in physical need. They specialize in going to disaster areas. They’ve gone into Somalia, as well as other major disaster and war-torn areas.

“They’re generally the guys on the front lines,” he said. “They make sure the area has electricity, food, and basic supplies. The CEO is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham.”

When Jensen learned of the body armor being donated, he knew this was serendipitous with a connection to Charlotte.

“I wondered how cool it would be to be in Kyiv when the armor arrived there,” Jensen said. “I was already going to be in the Baltics so I looked into the possibility of it actually happening. I contacted all kinds of people in Poland, which people had told me was the best route to get in and out of Ukraine. I contacted all the governments and authorities I needed to and then talked to some people I knew in Ukraine. I was on my own time, but I was also a journalist.”

The plan was to fly from Lithuania, to Krakow, Poland where he’d take a bus the rest of the way. The safest route to Ukraine is through Poland; nowhere near the fighting. But it’s also a very long bus ride from Krakow, 21 hours in all. The journey itself proved to be one of the most taxing parts of the trip.

Initially, Jensen was repeatedly told not to go to Ukraine by the State Department. If he insisted, Jensen would have to fill out forms with next of kin information and they wouldn’t be coming in after him if he got in trouble.

“That made it all real,” he said. “They said they weren’t responsible for me.”

But it was that bus ride that Jensen knew was going to be a problem the moment he sat down to settle in for the long ride.

“I sat in the front of the bus with my legs at 90 degree angles with a railing in front of me,” Jensen said. “Periodically I was able to stand, but not all the way up. It was kind of bending over at the waist. We stopped every two or three hours and I was able to stretch my legs.”

When he got to the Poland and Ukraine border, he said he was amazed at the long lines of trucks, trailers and supplies lined up for miles parked on the side of the road. It could take as long as a week for the supply trucks to get across the border.

“First, they’d take everybody’s passports, then we’d sit for a couple of hours,” Jensen explained. “They’d give the passports back and we’d drive a mile, and the exact same thing would happen over again with the Ukraine border patrol.”

Jensen was the only one on the bus with an American passport. There were 66 people on the bus and only four were men, with Jensen being the youngest male. The women were going to see their husbands, sons and brothers left behind.

While at the border, Ukrainian soldiers inspected his passport and asked why he wanted to come to Ukraine.

“There’s two words that everyone in Europe understands, even if they don’t speak English: American journalist,” Jensen said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. If it was Lithuania, Romania, everyone there understands ‘American journalist’.”

Jensen arrived in Kyiv at 8:45 PM after having left the previous night at 11:55. He quickly learned there was a curfew from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Every restaurant shuts down at 9:00 PM, so employees could clean up and be home by 11 pm.

“I made it to my Airbnb at 9:45 PM and they had a little kiosk outside on the sidewalk,” he said. “I got the essentials; potato chips, Coke Zero and a muffin. That was my first meal in Ukraine.”

Like most of us, Jensen didn’t really know what to expect when he arrived. He said the western part of the country hadn’t been leveled, but there was still a lot of rubble the closer he got to the capital.

“Once we got 60 miles outside of Kyiv, you started to see the devastation,” Jensen said. “Many of the warehouses and homes were decimated. That’s when we started going through road checks. Picture driving down I-95, then all of a sudden a four-lane highway slimming down to one lane in each direction. You have to do an ‘S’ through the barriers at 10 to 15 miles per hour. They’ve built all these barricades with steel and concrete and you weave your way through. Then it straightens and you go back to 60 miles an hour.”

He said you could look around and see where Russian missiles struck, destroying apartment buildings and creating immense rubble. Jensen said there were soldiers everywhere. There were what they call Czech hedgehogs, similar to the obstacles they had on the beaches at Normandy. They are protecting statues and important entities with sandbags and built structures. Many streets are blocked.

Once there, it didn’t take long for Jensen to experience the haunting air raid sirens.

“At 1:55 AM, I first heard the sirens going off,” he explained. “Of course, I was a little nervous. I was staying in the ‘Times Square’ in Kyiv, Independence Square, where they have all the statues and rallies. I got dressed, grabbed a few extra phone batteries in case I needed to stay in the shelter for a long time, then ran down to the subway. I got there at 2:07 AM. It’s a very deep subway, some of the deepest in the world built by the Russians in the 60s as fallout shelters.”

When Jensen arrived at the shelter, there were only five other people. None spoke English. After a short time, they left, started to head for home. Jensen was perplexed. The next day he talked to his Uber driver, who spoke English, about the situation.

“I asked him why people don’t go down to the air raid shelters. He told me they don’t react to the sirens anymore. He said if they reacted to every siren, they’d never get anything else done. It just wasn’t worth it. The driver then laid some math on me and explained that with 3 million people in Kyiv, he still had only a 1-in-3 million chance of getting hit. He figured he’d roll the dice.”

After the first time, Jensen didn’t bother to go down again. He figured he’d be the only guy down there. On what was to be his last day in Kyiv, Jensen met up with a university student that he had interviewed during his first full day there. The sirens went off five times over the course of nine hours. After one of the sirens finished sounding, the 19-year-old took Jensen to a bar near the university, where tourists generally don’t go. When they walked into the bar, it
was relatively full because nobody had left.

“Five minutes later, a lot of police came in yelling because they didn’t evacuate, nobody in the bar left during the siren,” Jensen said. “They shut down the bar. That was the only time I’d seen anyone in Kyiv chastised for not going to a shelter.”

Jensen arrived on a Wednesday and was scheduled to leave Saturday. He was supposed to take a bus to Warsaw, Poland, and from there take a flight to Estonia to continue his vacation.

His bus was canceled and Jensen was forced to stay in Ukraine and couldn’t get out for another four days. It was Friday and Jensen knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Another Uber driver, who Jensen described as highly educated, had just come in from Poland to take care of his father. He spoke English and this was the only job he could get.

“I asked him if he was working the next day and he said he wasn’t,” Jensen said. “I asked if I could hire him as my personal driver the next morning, not as an Uber driver. We didn’t talk about money or location.”

The driver arrived at 9:30 the next morning. Jensen said he got in the front seat and asked the driver if he’d take him as close to the front lines as he felt comfortable. The driver agreed and they drove for nearly three hours toward the front lines.

This is where Ukraine started to look like a war zone.

“We went through villages that had been completely bombed out, but there were people still living there. They had nowhere else to go.”

Jensen interviewed an older woman in front of her bombed-out house, his driver serving as interpreter.

“Her daughter and grandson were next to her by the side of the house,” Jensen said. “The only thing left standing were the four walls and you couldn’t see the floor through the rubble. I walked around the corner and saw another woman hanging laundry in front of her destroyed apartment building. I asked them if they were scared and they said of course, they were still scared, but that there was nothing they could do.

“The woman told me the Russians still popped in every so often. I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

On another occasion, Jensen said things had gotten pretty hairy. During the final day in Ukraine, the sirens blared many times. Then there was the alert that wouldn’t stop and Jensen knew something was different.

“In the streets people were walking very fast toward the shelters. I figured I really needed to take cover. If they were nervous, then I probably should be, too. I’m not sure to this day if something was hit or not.”

Jensen said he was struck by the confidence and determination of the Ukraine people. “To a person, from the landlord of my Airbnb to my Uber driver, they all said the same thing,” he recalled. “ ‘If we have the firepower, we will win.’ In a poll, 80 percent of the people said they were not giving up a single acre to the Russians. They argued that if they did, the Russians would come back and want more.”

According to Jensen, Ukrainian’s have an internal fire. They truly have something to fight for.

“I got out of Ukraine a week and a half before all the crap hit the fan with the nuclear power station and the increased bombardment. They are so steadfast in their beliefs. They’ve got that fire. They’re not going to stop.”

Finally, after doing live reports back to Charlotte on WBT several times a day, interviewing the head of Samaritan’s Purse for 45 minutes about the need for bulletproof vests, and talking to many citizens of the country, it was time to head to the next destination – Ireland, via Poland.

On his train trip out, only sleeper cars were made available. They hold four people in a very small cabin. Jensen was the first to arrive and had to imagine who he’d be sharing the car with. At the very least he knew he could stretch out his legs, and not be forced to travel again like a pretzel.

“I prayed for an electrical outlet to plug in my laptop so I could watch movies,” Jensen said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get a petite woman or a heavy Ukrainian guy living off cabbage. I also prayed there wasn’t a bathroom in my cabin.”

There wasn’t. He lucked out as his cabin mates were two females in their 20s and a woman in her 40s. “There was a power outlet and the women didn’t snore. It was uncomfortably hot in the room, but at least it wasn’t like the bus.”

Crossing the border back into Poland, a guard walked into his cabin. He spoke in Polish and the women answered him. Then the guard looked at Jensen and said, “American journalist.”

“I’m thinking, how the hell did he know that? He asked where I entered Ukraine, and I told him from Krakow on a bus. He asked when, and I said a week ago. He took my passport and about an hour later, he came back and told me to show him the stamps on the passport that proved I had done what I said. The Ukrainian stamp had faded, but you could make it out. He gave me a
weird look that said, ‘Yeah, okay.’”

From there, it was another five hours to Warsaw, Poland, where he finally checked into his hotel at 7:00 PM. Jensen was finally safe and in the comforts of a room with a real bed, not a vinyl bunk bed on a train for 19 hours.

“There are a few things that I would change in hindsight, but I would absolutely go back if given the opportunity,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of great and horrific stories to tell and I’m glad I was able to help tell them. The Ukrainian people basically want two things: weapons for journalists to tell what’s happening there and I was able to do at least one of those.”

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Nick Kayal Move Highlights Growing Appetite for News/Talk

Kayal moving to News/Talk is a trend that we continue to see in our business and there are several reasons why this will happen.





Sports Talk to News Talk.

The trend continued this week when Nick Kayal announced would be the next morning show host at WPHT in Philadelphia. In full disclosure, I know Nick, as I was an intern as he was an employee and growing his career at 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Nick built a very solid sports talk resume, but decided to make the move to news/politics.

As I was reading his announcement on social media this week, I felt like I was reading my own reasons for leaving sports talk for news talk on a permanent basis five years ago. Nick wrote, “Over the past 6-7 years, my apetite for political content has increased and now I finally get to voice my opinion on these subject matters.”

Expect this to be a trend that we continue to see in our business and there are several reasons why this will happen.

First off, sports talk is oversaturated. There’s just too much of it, and at some point we’ve crossed the threshold where supply has exceeded demand. There will always be room for great sports talk hosts, but jobs aren’t growing in that space, and in fact, are likely to shrink in future years.

Meantime, if we flip to the News Talk side of the business, the number of jobs expanding is admittedly also not a big part of the equation, but there is less competition in the space for those jobs when compared to Sports Talk, especially when it comes to younger hosts and employees. 

I say the following with all the love in the world for my News Talk colleagues: I was at this week’s FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) Radio Row event, and as a 34-year-old, I felt like a college kid given that I was significantly younger than most of my fellow hosts. There’s nothing wrong with that for right now, as many of them are still sharp, on their game, and delivering great ratings and revenue for their respective stations, but if we look 5-10 years down the road, they may want to find themselves on a beach or ski slope on a more regular basis. So, the next wave of News Talk hosts may not be in the News Talk space right now, and given the greater number of employees in Sports Talk, they may very well be over there. 

This is a natural migration for both sides. The News Talk bench is not deep and as the younger Sports Talk employee gets older, their interests may change. Most 25-35 year-olds care more about sports than news and politics. But as a generation that grew up during the explosion of Sports Talk approaches and enters their 40’s, their interests and desires could shift as well.

Just as important in this conversation is the fact that we all know sports, politics and culture continue to collid, for better or for worse, and those who may have more conservative-leaning beliefs and opinions are more likely to try and make that move.

As someone who spent several years in sports talk and maintain strong relationships there, I know those who don’t pray at the “Alter of Woke” feel like their opinions aren’t welcomed and will be shunned by their colleagues and bosses. They mask it, as they like to a prefer to talk about the games anyway. But when sports and culture collide, they clam up or just toe the line. 

How long will that last? How long will they want to continue to bottle it up?

I’m not here to answer it for them, but I know that for me, there was a point where I thought I’d rather spend four hours a day talking about things that impact my city, state and country than discussing whether or not a quarterback missed an open receiver on 3rd and 10 or a pitcher was left in a game too long. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love sports and love being a sports fan, but hosting a daily, local show where that is part of the job became less appealing when given alternative options. And I don’t believe I will be alone in this regard, especially as we move forward through the next several years in our business. 

Additionally, the icing on the cake is that in many towns, major sports news that a News Talk host will find interesting is, in fact, news, and will be a fit for the program. In Philadelphia, the Eagles are news on Monday after a loss to the Giants. In Kansas City, the Chiefs are news. Nothing is bigger. I do a Chiefs segment on Friday and Monday during football season. You can’t do four hours on it, but mixing it in is part of the job if you’re in a big sports town. 

Now, there is a downside. As I told Nick Kayal in a personal note after his announcement, “Be prepared to be shunned by some of your former sports colleagues”. 

A sad reality, but true, in my experience. Hey, that’s the “Tolerant Left”, right?

If you can get over that, which should be easy, then come on over. We’re having fun, making great content, and always looking for who and what is next.

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BNM Writers

Nick Kayal Transitions from Talking Sports to News/Talk

Kayal has worked almost exclusively in radio sports in Nashville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities, but made the switch to talking politics.

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Seasons change, minds change, and jobs certainly do.

Nick Kayal has worked almost exclusively in radio sports in Nashville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities. He most recently left Sports Radio 92.9 The  Game to do mornings on 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia. 

This isn’t just a job change for Kayal. It’s an entirely different animal. He’s switching from sports to news and talk. 

“Kayal and Company is the perfect show for me to host,” Kayal said. “I’ve got a multi-voiced show with an outstanding supporting cast. Greg Stocker and Dawn Stensland will have open microphones. We’ll have a guest from time to time. Some calls here and there, but it won’t be caller-heavy.”

Kayal said it will be a ‘good blend of things.’

The change has been in the works since the beginning of the year but was announced just yesterday. Former morning host Rich Zeoli will be moving to afternoons. Kayal said Zeoli has been looking forward to that.

“Rich knew the change was coming,” Kayal explained. “He was involved in the discussions. I think he really wanted to change his lifestyle. He even said so on air. Afternoons are where he started and I think he wanted to get back to that family balance. Rich is going to continue to do what made him so successful in the mornings. He does a great job at building an audience.”

Kayal said they will keep a lot of the same segments on the show. Instead of talking about Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, they’ll be talking about Joe Biden. The passion for sports and politics in Philly is the same, Kayal explained. “I don’t think my prep or delivery will change much. I want to hit on big stories, but I’m not going to filibuster on a topic.”

Getting ready for the new show, Kayal has had lunch with Stocker a few times to chat. Stocker will also serve as the show’s executive producer. The two have kept in touch through the spring and summer, and Kayal has been in Philadelphia for nearly a month.

Kayal said the response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive among listeners. 

“Twitter is usually a cesspool of negativity,” he said. “But this announcement has been 95% positive. Just a couple of negative responses here and there.

Kayal served as a host at crosstown sports 97.5 The Fanatic WPEN from 2009-2015 and doesn’t think the switch of focus will cause the show to lose listeners.

“I imagine some of the people who listened to me in sports might be a little shocked to hear me dealing with news topics,” Kayal said. “Listeners hate change, by and large. After a host change some might say they’re never listening again. That station is dead to me. People have their routines and they don’t like it when somebody or something messes that up. Most usually come back. Radio is very habitual.”

He doesn’t think he’ll miss sports all that much. That isn’t to say he’ll never do sports again, or that he’s sick of sports. 

“After 15 years of talking about nothing but sports, if I spent any more four-hour cycles talking about it, I’d blow my head off.” 

The show may touch on a major sports story if it happens, especially in Philadelphia.

“We might talk for a couple minutes after a win or loss. But one of the reasons I wanted to do this was the diversity of topics. I have an interest in a lot of things, including pop culture. We’re going to be dealing with a full menu of topics.”

He said any time you’re talking conservative news and politics, it’s the best of both worlds. 

“You may not want to listen to some of the mainstream media, so you turn to conservative radio. You have liberals who will listen to call you on your mistakes, but I’m open to that. The same goes the other way.” 

Kayal said he won’t mind admitting if he’s wrong on the air, like some other hosts. 

“There’s going to be some guys that BS their way through everything, stick to script,” he explained. “There are times when conservatives or liberals are off base, say something I don’t agree with. I’ll call them out on that.”

Dawn Stensland will be the news anchor at the top of the hour and co-host. 

“Dawn is like the protective mom who will go to bat for you,” Kayal said. “Rich Zeoli told me that this morning and said she’d go to bat for me too.”

Kayal will have a prep sheet going into the show, but he’s not afraid to dump one thing if another is working.

“I’ll call an audible at the line of scrimmage, so to speak. I want things to be organic on the show. If people are reacting to a topic, you can always get to an item in your preparation the next day. No need to rush. You have to go hard all the way through the show, finish strong. Like every other show I’ve done. There are benchmarks you need to hit during your show. People will listen for a period of time. If they’re in the car on the way to work, they’ll hear something. Then I have to approach the next hour as though nobody has heard the news, reset on the topic like it’s the first time I’m doing it. More than likely it’s a new audience. You can’t afford to have a bad segment.”

Sure, that can be beyond stressful. But if you come in prepared, if you have an opinion, make somebody laugh, make somebody mad, you’re doing something right.

“I want listeners to get the sound of the show,” Kayal said. “You’ll tune in to hear us having an exchange, bouncing off each other. I like to think we all have an innate ability to know where something is going, but chemistry between the hosts is going to be a major thing.”

 If everyone on the show has the same vision and check our egos at the door, Kayal said they’ll have a good show. He explained a show will have great ratings periods, and there’s a chance they will fall off. But the show must always deliver the best it can. 

Kayal went to school for criminal justice and pre-law at Temple. He studied political science for about a year, then changed to pre-law during his sophomore year.  He thought he’d be a defense attorney or prosecutor. 

“Law school only lasted three months,” Kayal said. “I just knew it wasn’t for me.” 

Some of the things he learned during his undergraduate degree and stint at law school helped him craft his arguments on the air. 

“I use those skill sets and traits in a monologue or during an interview,” he said. “It taught me how to ask leading questions. We’ll talk about crime on the show. It’s really about putting on a performance. So many guys are infatuated with being right, getting ratings, and revenue. To me, it’s not all about being right. 

He’d been reading Barrett Sports Media for a long time and came across a job opening for his new station, WPHT. 

“I’d always had the desire to do political stuff,” Kayal said. “I was working for Audacy in Atlanta, so coming to Philadelphia was almost like going through a transfer portal. Going back home has been icing on the cake. The process started in January of this year. They flew me out in March, and we did a two-hour mock show off the air. They had me fill in for Rich a couple of times in April. After the third week, I could tell they were pleased, and they offered me the job in June. I had to sit on it until yesterday.”

We now know Kayal can be trusted with a secret. 

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BNM Writers

The Intersection of Radio and Politics

Anybody with a radio career longer than one rating book has witnessed a stunt or two. Stunts can be remarkably effective for calling attention to something.

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Four of the most enjoyable years of my life were spent on Capitol Hill as Communications Director for Congressman Michael R. Turner (R-OH). Mr. Turner is currently the ranking Member of the influential House Armed Services Committee. Should Republicans take back the House in November, he will likely become the committee Chairperson.

When talking to old media friends during that period, I often explained that the job wasn’t that different from broadcasting. The Congressman was like the “morning guy,” and the communications position was similar to the marketing and promotions role.

When Texas and Florida Governors Abbott and DeSantis began sending illegal immigrants, or unregistered persons for the more politically correct, from their states to Democrat strongholds, critics referred to it as a stunt. Neither of the governors seems to mind the term stunt.

Anybody with a radio career longer than one rating book has witnessed a stunt or two. Stunts can be remarkably effective for calling attention to something.

I don’t know if the “Concert for Bangladesh,” the granddaddy of benefit concerts, solved the refugee problem or if “Live-Aid” ended hunger. I am sure that these events, which were stunts when you think about them, created massive attention for important causes.

When we first put Howard Stern on WYSP-Philadelphia, we had no idea what the ratings impact would be. At the time, there was no shortage of critics who said: “it will never work.”

We couldn’t know, with certainty, whether broadcasting a show from New York would work in Philly. We were sure that doing it would get WYSP, a moribund station, a great deal of attention. At worst, it would be a “stunt.” At best, well, that’s in the history books.

Speaking of Howard, I believe Donald Trump, a regular guest on The Stern Show for approximately 20 years, ripped off “The King of All Media’s” 1980s and 90s formula to win the presidency. Think about it:

  • He never apologizes – no matter what
  • The more outrageous, the better
  • He plays to a dominantly male audience who loves and defends him
  • He does what he does for his fans
  • It’s always “us” against the world
  • He picks feuds with others and then sics his fans on the attacked
  • The only thing better than the celebrity feuds is staff in-fighting
  • His live events are huge love-fests

What else do politicians have in common with broadcasters? 

Ronald Reagan was called “The Great Communicator.” Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932. Later that year, his public career began as a WOC-AM/Davenport, Iowa sports announcer. He moved to WHO-AM/Des Moines in 1933, where he famously recreated baseball games using ticker tape reports. He went to California to cover spring training for the Cubs, which launched his Hollywood career.

Radio demands storytelling skills: The best in class in politics and radio are great storytellers. What do you know about Abraham Lincoln’s personality? He loved to tell a tale. In the opening minutes of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” the president (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) tells a couple of free Black soldiers about the travails of barbers who have cut his hair. 

In another scene at the War Department telegraph office, Lincoln offers an anecdote about Ethan Allen, prompting an incredulous Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill) to proclaim: “You’re going to tell a story! I don’t believe that I can bear to listen to another one of your stories right now.”

At his best, Joe Biden tells stories. He has always gotten confused about numbers and details, not unlike Reagan. But he effectively uses stories to make his point. That’s how he became “Scranton Joe” and why we know “Corn Pop was a bad dude.”

Positioning matters: In 1992, realizing that the recession was the top issue on voters’ minds, Bill Clinton’s campaign advisor, James Carville created the positioning statement, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton stayed on message, promising to “focus like a laser beam on the economy.”

In 2008, Barack Obama simplified his positioning to a single word: Hope, to which he added the slogan, “Yes we can!” It brilliantly captured the zeitgeist and catapulted the first-term Senator to the White House.

Focus on a few big ideas at a time: Over the years, radio programmers have learned to focus on a couple of essential things at a time. When Barack Obama took office, he had a lengthy list of items that needed attention. The economy, unemployment, bank bailouts, and U.S. auto manufacturers were in trouble. Fighting continued in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bin Laden was still hiding, and the president wanted to use his popularity to pass healthcare legislation. It was too much for the public to follow, and it appeared nothing positive was happening.

A 55% to 43% margin agreed that “since he’s taken over in the White House, Obama has tried to handle more issues than he should,” in a March 2009 CNN/Opinion Research survey.

Reagan kept his agenda simple. He wanted to make the government smaller and less intrusive. He did that through tax cuts, known as “Reaganomics.” He wanted to win the Cold War by building up the military. Everything else was secondary.

Radio is a personal medium: Air personalities have always gotten out and pressed the flesh. Many figured out early in the game to use social media to build relationships with listeners.

Bill Clinton understood the power of building connections (no pun intended). Remember the first Presidential Town Hall Debate? A voter asked the candidates (Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ross Perot) a question about how the economy (national debt) affected them personally. Clinton walked to the edge of the stage, as close to the audience as he could. Only Clinton answered in human and non-technical language in what became known as the “I feel your pain” moment. 

During the same town hall debate, Bush checked his watch. These two moments pretty much sealed the election for Clinton.

Program to your P1s: In politics, they call it “playing to your base.” Whatever your thoughts about Trump, no president has ever focused so intently on their base.

Biden ran on a “Cume” strategy. He was going to unite everybody. During the Democrat primaries, he may not have been most voters’ first choice, but he was everybody’s second choice. During the general, Biden had broader appeal. According to a Morning Consult exit poll, 44% of Biden voters said their vote was more against Trump than for Biden, compared to 22% of Trump voters who said their ballot was primarily against Joe Biden. 

The concepts behind successful radio stations and winning political campaigns are similar. During my four years on Capitol Hill, I used countless lessons learned as a program director. When I returned to radio four years later, the skills I acquired in Washington helped make me a more effective programmer.

With continuing radio “reductions in workforce,” public service provides career options. Because there’s an intersection between radio and politics, the skills are transferable. The work is rewarding, and the experiences are fantastic. 

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