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Time to Leave Your ‘Safe Spaces’ Behind

News, politics, and social issues can certainly have their somber moments. That being said, not everything has to be life and death.

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Recently, I relocated from Seattle to Milwaukee.  One of the first things that I wanted to do, was register to vote.

So, I took a trip to City Hall, stood in a short line and filled out my paperwork with a clerk.  While I doing so, I heard a rather elderly gentleman behind me engage in conversation.

“I hope you’re not voting for that senile old guy,” he said.

I looked at him, smiled and asked jokingly, “Which One?”

Laughing back at me, the man said, “Well, the more senile one.  The guy that called the President a ‘clown’.”

“Actually, I AM voting for that guy.” I retorted back.

Leaning back in his chair, the man chuckled and said “Well, good luck with that, young man.”

That simple exchange really registered with me.  In that one moment, I had experienced a shred of civility that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.  Here was a stranger, who clearly had different opinions of the President than myself, respecting my opinion without harassment.

Civility flew out the window a long time ago in the arena of public discourse.  Unfortunately, newsrooms and spoken word outlets have, to a great degree, been the most culpable for this.  Instead of reporting the news and presenting a wide array of views, they’ve all been microtargeting.  Many have picked a segment of the population that they want to reach and catered their messaging to that segment’s worldview. Instead of telling people what they NEED to hear, they tell them what they WANT to hear.  What’s presented as discussion from opposing viewpoints often comes off as disingenuous, contrived and usually erodes into shouting matches.  Instead of offering thought provoking opinions, many commentators present things that are, at times so outlandish, I wonder if even THEY believe what they’re saying.  

In an ironic twist, the staffs of many media outlets are just as divided as the country is right now. What I hear from many station and newsroom managers (and what I’ve experienced first-hand) is that it’s reaching a critical mass. This division has gotten so bad, it’s become commonplace that Republican staffers sit on one side of the building, Democrats sit on another and neither side talks to each other anymore.

Of all the institutions in the world, spoken word media must be the last bastion of civilized and genuine discourse.  How are they going to provide that if they can’t even speak to their own colleagues who happen to have an opposing viewpoint? So many outlets are rotting from within.  A victim of the same monster of division that they created. 

I remember in almost every radio station I ever worked for, the common refrain from executives was for us to “get out of silos so we can accomplish more together.”  Going into 2021, that goal should be updated to “get out of safe spaces so we can TOLERATE each other”.

To accomplish this mission…here are five things I think anyone that manages a spoken-word outlet should think long and hard about…

  • BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR OWN VIEWS

Political views are not something to be afraid of.  They aren’t some boogeyman that you need to keep locked in a closet.  Get your personal views out into the open.  Let people know where you stand.  At the same time, be certain to show them concrete examples of how your personal views won’t affect your management decisions.  

When I first interviewed for the PD job at KIRO in Seattle, one of the many people I had to speak to was longtime host Dori Monson.  While preparing for the interview, I had listened to his show online extensively.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that we both looked at the world very, very differently.

When I sat down with Dori for the first time, I knew the first question he was going to ask me…and opted to take a direct approach.

“So, what do you think of my show?” he asked.

“Well, to be honest, Dori, I disagree with just about everything you have to say,” I responded.

“Oh,” Dori said as he started to frown.

“But you’re compelling as HELL to listen to and that’s what matters the most to me, personally,” I added.

That changed the entire tenor of the conversation.

Dori and I went on to have a successful, open, and honest relationship.  There was never any tension between the two of us because we both knew where we stood.  Most importantly, he understood that my personal views wouldn’t be ONE MORE thing he’d have to worry about when he put together the content of his show.  I’d be evaluating him objectively. 

  • WALK TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE

Some of the best conversations I had were with people that didn’t share my own personal views. I would make a point to seek these people out and talk to them on a regular basis. One person that was great at this was Michael Medved.

I was fortunate enough to work in the same building as Michael, who has had an extraordinarily successful career as a right-leaning syndicated talk show host. On several occasions when I would be speaking with colleagues in the hallway about Democratic Party issues, he would commonly walk over and politely ask if he could join the conversation. He’d let us know the basis for his views and ask us the basis for ours. In many ways, my interactions with him were very much like the format of his talk show.  Medved embraced debate and dissent. He never sought out to “own” anyone or change their minds.  But he would always give you something to think about.

  • DON’T BE SO DAMN SERIOUS

News, politics, and social issues can certainly have their somber moments. That being said, not everything has to be life and death. Fostering a light atmosphere helps put things in perspective when things DO get heavy.

During the 2016 election, I remember joking almost daily with a colleague of mine who was a Trump Supporter. Like virtually everyone, I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win in a landslide. Naturally, we were trash talking each other almost every day.  

Then, of course, election night happened.

When I came to work the next day, I was greeted by a big picture of Donald Trump taped to my office door.  We both laughed it off.  

It was a far cry from the tense atmosphere that reverberated throughout the building that day and, in a big way, helped set people at ease.

  • TRY TO FIND COMMON GROUND

No matter how diametrically opposed you can be with someone on the issues, you can always find things you agree on.  Yet very few people take the time and effort to find out what you have in common with someone else.  It’s far too easy to dismiss someone based on what you disagree on.

I’ve enjoyed my interactions with Todd Herman, the conservative talk show host who fills in for Rush Limbaugh. Todd has distain for pretty much every political candidate that I have ever supported. Despite this, I really worked to try and find issues that we agreed on.  

I’d chat him up in the hallway and take him out for coffee and pick his brain on various issues.

Much to his surprise, he found out that we had similar opinions on the Second Amendment.

Much to my surprise, I found out that he had no real issue with gay marriage.

We both dashed assumptions we had about each other and I feel it was a healthy exercise for both of us.

He even invited me and my husband out to his place to do some target shooting.  

One day, we’ll take him up on that.

BNM Writers

The NFL Weathered the Storm, Fans Once Again Are Addicted

The NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.

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The NFL has us all wrapped around its finger. 

Don’t take my word for it, just look at the numbers. As we get set for the NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we are nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever. 

The NFL’s regular season viewership rose 10%, which is a bounce-back from a 7% drop in 2020. 

About 17.1 million viewers tuned in to regular season games on TV and online. It was the highest regular season audience for the NFL since 2015, according to a statement from the league. With the audience for traditional TV falling, NFL games continue to dominate the ratings, ranking as 91 of the top 100 telecasts this season, the league said.

So what happened? 

Well first we need to look backwards: 2020 was a perfect storm. The NFL did go political to a degree, adding “social justice” phrases to the end zones and the backs of players’ helmets. It was not as in-your-face as what the NBA did, but it was noticeable. It bothered a portion of fans who may have temporarily stepped away from watching football in a boycott. Add to that an incredibly tense 2020 election season, along with being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was natural to expect to see a decrease in viewership.

Oh, and let’s be honest, the mostly empty stadiums were just ghoulish. 

But the NFL weathered the storm. Because that’s what it does. It’s the best product on TV and it’s brought many back into the fold as things have gotten back to normal in 2021. 

It’s also why I never boycotted the league. First off, I knew I wouldn’t last long. We all need outlets from the insanity of the news cycle. I knew myself too well. And if I was going to boycott, I was going to do it right. I never thought I could do an NFL boycott “right”.

Was that weak of me? I know I certainly took the backlash from some of my listeners. But based on the ratings numbers we are seeing this week, it seems like many who were tough talkers in 2020 have quietly come back to the league with their tail between their legs. 

For the record, I’m OK with that. I won’t be admonishing anyone over it. The NFL puts on a first-class product. And let’s be honest, the NFL knew that they could toe the line of doing “enough” on the social justice front to appease those requesting it, while allowing time to heal wounds of those not wanting it, and not hemorage their audience in any significant way.

It turns out the NFL was right. Once again. We can’t get enough. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. And we’ll be tuned in starting with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday. 

So as we get ready for another season of NFL Playoffs, there’s no conversation around politics infringing on the product and the league is dominating TV ratings in a way no other sport or show is coming close to duplicating. 

The NFL weathered the storm, the stadiums are full, fans are back, and we’re all, once again, addicted. 

It’s OK to admit it. I am. Will you? 

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BNM Writers

Children Are Paying a Heavier Price Over Covid

“Too many parents, studies, and experts are concerned with the overall mental and physical health of a child that it’s impossible to ignore any longer.”

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Image: Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Here we go again, another COVID surge. Big businesses will thrive, small businesses will get by, restaurants will struggle, but for the most part, we can handle another wave. Schools, however, I’m not so sure.

Since everyone will try and decipher where I stand on the issue, let me be upfront. I’m triple vaccinated, I don’t like to wear a mask, but I do, when asked, and usually after a few minutes in a store, I pull it down so it’s not so annoying. I have an toddler at home who is not yet school age.

Schools are the front lines of this war. Kids who are forced to wear a mask to protect other kids, teachers, and themselves is seen as a small inconvenience for the greater good. 

On the other hand, kids who are forced to wear a mask are having their self esteem destroyed, their ability to interact short circuited, and their mental health continues to suffer. They’re falling behind in their learning, and their overall general health is bad and is getting worse.

Schools have been able to find common ground on much tougher issues (bullying, drugs, violence, kickball) so why can’t we find an acceptable alternative when it comes to masks?

It’s all masks all the time or no masks ever again.  

The latest numbers in St. Louis have 54 children ages 18 and younger in the hospital and 10 children in the ICU.

Each one tragic, and if I were a parent, I would want to call out the national guard. But, too many parents, too many studies, and too many experts are generally concerned with the overall mental and physical health of a child that it’s impossible to ignore any longer. If you disagree, look at the mental health of the adults around the kids. We parents aren’t handling this pandemic well so what chance do our children have?

Conversely, some parents are petrified of the great unknown when it comes to Covid. Children get it at a much lesser degree, and not as severe, except when it’s your child.  

Politicians aren’t helping the situation either. They are using the issue to gain attention from their respective fringes, hoping it will propel them to a higher office. They win when we stay angry with each other. If one were cynical, one would say they don’t want a solution. Fixing the problem doesn’t help them.

During the polio outbreaks of years ago, schools would delay openings, cancel schools, and parents would limit who could play with their kids because “they have polio over there”. It wasn’t ideal, but in the 1930’s you had one parent home to help. ( In fact, radio, back in the day was part of the solution. Radio helped with the virtual learning. It was the zoom of its day.) Today with both parents working it’s much more difficult for a family.

At some point we have to arrive at a new normal. It’s been two full years and now our third February. We can’t continue to have virtual learning, and school board meetings where parents are screaming at each other like junkyard dogs. At what point do we put down our weapons,  and come up with a compromise?

While one parent worries about the long term negative effects of the vaccine, the other parent worries about the long term negative effects of COVID. It seems like they should be able to understand each other.

In some ways there is no answer, but in others, we must find one. The children are watching.  We are making them pawns in our political fights. We are using them to propel our political agenda. I worry what long lasting negative effects all of this will have on them long after COVID is gone.

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BNM Writers

CNN Remains Top Destination For New Year’s Eve Celebrations

“From 11p-12:30am, CNN drew 3.3 million total viewers, matching its second-best ever total audience of that date’s time slot.”

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The calendar changed from 2021 to 2022, and cable’s No. 1 non-sports destination for New Year’s Eve celebrations, CNN, remained so. Once again at New York’s Times Square were hosts Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen. Some of the guests featured were actor Leslie Jordan, performer Katy Perry, Academy Award winner Regina King and King’s former “227” co-star Jackee Harry.

For the 90-minute period of 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern, it drew 3.3 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, matching CNN’s second-best ever total audience (with New Year’s Eve 2017) of that date’s time slot. It was during that time frame when the night’s most viral moment took place. Shortly after the clock struck midnight, a ticked-off (and tipsy) Cohen criticized the “victory lap dance” by “horrible” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

CNN’s full 4.5-hour telecast averaged 2.12 million total viewers including 746,000 within the key 25-54 demographic (from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.). This marked a 35 percent decline in each key figure from their record-setting New Year’s Eve 2020. Still, it delivered cable’s best adults 25-54 performance of the week (ending Jan. 2) outside of ESPN’s football coverage, Paramount’s “Yellowstone” and TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days.”

Cable news’ runner-up telecast for the week among adults 25-54 was CNN’s continued New Year’s Eve celebrations from New Orleans, Louisiana. It was hosted by a visibly-inebriated Don Lemon alongside fellow CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota and “Daily Show” comedienne Dulce Sloan. The special, which began at 12:30 a.m. Eastern, averaged 1.455 million total viewers including 614,000 in the 25-54 age range. While it dipped to its lowest total audience amount since 2014, the telecast ran until 1:30 a.m. Eastern, meaning the figure included the steep drop in viewership after 1 a.m. Eastern/midnight Central. Prior to Dec. 31, 2019, CNN had concluded Lemon’s portion at 1:05 a.m. Eastern. This was the first year Lemon spent New Year’s without Brooke Baldwin, his longtime fellow co-host on the occasion; Baldwin had departed CNN back in April.

In the overnight on CNN, a rerun of “New Year’s Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen” from 1:30-3:30 a.m. drew 755,000 viewers (with 252,000 adults 25-54); at 3:30-4:30 a.m., a re-airing of “New Year’s Live” with Don Lemon (remaining uncensored) posted 369,000 viewers and a still-above-CNN’s-total-day-average of 124,000 adults 25-54.

Over at Fox News on Dec. 31, their one-hour 2021 retrospective “Who Can Forget” at 8 p.m. drew 1.35 million viewers (172 adults 25-54), followed by the 1.85 million (including 242,000 adults 25-54) who tuned in to Greg Gutfeld’s one-hour New Year’s special at 9 p.m.  “All-American New Year 2022” from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. averaged 1.85 million total viewers and 359,000 adults 25-54 — approximately twice more than last New Year’s Eve.

Also during the week, from federal court in New York City, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on federal charges of luring underage teenage girls to engage in sex acts with American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The jury had deliberated for five days before they found her guilty of five of the six counts charged against her. The verdict occurred on Dec. 29 at 5:10 p.m. Eastern. Fox News Channel was the top cable news outlet in breaking news coverage with 2.9 million viewers and 386,000 adults 25-54. Although no labels from Nielsen indicated the news event on CNN and MSNBC, the 5-6 p.m. hour of CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” drew 822,000 total viewers and 173,000 adults 25-54; MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” from 4-6 p.m. delivered 1.12 million viewers and 134,000 adults 25-54.

On upstart NewsNation, their “Rush Hour” program on Dec. 29 from 5-6 p.m. posted 119,000 viewers. Oddly enough, it was the least-watched weeknight edition from Dec. 27-31; overall, “Rush Hour” averaged 156,000 viewers for the week.

Cable news averages for December 27, 2021-January 2, 2022:

Total Day (December 27-January 2 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.225 million viewers; 187,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.531 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.529 million viewers; 110,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.224 million viewers; 74,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.164 million viewers; 38,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.154 million viewers; 28,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.094 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.093 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (December 27-January 1 @ 8-11 p.m.; January 2 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.749 million viewers; 232,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.774 million viewers; 75,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.743 million viewers; 170,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.245 million viewers; 82,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.191 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.156 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.111 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.063 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top CNN and MSNBC programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 12/27/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.128 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/29/2021 5:00 PM, 10 min.) 3.015 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 12/28/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.940 million viewers

4. Special Report: Maxwell Verdict (FOXNC, Wed. 12/29/2021 5:10 PM, 50 min.) 2.897 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 12/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.762 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 12/28/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.690 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 12/29/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.519 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 12/27/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.415 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 12/28/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.325 million viewers

10. Special Report with Bret Baier (FOXNC, Mon. 12/27/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.277 million viewers

14. New Years Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (CNN, Fri. 12/31/2021 8:00 PM, 270 min.) 2.124 million viewers

62. New Years Eve Live (CNN, Fri. 12/31/2021 12:30 AM, 60 min.) 1.455 million viewers

65. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 12/29/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.432 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top HLN and MSNBC programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. New Years Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (CNN, Fri. 12/31/2021 8:00 PM, 270 min.) 0.746 million adults 25-54

2. New Years Eve Live (CNN, Fri. 12/31/2021 12:30 AM, 60 min.) 0.614 million adults 25-54

3. All American New Year’s (FOXNC, Fri. 12/31/2021 12:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.462 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 12/27/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.406 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 12/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.401 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/29/2021 5:00 PM, 10 min.) 0.397 million adults 25-54

7. Special Report: Maxwell Verdict (FOXNC, Wed. 12/29/2021 5:10 PM, 50 min.) 0.386 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 12/28/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.379 million adults 25-54

9. All American New Year’s (FOXNC, Fri. 12/31/2021 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.364 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 12/28/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.361 million adults 25-54

74. Forensic Files “Who’s Your Daddy” (HLN, Tue. 12/28/2021 11:30 PM, 30 min.) 0.206 million adults 25-54

115. The Beat with Ari Melber (MSNBC, Mon. 12/27/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.155 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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