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Annie Frey Balances Family Life With Career in News Radio

Frey hosts the eponymous “The Annie Frey Show” on Fox News Radio station, 97.1FM Talk. Between her family and her job, she’s a busy woman.

Jim Cryns

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Annie Frey relayed a great deal of information in the relatively brief time we spent together. She speaks quickly and lands her thoughts expeditiously. Perhaps that’s because, with four children, you find it hard to get a word in edgewise. She ensured her kids could play doubles tennis when the fourth child showed up last year.

“My daughter Molly Marie was born 16 months ago,” Frey said. “She’s a typical fourth child. She’s independent, curious, a take-along baby. I’m not totally sure what that means.”

That makes two of us. 

Frey hosts the eponymous The Annie Frey Show on Fox News Radio station, 97.1FM Talk. Between her family and her job, she’s a busy woman. 

“My husband and I used to sit and stare at the first child, wondering how we were going to navigate it all. When the fourth one comes along, you have a totally different mindset. It’s a bit more autopilot.”

Frey said it’s challenging to be a parent, and difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on in the kids’ lives.

“That’s the difficult part right now, juggling it all. And it’s all happening right during the difficult and silly political season.”

It has been said if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. Frey has a family, a job, and coaches volleyball. However, if something has to give, her family will always come first. 

“The one thing that people always tell me is the time with your kids goes really fast,” Frey said. “The other phrase is days are long, years are short. Here I am physically trying to keep my eyes open from exhaustion, and then in a blink of those eyes, it will all be over.”

Frey said her number one priority is to be there, and be present in the kids’ lives.

“You can’t always stop the world from hurting them,” she said. “But you have to help create resilient human beings. Let them know they will always have a mother and father that will be there for them. Make it so they don’t really need you anymore.”

She said her 12-year-old is just too mature for her age, an old soul. 

“She’s just entering that age where she’s starting to get the jokes, contribute to a conversation. That’s kind of a cool thing. You couldn’t imagine things like that happening when they were super little. What am I going to do when she starts driving a car?”

Frey was born in Edwardsville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. A mere 22 minutes from downtown. She grew up on a generational farm, raised in the same house in which her grandfather was born. 

“There’s a treeline on the western horizon of our property where we can see the Gateway Arch, see fireworks. I always say I’m an Illinoisan in the shadow of the Arch.”

Frey began her radio career as an intern at KFNS, the same time our own Jason Barrett was program director. 

“I grew up listening to Frank Cusumano on KFNS. He is one of the best storytellers, bar none,” Frey said. “I started interning on his show coming out of college. I was such small peanuts. I loved working with Frank. I did have a lot of responsibility and had the chance to do meaningful things.”

The internship was unpaid, but that didn’t seem to bother Frey. 

“I just loved radio. I got a call when I was in Peoria for a volleyball tournament, and it was the station asking if I’d like to extend the internship–still unpaid. Of course, I said ‘yes.’”

Welcome to radio. 

By this time she was living in Hamel, Illinois, and would drive 55 miles to and from the station every day. She finally started making minimum wage. Still, it was all worth it.

“I got to work with some great people,” Frey said. “I didn’t have health benefits, but I was working a real job in the industry. In radio, you have to go where the jobs are.”

She studied communications and broadcasting at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, with aspirations of becoming a sports sideline reporter. Frey said while working at KFNS she made some good connections. While sideline reporting was her goal, she recognized something else was calling. 

“I steered away from that goal,” Frey said. “All of these sporting events I would cover required nights and weekends. What I really wanted was a family of six. (Only two more kids to go.) I wanted to be successful with a family, not spend all my time at a meaningless sports game.”

Frey is a true sports lover, evidenced by her being a four-sport athlete in high school. She played volleyball, basketball, softball, and ran track. 

“Sports was always my passion,” Frey explained. “In the summer of 08, all I was talking about on the air was Barry Bonds, whether his home runs would stand up. It was then I realized I didn’t care enough about topics like that to make sports my life. I guess it was some sort of disconnect. Now I’m involved in news and politics. I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, you should have a heart and head for what’s going on.”

Frey still loves sports, but now it’s all about the heart, not a cerebral endeavor. She said sports is a business driven by success. 

“What entertains sells,” Frey said. “You never really want to know how sausage is made. You almost don’t want to be too close to something where you end up losing the passion. I didn’t want to do the barstool sports thing. There was a specific role on the radio for female voices back then that wasn’t for me.”

Frey said it’s different with politics. She can plead her case with more meaning. It was a huge transformation from sports to politics, but Frey admits she had the right personality.

“I’m a nerd,” she said. “I was raised to be a nerd.” 

While at KFNS, Frey contributed very little on the air with no real ambition to be behind the microphone. 

“I was interested in traffic, loading PSA’s and commercials. I did some weather and business office stuff,” Frey explained. “I did scheduling for producers and part-timers. The last thing I took on was digital responsibility.”

Frey said the digital world now compared to 2008 is a light-year of difference.

“People wouldn’t recognize what managing a website was back then. It was almost primitive.”

Frey said she’s incredibly blessed to be surrounded by family, close to her family’s original home. 

“All four of my grandparents were a big part of my life,” Frey said. “My paternal grandfather was stationed in the South Pacific in WWII. He met his wife, my grandmother, in Australia. They’d only known each other for a few months when they married. He sent her to the United States. She sailed to the West Coast, arrived in Union Station in St. Louis, and lived with my grandfather’s family.”

Frey said everyone assumed her freshly married grandmother was expecting a child, but that wasn’t the case. Her grandfather was a Captain in the Army. He drew maps of farms in Illinois. When he went into the army, his skills transferred to being a topographer during his service.

“My grandparents were influential in my life. They have a strong Christian faith. I use them as a guide to prioritize my life.” 

As a kid, Frey listened to KMOX, which she said was on nearly all kitchen radios. 

“Rush Limbaugh was on. I knew who he was at a young age. But then he was just another voice in the kitchen.” 

Frey’s father was also in the radio business, spending 30 years in the St. Louis market. He did some on-air work and spent time as a program director. 

“It was KFUO AM, a Lutheran radio station,” Frey explained. “I’m sure that was a contributing factor in my own radio dreams. He hosted a radio show, Ask The Pastor. They would discuss biblical concepts, take calls to answer questions.”

Her father taught her to listen and learn from his mistakes. 

“He’d always tell me about having a listener-centric program,” Frey said. “There are a lot of people who have massive egos behind the microphone. He said you had to control the ego. He’d tell me, regardless of how bright and brilliant a person may be if somebody listening doesn’t think you’re serving them. That’s a critical mistake. My dad instilled that in me. Be humble.”

She said she enjoyed spending time in radio stations when her father was working. 

“All of a sudden I realized not everybody’s dad worked in radio. He’s a great man of faith. His work helped him refine his faith. He helped people with complicated issues. I always thought he was cool to be on the radio.” 

Frey observed how kindness, patience, and acceptance in our society are in incredibly short supply between people. 

“I’m a white, suburban, minivan-driving woman. People think they could probably determine who I vote for–but they’d be wrong. Everybody has their own unique mind. Value comes from who we are on the inside, not the outside.

On her show, Frey said she doesn’t call people names. She doesn’t want to hear someone is bad because of the way they wear their hair, or what they wear. 

“I always want to keep it about substance, not surface. I don’t want them to tune into my show to find out how ‘their side’ won today. I want them to listen, stay informed. I don’t want the clenched cheeks, blood pressures going up. Just exhale, let things out. Most people who listen to me are like-minded. They say, ‘I listen to your show. You’re willing to have the conversations.”

That’s easier when the four kids are at home.

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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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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