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Fox News’ Todd Piro Speaks His Mind 100 Percent of the Time

“I don’t know the meaning of voice modulation,” said Todd Piro, co-host of Fox and Friends First alongside Carley Shimkus.

Jim Cryns

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The man yells in his home state of New Jersey. He is admittedly the guy who yells on his Fox morning show and probably yells in the shower.

“I don’t know the meaning of voice modulation,” said Todd Piro, co-host of Fox and Friends First alongside Carley Shimkus. “I’ve been told I have two volumes, loud and off. Carley covers her ears when I do sports highlights because that’s when I get really loud.”

When we spoke Piro was doing quite the opposite. He called while boarding a train from the city to his home, shortly after getting off the air. “I’m struggling to whisper here on the train,” Piro said, respectful of his fellow passengers.

“I speak my mind 100 percent of the time. One of the things that I think differentiates Fox talent is we’re all the same off the air as we are on the air. There are no actors here. In New Jersey, everybody is loud.” 

That could be the new state motto; Everything is Louder in Jersey.

As an Italian from New Jersey, Piro says the main way he knows how to communicate is by yelling. He said his background was tamer than some other folks from the state. 

“I didn’t grow up on the same journey as Tony and Carmela of The Sopranos,” Piro said. “Those weren’t my parents.” Curiously, Piro does have a connection to the Sopranos. 

“My best friend David Occhino, from Verona, New Jersey was the location scout on that series. I never made it to the set of the Sopranos.” Occhino was able to put his father and father-in-law in the diner in the final scene of the series.”

I forgot to ask Piro if his friend knows what truly happened to Tony and his family.  

Prior to joining Fox News, Piro was the weekday morning anchor on WVIT-TV’s NBC Connecticut Today, and also acted as a guest anchor for various NBC platforms, including Early Today, First Look and The Place for Politics

Before taking on hosting duties in broadcasting, Piro was an attorney who attended Dartmouth College, and later UCLA School of Law. Piro practiced law for five years in Los Angeles.

“I always had law school in mind,” Piro said. “I’ve heard enough people say to me if you don’t go to graduate or law school immediately after college, you might never get back there.”

He apparently heeded their advice and went to law school, specializing in litigation. Piro said when most people hear the term ‘litigation,’ they think of big-time courtroom dramas. According to Piro, his experience was much more ground-floor.

“I was a low-level grinder,” Piro said. “Every now and again I’d get into a courtroom.” Piro enjoyed the law, but apparently, he loved broadcasting more. His internships during school were all on television, with shows like Good Morning America

“I kept a lot of television relationships, which we know is a business of connections. When the time to make a choice came I was 30 years old and figured it was time to pull the trigger.”

It’s like he had two loves; television and law. Working in television was something Piro always wanted to do. He started as a three days a week reporter.

“As I recall, the whole experience was a little nerve-wracking. You think of what you’d given up to go a different route, giving up what could be considered a stable career. It’s always in the back of your mind whether you’d made the right call.” 

He’s been married to journalist Amanda Raus since 2015. Piro said it doesn’t hurt marriage longevity if you have an ample amount of humor. 

“It’s also important to not be stubborn like you were when you were your 20-year-old self,” Piro explained. “So many of those moments pop up in a marriage or life where things can go one way or another. I like to approach things from the non-stubborn.”

At home, Piro finds a minute or two to escape the grind of the daily media business. 

“Every so often on a Friday night, I’ll be feeding the girls and catch the first five minutes of Family Guy in the background. I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies. I do have a memory of the first time I watched The Big Lebowski. It was my first holiday away from my family while I was living in Los Angeles.  In all previous years, I could drive home for Thanksgiving. It was my first year in law school. A bunch of us ex-pats from the East Coast, all 22-year-old guys, put a big turkey in the oven and watched the movie.”

When he exits the studio in New York and heads for the train, Piro said it’s not like a lot of people come up to him for an autograph or say hello. 

“At the same time, in New York, people ignore everyone,” Piro explained. “That’s the deal there. Where I live I get the occasional, ‘I watch you.’ I say thank you. It’s not like I walk down the street with a lot of recognition.”

He said at times he’ll be recognized at a Big Blue BBQ Giants tailgate party.

“You go to the game, get all the booze and food you need,” Piro said. “I’m not Hannity. I’m not getting throngs of people coming up to me. My wife and I get a little competitive sometimes. Someone on the street will recognize her. I’m standing next to them thinking when are they going to recognize me?” he jokes. 

In his neighborhood, Piro said it’s 80 percent Giants fans and 20 percent Jets fans. That’s just the way it is. Piro has Giants season tickets, but it’s not just about the game. 

“I’m in Connecticut now and we have a lot of Patriot fans. Going into New York from Jersey is a trek. I grew up only 20 minutes from Giants stadium. It’s about an hour and a half to get there now from where I live. Some of my favorite memories include going to Giants games with my dad. He lost his father young and we make the extra effort to share these experiences.”

When he walks through the door at home, his eldest runs up and tackles him. As a parent, he admits to not being perfect. Piro said you know you’re going to mess up. 

“You have to make the most of each learning moment. As parents, Piro said we’re always looking at milestones, wondering where the time is going. That’s the nice thing about being an older father,” he said. “You have a little bit of a life perspective going into the parenting thing. Fatherhood was always the thing for me. If I was going to be good at anything, I wanted it to be this. I don’t know if I am good, but I’m certainly trying to be good. I always cry during the commercials when you see the father’s little girl driving away in the car for the first time.”

Piro said having children in today’s trying times can be difficult and Piro believes every generation faces challenges.

“My wife’s grandfather and his friends were sent off to war. It wasn’t something everybody wanted to do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about challenges our country faces. The current state of affairs. Crime. Things that could ostensibly be improved. We’re 31 trillion in debt and that can’t be erased. My daughters will be there when that bill comes due.”

BNM Writers

Should The News Be Minimized on The Holidays?

“I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.”

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This is not by any means a new topic of discussion but I do enjoy bringing it up and batting it around because I think it’s worthy of regular consideration and deliberation. Perhaps it deserves even just a fresh batch of whining and complaining by those of us stuck in a newsroom, in front of a camera or microphone or standing out somewhere in the cold.

There’s no debate that what we do has a level of importance that fluctuates from time to time. There are countless professions that we cannot do without for even a portion of a single day. That said, working the holidays is not unfamiliar or even a question for many people out there.

I, myself have spent most of my adult life in professions where working on Thanksgiving, Christmas, the High Holidays, Independence Day among others was just part of the job. It still amazes me how many people would react in astonishment when I declined an invitation or mentioned in conversation that I was working that day.

Like they couldn’t comprehend the possibility. Must be nice.

Now, let’s be clear about this; covering a parade or a holiday festival or religious services on a particular day is not what I’m focusing on here. Imagine the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year’s Eve or the 4th of July fireworks without reporters and crew coverage.

More people would actually have to go to these things.

No, I’m talking about regularly scheduled newscasts and field reports on these mornings, afternoons and evenings.

Why?

I don’t see it.

More specifically, who is measuring the need for this programming? I cannot identify sitting behind a desk (probably inside an office…what’s that like?) and concluding that there must be 4:00pm-6:30pm newscasts on Thanksgiving Day.

5am news on New Year’s Day is out and out sadism.

“Good morning and Happy New Year…here’s what’s happened in the twenty-three minutes since you went to bed.”

Yes, by all means, let’s open our presents with the soothing tones of morning drive news in the background or lounge in the living room after the two-ton turkey dinner and watch the daily rundown of criminal activity lovingly framed in holiday graphics.

Do people want to drive to Grandma’s house while listening to the latest in Tuesday’s home invasion- assault investigation, this morning’s hit and run fatality or the city council vote on funding a halfway house near the elementary school?

Actually, the inspiration for this semi-rant comes from a conversation I had with a woman I was speaking with about holiday getaway travel. She very innocently asked me why there is news on the holidays. “Who is watching…who is listening on a day like that?” I told her I really couldn’t say. Of course, this was someone who told me she didn’t even pick up a newspaper or peruse social media for a news update on any given holiday.

“On Christmas”, she said, “no news is good news.”

To a significant degree, I’m on board with that. I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.

This is not about those having to work although employee consideration should be part of the equation. There will always be the need to have someone in the newsroom but minimizing that requirement could never be a bad thing.

Many operations do work with reduced staff during the holidays and that’s great. Twenty-years ago the radio station group I worked for dropped most programming during the year-end holidays, simulcasting holiday music across all the stations only cutting in with station IDs, tracked greetings from staff and news updates only if necessary.

I suppose one could argue that people need to know what’s going on all the time so we are providing a necessary service but really, everything we do is on-demand whether we like it or not. Nobody is listening or watching or reading unless they make a conscious effort to do so. They have to turn the TV on and hit the channel, dial the car radio and click on the website. We have no say.

For me, somebody somewhere has to show me that there’s a need and a want for what we do on those special days and at those special times. Convince me.

In the meantime, move the turkey and stuffing closer to my side of the table and keep the cranberry sauce and yams over on your end.

And I’ll be up bright and early talking to the Black Friday shopping crowd.

Don’t get me started.

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BNM Writers

Seth Leibsohn Expected to Move to Phoenix, Didn’t Expect Radio Show

“There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air.

Jim Cryns

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We’re all made up of a unique genetic recipe. Take a graduate student of political philosophy, add a pinch of love of contemporary politics, a dash of popular culture, maybe a trumpet, and you have Seth Leibsohn.

“I was a good trumpet player in high school,” Leibsohn said. Still, that alone wasn’t enough for him to pursue it as a career, even though his parents were fine with him chasing something he enjoyed, even supportive. “Some parents try to push you into a career, but my parents never did. I thought I might be able to play the trumpet as a career, but ultimately decided I wasn’t as good as my trumpet heroes. I’ve heard golfers have hung it up in a similar way.”

Quoting Del Griffith in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, ‘The finest line a man’ll walk is between success at work and success at home.’ To be truly happy you’ve got to have both. Seth Leibsohn couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t know many people who are thrilled with what they do for a living,” Leibsohn continued. “I believe you work to pay bills, not for life satisfaction. Billy Joel said there is no magic secret and everybody has happiness within themselves. If you’re truly happy with what you do, you have it all beat.”

The Seth Leibsohn Show airs live on KKNT 960 The Patriot in Phoenix from 3:00-6:00 PM weekdays. Then the show is replayed as a podcast. “The podcast is essentially the show I do,” Leibsohn said. “It’s fun. I never thought I’d be on the radio. I started in D.C. with a national show with Bill Bennett, The Bill Bennett Show, as co-host and guest host.”

You may recall Bennett was appointed the drug czar in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush.  Bennett still does a podcast and Leibsohn appears as a guest about once a month. He was Bennett’s chief of staff for many years.

Leibsohn decided to move back to Phoenix in 2011 to take care of his parents.

“After I arrived I was approached to host my own show,” he said. “I like that it doesn’t have to be relegated to a local audience. I get calls from Texas, Chicago, Ukraine. Leibsohn describes himself as a ‘different’ radio host, “I started in academia,” he explained. “There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air. The show is a vital seminar, with a bigger classroom.”

Leibsohn works hard on the show as he doesn’t have a producer. “I have to find my own guests, which I average about one each day. Television show hosts don’t have to track down and book their own guests. I start reading from the moment I wake up, searching for something interesting, a guest that can provide some insight to a topic.”

He’s long been a staunch advocate against the legalization of marijuana. He headed the group ‘Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy’, which was instrumental in preventing the legalization of marijuana in Arizona. He has co-authored several articles with Bennett regarding the dangers of marijuana, which was picked up by numerous newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and The Tampa Tribune.

Doing whatever he can to rid the streets of drugs and the pollution of our children is essentially what make’s Libsohn tick. It may be more accurate to say it drives him.

When talking about ridding streets of drugs throughout the country, I was impressed that Leibsohn wasn’t hypocritical. He said he wasn’t above having a good time with friends in college, but recognized there was a time to stop.

“I partied with the best of them,” he said. “Then I saw four of my best friends, who were both far smarter than me academically, ultimately fail in their lives. They just couldn’t give up the partying and substances and succumbed to a lot of drug use.”

Another bolt of realization about the destruction of drugs for Leibsohn stems from his sister struggling with substances her entire life. “I guess I had more of a vector about what it could do to you. Drugs cause so many problems in our society. It’s an ongoing battle to protect our children.”

Working on reducing substance abuse in America has long been a passion for Leibsohn. Working with Bennett helped fuel that desire. Leibsohn spent time working for the Higher America initiative with Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Never a fan of Hilary Clinton, Leibsohn said he agrees with the former First Lady on one thing.

“Hilary said Mexico is a problem regarding illegal drugs, but if the citizens of America didn’t want the drugs, it would be a problem. People want this crud. Since we lost the anti-drug messaging system in America, the problems have spiraled out of control.”

Remember the old ad, ‘This is your brains on drugs?’ That’s the messaging Leibsohn is talking about. Leibsohn said when Bennett was drug czar, 10,000 Americans were dying each year. Since then the death toll has increased 1,000 percent.

“We reduced drug use by 65 percent in 1992,” Leibsohn said. “I attribute that to the messaging. It was hugely important. We embedded the anti-drug message at the movies, in schools, there was a Hollywood sobriety chic. We did for drugs what mothers did for drunk driving.”

Leibsohn cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he wrote, ‘Human desires increase with their means of gratification.’

“The narration in the television show Narco opens with the narrator talking about cocaine. He said they had a supply problem keeping up with the demand for the drug in Miami.”

Leibsohn intended to run for Congress in 2018, but his staff screwed-the-pooch.

“My campaign management didn’t get enough signatures,” Leibsohn said. “I made sure everyone who contributed to my campaign got their money back.” He said he has no biting need to run for office again.

Our conversation swerved into another contentious topic–immigration from Mexico. Leibsohn said our immigration problem is currently out of control.

“There are a lot of reasons for the problem,” he said. “I don’t think there’s one single answer or solution. I do know we’re giving billions of dollars annually to illegal immigrants. When the monthly numbers come out regarding the prison population in Arizona, the illegal immigrants count for a huge portion of those criminals.”

He said there have been good examples of cleaning up cities, like New York. “There are things that work,” Leibsohn explained. “We have to replicate those efforts and dump the things that don’t work. Indianapolis is another city that turned things around. There are theories that work when applied.”

Leibsohn spoke of disparate impact, when policies and rules have a disproportionate impact on a particular group.

“I think a lot of Left-wing prosecutors abhor statistics of racial minorities. In effect they turn a blind eye, a deaf ear when it comes to crime. I had hoped by now we could get beyond race, see policies enacted in my lifetime.”

We also talked about what constitutes American conservatism, which is delineated by low taxes, free markets, deregulation, privatization, and reduced government spending and government debt. Leibsohn thinks the definition of American Conservatism is more nebulous than that.

“I think American Conservatism has never had a good definition,” he said. “Perhaps the most prominent recent conservative was William F. Buckley Jr. He never wrote a book on American Conservatism as he said it was too diverse.”

Regarding pinpointing what American Conservatism actually is, Leibsohn said it’s really clay in the hands of those you ask. “Some say it’s a group that believes in limited government,” he explained. “There are some who will fold religious beliefs into that, some may add sociology.”

He said throughout his life, he’s always been in search of discovering the meaning.

“In Buckleys’ National Review Magazine, he debated this all the time,” Leibsohn explained. “He had always been in search of the meaning. In his magazine, Buckley debated this all the time. In my own view it should be a movement based on America’s founding fathers ethos–equity and liberty. There’s not a lot of agreement on these things today.”

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BNM Writers

Producers Podcast: Andrew Marsh, 101 ESPN

Brady Farkas

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Andrew Marsh of 101 ESPN in St. Louis details the unorthodox background that has helped him thrive in the producer’s chair for The Fast Lane.

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