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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

Audacy Lures Dave Labrozzi To Pittsburgh To Lead KDKA News Radio

“LaBrozzi will oversee the content strategy, talent, operations and branding for KDKA starting November 29th.”

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Audacy has announced the hiring of Dave LaBrozzi as Brand Manager of KDKA News Radio (KDKA-AM/100.1 FM) in Pittsburgh. LaBrozzi will oversee the content strategy, talent, operations and branding for the radio station starting November 29th.

“I am thrilled to be back in my favorite city and second home,” said LaBrozzi. “I consider it an honor to lead KDKA, a true legend in the industry. Thank you to Michael Spacciapolli for the opportunity to return to the city I love and lead an amazing group of talent on such a legendary station.”

LaBrozzi has nearly four decades of experience in radio, and most recently served as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City. Prior to guiding WABC, he was Program Director of WPLJ-FM. In addition to his stint in New York, Dave spent 14 years working as the Vice President of Programming for CBS Radio’s Baltimore stations. His professional experience also includes programming stops in Nashville, Austin, San Antonio and Pittsburgh.

Labrozzi takes over a highly respected and successful brand, which had previously been managed by Jim Graci. Graci left the station in mid-August. He also had programmed 93.7 The Fan, the market’s leading sports brand, which will now be managed by Kraig Riley who received an internal promotion.

“As both KDKA and The Fan continue to evolve into full multi-platform operations serving our listeners in new ways every day it is clear that both stations need focused leadership,” said Michael Spacciapolli, Senior Vice President and Market Manager, Audacy Pittsburgh. “The addition of Dave and promotion of Kraig will help us continue that evolution. There is an expectation of excellence at both stations from the city of Pittsburgh that I have no doubt Dave and Kraig will continue to build on every day.”

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News Radio

NPR’s Books Editor Petra Mayer Dies at 46

Barnes says the former books editor died abruptly at Holy Cross Hospital in Maryland of what’s considered to be a pulmonary embolism. 

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Darian Woehr/NPR

NPR is mourning the loss of its Culture desk books editor as Petra Mayer died at 46. The media outlet’s senior vice president for news, Nancy Barnes, announced Mayer’s death in an email to their staff. 

Barnes says the former books editor died abruptly at Holy Cross Hospital in Maryland of what’s considered to be a pulmonary embolism. 

“Petra was NPR through and through,” Barnes wrote. “To say that Petra will be missed simply seems inadequate.”

Before becoming the books editor, Mayer was an associate producer and director on the weekends for “All Things Considered,” the radio network’s flagship news program. 

“This is a heartbreaking loss for all of us at NPR, our member stations, and the millions of listeners in the public radio family,” an NPR statement said. “Petra’s passion for her work, her love for her colleagues, and her joy sharing books with public radio listeners have made a lasting impact.”

Mayer’s NPR colleagues stated that they’d remember her for the smarts she displayed, sarcastic humor, and loyalty.

“She is like the keeper of a certain wonderfulness of NPR,” Rose Friedman, a books and culture editor, said. “She is the spirit of the place.” 

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News Radio

Man Accusing Don Lemon of Assault Appears on Megyn Kelly’s Show

Dustin Hice states that Lemon’s status as a television star may make it hard to hold him accountable. 

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The man accusing CNN’s Don Lemon of assaulting him at a bar in the Hamptons in 2018, appeared on The Megyn Kelly Show on SiriusXM last week. 

During the alleged incident, Dustin Hice said Lemon put his hand down his own pants, and then place his hand in Hice’s face minutes after he offered to buy Lemon a drink. 

“Anybody that acts like that in public without any fear of what it might do to somebody or the consequences it might have, that’s a pattern,” Hice said. 

According to Newsweek, Lemon’s legal sent a letter to Kelly criticizing her for conducting a “lopsided and inaccurate” interview with Hice. 

The letter claims Kelly allowed Hice to make “false and misleading” statements about Lemon that were “unchallenged.”

During last week’s interview, Hice added that Lemon’s status as a television star may make it hard to hold him accountable. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Hice added. “He’s protected by the fact that he’s African American, gay man on television and I’m just some nobody.”

Lemon’s legal team seeks text messages between the pair that may help shed light on exactly what happened during the alleged encounter.

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