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Tom Krasniqi – 620 WDAE

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When you first get an opportunity to work at a sports radio station, you’re not thinking about how the lessons you learn might serve you one day down the line. You’re just hoping to remain employed and in the company’s good graces. The thought of crossing state lines and building a brand as an on-air talent in another market is the furthest thing from your mind.

Once you’ve been in the industry for a while though, it’s amazing how the people you once spoke with, met, or shared a press box with, emerge as industry friends or connections. In some cases they even become direct competitors or colleagues.

mikedogWhen I started my career, I worked in upstate New York, about an hour from New York City. Everyone’s goal in that market was to make it to WFAN. ESPN New York didn’t exist, sending snail mail to ESPN in Bristol, CT and being considered for employment was thought to be a pipedream, and local radio had its perks but only provided a small portion of what was possible in sports radio.

It was in local radio in upstate NY though that I became familiar with Tom Krasniqi. I was hosting afternoons on 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie and had just been promoted to Program Director of the radio station. I was determined to develop the second coming of WFAN (which was very unrealistic) and I started interviewing people who shared the same passion and vision as I did for sports radio.

As I searched for people who understood my vision, I came across Tom Krasniqi’s resume and aircheck. Although he was still new to the business, so was I, and I liked what I heard. Plus I saw that he had spent time at WFAN so I reached out and arranged a meeting.

He showed up, and three things stood out. First, he was easily the sharpest dressed guy in our building. Secondly, he towered over me, and third, he had a lot of passion for sports talk radio.

As we talked about sports, radio and professional experiences, I could tell that we had a lot in common. Tom had recently worked for WFAS in Westchester and was trying to find a spot which would allow him to develop further as a sports talk show host. After our interview ended, I spoke to my bosses about the possibility of adding him and they gave me the green light to do so but shared two things that I knew would make it difficult to attract a good candidate.

  1. The offer had to be part time and at minimum wage
  2. The radio station had just been sold and a format flip could be coming

Sensing that it wouldn’t be a positive situation for Tom or anyone else, I elected not to make an offer. We did speak and have a great conversation and I knew he’d end up landing in a good situation because he was young, talented, and hungry.

weokAs luck would have it, my radio station in Poughkeepsie did flip formats a few months later from sports to spanish, so it’s a good thing that I never asked Tom to head north. That allowed him to focus his time on other opportunities, and after landing some work in New York City, he eventually migrated south to Florida where he began building his brand in Tampa.

Tom got a break in 2004 when he was hired as an anchor and host by 1010AM. Five years later that led to an opportunity at ESPN 1040am where he eventually became the station’s afternoon drive host. It wasn’t until 2012 though when he earned his biggest opportunity, working for 620 WDAE, Tampa’s leading sports radio station.

“TKras” as he’s known to his audience, started as an anchor, host, and Bucs reporter on WDAE. Two years later when the radio station had a chance to upgrade their local programming schedule, Tom was named host of the 9a-12p midday program, alongside Ronnie “Night Train” Lane, his former on-air partner at ESPN 1040.

tkras5Since teaming up, the pair have not disappointed. In the recent January ratings, “Ronnie and TKras” delivered the highest ratings on WDAE. Their show focuses primarily on the local Tampa sports scene and the chemistry and difference in the way each of them sound and approach topics is easy to detect.

Given that many in the sports format may not know Tom’s story, background, or the way his program has climbed the ratings ladder at WDAE, I thought it’d be interesting to catch up with him and get some insight on how he’s progressed over the years, and what he believes is important in creating great sports talk radio for a local audience.

Q: Who did you listen to growing up that influenced you to want to pursue a career in the sports radio business?  

A: From the very first day of existence back in 1987, I grew up listening to WFAN in New York.  Steve Somers, Chris Russo & Mike Francesa were the inspirations for me. When I finally got a chance to intern & work there, it was a dream come true. I was able to get an up close view as to how to be a compelling sports talk host from these guys. Being able to pick their brains was invaluable to me. It was instrumental in my development.

Q: Prior to landing at WDAE, where did you work previously and what were the best/worst parts of those career experiences?

tkras9A: Prior to WDAE, I was a sports anchor and host at Genesis Communications 1040-AM in Tampa. Before that, I spent nearly 6 years at all-sports 1010am in Tampa also as a sports anchor and host. All in all, I’ve been in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market for more than 12 years. I enjoyed the people I worked with and the opportunity to cover some of the greatest moments in Tampa Bay sports, namely the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals and the 2008 World Series. The downside? Cutbacks in recent years by corporate entities has hindered the business greatly.

Q: How did you end up landing on the airwaves of WDAE? 

A: They were aggressive in pursuing me back in 2012 and that was really attractive to me. It’s a great feeling to be wanted. They had a plan for me to come in — cover the Bucs, sports anchoring and filling in as a host on occasion. Fortunately, I was able to establish myself to the point where I was able to land a regular hosting gig. I’m grateful to iHeartMedia for that.

Q: When it comes to your show, what do you read, watch and listen to in order to help you prepare and create content? 

tkras3A: I’m online reading and researching about 4 hours per day, sometimes more. I’m watching games at night and always observing the mainstream sports networks, ESPN, Fox Sports, NFL, MLB & NHL Network. I’m always interested to get the national perspective to the local Tampa Bay area teams.

Q: During the span of a 3 hour show, how many topics do you try to  introduce to the audience? 

A: It’s a heavy emphasis on the local sports scene, Bucs, Rays & Lightning, as well as the major college sports in Florida with some relevant national topics mixed in. I’m always eager to express my opinion on the hot button issues, both locally & nationally.

Q: Why do you believe recycling/not recycling content is a smart strategy? 

tkras10A: I believe recycling content is an effective strategy to a certain point. The average sports radio listener doesn’t stick around for long. Of course, we always love the P1 fanatics but they’re few & far between. What I always like to do is take a different angle to the same topic, advance the story when we touch upon it again later in the show. For example, The Lightning win last night. Early in the show we mention the big plays & analyze what happened. When we bring up the topic later in the show, I try to advance it. What’s next? Who’s playing well? Who needs to pick it up? Injury updates, that sort of thing. Recycle, but keep it fresh with updated content.

Q: How much value do you place on callers being a part of your show? Why do/don’t they matter to you? 

A: I always enjoy interacting with callers. It can be highly entertaining at times but it should never be the end all, be all when it comes to hosting. You don’t want to rely on it constantly. At the end of the day, people are tuning in to hear YOUR opinion.

Q: When you lay out your 3-hour program, what’s your approach to adding guests?

tkras7A: Unless there’s a big story developing, you never want to jam your show with wall to wall guests. You want to bring people on that bring something to the table, opinions, insight & entertainment value.

Q: As it pertains to social media, how important do you think it is for an on-air talent to be accessible in the space? How do you incorporate it into your show? 

A: Social media these days is very important to sports radio! You want to interact with the fans and at the same time, use it as a tool to promote your brand/show. Tease subject matters & invite them to listen in when you’re ready to make a big prediction or offer a hot take on a topic. Twitter/Facebook are great tools to push your content and reel in new listeners. You never know who’s listening.

Q: If there’s one area of sports radio today that you believe is sub-par and needs to be improved what is it? 

tkras6A: I think it’s always the race to try and break news first, rather than get it right. I also believe in objectivity when it comes to local teams. You want to be fair & balanced. Do I want to see the local teams succeed? Absolutely! We’re the radio home to the Bucs, Rays & Lightning. When they do well, we do well. But at the same time, you have to remain objective & avoid being a homer. And stay away from the personal attacks and cheap shots. That’s how you gain credibility.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your broadcast career?  

A: Be humble. Work hard & stay resilient. Never say no to opportunities when they come along. Be versatile. Learn how to cover the field as a reporter as well as being a producer, anchor and eventually a host. Start at the bottom and work your way up. That’s the only way you’ll learn responsibility and when that hard work eventually pays off, it’s that much more gratifying. If you can’t conquer the task in front of you (board-op, reporter, producer), what makes you think you can tackle the bigger jobs with more responsibility? My good friends Ian Eagle and Sweeny Murti of WFAN instilled that in me years ago and I’ll never forget it. Great piece of advice that I pass along to others today.

tkras12Q: As you look to the future, what is it you still want to accomplish?   

A: I hope to continue doing what I do. I pride myself on being entertaining, passionate and opinionated.  I’m never satisfied with status quo. I’m always striving to improve. At the same time, I’m blessed to be living a lifelong dream and I’ll always be grateful for being in this crazy business.

Tom Krasniqi aka TKras can be heard weekdays from 9a-12p on 620 WDAE in Tampa. For more information on his show with Ronnie “Nighttrain” Lane, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Sports Radio News

Tony Bruno Relives Favorite Moments With Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP

“I loved every day. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that.”

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Tony Bruno has been a staple of the sports radio business for decades. Bruno is from Philadelphia and was teamed up in the early nineties with a duo still dominating the local airwaves there today, Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti. The three reunited Thursday morning on 94 WIP to remember the glory days of their partnership and friendship.

One of the first moments Cataldi asked Bruno if he remembered was the update he did from a tree outside of their studio and the answer was an emphatic yes.

“Absolutely, it’s one of the highlights of my life – other than interviewing four Presidents and every sports athlete in history – there’s no bigger moment than me climbing up in the tree, which was obstructing our view of William Penn and the city skyline. That’s what I do, I was a man of action. I’m not one of these guys that talks the talk, I climb the tree to do whatever is necessary.”

More frivolity followed when Cataldi harkened back to a segment of ‘Damsels in Distress’ and a time in which Bruno was sent on the street during a snowstorm to help shovel people out of their driveways. Bruno quickly recalled, “Man of the people. I should run for – I should of run for Governor of Pennsylvania or Senate or something.”

Bruno added that his favorite rant (and one that Cataldi loved too) wasn’t about the Cowboys or sports at all. “My favorite was my Infinity Broadcasting rant where I went on one day and even ripped our bosses, all the way up to the top of Infinity Broadcasting.” Cataldi cackled and praised Bruno’s rants more before being interrupted by Bruno saying, “yeah, my only regret is I never really ripped Al (Morganti) the way I should have ripped him. I let him of the hook so many times.”

An insightful moment came at the end of the call when Cataldi asked rhetorically if Bruno ever thought they (Cataldi & Morganti) would still be doing this thirty years later and then asked if Tony ever regretted leaving.

“It was a tough decision, Ang,” Bruno answered. “I was given an ultimatum. When I came to work with you guys, I loved every day. Every day we had fun. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that. It wasn’t one of those, ‘oh I got to go; I’m too big for these guys’. I even turned the ESPN job down a couple of times.

“My kids were still younger then, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t have to move. They said just come up here on weekends and that’s how ESPN Radio started. So I was doing weekends and Tom Bigby (Program Director) didn’t like that either, told me it wasn’t going to work. It was a philosophical thing. When he told me, ‘you should go because we are not going to pay you what they’re paying you,’ I said ok.

Cataldi began to sign off with Bruno with genuine thanks: “I got to tell you something Tone, we are indebted to you for the rest of our lives because we both learned so much from you and you are one of the great talents that radio has ever had.”

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Sports Radio News

Dodgers Temporarily Pull Broadcasters Off Road

“If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road.”

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When the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the East Coast later this week, the men that call the action on TV and radio will not be with them. The games will instead be broadcast on AM570 LA Sports and SportsNet LA from their respective studios.

“Due to a few members of the Dodgers’ broadcast team having recently tested positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the Dodgers have decided to not travel their broadcasters to upcoming games in Philadelphia and Washington,” the Dodgers announced in a statement. Similar to the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, the games will be broadcast from Los Angeles,” reads a statement on the team’s Twitter account.

No further details are available, so the severity and the number of cases remain unknown.

Last September, both members of the Dodgers’ television play-by-play crew were forced into quarantine. Joe Davis was the first to test positive, followed later that month by Orel Hershiser.

On Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media that the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff are not effected.

“There’s there’s no symptoms in the clubhouse. I think that as far as the upstairs, as an organization, we’re all just trying to be very cautious. But as far as in the clubhouse, coaches, training staff, nothing like that.”

If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road. 2022 was supposed to be a return to normal for the Dodgers and many other teams after not letting broadcasters travel in 2020 and 2021.

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Sports Radio News

Pat McAfee: ‘No One Will Disrespect Jim Rome On My Show’

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle.”

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Jim Rome is a sports radio icon and Pat McAfee recognizes that.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, McAfee was talking to co-host A.J. Hawk about how Rome trended recently on Twitter.

This happened after news of Tom Brady’s FOX Sports deal surfaced, and a list of the top paid sports media personalities was compiled. Rome came in behind Brady at number two making a reported $30 million a year, and many were surprised by that number. McAfee wasn’t.

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Jim Rome.”

McAfee gave props to Rome, 57, saying he’s been doing sports talk probably longer than anyone. He’s one of the most widely distributed hosts in the country. Pat said he won’t tolerate anyone talking smack about the Smack-Off King.

“No disrespect will be said on this show of Jim Rome, ever,” he said. “Love that man.”

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