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Scott Masteller’s Sports Radio Days Prepared Him For News Talk

“So many careers have been damaged by going down the road and taking the wrong turn. I think it’s the job of a program director to be looking out for their talent and helping them navigate through all of these challenges that are taking place.”

Chrissy Paradis

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Scott Masteller has undoubtedly been one of the most fundamental and profound power players in the News Talk/Sports format during his significantly extraordinary career. Masteller has shaped talent, and influenced programming and implemented strategies nationwide while still maintaining pristine relationships within the business. One of his best qualities though goes beyond the actual radio X’s and O’s. It’s his willingness find time to speak and offer advice to those who he’d crossed paths with during his broadcasting journey. Masteller’s career has included a number of memorable stops. The latest one, which he’s been at for the past six years, involves programming and leading Baltimore’s historic heritage station WBAL. Scott and I caught up to reflect on his career and talk about some of the biggest challenges facing the radio business today.

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Chrissy Paradis: What convinced you to pursue a career in radio and broadcasting?

Scott Masteller: It started when I was in college. I met a guy who was involved in the college radio station. He invited me to come down and check out the station, and I pretty much fell in love with the whole idea of being on the radio. I was a jock playing music and the more I would do, the more I got interested in it. Then, I got my first on-air job at a small station in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and I was actually really happy there for a long time. As things evolved, other opportunities presented themselves and that started me on my journey traveling across the country to be more involved in broadcasting.

CP: And that saw you shift from playing music to working in two of the more challenging formats – sports and news talk. Those formats involve being on-mic for 40-50 minutes an hour. You chose to direct your focus behind the scenes, working in programming with a number of local stations. Eventually the call came though to move to Bristol, CT to serve as SVP of ESPN Radio where you’d have a hand in shaping the network’s content and working with affiliates across the country. How did that opportunity manifest itself?

SM: I was on-air earlier in my career, and I modeled them. A lot of people don’t know this, I did minor league baseball for five seasons, three of which, I was in Wichita, Kansas. I wasn’t making any money and there was an opportunity to go to a station in Lexington, Kentucky where I became a host and play-by-play guy and the Program Director, so from that point on, everywhere I went, I was on air and the program director. From Kentucky, I went to Salt Lake City, from there I went to Portland, Oregon where I spent five years. About two years in, they felt that I could be more effective as a program director without an on-air role. At first I fought it, because I loved being on the air, but I had been doing more of the part-time stuff and focusing more on strategy and coaching—giving feedback, developing balance, and at the same time I was going to conferences, meeting people and networking. I became aware of an opportunity in Dallas, Texas. ESPN was putting an owned and operated station on the air, and I love challenges, especially building and fixing things. I was able to secure that position and so I went to Dallas. I ran ESPN 103.3 for five years, and we did some good stuff. Then after that run, I was asked to move to Bristol to become the Senior Director of Content, and oversee all the studio programming for the ESPN Radio Network.

I was there for quite a while, for about eight years. From there, it just kind of evolved. But through that process, I met a lot of people that I really respect. People that mentored me, gave me great feedback with my ideas, and helped me learn the business, so to speak. I’ve had a pretty good run, and been fortunate to find the next job when I wasn’t looking. I just tried to do a good job where I was, and from that, other opportunities presented themselves.

CP: You mentioned having an opportunity to coach, work with and develop shows and talent who have pretty recognizable names in the industry. What was the most pivotal project that you worked on that you feel has played a significant role in developing your skill set?

SM: Well, the first big town I worked in was in Portland, Oregon, and before he became a network megastar Colin Cowherd was the midday host at the sports station I managed KFFX. I got to know him, and learn about him and he just was tremendous to work with. To work with such amazing talent even early on, helped me learn about what it’s like managing high profile personalities.

When I went to Dallas, one of the best shows I was ever associated with was led by the longtime sports columnist and talk show host in the market, Randy Galloway. Randy was well known for his coverage of the Cowboys, very opinionated. We built the show around him, with some players to support him. I feel that’s one of the best shows that I was ever part of. Randy was awesome at what he did. He’s retired now, but I do stay in touch with him and found him to be tremendous.

Then when I went to Bristol—so many talent, but once again, Colin was there and I got to watch him, and the way he prepped and executed his show. His prep process is just so impressive. I walked in early in the morning, and he would be in there with his production team figuring out what he’s going to do. The best talent, make it easy because they’re so dedicated to being great.

And when I left ESPN, I decided to go a different direction. I went into news and news talk, where I’m at now at WBAL, which is a heritage radio station. In the last year, we put together a new morning show where we took two of our highest profile talent, Ben Clifford Mitchell IV ( he goes by C4) and Brian Nieman. It may be one of the top two or three shows I’ve ever worked with because they have incredible chemistry and they want to get better every day.

The great talent are always trying to make themselves better. They’re never satisfied with where they’re at and when you look at Mike and Mike and the success they had, they were always focused on getting better. They weren’t waiting for feedback from somebody else to get better, they were focused on doing it themselves. That’s really what makes the job for a programmer kind of easy, if you have those kinds of people to work with.

CP: There’s definitely no shortage of opinion in spoken word whether it be news or sports. Some are very comfortable speaking their minds and not worrying about the potential consequences, and others may toe the line whether it’s due to fear or not wanting to earn the wrath of the audience. The mic, as you know, can be a dangerous place sometimes. How do you handle that with your staff?

SM: It has proven to be even more dangerous in 2021 than anytime previously. We spend a lot of time with our talent every day, making sure that everybody has a smart game plan for what they’re going to do on the air. You’ve seen so many careers damaged by going down the road and taking the wrong turn because of the scrutiny that everything is under right now. I think it’s the job of a program director, to be looking out for their talent and helping them navigate through all of these challenges that are taking place. That allows them to go in and create great content that people will want to listen to. But, things you could do on the air, two years ago, you may not be able to do today, just because the landscape has changed.

CP: In terms of working in news-talk with WBAL—how did you feel the experience of working in sports prepared you for what felt like a natural, effortless transition? After working with these high profile hosts and covering national stories, how did that play a role in your evolution into becoming a news talk programmer?

SM: The one thing ESPN prepared me for that they had a paid strategy in terms of how they integrate news content with personality oriented content. The work that takes place there, in terms of the news division of ESPN, you have to have so many sources, to put a story out. You have to have a smart strategic plan for what you’re going to do, and understand that there are certain times the story is bigger than anything that’s going out over the air; that all plays into what takes place at a station like WBAL. The collaboration at our station between our news department and our programming department, I believe is the secret sauce that builds to the success of our radio station.

I meet every day with Jeff Wade, our news director, and we’re always strategizing on what the big stories are, how many press conferences we’re going to carry and then how we are going to react to those press conferences—it’s a much different approach than you might see at some other radio stations, because of the fact that our company is committed to news content. Basically, we’re part of a television company—that plays into all of our strategies on a regular basis.

I think that’s one of the biggest strengths that we have, that we can react to the news stories, while still evolving and developing topics, which still, to this day, I believe for any talk show host, the topics are what will make or break you; you pick the right topic, you’ll get quarter hours. You pick the wrong topic, you’ll lose.

CP: There’s one thing that you’ve been lucky enough to learn, it’s that authenticity is essential. Having transparency on the air, it’s palpable. And there’s a strong bond that you can build with your listeners through it. What elements do you see as the most integral part of tackling topics on the air; the host’s opinion, the passion, or the feeling of honestly connecting with the listeners?

SM: I think it’s a combination of all those elements. One of the words I use a lot with talent is tone and how you present your ideas on the air. You have to be real. You can’t be fake. The audience is so much smarter than some talent realize, so if you go down a path, and it’s not real and genuine, the consumer will see right through that. Usually when that happens, they quit and go elsewhere. The consumer holds all the power now because there’s such a saturation of platforms, devices, and content selections that your content has to stand out every day. The host cannot assume that the listener knows, you have to explain it to them.

I think that’s a big part of the process.

The other thing, which has always been part of what I believed in is that you can’t be mean spirited. You can be passionate, you can be opinionated—you can show that emotion on the air, but it’s got to be real. Because if you’re not real, they’re not going to stay and listen.

CP: As you’ve developed your philosophy for managing and working with talent, what is the best advice you could give somebody that you’ve benefited from yourself? A tried and true Masteller-tested method.

SM: One, when a talent asks you, did you hear my segment on such and such today? Be honest with them. If you did hear it, tell them you heard it and tell them what you think. If you didn’t hear it, say I’m sorry, I missed it. I’ll pull the audio and then give you some feedback. But the more you can listen to what they’re doing, that’s what talent want feedback on and what do you think of that segment? They’ll say ‘was I okay in that interview? or ‘was I over the top or where I need to be?’ I think that’s critical.

Also, the program director needs to be part of a support system for the talent. I’ve always had this thing ever since I was a program director—I don’t like to go in the studio when somebody is on the air. I don’t like to call the hotline to the studio unless I really, really have to. Why? Because when I was an on-air talent, there’s nothing that I was more nervous about, then when a program director would come in and stand behind me while I’m doing my show. And I’d be thinking, ‘you know, what, if you’ve got something to say, I’ll listen to you and I want the feedback, but can you wait until I’m off the stage?’

I believe it’s important that the talent knows you’re in his or her corner, to help them get better and to succeed. Nothing gets me more excited than when I see a talent grow to the next level, get a great rating book, and are able to showcase their skills.

It’s also important to know when to have the conversation with the talent and when to let them be and wait. Choosing wrong may impact them.

CP: 2020 has been such an unprecedented year and it’s thrown a lot of curveballs to the industry, but especially the news talk format. What did you do to adjust your station to the dynamics at hand with coverage of the pandemic? Was it more about adapting and reacting or deliberately planning?

SM: From the beginning of the pandemic, we had numerous meetings on how we were going to maintain our quality and how we were going to take things to the next level. The thing about WBAL is we’ve got talk shows, we’ve got news, local news and we produce the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League, and we actually oversee the production of the games; so we had to figure all that out.

It was kind of starting to come together as we would go because we’ve got really smart people, amazing people that know what’s going on. We all worked collaboratively together and figured that out. Once we got to that place, where we were good, then it was about just continuing to produce content like we normally do. That’s what we’ve really tried to do and even today, we’re still working primarily remotely, but the listener gets the same quality product they’ve always got—that’s what our goal is.

CP: What is your proudest moment (or one of the proudest moments) of your career thus far?

SM: One of my proudest moments was having the confidence to transition from sports to news talk, and being able to get the job at WBAL in Baltimore. It’s a heritage radio station with a tremendous history and I respect the heritage of what that station is all about. While at the same time we’ve done some really good stuff to build it to a higher level. When I left ESPN, I thought I’d stay in sports forever, but this came up, and I saw how important this station is. I’ve had as much fun working for WBAL as anywhere I’ve ever been.

CP: You’ve been significantly helpful to me in helping me find my voice, encouraging me to pursue the career goals and aspirations I had for myself, understanding that they in fact were attainable, and recognizing how essential authenticity is in this industry. I feel very lucky to have learned this valuable information so early in my career and carry it with me as I venture forward. Which mentors/mentor helped shape you, and gave you that confidence to embark on the amazing journey that’s been your career?

SM: I was fortunate that my one uncle, Bob Masteller, was an amazing mentor to me, because my dad passed early. He would always say, ‘Scott, you need to have a board of directors!’

So, there were several people, some from the business, some from outside the business. My wife, Carol. And a couple of people in the industry, Bruce Gilbert at Cumulus, Rick Scott, the well known sports consultant and then different GM’s that I’ve worked with that have really made an impact on me over the years.

It’s a collection of all those voices, and we don’t always agree, but that’s healthy, and I continue to call on all of them today to help me navigate through different challenges. The more that you can have other people who you trust; that to me is a really good thing.

CP: What would be your advice for someone who is looking to begin their career or grow their career in the radio industry?

SM: It’s just real simple: network, network, network. And then network some more! The more people you can meet, the more relationships you build. And then, when you find somebody you can trust, try to cement that relationship, so it becomes more than just somebody you can connect with on LinkedIn, someone you can reach out to when you have questions, thoughts or ideas.

Those relationships are the key to being able to be successful. The more you can get to know different people, and it may be someone you meet today, that may not do anything for you for five years, but at some point, you may cross paths and that person’s aware of something.. It’s just about meeting different people and that can help you find your voice.

BNM Writers

The Cost of “Thoughts”

Jack Del Rio made a classic mistake of wondering aloud about topics that people in public positions aren’t allowed to think about on Twitter.

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The first recorded use of the expression, “A penny for your thoughts,” was made by Sir Thomas Moore precisely 500 years ago (1522). But, no doubt, a penny went much further in the 16th century.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows that inflation continues to increase above expectations. The current annual rate of 8.6% is the highest since 1981. The cost of thoughts, or at least saying them aloud, well, saying certain things in a public forum, has gone up far more than the CPI.

Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator for the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the “Washington Football Team,” and before that, the Washington Redskins), made a classic mistake of wondering aloud about topics that people in public positions aren’t allowed to think about on Twitter. Specifically, his Tweets compared (what he called) “the summer of riots” to January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. As the late, great Alex Trebek would say, Del Rio’s comments were “in the form of a question.”

Faced with media scrutiny about his Tweets, rather than back down, Del Rio referred to January 6th as a “dust-up at the Capitol.”

Can I tell you a trade secret of press flacks? They all have a small can of lighter fluid and a pack of matches within reach behind a piece of glass with the words “break only in the case of emergency” scrawled on it. Certain phrases or words will cause a press person, at great personal danger and sacrifice, to break the glass, douse themselves with the accelerant, and strike a match before flinging their immolating body in front of the podium. Okay, not literally, but I guarantee the Commanders’ public relations director would think this alternative less painful than hearing those words come out of Del Rio’s mouth in front of the press gaggle.

The controversy that followed was swift and certain: as was the reaction from Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera. He promptly assessed a $100,000 fine on Del Rio for his comments.

Two points here: First, this is not a sports story. Talk Radio observers should be far more concerned with the consequences of this story than NFL or sports fans. Second, it doesn’t matter what you think happened on January 6th. You should still find the fine issued by Rivera chilling, whether you call it an insurrection or a dust-up.

I used to believe that comedian Bill Maher and I were about as far apart on the political spectrum as any two Americans could be. Maher and I, however, hold similar views on freedom of expression.

On his HBO show, “Real Time,” Maher defended Del Rio by saying: “In America, you have the right to be wrong. They fined him; the team fined him $100,000 for this opinion. Fining people for an opinion. I am not down with that.”

Because this is where we meet, I’d like to buy Bill Maher a drink and have a laugh over all the times he’s been wrong, or we can share that drink and a smile for understanding that freedom of expression IS the foundation of democracy – no matter who’s right or wrong. Freedom of expression is an issue where liberals and conservatives must find common ground.

The football team currently known as the Washington Commanders may need another name change. Perhaps the “Comrades” would reflect the team’s philosophy better? Levying such a hefty punishment for stating a political (and non-football) point of view because it is out of step with what is apparently official policy seems more reminiscent of the Politburo’s posture than a free society.

Del Rio’s words are understandably offensive to many. At the very least, they were ham-handed for someone who has been in the public spotlight for so long. But a $100,000 fine? Stifling political opinion is far more dangerous than anything Del Rio said.

Taking the Del Rio incident into context with the “Cancel Culture” of the past few years, Talk Radio hosts should look over their shoulders. Del Rio is also an excellent reminder to think twice before posting a politically unpopular opinion on social media.

Inflation has eaten away at the value of a penny and increased the cost of making politically incorrect statements, including on the air in recent years. What inhibits individuals from expressing their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and emotions is a threat to Talk Radio and democracy.

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BNM Writers

Joe Pags’ Dream to Work In Media Started Early

Pags knew a career in media was for him ever since he was ten years old, even before his vocal chords did.

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If you’ve ever been required to interview someone for a segment or article, you know pretty quickly when it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

Joe Pags was answering my initial questions as freely as Ebeneezer Scrooge hands out Krugerrands. Teeth have been pulled from the human head with greater ease. It just wasn’t happening. 

After a few minutes, I think I grew on him.

I discovered we actually had a few things in common; both of us lived in Lake Worth, Florida, we knew a lot of the same places and faces, and we both understood that summer heat in Florida is like purgatory. 

However, Pags and I will both have a fond devotion to The Noid. We will always share the memories of being a manager at Domino’s Pizza. 

“I worked at Domino’s when pizzas were delivered to your door within 30-minutes, or it was free,” Pags said. “After a while they went to 30 minutes or three dollars off the price. Too many people were getting into accidents trying to beat the clock.”

What Pags did not mention was that even when you legitimately made it in less than 30 minutes, you had people questioning your delivery time. I guess that’s human nature.

Soon, pizzas were just for eating, not working; Pags started his radio career in 1989 in Palm Beach County, Florida.

After that, it was a stint as a television anchor from 1994-2005 in Saginaw, Michigan, and then Albany, New York. From there he was called back to radio and landed at the Clear Channel Talk Flagship, WOAI, in 2005. The Joe Pags Show has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2005.

For Pags, the media dream started early on. 

“I grew up listening to talk radio at a very young age and was determined to make my living doing it one day,” Pags says. “I actually have a tape somewhere on which I erased the DJ’s voice and recorded mine over the songs.” 

Pags is probably thrilled that the tape will never be released.

Years later, he found he could pay the bills doing something he loved. “I’m lucky enough to work with great people on both local, and national radio and television,” Pags explained.

As a kid, Pags listened to Neil Rogers on WIOD. It was consistently a top-rated show in the MiamiFt. Lauderdale media market and had been since his Miami debut in 1976.

“I also remember Steve Cain, Rick, and Suds on that station,” Pags said. “It was a lot of talk radio, but it was fun. It was entertainment. Rush Limbaugh was doing the politics stuff back then.”

Pags knew a career in media was for him ever since he was ten years old, even before his vocal chords did.

“When my voice changed at 13, I developed more of a bass tone; I knew I was on my way. I had a New York accent and had to shake that.”

Before he embarked on a career in radio, his music career was going well. Pags played French horn and saxophone; apparently, he was pretty good.

He played gigs at the prestigious Breakers Hotel, among many others. “I used to play at the Backstage lounge adjacent to the old Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Jupiter,” Pags said.

No word on whether Reynolds ever caught Pags live or not.

As a kid, he played baseball. Pags said he was pretty good. What took center stage for Pags was music. It was the French horn and saxophone that captured his heart. 

“I played professionally on the Empress Dinner Cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway,” Pags said. “I also did gigs at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. We made some good money.” 

Before Domino’s and radio and music, it all started with a strong desire to succeed. That often comes from your family’s belief in you. Sometimes it’s not there.

“I knew that if I worked hard enough, if I showed the love for the work I was doing, then I’d succeed,” Pags said.

His family lived in Lake Worth, Florida, from 1973-74, and Pags returned every so often. “I got back to Florida recently when I went to Mara Lago and watched 2,000 Mules.

San Antonio has been home for the past 17 years for Pags and his family. “I’ve been here at WOAI. I’ve got my own studio in a great area.” His daughter Sam is his executive producer. I asked Pags if there was any nepotism when it came to hiring Sam.

“Darn right, there is nepotism,” he said. “This is Joe Pags media. I get to hire whoever I want,” he quipped. “Sam has always had a love of broadcasting. When I became syndicated in this business, I told her I trusted her more than anyone else I knew and asked her to produce my show.”

The other day I spoke with Will Cain for a piece. He told me if I visited Austin, I should also see Texas. So I asked Pags what Cain was trying to say. “He means Austin is a city like Portland; only it’s in Texas. There’s a lot of homelessness in Austin. A lot of crime. The University of Texas in Austin goes far to the Left.”

Where does Pags’ tough demeanor come from? 

“My father was 100 percent Italian. We had some good pasta dishes around our house with my grandparents around,” Pags explained. “We didn’t have a good bakery in Lake Worth, so I remember my mother and aunts bringing great bread recipes over from the homeland.”

Pags has always been interested in what takes place on the periphery, not just the core of matters. He’s done a lot of things throughout his life. That experience has helped shape his radio show. Pags said his show tends to be white-collar, but he grew up blue-collar all the way. 

“I liked the Superman movies. I enjoyed Rocky,” Pags explained. “As a car-buff, I loved the Burt Reynolds films with Smokey and the Bandit. Stuff like that.”

Lake Worth, like a lot of other Floridia areas, has been known to be a little rough and tumble. Just watch Cops for a week if you don’t believe me.

Pags said other than a little shoving match at the bus stop, he didn’t encounter much rough stuff. “I was a musician, I wasn’t in that mix. Perhaps a scuffle in little league.”

When he was a teenager, he thought music would be it. “I’d played with some big-hitters at the time, like The Coasters,” Pags said. 

“Music career opportunities really didn’t come along as I’d hoped. In some ways, people in the industry were full of it. I still did some freelance work on the saxophone.”

Pags said he was always willing to work for what he got. “I poured coffee and ran errands for $4 an hour,” Pags said. “I had my car repossessed, and got evicted from my apartment. I still kept at it. I never was deterred from what I wanted. I knew what I wanted, but never really expected things to happen the way they did.”

Pags said if some youngster asked how to be what Pags is today, his answer was succinct. “Pour coffee, run errands, whatever you have to do.” 

I asked Pags what he does in his downtime? Let’s just say he’s not running to tee-off at 7:00 am with the guys at the club on his day off.

“I’m a domestic sports car guy,” he says with pride. “I’ve got three Corvettes, a Camaro Super Sport. My Camaro was a 1967, red with white stripes. I sold that car so we could afford to adopt our daughter. I got the better end of that deal.”

He doesn’t do any weekend racing on local tracks like other aging Indy wannabes. “I like to look at those cars in the garage,” Pags said. “My dad was a big car guy. My dad is probably why I’ve succeeded in my life and career. Not for the reasons you’d think.”

Pags’ relationship with his father had the typical ups and downs. Same as it is for most men.

“My father didn’t think I’d amount to anything and had no problem relating that to me,” Pags said. “Conversely, my Mom was always extremely supportive of my interests and goals. I knew if you were good at what you did, people would take notice.”

Pags said his father excelled at being a naysayer. A glass is a half-empty kind of guy.

“He was so negative. He thought I’d never succeed at anything,” Pags explained. “I was out of the house at 17, and I was determined to become something. To prove him wrong.”

Before his father passed away, Pags believes his father became aware of a lot of things. 

“A light went on in his head, and he was just so surprised I could make a living doing what I did,” Pags explains. “When I became a big enough success, he recognized my drive and determination. I’m still not sure if he was hard on me because he thought it would help me in the end. Whatever his reasoning was, it gave me the drive and determination to see things through.”

Pags’ father became so proud of his son that he’d tell friends Joe was going to be on Fox News and how they should tune in.

“It was my mother, with her ultimate support, that really made me want to succeed. For her,” Pags explained.

“I learned that if someone disparages you or makes you feel small, you have choices. You can go into a shell and take it. Believe what people say. Or you can go out and knock down some doors. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it. Soon I will be syndicated on 200 stations. All that came from believing in myself. I’ll prove it to iHeart. To other broadcasters.”

Pags said at some point; you’ve got to find some kind of edge. 

“I knew I wasn’t going to agree with things my father believed and said, just to shut him up. I had to stand up for my own beliefs.”

I can relate to a guy like Pags. He’s got a tough exterior, not easy to crack. But like me, I know in the center is a soft, creamy nougat. 

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BNM Writers

Where Is the Good Stuff?

By the “good stuff, I’m not even referring necessarily to the happy or “feel good” tales of human kindness, child wonderment, or cute puppies.

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Good Content

A couple of stories about bears actually brought me to this declamation of sorts.

What you’ll see (or read, actually) is nothing new and certainly not any type of original complaint or assessment, but as I spend my days digging, crafting, and stacking stories on double homicides, house fires, high gas prices, and low voter turnout, it’s becoming that much more difficult to balance out a newscast with the good stuff.

By the “good stuff, I’m not even referring necessarily to the happy or “feel good” tales of human kindness, child wonderment, or cute puppies. I’m really just talking about the low end of the meter things; an innocuous bill passing, a road-widening project, or maybe even an upgrade in consumer technology somewhere.

We all realize if a show rattles off an unending laundry list of death, destruction, corruption, and high pollen counts, the only winners are therapists, pharmacies, and liquor stores. But it’s no longer as easy as it once was; I mean, I may be overstating for dramatic effect, but at the end of the day, it really does seem like not only are there fewer accounts to raise the serotonin levels, but those we do find cannot sufficiently dilute those newscasts from their continual tales of woe.

To expand my point, I return to the bears. 

Over the years, I have come to count on bears, and for a good reason. Most bear content consists of the giant creatures, often with their youngsters in tow, doing things we find cute, intriguing, thought-provoking, and/or hilarious. 

If you have never seen a giant black bear rumbling around inside an SUV they’ve just illegally entered or busting into someone’s kitchen and raiding the pantry or the garbage shed, can you even say you have truly lived?

Well, the short answer is you probably can, but I’m the one on the keyboard at the moment, so roll with it for now.

True, those stories often come at the expense of some weary camper, homeowner, or utility worker, but for the audience, it’s generally rejuvenating, even medicinal. A simple Google or social media search will lead you to an overflow of the best of bears in news content. Therefore, as you will see…they trend.

But here’s what has happened of late to turn those stories in a downward direction. Here, in this part of New England, our news stories about bears recently have revolved around them being killed. They destroy some crops or a garden and move on towards somebody’s house, and they get shot. They break into a shed and don’t run off; they get shot. They are euthanized; their cubs get tranquilized for relocation and then don’t wake up. It’s certainly a shift.

Suddenly, we are back to where we started with our content. What was once a sure thing is now added to the dark category of story selection. Still, it is often viable content because it’s a pro and con topic; it has angles and follow-up potential.

Now know this; I am not proposing a referendum involving bears, but rather just offering a long-winded metaphor of sorts.

We do not know when the time-tested default stories are going to turn on us. I do think it will usually happen when our backs are turned. That probably means the digging we do has gone even more profound than before. We cannot always count for all those elements in a story to be out in the open.

Like most of us, I read or at least do a hard scan of a lot of reports, releases, summaries, and everyone else’s take on what’s happening. Fortunately, I can sometimes find fundamental components dropped down further than they ought to be or not allotted enough attention due to time or space constraints.

In police work, these obscure details would often lead to another suspect, another criminal charge, or even an exoneration or a new investigation. 

I find little difference in this present position:

A hi-rise building fire is brought under control when the alarm’s sprinkler system douses much of the flames just as fire crews arrive. Now, that’s great, but there’s a bit more upon looking a little deeper.

The sprinklers knocked out the elevators, and firefighters carried a disabled burn victim down 14 flights of stairs. 

Part of their job?

Sure, but worth peeling the layers off that onion.

Drivers going the wrong way is another big thing around here. On the interstates, the highways, the local roadways, it’s happening a lot and often, as you might guess, with tragic results. So a driver is taken into custody after going the opposite way on not one but two different thoroughfares within like fifteen minutes.

Good story, good arrest, good write-up. 

How did they catch the wrong-way driver? 

The trooper turned directly into the driver’s path and took the crash impact to stop him.

Where did we that aspect of the incident?

Paragraph four or three-quarters through the stand-up.

Now, of course, all coverage and treatment of stories is subjective, and the intent here is merely for me to find a way to say I’m not seeing enough or finding enough “good stuff” to balance out my newscast, so I am going to loot and gut everything I can when necessary.

And that’s just on the local side. Do not get me started on the national beat.

I hope it’s not that people are starting to slip on their quota of good deeds, but it has forced me to think and work just a little harder. 

It’s disappointing when I cannot even count on the bears anymore.

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