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In Case of Emergency Break Glass – Keeping AM/FM Radio on Every Vehicle’s Dashboard

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles.

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During the Jacobs’ Media CES webinar the other day, Fred and Paul Jacobs reminded participants that AM/FM radio may not be a standard feature in automobile dashboards of the future. The day may come when consumers have to add broadcast radio as an option and pay to have it in their vehicles. If it happens, it would be a disaster for broadcasters and the public during an emergency. 

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles. Manufacturers and political leaders must understand that keeping AM/FM radio in vehicles is a matter of national security. 

By keeping broadcast radio free and standard in all vehicles, manufacturers will ensure that radio has the distribution to maintain the extraordinary reach it has enjoyed for decades. 

Broadcasters need to help bolster the case by doing the two things radio does best: Local and immediate. If broadcasters fail to deliver on these two promises, the case for keeping AM/FM radio standards in dashboards becomes less persuasive.

Thinking about the need for radio to be local and immediate reminded me of an event when I was Operations Manager of WCCO-AM, Minneapolis. 

Late one night, over a hot holiday weekend during the summer of 2018, I received a phone call from producer Sheletta Bundidge. She learned that protesters were assembling in the community. A few days earlier, the Minneapolis Police had shot and killed an African American man named Thurman Blevins. 

We had a quandary because although WCCO is the news radio station in the Twin Cities, there was nobody in the newsroom to cover the growing protest because of personnel cuts. After rearranging schedules, somebody else covered her producer’s shift, and Sheletta covered the growing gathering from the host chair. 

The outcry against the shooting of Thurman Blevins turned out to be a harbinger of what would come two years later when protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer created the most significant changes in race relations in over a generation.

That night in 2018 demonstrated Bundidge’s alertness and tenacity. She earned an expanded role at WCCO-AM and was named one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year from Minnesota in 2022.

Another situation, just a couple hours after the Jacobs webinar, portends the promise and perils facing radio managers. Two-time Rock Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby passed away at age 81. 

The first alert I received was from TMZ at 5:18 ET. Other news services may have broken the story sooner, but most of the notifications I received came about a half hour after TMZ.

I wondered how long it would take for the local Classic Rock station to play CSN(Y) or any form of his music. It was disappointing when it didn’t play any until an hour later. 

In fairness, most Classic Rock stations have stopped playing CSN(Y) and haven’t for several years. The music fits better with Classic Hits today. However, Crosby’s image is more consistent with Classic Rock and the musicologist air personalities the format features. 

I examined music logs for stations in Mediabase’s Classic Rock panel in the top 15 markets. Three stations played CSN(Y) within five minutes of the news of Crosby’s death:  KGLK/Houston, WSRV/Atlanta, and KSLX/Phoenix. WDRV/Chicago responded within 15 minutes, and several others within the half hour.

I spoke with David Moore, Operations Manager, Brand, and Content Director for 100.7 KSLX, 93.3 KDKB, and Oldies 92.7 KAZG, about getting information about the passing of legendary musicians like Crosby on the air quickly. (Full disclosure: Moore and I have known each other for many years). 

Moore said, “I’m obsessive about stuff like this. When a legendary rocker dies, people will tune into the Classic Rock Station. It’s an opportunity. We have to be at our best. We’re live here most of the time, and somebody can get in quickly.” Moore credited his staff: Mark NeanderPaul mornings and Karen Dalessandro in the afternoons. While they run Alice Cooper’s syndicated show at night, Moore points out that Cooper lives there, “so he’s local.” Moore said he learned the news from Steve Goddard, from the cluster’s Oldies station and that they pushed the information out on their dedicated station apps for both stations.

Moore recognizes that this is what radio has to do for survival. “This is where people go when this stuff happens. Even somebody who isn’t a hardcore Classic Rock fan will tune in when a cultural icon passes away.” Moore adds, “Spotify can’t do what we can. SiriusXM will, at best, take a while, and it still can’t talk about when the artist was here (Phoenix, AZ).”

A few stations didn’t play Crosby’s music at all. It’s unclear if it was a conscious decision because he is no longer relevant on their station, if nobody was there, or if nobody could add songs not already in the library (which I suspect was the case on at least a couple of stations).

Several stations took a few hours and played CSN(Y) later in the evening. One took until 7 am the following morning, suggesting the day had already been voice tracked.

KSLX was one of several stations that reacted immediately and locally. Kudos to the programmers and jocks that promptly brought the information about Crosby to their audience. 

Although Crosby’s death wasn’t an emergency, it is instructive to show why AM/FM radio must remain standard in vehicles. In an emergency, stations must react quickly. Reacting to Crosby’s death shows that your audience can count on your station in a crisis.

Radio’s challenges continue to increase. Maintaining a place as a standard feature on the dashboard of every vehicle will be the most critical test the industry will face. Proving it is a matter of national security means that radio must deliver immediately and locally. Broadcasters can’t fail those tests. That’s something to consider as management examines headcount and staffing issues.

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Madison Scarpino Followed Her Passion All the Way to Fox News

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(Photo: Madison Scarpino)

Grateful and determined at 26 years old, Madison Scarpino has accomplished what takes some journalists their entire career to achieve: becoming a national reporter.

“I would love watching things like the Today Show or Good Morning America or Fox and Friends and just thought, you know, that would be a really cool career,” Scarpino told Barrett News Media over Zoom.

She began her new role at Fox News on December 4th and said she now has the opportunity to work with reporters who’ve inspired her, “Aishah Hasnie is someone that I’ve really enjoyed watching her work and would love to be the type of journalist that she is today.”

The oldest of three, Madison Scarpino says her family were not big news watchers and often moved. “I actually don’t really have a hometown. My dad’s in the Navy, so I moved around every two to three years my whole life, which is kind of crazy.” She added, “Everyone always says like, ‘Oh my gosh, it must be so hard.’ But it’s really all I ever knew and I think it definitely set me up for the stuff that I do now.”

Moving across the country, Scarpino’s experienced so many parts of the United States but to keep things simple she often says, “I’m from Florida because I lived in Jacksonville twice. And then I graduated high school in Tampa.”

Tampa — also known as “The Big Guava” — is where Scarpino feels the most connected because she said, “I loved my high school experience,” adding, “I went to school, called Tampa Catholic and made some really good friends there and, you know, I think it’s a pretty diverse place.”



One unexpected love of Scarpino’s from her Tampa days? Cuban culture.

“There’s a big Cuban population there and a lot of my friends are Cuban. I fell in love with that culture and just everything,” she later added, “I’m Italian and we take family very seriously. And just that having that tight-knit circle, I think it’s very similar to the Cuban culture. I also love the food that they make. One of my best friend’s mom makes like the best Mojo pork.”

She attended The University of Mississippi and graduated in 2020. Of her time at Ole Miss she said, “I did go to a lot of games in the Grove, which is just, you go to any city school and they have these big blowout tailgates and celebrations like pre-game, during the game, post-game.”

However, her favorite memory from college is not Rebel football but, “The school news station, though, that is just where I fell in love with what now is my absolute passion.” Scarpino continued to say. “Once I started at Newswatch [at] Ole Miss and majored in broadcast journalism, I figured, let’s try this out.”

Starting out as a weather reporter, she told herself, “If I don’t like being in front of the camera, I feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to do this. I could do radio, I could do print.” She said of herself then. “I was very nervous at first. But being a weather reporter was a lot of ad-libbing at Ole Miss versus following an actual script and I just became more and more comfortable at it.”

Becoming more comfortable on air, she later found her journalistic passion. “I started kind of doing more hard news stories and, you know, just more local news type stuff and that’s when I kind of realized this is more what I think I’m good at,” she added, “Being able to tell people’s stories, especially when it comes to big breaking news, things that a lot of people care about being able to do that just meant a lot to me.”

From the Ole Miss Newsroom, she became an MMJ in Huntsville, Alabama. She worked out of the bureau for the rural counties in the Tennessee Valley on NBC affiliate WFAA 48. Madison Scarpino then moved on to Fox’s MMR program.

Created in 2011, the rigorous program sends reporters across the country to shoot, produce, edit, and report content for Fox News Media platforms. In a press release, the network said after two years the hope is to help reporters become stronger journalists in the field. Many new faces within the Fox conglomerate began in the MMR program including correspondents Garrett Tenney, Hillary Vaughn, Maddy Rivera, and Madison Scarpino.


Of her time in the program Scarpino said, “I think that being in MMR has really set me up for success in this position. Again, I have to earn that and I’m looking forward to working as hard as I can and being the best journalist that I can at this level.”

She added, “Being able to really only focus on national news and know how network news works and just travel around the country, I get to see many different parts of it and cultures. I think without that I would not be ready for the position that I am in today.”

During Scarpino’s tenure in the MMR program, she was sent across the country to cover several mass shootings including the ones in Highland Park, Dallas, and the Covenant School in Nashville. “I’ll never forget the people in that area were more than willing to talk to me and just wanted to say like, how amazing of a community it was and just like how the people want to come together [after a tragedy like] this,” Scarpino said. “When you get to actually talk to people in the community and see how they’re feeling. That’s what sticks with me the most.”

For those looking to follow in Scarpino’s footsteps her advice is simple. “There are going to be days that you have to come in early and stay late or go the extra mile to make it far in this industry. And that’s not always the most fun thing to do. But if you really love this career, it will pay off.”

Madison Scarpino recognizes the timing of her accomplishments is rare but said, “I feel very lucky to be in the position that I’m in.” She said her goal right now is simple, “I want to focus on just being the best journalist that I can [and] become someone who people trust and want to watch.”

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Like It Or Not, TikTok is the Future of News Television

As 2024 draws near, it is imperative that each network continues to put resources into the app that American youth are using the most.

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TikTok is a controversial app. Some believe it is an arm of the Chinese government. Others believe it is extremely time-consuming and has taken America’s kids off track. Interestingly, both theories haven’t ever been fully debunked.

While they could hold some truth, the fact of the matter is TikTok and its algorithm have changed how we use social media forever. The ability to consume snackable content that is succinct, to the point, and covers many different aspects of our society is what makes it so unique. It is packaged as a product you can use while on the go or when you can’t find anything to watch on TV. It’s an idea generator and a product that humanizes your neighbor next door, your best friend, or that celebrity who doesn’t speak much during press runs. 

TikTok and its format are the future of media. The future is here now and it will only continue to evolve. Because of this, it is so important for news companies, both local and national, to put more resources into TikTok and into creating a scrollable conclave of content for their own apps and operations. The biggest problem going into the election is how quickly rumors spread on social media, particularly on TikTok.

Last week, rumors spread that TD Jakes, the leader of a Dallas megachurch, was involved in a sex scandal that was orchestrated by Diddy. The rumor wasn’t reported by an entertainment news site. It wasn’t reported by a reporter and it wasn’t even reported by a random blogger who normally participates in rumor-mongering and gets one or two reports out of 100 correct. It was “reported” by a random woman sitting in her room making a TikTok.

The woman has no history in reporting. No history or connection with TD Jakes, Diddy, music, churches, entertainment reporting, or anything in between. It is literally just a random woman who decided to give a random take and post it. Her TikTok went viral and was reposted onto other social media sites. It went so viral that TD Jakes addressed the rumors himself while conducting Christmas service at his church. His organization released a statement denying the claims and referred to the woman on TikTok.

She posted a video afterward reacting with shock, amazement, and an unwavering yet ironic glee that her random thoughts became such a powerful mechanism for speculation that it forced Jakes to respond. Even she knew through her reaction without saying it that she doesn’t have a legitimate backing or history to be taken seriously when it comes to gathering and distributing reputable information. 

It is only a matter of time before another random person decides to post unsolicited thoughts and conspiracies about the election that eventually go viral. How will the news networks respond? As of now, all of the major broadcast and cable news networks except for Fox News are on TikTok. They all do a great job of promoting clips from their television shows into TikTok content. They also do a great job, especially CNN, of creating native TikTok content that fits the ethos of the app. CNN has even launched its own version of TikTok on its own app that uses the same type of formatted video.

As 2024 draws near, it is imperative that each network continues to put resources into the app that American youth are using the most. It’s also important to create even more content that is native to the site to attract a diverse audience who depends on them for facts. It may not be monetizable, but going live on TikTok with a specific stream made for the app or participating in the app’s unique features will help in providing a reliable bond between young people and their brands – especially during a time when the app’s users have quickly become more susceptible to following pages and people that fit their political views rather than the truth. 

The biggest key to success is to latch on to trends as quickly as possible. Whenever someone goes viral with what they have to say about a specific candidate, it is imperative news organizations blanket the app with the facts and truth of the matter. Some things may sound crazy. Some things may sound like common sense.

But those are the same things that can alter the state of the election and what people believe about what is happening in the world around them. TikTok and the ability to be unique on the app will set news organizations apart from the rest of the pack.

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The Election Year and Local News Media’s Advantage

There are myriad ways of taking pretty much any political issue and focusing on aspects that are germane to your audience’s everyday lives.

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You already know what you’re going to get from the news media in 2024. If you’re a radio talk host or a reporter or (heaven forbid) a cable news pundit, you know — pretty much — what you’re going to be doing, even if the details aren’t quite formed yet.

You will, despite endless entreaties from people like me, treat the entire year as a horse race, analyzing polls, and each twist and turn of the news with “What does this mean for (insert name of candidate here)?”

You will do this, no matter how you feel about it, and you will be criticized for it, and nothing I say here will change that. It’s unavoidable, and since we’ve trained generations to expect it and to treat election years like the Super Bowl and root for their team, you really have to do it to some extent.

But you don’t have to do it the same way everyone else does it, and if you’re a local talker, reporter, or columnist, you have a great option. It’s a variant of the old “All politics is local” trope: just explain to your audience what, in every election story, it will mean to them, on a local, individual basis. Bring everything down to how it affects the listener, viewer, or reader, and make it specific to your own area.

Doing this will make the big issues less abstract, less theoretical, less doesn’t-matter-to-me to the people you’re trying to reach. You can boil economy stories down to pocketbook level, job stories to whether your local area is benefiting, democracy issues – hard to believe we’re debating whether to preserve democracy, but here we are – to whether, and how, your state is interfering with voting rights.

You can talk about whether your representatives have been successful in bringing jobs and grants to your districts, or whether they’ve gotten mired in the performative aspects of Congress. People glaze over when you report on the economy until you talk about what it means at the grocery store and gas pump, or the rent, or their taxes, and those vary by state, county, and even city. (Example: Gas prices have plummeted, but whereas it’s no longer an issue in places where the price is low, it’s still higher than comfortable in, say, California, so the discussion is different depending on where you are.) 

There are myriad ways of taking pretty much any political issue and focusing on aspects that are germane to your audience’s everyday lives. Candidates go to primary states to make a show of caring about what Iowans and New Hampshire voters need, and then forget it the moment the primaries are over. You, on the other hand, aren’t moving on to the next state. You’re still there, in the community. You can keep the focus on what matters to your audience. You can leave the national perspective to the national media.

That, after all, is your strategic advantage in competing with the national press, your ability to focus on the local angle. Besides, whenever the national reporters deign to look at anything local, they end up just interviewing randos at diners, and you can do a lot better than that. (If you do talk radio, your callers are randos, but at least they’re your randos.)

If you are indeed a local news person, let that be your 2024 resolution. Aspire to do better than reporting the horse race. And if you’re in the national news business, try to do the same. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

– – – –

On a personal note, looking back at 2023, I’m just happy to have made it to the end of the year. (Assuming, that is, that I make it through the next few days. Can’t be certain about anything these days.) I’m grateful to Jason Barrett for giving me a great platform to continue this column, and I’m looking forward to annoying everyone every week in 2024 and pursuing new creative opportunities, whatever they may be.

If there are topics about which you’d like me to bloviate, or projects for which I might be a good fit, you can reach me at [email protected].

Oh, yeah. Happy New Year. This one oughta be interesting.

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