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Will Cain, Still In The Game

“Cain has completed his transition from sports to news, and if his first few weeks co-hosting Fox and Friends Weekend is any indication, he seems quite comfortable.”

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Goodbye to curveballs and slam dunks. Hello to mob riots and campaign trails. For Will Cain, this is the perfect time to change uniforms.  

Cain has completed his transition from sports back to news, and if his first few weeks co-hosting Fox and Friends Weekend is any indication, he seems quite comfortable.  Like a free agent ballplayer changing teams in the prime of his career, Cain has grabbed the opportunity to build the next successful chapter of his on-air life.   

Although he did appear on Fox and Friends a decade ago, this is the broadcast veteran’s first stint as a regular with the network, after previously starting successful media companies and working on-air in television news for other networks.

His background in the news world, however, was all before he landed at ESPN and truly made his national name. After joining the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” in 2015 and hosting his well-regarded ESPN Radio afternoon-drive program since 2018, Cain anticipated a successful leap back into a world far from pitching changes and 3rd down conversions.

“I am excited to join the team at ‘FOX & Friends Weekend’ and look forward to building upon my experience in sports, news and politics on the number one morning show in the country,” Cain told FoxNews.com before his first show last month. And what a time it is to be back in news for someone with the broadcasting chops and opinionated delivery such as Will Cain. 

If you watched or listened to Cain work at ESPN over the past five years, you could tell he was unique. After all, this was a conservative-leaning guy working – actually excelling – at ESPN!  That alone made you take notice. Whether delivering a radio monologue or taking part in a television debate with Stephen A. Smith, Cain came prepared to deliver compelling programming each day. At the same time, he quietly developed a behind-the-scenes reputation as a class act, always willing to help others in the field. 

Take, for example, the day he helped entertain a group of students from Fordham University’s sports media powerhouse, WFUV Radio. After spending time behind the scenes discussing the sports media business, Cain allowed the students to watch his radio/television simulcast program from the control room. As if that weren’t enough, he invited one of the college broadcasting students onto the air for a 20-minute debate about one of the hot topics of the day. That just doesn’t happen in national sports radio! Cain helped give those aspiring sportscasters a day they’ll never forget, while creating a compelling segment of radio.

Will Cain worked on the television news side in the past, including hosting a show on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network, as well as working as a CNN political contributor. By most standards, it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat in jumping into some of the day’s more sensitive and divisive topics with his co-hosts Jedediah Bila and Pete Hegseth. The task has been made easier because he has a history with the duo, co-hosting a news talk program on The Blaze.

“Some years ago we spent every night around a table, debating the issues that were important in that day’s news cycle,” Cain said during an introductory segment on Fox and Friends in mid-August. “Chemistry is one of those things that every television executive would like to think he can create, but it’s often magical. It takes trust, confidence and mutual respect. I can say walking in that the three of us genuinely have those three characteristics. I genuinely like these two people. I trust them and I respect their points of view. That does not mean I’m going to always agree with them, but I truly trust and respect them.”

Together, the three create a young, hip vibe for the Fox News morning program, and Cain has been willing to jump right into the mix and tackle some of today’s most contentious stories. 

For example, with rioting and looting running rampant in many major U.S. cities this summer, Cain recently spent time talking with New York City police officers, residents and business owners. One current officer, who asked to be disguised so his identity wouldn’t become public, told Cain, “I never thought I would have to put this uniform on and be looked at as the enemy, and to be hated.” He followed up by telling Cain, “you would be crazy to take this job now in this day and age.” Quite a jarring   difference for Cain – and one he has handled adroitly – after only weeks ago he was spending his afternoons discussing, for example, the challenges for baseball and football beginning their respective 2020 seasons.

Cain also waded into the political waters, commenting on last month’s Democratic National Convention by saying nominee Joe Biden’s speech “crossed the bar of being a smooth speech,” but also added “I found criticism of this president, criticism of this country, criticism of our history, but not much substance on how they would fix it.” 

Will Cain has never been shy to offer his opinion, whether it be on The Will Cain Show or during his appearances on ESPN”s First Take. He has promised to continue bringing his unique style and wit to the more weighty and significant topics of the day with Fox.   

“I can’t wait, I’m so excited to be back with these two and on Fox News,” Cain said. “We’re gonna have fun. We’re gonna pursue the truth.

As far as we can tell, Cain is fitting in just fine so far. He certainly hasn’t lost his fastball.

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BNM Writers

The Future of News/Talk – Part 1

Part one of a series seeking to find the answers to the question, ‘What’s the future of news/talk radio?’

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Photo by Andrew Magill CC BY 2.0.

As I’ve mentioned before, spoken word media is very much at a crossroads.

The passing of Rush Limbaugh, in a way, was symbolic of the proverbial “fork in the road” that the news/talk format is currently staring at. 

With that in mind, the question needs to be asked; what is the future of news/talk radio? 

Oh, I forgot, “radio” is a dirty word these days.  I should have said news/talk MEDIA.

Over the next few weeks, we’re embarking on a multi-part series to find the answers.

As I’ve often said, when tough questions like this are asked, I enlist the help of people that are far smarter than yours truly.  We’ll get the perspectives of people from all sides of the industry, from talent to management to sales and beyond.

For part one of our series, we turn to a consultant.

Phil Tower has had an impressive career in broadcast media.

He’s been a host in multiple formats, worked in management at various levels and has also spent nearly 30 years as an Adjunct Professor of Communications and Mass Media at several different colleges. 

On a side note, he’s also someone that, for years, I could never get a hold of.

Tower has owned and operated his own media consultancy in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan for the last decade.  I remember him as the guy I would listen to on WOOD-AM and WLAV-FM.  As an aspiring radio nerd, teenage me tried to call him, introduce myself and get his advice on how I could do what he did.  

Naturally, I never got past the secretary who worked the switchboard at the radio station. 

Thanks to the power of social media, Phil and I finally connected a few months ago.  Now, after all this time, I can finally get his advice.

With the passing of Rush, many of his affiliates seem to have been left in limbo.  What do you think iHeart’s plans will be for that time slot?

Premiere Networks has already been very public about the fact that they are going to continue to honor the legacy of Rush by continuing to keep the show going by utilizing a strong lineup very talented fill-in hosts (Ken Matthews, Todd Herman, Brett Winterble, Mark Steyn) that are already very familiar voices for his audience. I think this is a very wise strategy for Premiere Networks to employ. Rush Limbaugh was bigger than life and his show aired for 30+ years. Given that, Premiere has a treasure trove of timeless audio cuts from Rush Limbaugh that will still be relevant given whatever topic A is for a given day.

What should Limbaugh affiliates be doing right now?

The smartest move is to be patient and stay the course. I highly doubt there will be a serious ratings degradation for the short term and maybe even longer.  A few stations have already made the move to launch local shows and while that may work in the long run, often when stations introduce a new show and host to the audience, they take a much bigger risk of losing ratings and revenue.

There will be syndicated options in that time slot (Cumulus is offering Dan Bongino).  Would stations be better served to look for LOCAL alternatives?

Unless they already have a well-established local option, I would advise stations to look at the offering of syndicated choices if they can’t lock up the Rush Limbaugh Show for their market. I firmly believe that the next 12 to 18 months will present a much clearer picture of how the spoken word format will evolve after the passing of such an iconic host. At the same time, I don’t think Rush will ever truly “disappear from relevance” given the long-lasting impact he has had on the spoken word format.

For stations (even smaller market ones) that want to look for a local solution to Limbaugh, where could they look?

Unless they have a strong option already existing in house, I would look at successful news journalists, TV hosts with a strong brand and popularity in their own market. There may also be options in terms of local bloggers/podcasters who are especially successful as social influencers. I think it’s very important to look at talent who can express themselves confidently both as a speaker and writer. Writing skills are more important than ever.

There are over a million podcasts cluttering the spoken word space right now.  How can terrestrial stations continue to stand out with so many different content choices?

The battle for “share of ear” Is as intense as it ever has been.  Terrestrial stations can stand out by super serving their listeners and by being available on multiple platforms and reminding their listeners of that daily. I think it’s also very critical that successful terrestrial brands make all of their shows contact available as podcasts. I also strongly urge them to go one step beyond that by encouraging/pushing local hosts to create standalone content for podcast. Loyal listeners have already demonstrated they want this content.  In the iHeartRadio ecosystem, the practice of hosts creating standalone content for digital was the norm. That discipline should become standard practice for every spoken word talent looking to extend their personal brand.   I’m very bullish and always hopeful that brighter days are ahead for the spoken word format. The one huge upside to the podcasting boom is that it has by default become a new massive incubator for talent.  Every smart programmer in this format should be aware of who is hosting standout podcasts in their region and they should be paying attention to those talent. I’m also especially hopeful that the format will be more welcoming to women.  Lots of women are creating great dynamic content and killing it as podcasters and there’s no reason that many of them couldn’t be as successful in live radio. I don’t care if they have a political bent or they’re just unique people who are strong storytellers.  In the end, women hosts deserve more seats at the talk radio round table.

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BNM Writers

Simone Says Media Fans the Flames of Racism

“Things are bad enough right now, but the media is making it worse,” Simone said on Tuesday’s edition of The Mark Simone Show heard on New York’s WOR. “Not every tragedy that happens is racially motivated.”

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Photo by Jenny Salita CC BY-ND 2.0.

Unlike some conservative radio hosts, Mark Simone readily admits that racism is a problem that needs to be addressed in America, but also calls on the media to stop “fanning the flames of racism”.

“Things are bad enough right now, but the media is making it worse,” Simone said on Tuesday’s edition of The Mark Simone Show heard on New York’s WOR. “Not every tragedy that happens is racially motivated. Some are and that needs to be addressed. But the media jumps to push a certain narrative and I think it’s dangerous.”

Simone uses the recent shooting death of African-American Daunte Wright by Caucasian police officer Kim Potter. According to reports, during a traffic stop Potter meant to taser Wright, who was allegedly resisting arrest, but instead mistakenly pulled her firearm and fatally shot Wright Potter has since resigned her position, and as of Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times, the shooting was ruled “an accidental discharge”.

“What happened was a horrible, tragic and stupid,” Simone said. “How does a 25 year veteran of the police force confuse a taser and a gun? That should not happen. It was an idiotic mistake and she should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. But was it racially motivated? I don’t think so.”

Simone blames the media for rushing to judgment before all the facts are known.

“I would ask them to stop it, but I know they won’t,” he said. “The media is married to the BLM movement. On the surface Black Lives Matter sounds like a positive thing, but in reality, when paired with the media, it is a dangerous combination that fans the flames of racism instead of settling them down.”

Simone adds that this coupling of the media with BLM leads to bias reporting.

“There have been 17 cops killed just this year,” he said. “In one of the most horrific videos I’ve seen, a police officer was shot and killed at a traffic stop by a man with an assault rifle. Why isn’t that video the lead story for Lester Holt and NBC News? Why doesn’t CNN or MSNBC cover that story? Because it doesn’t fit the narrative of racism. We all know that there is a small percentage of bad cops out there, but they treat everybody badly. They are overaggressive and demeaning. That’s just the way they act and that doesn’t change based on skin color.”

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BNM Writers

Project Veritas Fights Back

Project Veritas filed a lawsuit against the New York Times late last year, and Sean Hannity invited O’Keefe on his Friday radio program to share the details of recent developments.

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James O’Keefe leads perhaps the most successful undercover journalism operation in the country today, Project Veritas. Time and time again, he and his group have done the job most in the media no longer want to do – holding those in power accountable and uncovering the truth that these entities hide from the public.  

It is true that many Americans feel that today’s mainstream media serves as little more than an advocacy appendage of the liberal left.  O’Keefe and his supporters, meanwhile, believe it is his organization that does the job the media no longer cares to do.

Project Veritas filed a lawsuit against the New York Times late last year, and Sean Hannity invited O’Keefe on his Friday radio program to share the details of recent developments.

Last month, a New York judge refused to dismiss the suit, implying that it had “substantial basis in law to proceed.” The move in no way foreshadows the suit’s ultimate outcome, but it was such a big development in favor of Project Veritas that former president Donald Trump personally congratulated O’Keefe in a video recorded at Mar-a-Lago. 

Fox News reported online in March that thejudge denied the paper’s motion to dismiss the suit by the right-wing guerilla news outlet over the Times’ portrayal of Project Veritas’ reporting on alleged voter fraud in the congressional district represented by Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. last fall. Times reporters Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu described Project Veritas’ reporting as “deceptive,” “false,” and “with no verifiable evidence.” Fox News also quoted the judge as saying, “The facts submitted by Veritas could indicate more than standard, garden variety media bias and support a plausible inference of actual malice.” 

“James O’Keefe comes under constant, never-ending, non-stop fire. There have been more lawsuits, attempts to silence, cancel, shut down his operation,” Sean Hannity pointed out on his radio program last week. “The untold story here is that every single time that these accusations are made against his organization, or they’ve tried to take Project Veritas to court, that’s just another tactic of trying to silence people…they’ve won. They’ve never once lost a lawsuit against them.”

Hannity also mentioned the high price O’Keefe has paid so far to fight back in this particular battle against the well known newspaper.

“Yes it costs a lot of money, it’s cost us a quarter million dollars to get to this phase of the litigation,” O’Keefe said. “We’ve taken on the New York Times and their army of lawyers and we’ve won this historic motion in the State of New York Supreme Court. This judge, Sean, this is like one of the first times ever, one of the few plaintiffs since the 1960’s, unlike the Sarah Palin case, she sued the New York Times over the Op-Ed page. We sued the New York Times over a news article in the A Section, Sean, where they called our voter fraud videos deceptive. They said that we used unnamed sources, which we did not. They said we had no evidence. We did have evidence.”

Hannity has long been a public supporter of Project Veritas, often promoting their work and sharing their reporting on both radio and television. A frequent critic of the mainstream media, for both their overt and covert liberal bias, Hannity offered O’Keefe a chance to air his side of this confrontation.

“The judge in this historic 16-page order has said that it was the New York Times that acted deceptively. That they used misinformation by putting their opinions in the news article.” said O’Keefe.

Ironically, the decision in New York last month came the same week a federal judge said “we are very close to one-party control” of the media.

The lawsuit will now proceed with discovery and depositions, and time will tell where the facts lead.  

Sean Hannity will undoubtedly keep us posted.

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