Rush Limbaugh’s impact on the world may never be fully understood or appreciated. Even as we’ve heard many heartfelt tributes over the past week, they fail to capture the landscape-changing consequences of his 30-year rise and domination of the talk-radio airwaves. This piece, too, will fall well short.
Still, one lesson for aspiring broadcasters sticks out. From the up-and-coming student at the college radio station, to the neophyte media professional cutting his teeth for ten bucks an hour somewhere in middle America. This lesson is for one, and for all.
It isn’t to learn all you can about Conservative policy and Republican party history, although Rush certainly did. He figuratively, and literally, wrote the book, while making complex philosophy simple. His ideal America? Create a strong and powerful country where people of all types, colors, backgrounds, sexes and ethnicities can flourish to the greatest of their God-given abilities. This was one of his overarching beliefs, but not the key lesson we are referring to here.
It wasn’t his side-interest in tech products, specifically those designed by Apple. He was quick to silence his devices when they talked to him during a broadcast, and he loved sharing what he had learned from the liberal tech blogs. Yet he always knew when to return to the topics of the day, pleasing the “stick to the issues crowd.”
Yes, he was a “household name in all four corners of the world,” but that took time. To aim toward such lofty heights could paralyze a young newbie just trying to get on the air for the first time. Rush’s notoriety grew over years and decades. Many of his loyal listeners of 2021 began as “Rush babies,” or first heard him while catching the EIB network during high school lunch breaks back in the 1990’s.
Limbaugh’s path required perseverance, which became a driving force for his career. While his family of lawyers would have been pleased had he followed in their footsteps toward a stable and lucrative career, he blazed a different path. He shunned formal advanced schooling and pursued radio. A brief stint in professional baseball helped him grow and continue, following his heart all the way. That tenacity helped sustain him through personal and health challenges over the years.
Once identifying his first love – radio – he mostly stuck to it. Brief stints with television, from the bright-ties on weekend talk to a short-lived sports gig never made him lose focus with radio.
Rush learned to nourish his “talent on loan from God.” In this way he balanced the necessary media ego with the acknowledgement of where the talent truly came from, and to who it ultimately belonged. He was simply a steward of the gifts.
Limbaugh was never afraid to challenge someone who “got all up in his chili.” He was a serious and thoughtful broadcast professional, and not one to waste time with the “phony-baloney, plastic banana, good-time rock n rollers.” A solid lesson, sure. But not the big one, from a broadcast perspective.
He idolized “Ronaldus Magnus.” He distrusted the “wizards of smart.” He promoted Rush Revere and Liberty, while sipping Two If By Tea. He stood with Betsy Ross against the modern detractors of America, and he took major career risks each and every “Open Line Friday.”
Yet, these still were not the big lesson Rush Limbaugh imparted on aspiring broadcasters.
That major lesson, the one that helped him grow a career to lengths never before seen, was simple.
The big lesson is this – He built an unbreakable bond with his listeners.
Rush knew his audience. He thought like them, and he spoke like them. He said what they thought, with words they themselves often could not come up with.
This was the biggest lesson for aspiring broadcast professionals. If you listened every day, you could sense its significance. Rush was honest. He was authentic. As he said many times, he had nothing to gain by misleading his listeners. One failure in this regard would have been catastrophic and career-crushing. He delivered not what his audience wanted to hear, but what his heart and mind authentically believed.
For example, at noon Eastern time the day after the 2012 presidential election, Rush got straight to the point. “It is nearly impossible to beat Santa Claus,” he said that day, referring to the challenge of unseating a president intent on spreading the wealth of hard-working citizens around.
When you listened to Rush Limbaugh, you felt as though he was speaking directly to you. Not to a crowd or a group, but to you. The connection was natural – a friend talking to a friend, complete with the emotion and fact. When he was frustrated, you knew it. When he felt good, you instinctively did too.
Rush was real. He was original, as all unique humans are. For broadcast professionals, this genuine approach is the key to long-term success. Authenticity attracts the audience – your bona fide broadcast tribe.
Watch and listen to the really great ones throughout history or in today’s media landscape. Whether in news, sports, finance or entertainment, the most successful broadcasters are the ones who know who they are and effectively share that vision with the audience. This built his incredibly attractive brand, lassoing the masses by their own volition.
Rush Limbaugh was authentic. He connected because he was the real deal.
This is a lesson for aspiring broadcasters across the fruited plain, who dream of success and dare to achieve it.
Winterble, Daugherty Discuss Dr. Seuss, Cancel Culture
“We lost a battle for sure,” Daugherty said. “Did we lose the war? I don’t know. I hope to heck not.”
After moving from the San Diego to Charlotte market last year, radio host Brett Winterble has quickly learned that the best way to attract listeners in the Tar Heel state is to forge a connection with college basketball. That’s why former North Carolina Tar Heel basketball coach Matt Daugherty is a frequent quest on The Brett Wintertble Show which airs on WBT AM in Charlotte. Daugherty was in studio again on Thursday, and while the pair did touch on sports topics, the main part of their conversation was devoted to Dr. Seuss and cancel culture in general.
”You look like a guy who read Dr. Seuss as a kid,” Winterble said to Daughtery. “My favorites growing up were, One Fish, Two Fish and of course the classic, Green Eggs and Ham. I read them and my kids read them, but now all of a sudden, they are too dangerous. Dr. Seuss has been banned. Our glorious monarch, King Joe Biden I has decreed that Dr. Seuss cannot be read at a celebration of Dr. Seuss Day. Five weeks ago they were just fine, but now they are too dangerous to even be sold on Ebay? What in the world is going on? Have we as conservatives lost the war?”
Winterble’s comments come after six of Theodor Geisel’s works are no longer going to be published due to racial stereotypes. Geisel wrote more than 60 other books under his popular pseudonym Dr. Seuss which will still remain in print, but that does not stop Winterble and Daugherty from claiming Dr. Seuss is a victim of cancel culture.
“We lost a battle for sure,” Daugherty said. “Did we lose the war? I don’t know. I hope to heck not.”
Winterble makes the comparison to other items sold on Ebay, but yet six Dr. Seuss books are banned.
“You can go on there and buy a poster of a certain political leader that ruled Germany in the 30’s and 40’s (Hitler), but Dr. Seuss is too dangerous? You can go on there and buy polyurethane items that should only be used in the hushed tones of the bedroom and yet people find Dr. Seuss objectionable? What’s next?”
Daugherty worries that cancel culture will eventually cross over into the world of sports.
“I think we will eventually start erasing players from the Hall of Fames,” he said. “Now of course, there were some scoundrels, particularly in baseball, but you can’t just erase that history. You can learn from it, but you can’t remove it.”
“I love working with young people,” Daugherty continued. “I always tell them to stand up for what you believe in, but to be a good leader, you also have to be able to listen. It seems we have lost that art of debate. We see plenty of argument, but people rarely make a point and then take the time to listen to the other side. If you can do that, you learn something. A lot of it has to do with dialogue happening over social media instead of face-to-face. 50 percent of communication is body language. You can’t see that on Twitter. It’s so much easier to cancel someone or throw out zingers if you can’t look them in the eye and see how much it hurts them.”
Winterble agrees and also urges open discussion if something is considered offensive or harmful.
“People have their identity so wrapped up in whatever issue it is, that when someone attacks the issue, it feels like they are attacking the person. There is some value in all of these things (like the Dr. Seuss controversy), but the default position should not be to rage quit and erase everything.”
FOX News Leads Cable News Ratings Thanks to Trump CPAC Speech
FNC was most assisted on Sunday Feb. 28 with its live broadcast of Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from Orlando, Fla.
For the final week of February 2021, Fox News Channel accomplished a feat it has not done since the final week of October 2020 — topping all of cable news in both total viewers AND the key demographic of adults 25-54. It is a position FNC had long been familiar pre-2020 election. For the week ending Feb. 28, Fox News averaged 1.388 million viewers and 222,000 adults 25-54 in total day (6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m.) data from Nielsen Media Research; for prime time (Feb. 22-27 @ 8-11 p.m. and Feb. 28 @ 7-11 p.m.), FNC drew 2.478 million viewers and 376,000 adults 25-54. Each of those total-viewer marks were tops on all of cable; their total day 25-54 performance also leading cable.
FNC was most assisted on Sunday Feb. 28 with its live broadcast of Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from Orlando, Fla. It generated the network’s highest 5PM ET hour ever on a Sunday among total viewers with 5.74 million total viewers and 966,000 in the 25-54 demo. The pre and post programs that bookended the speech also benefited: “America Reports” with John Roberts and Sandra Smith scored 3.15 million viewers and 501,000 with 25-54 in the 4PM ET hour; “The Big Sunday Show” at 6PM ET notched 3.72 million viewers and 708,000 with 25-54 demo.
CNN, the usual Sunday prime time cable news leader, took a backseat to Fox News on the night of Sunday Feb. 28. FNC continued its positive ratings wave from the late afternoon with “Life, Liberty & Levin” at 8PM ET having drawn 2.25 million viewers and 334,000 in the 25-54 demo. “The Next Revolution” with host Steve Hilton at 9PM ET delivered 1.88 million viewers and 351,000 in the 25-54 demo for its exclusive interview with Trump, topping CNN’s just-renewed “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” (1.32 million viewers/286,000 adults 25-54). within the hour.
MSNBC was the week’s respectable No. 2 cable network in total day (1.166 million) and prime time (1.967 million). Despite FNC’s recent return to the lead cable network spot, MSNBC still managed to win the entire month of February 2021, averaging 1.4 million viewers in total day (vs. Fox News’ 1.3 million and CNN’s 1.2 million). It is MSNBC’s first time ever as the most-watched network on cable (not just cable news) for one full calendar month.
Boosted by the second Trump impeachment trial and up-to-date COVID-19 information, MSNBC’s live breaking news coverage drew 1.53 million total viewers during their dayside slot of 9am-4pm ET (vs. CNN’s 1.52 million and Fox News’ 1.4 million); also, the top viewer figure in all of cable.
Here are the cable news averages for Feb. 22-28, 2021 — the total viewer figures were cable’s three best marks for the week in both total day and prime time:
Total Day (Feb. 22-28 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.388 million viewers; 222,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.166 million viewers; 159,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.909 million viewers; 201,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (Feb. 22-27 @ 8-11 p.m.; Feb. 28 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.478 million viewers; 376,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.987 million viewers; 283,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 1.295 million viewers; 298,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top CNN program and its associated rank) in total viewers:
1. Special Report “Trump Speaks at CPAC” (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 4:47 PM, 94 min.) 5.736 million viewers
2. The Big Sunday Show (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 6:21 PM, 39 min.) 3.720 million viewers
3. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 2/24/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.468 million viewers
4. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 2/22/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.463 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 2/25/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.407 million viewers
6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 2/22/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.343 million viewers
7. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 2/23/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.329 million viewers
8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 2/23/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.298 million viewers
9. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 2/25/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.238 million viewers
10. America Reports (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 4:00 PM, 47 min.) 3.148 million viewers
63. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN, Mon. 2/22/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.825 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top CNN program and its associated rank) among adults 25-54:
1. Special Report “Trump Speaks at CPAC” (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 4:47 PM, 94 min.) 0.966 million adults 25-54
2. The Big Sunday Show (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 6:21 PM, 39 min.) 0.708 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 2/25/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.572 million adults 25-54
4. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 2/22/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.538 million adults 25-54
5. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 2/24/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.513 million adults 25-54
6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 2/22/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.501 million adults 25-54
7. America Reports (FOXNC, Sun. 2/28/2021 4:00 PM, 47 min.) 0.501 million adults 25-54
8. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 2/25/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.499 million adults 25-54
9. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 2/23/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.491 million adults 25-54
10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 2/23/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54
12. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 2/22/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.445 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Stay Out of the Swamp and Focus on Local Stories Worth Telling
If push comes to shove, we can leave the latest Biden gaffe to our syndicated friends, and superserve our market in a way that they will remember well beyond the word “COVID”.
As many talk radio hosts around the country settle into a new role as the pushback against a new administration in charge in Washington D.C., it is important to not get caught up in the “swamp-talk” on a daily basis.
Donald Trump provided four years of daily, dramatic content for local and national hosts. And for many it worked, because it’s what people wanted to talk about around the water cooler. Despite all of Joe Biden’s policy failures thus far, he’s not nearly as compelling an individual to cover. Heck, he hasn’t even done a press conference with the media since Inauguration Day.
Meantime, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the issues our listeners are facing in our backyard have become all the more pressing. And no issue appears to be hitting home more for my audience than the inability of too many schools to not fully re-open.
Despite study after study showing that there is very minimal transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms, too many students have been held hostage by the teacher’s unions, local school boards and, yes, the new administration.
But so much of this issue is local to a city or a region because of how each district is handling things differently. For the last several weeks, I have been updating my audience in Kansas City as to the latest around what schools are doing, how they’re planning, and if/when they will be opening back up.
Every day it feels like I could do a four-hour show on opening up our schools with the amount of phone/text/tweet traffic we get when discussing this topic. Parents have had enough and they are seeing through the charade.
But rather than simply listening to parents complain all morning, which certainly has its purpose, but can get repetitive, I’ve taken the approach of doing our best to find new angles to this issue each day. Both Missouri and Kansas are advancing bills through the legislature to provide more school choice for parents. This is becoming more and more popular in urban, suburban and rural settings. Where do these bills stand and what do they accomplish?
It might seem wonky, but with how desperate so many parents are to get their kids back to learning in the short term, and then wondering how to remedy their own situation in the long term, this is when the show can stand out in sharing information, entertaining, opinion, analysis and reaction.
That’s led to conversations with the lawmakers in both states to discuss where their bills are in the process and where they’re headed.
It also helped create a segment that became our most listened to interview of the past week. It was an interview with a Kansas City, Missouri school board member who is opposed to opening in-person learning. It was a strong conversation with a bantering back and forth of ideas and perspective, never getting nasty, which led to a segment that received a ton of feedback.
So as we continue to navigate a new administration in Washington D.C., playing “watch dog” is an important part of the job that the listeners expect.
But the unique nature of the moment with COVID-19 provides us with so much original content that is frustrating our listeners, who are parents (oh, and likely in-demo listeners I might add!), holding back communities and doing short and long-term damage. So if push comes to shove, we can leave the latest Biden gaffe to our syndicated friends, and superserve our market in a way that they will remember well beyond the word “COVID”. At least I sure hope so.