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WBT Reporter Brett Jensen Couldn’t Avoid Ukraine

“I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

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Yes, Brett Jensen went to war-torn Ukraine during his vacation time. But it wasn’t like he went for a vacation.

“I do these long trips every year,” the Breaking with Brett Jensen host on WBT in Charlotte said. “I try to take my vacation days around July 4th to get that extra day. I’ll use 11 or 12 of the days and make it stretch through three weekends or 19 days.”

Jensen had been thinking about revisiting Ukraine after having been there for a week last year as part of an actual vacation, even though part of it was spending 36 hours in Chernobyl. He found his opening for the return visit.

“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office in Charlotte donated 30 sets of bulletproof vests to the charity Samaritan’s Purse, to be given to its aid workers on the frontlines,” he said.

Jensen explained Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides help to people in physical need. They specialize in going to disaster areas. They’ve gone into Somalia, as well as other major disaster and war-torn areas.

“They’re generally the guys on the front lines,” he said. “They make sure the area has electricity, food, and basic supplies. The CEO is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham.”

When Jensen learned of the body armor being donated, he knew this was serendipitous with a connection to Charlotte.

“I wondered how cool it would be to be in Kyiv when the armor arrived there,” Jensen said. “I was already going to be in the Baltics so I looked into the possibility of it actually happening. I contacted all kinds of people in Poland, which people had told me was the best route to get in and out of Ukraine. I contacted all the governments and authorities I needed to and then talked to some people I knew in Ukraine. I was on my own time, but I was also a journalist.”

The plan was to fly from Lithuania, to Krakow, Poland where he’d take a bus the rest of the way. The safest route to Ukraine is through Poland; nowhere near the fighting. But it’s also a very long bus ride from Krakow, 21 hours in all. The journey itself proved to be one of the most taxing parts of the trip.

Initially, Jensen was repeatedly told not to go to Ukraine by the State Department. If he insisted, Jensen would have to fill out forms with next of kin information and they wouldn’t be coming in after him if he got in trouble.

“That made it all real,” he said. “They said they weren’t responsible for me.”

But it was that bus ride that Jensen knew was going to be a problem the moment he sat down to settle in for the long ride.

“I sat in the front of the bus with my legs at 90 degree angles with a railing in front of me,” Jensen said. “Periodically I was able to stand, but not all the way up. It was kind of bending over at the waist. We stopped every two or three hours and I was able to stretch my legs.”

When he got to the Poland and Ukraine border, he said he was amazed at the long lines of trucks, trailers and supplies lined up for miles parked on the side of the road. It could take as long as a week for the supply trucks to get across the border.

“First, they’d take everybody’s passports, then we’d sit for a couple of hours,” Jensen explained. “They’d give the passports back and we’d drive a mile, and the exact same thing would happen over again with the Ukraine border patrol.”

Jensen was the only one on the bus with an American passport. There were 66 people on the bus and only four were men, with Jensen being the youngest male. The women were going to see their husbands, sons and brothers left behind.

While at the border, Ukrainian soldiers inspected his passport and asked why he wanted to come to Ukraine.

“There’s two words that everyone in Europe understands, even if they don’t speak English: American journalist,” Jensen said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. If it was Lithuania, Romania, everyone there understands ‘American journalist’.”

Jensen arrived in Kyiv at 8:45 PM after having left the previous night at 11:55. He quickly learned there was a curfew from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Every restaurant shuts down at 9:00 PM, so employees could clean up and be home by 11 pm.

“I made it to my Airbnb at 9:45 PM and they had a little kiosk outside on the sidewalk,” he said. “I got the essentials; potato chips, Coke Zero and a muffin. That was my first meal in Ukraine.”

Like most of us, Jensen didn’t really know what to expect when he arrived. He said the western part of the country hadn’t been leveled, but there was still a lot of rubble the closer he got to the capital.

“Once we got 60 miles outside of Kyiv, you started to see the devastation,” Jensen said. “Many of the warehouses and homes were decimated. That’s when we started going through road checks. Picture driving down I-95, then all of a sudden a four-lane highway slimming down to one lane in each direction. You have to do an ‘S’ through the barriers at 10 to 15 miles per hour. They’ve built all these barricades with steel and concrete and you weave your way through. Then it straightens and you go back to 60 miles an hour.”

He said you could look around and see where Russian missiles struck, destroying apartment buildings and creating immense rubble. Jensen said there were soldiers everywhere. There were what they call Czech hedgehogs, similar to the obstacles they had on the beaches at Normandy. They are protecting statues and important entities with sandbags and built structures. Many streets are blocked.

Once there, it didn’t take long for Jensen to experience the haunting air raid sirens.

“At 1:55 AM, I first heard the sirens going off,” he explained. “Of course, I was a little nervous. I was staying in the ‘Times Square’ in Kyiv, Independence Square, where they have all the statues and rallies. I got dressed, grabbed a few extra phone batteries in case I needed to stay in the shelter for a long time, then ran down to the subway. I got there at 2:07 AM. It’s a very deep subway, some of the deepest in the world built by the Russians in the 60s as fallout shelters.”

When Jensen arrived at the shelter, there were only five other people. None spoke English. After a short time, they left, started to head for home. Jensen was perplexed. The next day he talked to his Uber driver, who spoke English, about the situation.

“I asked him why people don’t go down to the air raid shelters. He told me they don’t react to the sirens anymore. He said if they reacted to every siren, they’d never get anything else done. It just wasn’t worth it. The driver then laid some math on me and explained that with 3 million people in Kyiv, he still had only a 1-in-3 million chance of getting hit. He figured he’d roll the dice.”

After the first time, Jensen didn’t bother to go down again. He figured he’d be the only guy down there. On what was to be his last day in Kyiv, Jensen met up with a university student that he had interviewed during his first full day there. The sirens went off five times over the course of nine hours. After one of the sirens finished sounding, the 19-year-old took Jensen to a bar near the university, where tourists generally don’t go. When they walked into the bar, it
was relatively full because nobody had left.

“Five minutes later, a lot of police came in yelling because they didn’t evacuate, nobody in the bar left during the siren,” Jensen said. “They shut down the bar. That was the only time I’d seen anyone in Kyiv chastised for not going to a shelter.”

Jensen arrived on a Wednesday and was scheduled to leave Saturday. He was supposed to take a bus to Warsaw, Poland, and from there take a flight to Estonia to continue his vacation.

His bus was canceled and Jensen was forced to stay in Ukraine and couldn’t get out for another four days. It was Friday and Jensen knew he wasn’t going anywhere. Another Uber driver, who Jensen described as highly educated, had just come in from Poland to take care of his father. He spoke English and this was the only job he could get.

“I asked him if he was working the next day and he said he wasn’t,” Jensen said. “I asked if I could hire him as my personal driver the next morning, not as an Uber driver. We didn’t talk about money or location.”

The driver arrived at 9:30 the next morning. Jensen said he got in the front seat and asked the driver if he’d take him as close to the front lines as he felt comfortable. The driver agreed and they drove for nearly three hours toward the front lines.

This is where Ukraine started to look like a war zone.

“We went through villages that had been completely bombed out, but there were people still living there. They had nowhere else to go.”

Jensen interviewed an older woman in front of her bombed-out house, his driver serving as interpreter.

“Her daughter and grandson were next to her by the side of the house,” Jensen said. “The only thing left standing were the four walls and you couldn’t see the floor through the rubble. I walked around the corner and saw another woman hanging laundry in front of her destroyed apartment building. I asked them if they were scared and they said of course, they were still scared, but that there was nothing they could do.

“The woman told me the Russians still popped in every so often. I’m sure they would have killed me just because I was a journalist because the Russians don’t want any of the information of what they’re doing getting out to the rest of the world. That’s when I really started to get nervous. I was stuck in Ukraine and was a potential target.”

On another occasion, Jensen said things had gotten pretty hairy. During the final day in Ukraine, the sirens blared many times. Then there was the alert that wouldn’t stop and Jensen knew something was different.

“In the streets people were walking very fast toward the shelters. I figured I really needed to take cover. If they were nervous, then I probably should be, too. I’m not sure to this day if something was hit or not.”

Jensen said he was struck by the confidence and determination of the Ukraine people. “To a person, from the landlord of my Airbnb to my Uber driver, they all said the same thing,” he recalled. “ ‘If we have the firepower, we will win.’ In a poll, 80 percent of the people said they were not giving up a single acre to the Russians. They argued that if they did, the Russians would come back and want more.”

According to Jensen, Ukrainian’s have an internal fire. They truly have something to fight for.

“I got out of Ukraine a week and a half before all the crap hit the fan with the nuclear power station and the increased bombardment. They are so steadfast in their beliefs. They’ve got that fire. They’re not going to stop.”

Finally, after doing live reports back to Charlotte on WBT several times a day, interviewing the head of Samaritan’s Purse for 45 minutes about the need for bulletproof vests, and talking to many citizens of the country, it was time to head to the next destination – Ireland, via Poland.

On his train trip out, only sleeper cars were made available. They hold four people in a very small cabin. Jensen was the first to arrive and had to imagine who he’d be sharing the car with. At the very least he knew he could stretch out his legs, and not be forced to travel again like a pretzel.

“I prayed for an electrical outlet to plug in my laptop so I could watch movies,” Jensen said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get a petite woman or a heavy Ukrainian guy living off cabbage. I also prayed there wasn’t a bathroom in my cabin.”

There wasn’t. He lucked out as his cabin mates were two females in their 20s and a woman in her 40s. “There was a power outlet and the women didn’t snore. It was uncomfortably hot in the room, but at least it wasn’t like the bus.”

Crossing the border back into Poland, a guard walked into his cabin. He spoke in Polish and the women answered him. Then the guard looked at Jensen and said, “American journalist.”

“I’m thinking, how the hell did he know that? He asked where I entered Ukraine, and I told him from Krakow on a bus. He asked when, and I said a week ago. He took my passport and about an hour later, he came back and told me to show him the stamps on the passport that proved I had done what I said. The Ukrainian stamp had faded, but you could make it out. He gave me a
weird look that said, ‘Yeah, okay.’”

From there, it was another five hours to Warsaw, Poland, where he finally checked into his hotel at 7:00 PM. Jensen was finally safe and in the comforts of a room with a real bed, not a vinyl bunk bed on a train for 19 hours.

“There are a few things that I would change in hindsight, but I would absolutely go back if given the opportunity,” Jensen said. “There are a lot of great and horrific stories to tell and I’m glad I was able to help tell them. The Ukrainian people basically want two things: weapons for journalists to tell what’s happening there and I was able to do at least one of those.”

BNM Writers

More Than 11 Million Watched Queen Elizabeth Funeral Coverage

For the 6:00 AM to noon Eastern period, Fox News was, by far, tops on cable with 1.97 million total viewers including 298,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. CNN’s morning ratings received a hefty boost from its normal levels, averaging 1.52 million viewers.

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The state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II was the top news story for the week ending Sep. 25. Like her coronation back in 1952, the event for Britain’s highest-ranking monarch was it’s first in the modern era since the dawn of television.

According to Nielsen Media Research, 11.4 million Americans tuned in on the morning of Sep. 19 across the thirteen outlets televising the funeral. That figure is slightly above the combined audiences for the main morning news programs on broadcast and cable.

For the 6:00 AM to noon Eastern period, Fox News was, by far, tops on cable with 1.97 million total viewers including 298,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. CNN’s morning ratings received a hefty boost from its normal levels, averaging 1.52 million viewers and a mere 4,000 shy of FNC’s 25-54 demo. MSNBC (991,000 total, 106,000 adults 25-54 from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.) also drew above-average numbers in the morning.

At the peak of coverage, within the 11:00 AM-Noon ET hour (4-5 p.m. in London) for the funeral service, it was CNN on top within the key 25-54 demo (404,000; +51,000 from FNC) but FNC led in overall viewership (2.4 million; +326,000 from CNN). MSNBC trailed with 1.1 million viewers and 115,000 adults 25-54.

On the broadcast networks, NBC edged out ABC by 3 percent — each of them drew around 3 million total viewers in that 11 a.m. hour. (Note: these figures mimic what they normally do for Today and Good Morning America per day). 

Newsmax drew 192,000 viewers and NewsNation posted 32,000 — again, on-par with their respective morning ratings.

Of course, these amounts pale in comparison to the TV audiences in the Queen’s homeland of the United Kingdom. According to its data service BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board), an average of at least 27 million people had watched, of which the vast majority (approximately 70 percent) tuned in to BBC1’s coverage. At its peak, it generated a 95 share, meaning 95 percent of all televisions turned on within the UK territories had the funeral on their screens.

Cable news averages for September 19-25, 2022:

Total Day (Sep. 19-25 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.440 million viewers; 206,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.844 million viewers; 82,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.603 million viewers; 116,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.163 million viewers; 50,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.155 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.121 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.121 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.115 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (Sep. 19-24 @ 8-11 p.m.; Sep. 25 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.155 million viewers; 281,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.251 million viewers; 110,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.674 million viewers; 132,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.188 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.178 million viewers; 38,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.167 million viewers; 46,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.158 million viewers; 56,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.046 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.043 million viewers; 6,000 adults 25-54

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

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 9/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.678 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 9/19/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.582 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.348 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.226 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/20/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.208 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 9/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.150 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.076 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/22/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.001 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 9/20/2022 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.918 million viewers

10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 9/23/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.906 million viewers

35. State Funeral Queen E II “Committal Service St Georges Chapel” (CNN, Mon. 9/19/2022 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 2.074 million viewers

29. Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC, Wed. 9/21/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.276 million viewers

188. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 613” (HBO, Fri. 9/23/2022 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.879 million viewers

332. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 9/25/2022 11:21 PM, 32 min.) 0.523 million viewers

337. Weekend Recharge (TWC, Sun. 9/25/2022 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.516 million viewers

395. Kudlow (FBN, Wed. 9/21/2022 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.398 million viewers

397. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 9/20/2022 11:00 PM, 33 min.) 0.395 million viewers

439. Forensic Files “Jean Pool” (HLN, Tue. 9/20/2022 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.325 million viewers

517. Closing Bell (CNBC, Wed. 9/21/2022 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.260 million viewers

750. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sat. 9/24/2022 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.158 million viewers

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

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 9/20/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.490 million adults 25-54

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.476 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/20/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.468 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.467 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.457 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/22/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.440 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 9/22/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.408 million adults 25-54

8. State Funeral Queen E II “Committal Service St Georges Chapel” (CNN, Mon. 9/19/2022 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.404 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 9/19/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.388 million adults 25-54

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 9/21/2022 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.387 million adults 25-54

76. All In with Chris Hayes (MSNBC, Wed. 9/21/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.226 million adults 25-54

109. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 9/25/2022 11:21 PM, 32 min.) 0.187 million adults 25-54

168. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 9/20/2022 11:00 PM, 33 min.) 0.143 million adults 25-54

173. Forensic Files “Traffic Violations” (HLN, Tue. 9/20/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.139 million adults 25-54

182. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 613” (HBO, Fri. 9/23/2022 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.136 million adults 25-54

225. Weekend Recharge (TWC, Sun. 9/25/2022 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.121 million adults 25-54

317. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1020” (CNBC, Tue. 9/20/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.096 million adults 25-54

534. Kudlow (FBN, Wed. 9/21/2022 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.058 million adults 25-54

912. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sat. 9/24/2022 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.022 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

Dave Ramsey Never Wanted To ‘Do Radio’

That is the legacy, to date, of The Ramsey Show and Ramsey Solutions, which has helped people get out of debt and become financially independent for 30 years.

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You can touch a lot of lives in the course of the day if your goal when waking up is to help and serve as many people as possible. And you can help, counsel, motivate and love untold numbers of people when you build a team to share that aim, and you do so for nearly 11,000 days. That is the legacy, to date, of The Ramsey Show and Ramsey Solutions, founded by Dave Ramsey, which has helped people get out of debt and become financially independent for 30 years.

Last week, the show released a bonus episode on YouTube and podcast, with the current team of Ramsey personalities reminiscing with their leader, Dave Ramsey, on the evolution of the program, and its mission, over the last three decades.

The show began 30 years ago when Dave Ramsey made a guest appearance on a friend’s real estate program on a local Nashville radio station. The host of the show quit shortly thereafter, and Ramsey was asked if he wanted to take over the time slot.

“I’m not doing radio,” Ramsey said at the time. “Radio people don’t get paid nothing. They’re like bankers – big egos and titles and no money. I need money. I am broke, my kids are hungry. I am not doing this.” Ramsey had just gone through bankruptcy, after watching his personal real estate empire crumble, leaving his family in financially dire straits. He had emerged with the goal of helping others avoid the pitfalls and pain he had brought on himself.

Eventually, Ramsey agreed to host the radio show a couple of days a week as a way to promote his self-published book, Financial Peace, which he was promoting and selling out of the trunk of his car. Ramsey said the awful Money Game program was “hillbilly, red-neck radio.” In time, Ramsey took over the program on his own and re-branded it The Dave Ramsey Show, based largely on the example laid out by other top radio stars, such as Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  

“We shifted everything to Dave Ramsey, branding off the single person brand. And then everything drove through that brand,” Ramsey recalls. “That focus is what helped us move everything. Events, books, website started working. It was in the early days of the web.”

About fifteen years ago, the brand began to look toward the future, branching out to include multiple personalities and building an eventual succession plan.

“In my mid-40’s I said this thing’s not going to outlive me if we don’t decide how we’re going to carry the message in the next generation,” Ramsey said. “As we started thinking about that we said well, we don’t really say anything that’s unique. Lots of people have said, live on less than you make, get on a budget. You know, lots of articles that were boring, written by boring financial people.

“The only thing that’s unique is that we actually love the people. We actually care about people, and we actually help them. We’ve got compassion for them and we’re sassy and smart-aleck and funny and tell stories and entertain and convince them in the midst of that to go through their transformation. So we realized at that point that the business, the whole thing we built, would just die with me if we didn’t have other people that could do the same thing.”

Enter new personalities, such as those who appeared with Ramsey on the special 30th Anniversary episode – his daughter, Rachel Cruze, Ken Coleman, Dr. John Delony, George Kamal and Kristina Ellis. 

When listeners visit the Ramsey Solutions headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, they are greeted like friends, with Janelle graciously checking them in and offering them a cookie and cup of coffee.  Over three decades, the radio program – like the brand itself – has become much more than a radio show about money.

“I would say it’s a place that people call in with their questions about their life, and it’s more heavily geared towards money. But yeah, it’s just a couple people sitting in a radio studio, friends, and taking people’s calls.” Cruze said.

“We’re kind of diving into whatever mess is going on in life and going, here’s how we can help,” Kamel interjected.

The program has evolved into areas such as relationships, boundaries, career growth, mental health, college planning and small business building.

“The pressure for someone to call in live on the air and talk to somebody, that’s a terrifying proposition for a lot of people, so there’s that,” said Coleman, who focuses heavily on his role as a career coach. “And then they’re dealing with something where they go, I feel like I need a breakthrough. And so, regardless of the topic, like Rachel said, it’s just a real person with a real struggle who needs real help.”

In addition to the flagship Ramsey Show, many of the personalities now also host individual podcasts, which focus on their specific areas of expertise. And during this special anniversary episode, the hosts recalled some of the more memorable calls they’ve taken on the air. From the hilarious to the emotional, Ramsey and his co-hosts have tackled it all on the air over the years. 

The man planning to get out of debt. 

The war vet dealing with PTSD. 

The college student searching for Biblical principles for handling money.

The millionaire developing a plan to become incredibly generous.

The main considering installing a pay phone in his home.

The brother forming a business partnership with his sibling.

The frightened mother cowering in a back room, hiding from her angry and violent spouse.

“I remember the first couple of calls I took on my podcast, and it came out organically. My first response to their question was, why are you calling me? That’s a huge thing. Why haven’t you called your friends or your pastor or your family members?” Dr. Delony recalled. “And to a person every response was, dude I got nobody. Like, you’re the only person to call. And so if you’d have asked me right when I was starting, what is the role of the show, how do I explain it? I would have said it’s a show people call about life.

“Now I think my answer would be different. It’s – We’ll Be There. When you’ve got nobody, we’ll be honest with you. And we’ll tell you what we think. We think we’re pretty smart. We think we know what we’re talking about, but we’ll be honest with you.”

In many respects, the Ramsey Show has become a place where callers can talk about subjects they may not even feel comfortable discussing with their own friends and family. After all, money conversations can be sensitive.

“I also think it’s just like a safe space. These topics we talk about, sometimes there’s a stigma around them. People feel shame and they feel intimidated to talk to their friends and family. It’s like this is a spot where we’re comfortable with this,” Ellis said. “You can bring us your ugly stuff. You can bring us the things that you don’t want to mention to anyone else and we’ll work through it.”

It’s a long way from the “awful, hillbilly program” on local Nashville radio. But through constant growth and evolution of the program and the organization, the company has helped countless people around the country and around the world. And judging by the trajectory, this group plans to help a whole lot more over the coming decades.

“The thing is when you tell people the truth about how to get a job, or the truth about, here’s how you do this relationship, or the truth about what you got to do with your money, they hear it even if they don’t like it,” Ramsey summed up. “Truth has a way of getting to you. And they know you love them. And we love them. We care about them.”

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BNM Writers

The Two Americas and the One Thing

Red – blue. Liberal – conservative. Republican – Democrat. No matter how you say it, the divisions run deep. More than ever, it seems there are two Americas.

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Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. used the phrase “two Americas” in a 1967 speech. North Carolina Senator Johnathon Edwards made two Americas the theme of his 2004 run for president.

Not since the Civil War has America been as divided as today.

Red – blue. Liberal – conservative. Republican – Democrat. No matter how you say it, the divisions run deep. More than ever, it seems there are two Americas.

Can the two Americas agree on anything? 

As I’ve come to understand that gender is fluid, America is “systemically racist,” and not all lives matter – and people can get fired for saying they do – it is hard to imagine ANYTHING on which the two Americas agree.

Fortunately, I receive a weekly email from Edison Research. One of which set me straight. There is at least ONE THING that the two Americas have in common. And it’s a podcast.

Data from Edison Research’s Podcast Metrics is fascinating. Before revealing what the two Americas have in common, let’s examine the differences in Republican and Democrat podcast listening habits.

Self-identified Democrats are more likely to listen to podcasts monthly than those who say they are Republicans by 41% to 36%. Intuitively, this finding makes sense as we dig deeper into the results. Republicans are probably listening to more Talk Radio, though the data provided doesn’t explicitly state this.

Edison Research notes, “when it comes to podcasts about politics, Edison Podcast Metrics shows wildly different listening patterns depending on which party one prefers.”

Eight of the top 20 podcasts among Republicans are political. Democrats, on the other hand, place only three podcasts that are political or deal with political topics in their top 20.

Republican podcast listening is more focused on politics, while Democrats have a wider range of podcast interests that make up their top 20 podcasts. Make of that what you will. Further, several of the leading podcasts among Republicans are available on the radio. This finding suggests a few possibilities: 

  • Republican listeners are giving up time spent listening to the radio for podcasts and whatever financial implications that means
  • They can’t get enough of their favorite conservative talk hosts, listening to their shows over again
  • They are listening to other programming that is not available in their market or when they are not able to listen (possibly even because they are listening to another show)

In the last two cases, the podcast is effectively a DVR.

Edison Research created the graphic below, which shows the overall rank of political podcasts or ones that touch on political topics separated by self-identified Democrats and Republicans. 

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Here we see the ONE THING that Democrats and Republicans have in common: “The Joe Rogan Experience” is the most listened to podcast regardless of major party affiliation.

What makes Joe Rogan bridge red and blue America is beyond the scope of the research. Therefore, we can only speculate why Rogan appeals to podcast listeners who belong to both political parties. Responses from long-time, regular Joe Rogan listeners, are welcome and appreciated.

Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” Once in a generation, a broadcaster becomes bigger than the medium. Howard Stern did for over a decade. Football broadcasts earn this stature every week. Has Rogan achieved that status, or does he still fall short of this description even with the ability to cross the aisle? If Rogan has reached that level, he is the first podcaster to do so. 

Edison Research co-founder and president Larry Rosin shared additional insights telling me, “Rogan’s reach is 50% higher among Republicans, but he still leads with Democrats. That’s how far ahead of the field he is.” However, Rogan doesn’t lead across the board. He isn’t first among women. Rogan does win virtually every male demo, including 55+.

The Edison Research email also breaks down the data to reveal which show (among the larger ones) has the highest proportion of its audience that is Republican: “The Michael Knowles Show” (from the Daily Wire). The show with the highest Democrat composition is “Lovett or Leave it” (from Crooked Media). 

I’ve never met or communicated with Joe Rogan. I don’t know his goals and ambitions, but America is looking for a leader who crosses partisan lines. If Rogan doesn’t care to lead and avoids stepping into a partisan mess, he could help the country. At the very least, he could develop an even larger mass audience.

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