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How Mark Chernoff’s Tough Love Influenced My Radio Career

Without Mark Chernoff laying into me on the sleepy summer morning in 2015, I might not be here today getting to do what I love.

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Photo Credit: Newsday/Alan Raia

The news came down last week that WFAN program director Mark Chernoff would be retiring from his post. It will wrap up one of the legendary programming careers in the radio business. And as I saw the news and looked back at my five years working for Mark as a part-timer, I thought back to how much credit Mark deserves for my making the switch from sports talk to news talk. 

But it’s probably not in the way that many would expect. 

It was the summer of 2015 and after two years of freelancing at WFAN as an anchor/update guy, I received the opportunity to host my first show. It was a dream. WFAN was the station I grew up on. Mike and the Mad Dog took me through many afternoons as a kid. Steve Somers would be on my radio in my room as I finished up homework. Heck, I even called him a few times in high school. And at the age of 26, I was getting to host on the station. I had to pinch myself many times to make sure it was real.

Thanks to Eric Spitz, the former program director at CBS Sports Radio (and now executive at SiriusXM), I had been filling in sparingly on the national network. But this was the next level for me. Even though it was local and not national, it felt bigger, because of what it meant to me personally.

The show took place in July of 2015, shortly after the MLB All-Star break. I got to host an overnight show from 2a-6a on the biggest sports station in the country. I was ecstatic. The first hour flew by, the second hour featured a cameo from Craig Carton, who was up and at it early before hosting Boomer and Carton at 6am. Craig could not have been more encouraging and good-hearted when the mic was on and off. He spent a segment with me which was a blast and we goofed around. The last thing he said to me, off the air, as he walking out of the studio was, “A lot of people want to be in that chair. So keep it up and keep working hard.” 

The show wrapped up at 6 a.m. and I felt pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. Then at 6:01, Mark Chernoff walked into the studio. He sat down and the first thing he said to me, “That was the worst show I have ever heard.” 

My heart sank. I got a pit in my stomach. 

His critiques were not on delivery, caller interaction, teasing, etc. It was regarding my topic choice.

I spent the first hour or two talking about the Mets and Yankees from the night prior, but then I veered off into more social topics. I remember talking about something around the Women’s World Cup, which was underway, and discussing pay scales compared to the men’s and women’s events. There was some offseason NBA talk around Kevin Durant and the Knicks, more from the standpoint on if he’s a cultural fit. Chernoff told me he wanted game breakdowns and hammering home the nuts and bolts of these games.

And while I was crushed driving home that morning after taking my lumps, I realized he was right. That is what WFAN is. That’s what the greatest sports radio brand was built on. There was no questioning what their formula was and how successful it had been. And yes, that is what the audience expected.

But it was also a moment for me to look in the mirror and say to myself and think, “Do I want to spend the next 30+ years of my life breaking down pitch sequences and pinch-hitting decisions?”

The answer was no. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do that. And there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to do that.

That same summer I hosted an overnight show on CBS Sports Radio and one caller called in to ask about the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line. I didn’t deliver the answer I wanted to deliver, which was, “I don’t care”, but it was another moment to think about what I want to do in the broadcasting business.

The feedback from Chernoff crushed me in the moment, but also pushed me to have a conversation with myself regarding what was next. And what was next would not be sports, it would be news. I was also starting to realize that during a weeknight, I’d rather watch a cable news program over a baseball or basketball game.

So in the fall of 2015, I worked my way into FOX News’ new SiriusXM channel to provide sports updates, with the handshake agreement I could fill in on some of their syndicated news talk programs on the terrestrial radio side.

That opportunity to fill-in first came in the summer of 2016 for then-host John Gibson. That led to more opportunities in the next several months. And after the sad passing of Alan Colmes, who was the night host for the network, I was one of the main fill ins following his death in January 2017. It took the network a few months to figure out their plans and in the meantime I was getting to host 2-3 national news talk shows per week.

The network would eventually hire Guy Benson and Marie Harf for that slot, but I knew the news talk itch was my future. I still used sports talk and updates to pay bills and stay busy, but it was no longer part of my long-term plan.

Within a year, WBAP’s Kevin Graham, who I had the pleasure of networking with in prior months, pointed me in the direction of an opening with Cumulus for a morning show/APD job in Kansas City at KCMO Talk Radio. After several “test shows” from the WABC studios, a trip to KC, and more test shows, in March of 2018, my wife and I were packing our bags and moving. It was a city we had some familiarity with having started my radio career in Oklahoma.

But three years later, the job, company and city have wildly exceeded my expectations. We’ve started a family and are happy to call it home. And getting to cover and talk about the biggest news stories in Kansas City and around the nation, while coming off a wild 2020 election cycle, has been incredible.

And without Mark Chernoff laying into me on the sleepy summer morning in 2015, I might not be here today getting to do what I love. So while I stand by my belief that my July 2015 show was not the worst show in WFAN history, I thank Mark Chernoff for, albeit maybe indirectly, for helping me realize what my passions were and wish him nothing but the best in retirement.

News Radio

Howard Stern Reveals MSNBC Go-To Source for News

Stern told “Morning Joe” in an extensive interview that MSNBC is the network for him regarding cable news consumption.

Eduardo Razo

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SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern told “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist in an extensive interview that MSNBC is the network for him regarding cable news consumption. 

Stern stated that he’s a major fan of “Morning Joe” and went the extra mile to say that he and co-host Joe Scarborough share the same political idealogy.

“I watch you guys every morning,” Stern said (h/t Mediaite). “I really enjoy the show. Oddly, I agree politically with almost everything Joe says. I don’t think there’s much difference there.”

The radio host thanked MSNBC for providing him with what he loves: 24/7 news. Additionally, Stern offered a shoutout to network host Symone Sanders and stated he’s no fan of Dateline repeats.

“By the way, I want to give a shoutout to MSNBC,” Stern added. “Thank God you don’t play the old Datelines anymore on the weekends. I like news. I watch this channel exclusively for news. I tune out on the weekend. 

“It’s like all news stuff. I’m watching old Datelines. I like when you guys are onI like news 24/7, and now I find I’m getting it. I get Symone on the weekend. Big fan of hers. Symone coming on strong. What can I tell you? I know the whole lineup.”

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News Radio

Trespassing Charges Against John DePetro Dismissed

DePetro have been dismissed as he faced a trespassing charge related to an incident over the summer during a Monday court hearing.

Eduardo Razo

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Charges against John DePetro have been dismissed as the radio host faced a trespassing charge related to an incident over the summer during a Monday court hearing.

DePetro was arrested in mid-August outside a home on Staples Avenue in Warwick.

Police searched the house several months earlier as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Charlotte Lester, who has been missing for six months.

“I respect our justice system and respect law enforcement, specifically the Warwick PD,” DePetro said on Twitter. “The search for Charlotte Lester continues as I resume efforts searching for answers into her disappearance and holding Mark Perkins accountable for his actions against myself and Ladybug.”

The man who lives there, Mark Perkins, was also arrested the following day after he allegedly charged at DePetro with a lawnmower while DePetro was live-streaming. 

Unlike DePetro, who had his charges dismissed, Perkins still faces an assault charge, according to court records.

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News Radio

Oklahoma’s The Eagle 96.9 Rebrands as Freedom 96.9

KZLS started simulcasting on KQOB at the beginning of this year after the 96.9 signal was leased to Citadel and Cumulus Media for nineteen years. 

Eduardo Razo

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Champlin Broadcasting Conservative Talk The Eagle 96.9 KQOB Enid/Oklahoma City and 1640 KZLS Enid will look a little different for its listeners as the station has rebranded.

Rather than calling itself The Eagle 96.9, the radio station will now be known as Freedom 96.9 (h/t Radio Insight). KZLS started simulcasting on KQOB at the beginning of this year after the 96.9 signal was leased to Citadel and Cumulus Media for nineteen years. 

The station features a syndicated lineup, including Hugh Hewitt, Brian Kilmeade, Dan Bongino, Mike Gallagher, Joe Pags, and Bill O’Reilly. Furthermore, with the rebrand possibly comes a new addition.

Freedom 96.9 is teasing the addition of Dana Loesch to the lineup as well to enhance the rebrand further as the station begins a new chapter as it provides news/talk to the residents. 

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