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Jason DeRusha Has Brought His TV Experience to Radio

DeRusha said he’s always loved doing television news. It wasn’t as though he was fed up and wanted a change. In fact, he said he had incredible freedom to be himself on television.

Jim Cryns

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Sure, it was a little cringe-worthy, but the sentiment was in the right place. 

When WCCO Television said “goodbye” to longtime television personality Jason DeRusha after 19 years, they brought in a guy and a piano into the studio. The musician lodged DeRusha’s name into the lyrics of a couple of songs. For instance, on “Let it Be” by The Beatles, the revised lyrics included “When I find myself in times of trouble, Jason DeRusha comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

I’m from the Midwest and I know that was a sincere form of flattery and love, albeit a little mawkish.

WCCO’s DeRusha jumped to television in June of this year. Four days later and six city blocks from the WCCO TV headquarters, DeRusha flicked on the microphone inside the WCCO-AM 830, which airs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. 

DeRusha said he’s always loved doing television news. It wasn’t as though he was fed up and wanted a change. In fact, he said he had incredible freedom to be himself on television. 

“I reported on what I wanted to,” DeRusha said. “The move to radio was very much about opening doors at what I’d consider a midpoint of my career. This was an opportunity to learn new things, explore a different medium.”

DeRusha grew up in Des Plaines in suburban Chicago. He attended Maine West High School and rocked 8.9 watts on an FM station. “In high school we had WMTH and did a lot of play by play. This was before the Comcast’s of the world.”

He went on to study journalism at Marquette University, about an hour north of his hometown. “I knew from a very young age I was looking for a school where I could get a great education with a broadcast program. At Marquette, I didn’t have to sit around to get involved.” 

A self-described nerd in college, he said he wasn’t the life of a party. Wasn’t a lot of fun. “I used to fill in on an easy-listening station but never told my friends.”

His relationship with WCCO has outlasted most marriages.  DeRusha started as a featured guest with Chad Hartman.

“I’d been filling in on shows for 10 years,” DeRusha explained. “This year during my first full-time week, I realized how different this was going to be from filling in. It’s one thing to do two shows a month, and quite another to do five shows a week. I now have creativity to talk about different issues and have fun. All that while still engaging with our audience.”

DeRusha said fans have expressed how different it feels in how he delivers stories. He said they’re taken aback by how he used to read a story on television versus ‘experiencing’ it more on the radio. 

“As a news anchor you don’t get to say as much as you feel as you’re always trying to get to traffic and weather,” DeRusha said. “Viewers said they felt I always had more to say than I was able to. Now I have that opportunity. It frees you up, a different way of thinking. The free-thinking allows you to make good talk segments that are different.”

On the radio, DeRusha will talk about ongoing stories, crime and some court cases, the same as he would on television. He explained topics covered on television will sometimes make a good transition to radio; other times they won’t. 

“I’ve always been a believer that life is the ultimate prep for morning and TV and talk radio,” DeRusha said. “Things I say must resonate with the audience, it must be a similar experience.”

He said in the past he was hyper-focused on local news and stories. But there are times we might want to talk about national issues.  He said his show and WCCO are a ‘full-service’ radio station. 

“We invite everyone to the table,” DeRusha said. “I’m not coming at you from the Right or Left. I may say something one side hates, then vice versa. I’m going to have strong opinions. If you disagree with me you might convince me of something. I’ve had callers make such a good case it forced me to rethink my stance. There’s nothing better than that as host. To recognize when you may have been seeing something in the wrong context. Listeners bring things to the table I hadn’t thought of. Or caused me to look at a topic in the way they described.”

 DeRusha said empathy for both sides of an opinion is critical 

“My whole career has been about bringing people together. Making them a little smarter than they were before. We want to laugh and have some fun. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I’m not going to come out being an absolute firebreather.”

Prior to DeRusha transitioning to radio, he’d heard horror stories about brand managers trying to micromanage the newbie. The boss walking them step by step through each segment. He said that hasn’t happened. 

“Brad Lane has been incredible with me,” DeRusha said. “He’s been a wonderful coach. He knew I was figuring out a new medium. He never tried to say, ‘look, if you took this position, the phones would light up.’ The whole process for our show is figuring out what my authentic take might be. Is it one of my interests or a curiosity?”

 DeRusha said he wouldn’t have taken this job if he thought they were going to push and mold him into a ‘personality,’ or to take a stance on a certain position. 

He said it has been a real joy they have not tried to coach him into amping up stories and issues. 

That kind of pseudo effort reeks of insecurity and the audience knows it when they smell it. 

“They hired me because they knew me and my work,” DeRusha said. “Audiences here know me too. If I’d come on the air as a different person, I think the whole thing would fall apart. On TV people can spot a phony. On radio it’s more acute and obvious.”

 DeRusha said he’s observed as other people have transitioned to radio from talk, and took a few notes along the way. He said his afternoon show is a drastically different approach than he’d take in the mornings. 

“I don’t have fifteen guests and we aren’t overloaded with news reports,” DeRusha said. “It’s more lifestyle, politics. In the afternoons, you have the chance to breathe on the air. Especially since I started off during a political season, I could have felt very constrained.”

DeRusha is a well-known food critic in Minneapolis, a regular contributor to Minnesota Monthly. “I started reviewing suburban restaurants around Minneapolis,” he said. DeRusha was a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for his TV work covering food. The publication had a restaurant critic, but that person was being spread thin. 

“The critic had a catalog that was huge and had trouble hitting all the new places,” DeRusha explained. He added it’s hard when a regular critic is reviewing a Michelin Star restaurant and then rushes  downtown to review a hoagie stand. There’s a bit of a cultural difference and it’s perhaps best to keep them separate.

DeRusha said he isn’t like Anton Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille. He’s not trying to put the hurt on a restaurant, scribbling disparaging thoughts in his notebook, describing how a health-hazardous rat just prepared his meal. Instead, he takes more of an illuminating approach. 

“I brought a journalist’s approach to food writing,” DeRusha said. “I ask a lot of questions. 

When he arrives at a restaurant, DeRusha said most of the young employees at the restaurant don’t see him as Anton Ego. However, the older managers may get a little bit of a heart palpitation when they see the critic at a table. “My wife laughs,” DeRusha said. “She can identify the point I’ve been ‘discovered’ as the food critic. I bring in a lot of other food writers, chefs, writers,” De Rusha adds. “I love the fact they get to talk about what they’re doing. Talk about issues they’re passionate about.”

On the radio, DeRusha said you can give things a try. See if something sticks. 

“That’s the beauty of this job,” he explained. “You give it a try and see if something works. If it doesn’t, so be it. The first six months have been a lot of experimenting. People have responded to things I’m passionate about. When I started filling in on talk, I realized it was important to ask the right questions to get a reaction. Now listeners want andexpect me to react.”

The host is the conduit, and at times the focal point. It’s a different rhythm in radio; telling a story, setting up the conflict, accentuating the rising action, revealing the decision point and result. In radio, you can start at the end and work your way back in a story. In television it’s the opposite. 

“You have lots of different tools in your belt,” DeRusha said. “Different techniques for various stories. When I’m on the air I think about how I used to listen. I have two teenagers. I used to spend the afternoon drive in the car listening to the show While driving one kid to practice and picking the other up from school. I often think about being the listener in that moment.”

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Corporate Radio Will Never Learn Job Cuts Aren’t the Key to Profitability

In most corporate settings, business ventures, and other fields of play, when the team is taking hit after hit and not recovering or regaining any ground, it’s time for an overhaul.

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Audacy Logo

There comes a point in time, sadly, when a self-labeled News/Talk radio station forfeits the right to describe itself as such. That generally happens when you are providing no or at least so very little actual news product that you should just call yourself a Talk station and move on.

That concept is starting to climb the staircase to reality again thanks to last week’s developments in the ever-struggling world of broadcast media.

I was hoping to go at least six months without having to say the words Audacy or layoffs. No such luck. In fact, I get to put the two words together.

This is a company with well over 200 stations, covering nearly 50 markets across the country. What are they best known for in the last five years by my observations?

Failure.

An Audacy spokesman says the company is reducing its workforce by “less than 2%”.

Yeah okay, so that’s supposed to make us feel better somehow? That works out to nearly 100 people. All in the effort to try and reduce Audacy’s almost $2 billion in debt.

Bankruptcy and delisting weren’t enough, apparently.

In the spirit of full transparency, I worked under the Entercom and Audacy banners on two separate occasions, some 20 years apart. It seems under the old name — and prior leadership — things fared more than a tad better. Read into that what you will.

I’m no business person but I can read and I do have the ability to form the occasional coherent thought every once in a while. So, based upon what I’ve observed over the past quarter century, perhaps there’s some merit to the saying, “Bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

In most corporate settings, business ventures, and other fields of play, when the team is taking hit after hit and not recovering or regaining any ground, it’s time for an overhaul.

My dad ran a restaurant for several years and during that time he faced challenges, man-made and otherwise. And while he was no Wolfgang Puck or Toots Shor, never once did he think of adding me to the mix to try and improve the product or the business environment. Not everybody is a chip off the old block as no doubt everyone in radio has seen by now.

Interestingly, the company has once again made major cuts as it continues to tell us the focus and priorities are on streaming, podcasting, and the website. Laudable efforts, I suppose, but if you so decimate your core product there will be no platform left where you can promote all of these fabulous ventures, or more accurately there will be no audience to inform. I would think this is something a sharp or even moderately competent business person might recognize.

But the fact of the matter is no matter what you say or do, you are a radio station first. And to promote your podcasts and your website, there has to be something to listen to on your station.

These are the things that a sharp or even moderately competent businessperson might recognize.

At some point, there has to be a come about if there is to be much left at all for the radio lobbyists to fight for. The very essence of the radio product is what disappears when these slashes occur, and the voices, the names, and the people creating the content disappear. Somehow, those making the poor decisions, the individuals executing the wrong moves, or even more accurately, no moves at all, remain.

Those overseeing the poor decision-makers are themselves poor decision-makers. The proof is in the end result. Could single ownership of stations do any worse? Perhaps it’s time for the Titanic to cast off the lifeboats before they hit the really big iceberg that’s inevitably coming. They’ve hit enough of the smaller ones and perhaps at least a few of those in the lifeboats stand a chance.

I for one would give a station owned by a guy named Morty a listen or two. WKRP didn’t do too badly under the Carlson family.

In any case, if you have not surveyed the latest damage: major markets got hit, again, with this latest round of layoffs.

Just after launching their dedicated sports brand, Audacy made cuts in Pittsburgh, Boston, Hartford, and New York.

I’m guessing those now part of the new sports portfolio are overwhelmed with confidence.

Oh, and did I say Hartford?

Yes, two people I sat across from just a couple of years ago at Audacy were shown the door. Sad on a personal level and mind-numbing from a business angle as it leaves us to wonder exactly how low they can go before the station offers no news value at all to the market. Doesn’t leave much else to choose from either.

But after all, it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.

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BNM Writers

Corporate Radio Will Never Learn Job Cuts Aren’t the Key to Profitability

In most corporate settings, business ventures, and other fields of play, when the team is taking hit after hit and not recovering or regaining any ground, it’s time for an overhaul.

Avatar photo

Published

on

Audacy Logo

There comes a point in time, sadly, when a self-labeled News/Talk radio station forfeits the right to describe itself as such. That generally happens when you are providing no or at least so very little actual news product that you should just call yourself a Talk station and move on.

That concept is starting to climb the staircase to reality again thanks to last week’s developments in the ever-struggling world of broadcast media.

I was hoping to go at least six months without having to say the words Audacy or layoffs. No such luck. In fact, I get to put the two words together.

This is a company with well over 200 stations, covering nearly 50 markets across the country. What are they best known for in the last five years by my observations?

Failure.

An Audacy spokesman says the company is reducing its workforce by “less than 2%”.

Yeah okay, so that’s supposed to make us feel better somehow? That works out to nearly 100 people. All in the effort to try and reduce Audacy’s almost $2 billion in debt.

Bankruptcy and delisting weren’t enough, apparently.

In the spirit of full transparency, I worked under the Entercom and Audacy banners on two separate occasions, some 20 years apart. It seems under the old name — and prior leadership — things fared more than a tad better. Read into that what you will.

I’m no business person but I can read and I do have the ability to form the occasional coherent thought every once in a while. So, based upon what I’ve observed over the past quarter century, perhaps there’s some merit to the saying, “Bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

In most corporate settings, business ventures, and other fields of play, when the team is taking hit after hit and not recovering or regaining any ground, it’s time for an overhaul.

My dad ran a restaurant for several years and during that time he faced challenges, man-made and otherwise. And while he was no Wolfgang Puck or Toots Shor, never once did he think of adding me to the mix to try and improve the product or the business environment. Not everybody is a chip off the old block as no doubt everyone in radio has seen by now.

Interestingly, the company has once again made major cuts as it continues to tell us the focus and priorities are on streaming, podcasting, and the website. Laudable efforts, I suppose, but if you so decimate your core product there will be no platform left where you can promote all of these fabulous ventures, or more accurately there will be no audience to inform. I would think this is something a sharp or even moderately competent business person might recognize.

But the fact of the matter is no matter what you say or do, you are a radio station first. And to promote your podcasts and your website, there has to be something to listen to on your station.

These are the things that a sharp or even moderately competent businessperson might recognize.

At some point, there has to be a come about if there is to be much left at all for the radio lobbyists to fight for. The very essence of the radio product is what disappears when these slashes occur, and the voices, the names, and the people creating the content disappear. Somehow, those making the poor decisions, the individuals executing the wrong moves, or even more accurately, no moves at all, remain.

Those overseeing the poor decision-makers are themselves poor decision-makers. The proof is in the end result. Could single ownership of stations do any worse? Perhaps it’s time for the Titanic to cast off the lifeboats before they hit the really big iceberg that’s inevitably coming. They’ve hit enough of the smaller ones and perhaps at least a few of those in the lifeboats stand a chance.

I for one would give a station owned by a guy named Morty a listen or two. WKRP didn’t do too badly under the Carlson family.

In any case, if you have not surveyed the latest damage: major markets got hit, again, with this latest round of layoffs.

Just after launching their dedicated sports brand, Audacy made cuts in Pittsburgh, Boston, Hartford, and New York.

I’m guessing those now part of the new sports portfolio are overwhelmed with confidence.

Oh, and did I say Hartford?

Yes, two people I sat across from just a couple of years ago at Audacy were shown the door. Sad on a personal level and mind-numbing from a business angle as it leaves us to wonder exactly how low they can go before the station offers no news value at all to the market. Doesn’t leave much else to choose from either.

But after all, it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.

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BNM Writers

Does Conservative Media Secretly Want a Second Term for President Biden?

The evidence — from recent polling — suggests he could be a one-and-done president. But that doesn’t mean many in television, radio, and online media business don’t want him back for another go-round.

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A photo of President Joe Biden
(Photo: Gage Skidmore, C.C. 2.0)

Many of the biggest names in conservative media secretly want President Biden to win again in November. 

Sure, the evidence — from recent polling — suggests he could be a one-and-done president. But that doesn’t mean many in television, radio, and online media business don’t want him back for another go-round. Simply put, Biden’s material makes captivating and shocking television. 

Take, for example, podcast host Megyn Kelly and guests last week, who had a rip-roaring good time discussing President Joe Biden’s latest teleprompter gaffe, in which he read a word that was meant to tell him what to do.

“Here he was yesterday, speaking in front of members of North America’s Building Trades Unions in Washington D.C. It was such a simple assignment. It was so simple. Here’s how it went,” Kelly said as she began the segment with Josh Hammer, host of America on Trial with Josh Hammer, and Sara Gonzales, host of Sara Gonzales Unfiltered

Kelly then played a clip of the Democrat President.

“Imagine what we can do next. Four more years. Pause,” Biden said, as the crowd began the “four more years” chant.

“Oh my God,” Kelly interjected, suppressing the laughter. “Four more years….pause. Pause. And when the White House transcription guy, God love this poor slob, who knows what he’s had to go through. They changed it to ‘unintelligible.’ They refused to write ‘pause.‘ Sir, we know what it was. It was very clear. He said ‘pause.’ He embarrassed himself again and he cannot be saved by the White House transcription guy! Sara, I will start with you on it. I really think this is the kind of thing that will horrify and stick.”

“I agree. I mean, look. We have watched gaffe after gaffe after gaffe with Joe Biden throughout these three and a half years. And even I, as critical as I am about Joe Biden and as aware as I am that this is basically a Weekend at Bernies presidency, even I was like, I still cannot believe this happened,” Gonzales said. “I saw it yesterday afternoon and even in the evening I’m like, I still cannot believe what I just watched here. This man has been in public service for what, forty, fifty years and he still cannot read a teleprompter? It’s because he’s not here.”

As conservative media personalities, Kelly, Hammer, and Gonzales know how to read from a teleprompter. Even media newbies know this.

The trio then watched the clip again, and again shook their heads in disbelief.

“It also can’t be lost on everyone that the four more years chant was clearly, completely staged, because they wanted him to pause,” Gonzales said. “Because they couldn’t trust the audience to be that enthusiastic. They had to map it all out. Unfortunately, they overestimated Joe Biden’s ability to read from a teleprompter, which I’m sure we’ve all read from. It’s very clear when they want you to pause. It’s written differently in the prompter. There’s no reason for him to make this mistake, other than the fact that the man is half dead.”

The title of Kelly’s program episode read, Why Joe Biden’s Massive “Pause” Gaffe Could Lose Him the Election, and she made the point repeatedly that Biden’s continuous mistakes simply reinforce the narrative that he is not up to the job of being president. She went on to play a few other clips of Biden similarly reading the instructions from the teleprompter during written speeches. 

“Megyn, I’m really happy you mentioned what the White House transcriber reproduced this as, because what that actually reminded me of was that viral moment from the NASCAR race two and a half years ago. Where the crowd starts chanting F Joe Biden, and they’re like, they’re saying Let’s Go Brandon. That was a Let’s Go Brandon moment in a nutshell right there,” Hammer said, alluding to the depths the media has gone to protect the Democrat. “And I think you both are right that things like this are actually going to matter.”

Hammer continued, saying that these occurrences are nothing new.

“I think it’s worth pointing out that Joe Biden has been a gaffe machine for the entirety of his political career. He’s palpably senile at this point. It’s not a fun thing to say. I have a 94-year-old grandmother. I mean, these things are difficult. I mean, it’s not fun to discuss. But he obviously is senile,” Hammer said. “But that can’t necessarily hide the fact that he’s been a genuine gaffe machine since the moment he first set foot in Washington, D.C. back in the 1970’s.”

Certainly, if it weren’t so serious and dangerous, it would be even funnier.

“This is a major issue insofar as you look around the world, Megyn. I don’t need to be the one to tell you. You cover it every day. But the world is on fire right now,” Hammer added. “The universities are on fire. All of our enemies are looking at this stuff. Shi Jin Ping, Vladimir Putin, they’re kicking their feet up on the table and they are getting a bigger laugh out of it than the three of us just got on your show.”

Kelly finished the segment by playing a segment from the movie, Anchorman, in which Ron Burgundy pulled a Joe Biden and embarrassed himself by reading verbatim from a teleprompter.

“It’s Bernie Burgundy,” Kelly laughed. “It’s so funny to me.”

Conservative media knows Joe Biden is probably toast in this November’s election. The mainstream, liberal media knows it too.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t secretly, and selfishly, want another round of material, with which they can shock and entertain audiences for four more years.

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