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One Year Complete At WEEI and Greg Hill’s Focused On Getting Better

“How do you try to keep some listeners from your old show and make listeners happy on the new station?”

Demetri Ravanos




Greg Hill was a Boston radio legend long before he stepped foot inside the WEEI studio. After spending 28 years leading the Hill Man Morning Show on WAAF though, Hill was presented with the chance to try something new. Just over a year later, he is firmly entrenched as part of the city’s sports radio landscape.

“I worked at a station for 28 years that I loved, but I also think that the older you get, the rarer it is to get an opportunity for a new challenge. Initially, when I was thinking about it, my thought was we all want to find things that challenge us and need to find things that challenge us,” Hill told me by phone. “To me, that was the most interesting part about it. How do you try to keep some listeners from your old show and make listeners happy on the new station?”


WEEI’s morning show has always created a lot of noise in the market. John Dennis and Gerry Callahan established the timeslot as one that delivered strong ratings, but trafficked in controversy. Kirk Minihane added confrontation to the formula. Both Dennis and Minihane were long gone by the time Hill showed up. Hill replaced Gerry Callahan and Mike Mutnansky. Callahan is no longer with the station, Mutnansky now hosts during the evening hours.

The reputation of past morning shows, and the status WEEI has enjoyed as the heritage sports radio brand in the market, as well as the bitter ratings battle with crosstown rival, 98.5 the Sports Hub, meant nothing would come easy for Hill. Entering the sports landscape in Boston means everything you do is picked over with a fine-toothed comb.

“There’s actually media members who only interview other media members,” Hill says of the attention paid to sports radio in Boston. “I would bet that doesn’t go on much in other markets.”

Hill first cracked the mic in morning drive on WEEI on July 29, 2019. There was no fear, and why should there have been? Sure, there were a few new cast members around him, but Hill had his long-time co-host Danielle Murr by his side. He also had plenty of history behind him to assure himself or anyone else that he knew what he was doing regardless of what station or format he was a part of.

Over time he would develop chemistry and trust with the newest people in his orbit. Names like Jermaine Wiggins, Ken Laird, and Chris Curtis were all familiar to WEEI listeners. Hill knew them too, but knowing someone and working with them every morning are two very different things.

“I didn’t know anything about those guys prior to this other than seeing them around the hallways and talking to them about the stuff that didn’t relate to doing a morning show,” he says of producers Laird and Curtis.


Program director Joe Zarbano says he actually watched the new team build a relationship very quickly. That is why listeners have responded.

“They trust one another and enjoy working together,” said Zarbano. “There’s a genuine camaraderie within this group and it’s been rewarding to see it grow over the past year.”

Chemistry comes with reps of course. Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady didn’t have the same bond the first day Gronkowski showed up to Foxboro that they have now in Tampa. Hill knew how to entertain an audience though. He knew that meant the show could be successful.

“I did a talk show on a rock station for 28 years. To me, it is all about content. It is always about the person in the morning hoping when they tune into your show that you’re going to make them laugh or get them fired up about something that’s happening in sports, politics or down the street from them.”

That rock station Hill mentioned was WAAF. It was a legendary brand in Boston. Despite ownership changes and lineup changes, WAAF remained a constant for rock music fans in Boston for 50 years. That all changed in February of this year though when the Educational Media Foundation closed on a sale of the 107.3 FM frequency and WAAF went away in favor of the nationally syndicated Christian music network K-Love.

Hill was focused on the sports news of the day and finding his groove with his new crew on WEEI. But come on! Greg Hill was part of WAAF for 28 years! Of course he had strong feelings about the station’s demise.

“It was sad to me because I grew up being a listener to that station and to BCN, one of the most legendary rock stations ever,” Hill said. “It made me sad for rock n’ roll in general. Cyclically the different genre of music have up periods and down periods. To have a station that was on the air for 50 years in the same format in one city? It’s depressing to lose that.”

Understanding rock radio listeners helped Hill understand sports radio listeners. It’s Boston. Passion is one of the city’s hallmark traits, and Hill says that whether his listeners have passion for Godsmack, a band WAAF broke 20 years ago, or the Red Sox, a team that has called WEEI its flagship broadcast partner since 1995, it’s his job to capitalize on that passion.

“From my perspective, whatever that person that is listening to the show in the morning, whatever is on their mind, that’s what I want to be talking about,” he said.

One thing that may feel familiar at WEEI from his days at WAAF is Toucher & Rich. Hill competed with the duo when they were the morning show at rock station WBCN. When it transitioned to the Sports Hub, they were kept on as the morning show.

A year ago, Hill came back into their lives as competition. It’s not something he focuses on, but Hill says the common rock-to-sports path won’t be ignored by some.

The real testament to Toucher & Rich, according to Hill, is their staying power in the market. They arrived from Atlanta in 2006. A fourteen year career in Boston isn’t something outsiders typically enjoy.


“There’s no denying that those guys do a great show. They’ve been here for a long time now. Sometimes it takes Boston a while to accept people, whether it’s in media or your neighbor, but those guys have an amazing track record and do a great show,” he says.

Right now, WEEI finds itself trailing the Sports Hub in Boston’s radio ratings by a wide margin among Men 25-54. The good news is that Hill’s show delivered an impressive 7.3 share in the spring book. That was the best performance of WEEI’s weekday shows for the quarter. The bad news, the show still trails Toucher & Rich by 5 share points.

Listeners and industry publications have noticed the divide, but Hill isn’t hitting the panic button.

“My answer might not be what others would say, but I think if a ratings book ends on a Friday and it is a really good ratings book, then the next month ends and the ratings are totally different, I don’t think you did that much different on the following Wednesday than you did on that Friday,” Hill says. “So, I think in a ratings period where 40% of the audience isn’t undertaking their daily routine of the morning commute and turning their radio on, I don’t think you would want to tweak. I personally just want to try and do a better radio show everyday.”

In fact, he says Joe Zarbano took a similar approach when Hill’s new show launched on WEEI. That is how the two developed a relationship.

“He’s the kind of program director that kind of leaves you alone and lets you do your show and basically says ‘hey, how can I help?’. From my perspective he’s been a guy that has been like ‘let’s figure out how to do a great show and then you guys go do it.'”

What does the future hold for The Greg Hill Show? When I asked him what he hopes we’d be talking about if we had this chat again next year, he doesn’t talk about growing the number in a ratings book. He talks about listeners being more invested in the show and understanding the relationships and lives of the personalities involved.

He jokingly adds that he’d love to have Tom Brady back every Monday. The only man that means more to New England than John Adams has migrated South and will be making radio appearances on Tampa Bay-area stations in 2020.

Being a North Carolinian, I told Hill about the fun that he and his listeners could be in for should Cam Newton win the Patriots’ starting job. He agrees. He also acknowledges that Brady is a huge name and his celebrity may be hard to replicate, but Patriots fans are more interested in the team than one former player.

“There’s a considerable amount of us that have bid Tom Brady adeiu and we want the Patriots to win,” he says. “Whoever the starter is, I think there will be as much interest in hearing from whoever the starter is as there was in Tom Brady.”

WAAF's Greg Hill moves to WEEI to host 'The Greg Hill Morning Show ...

Zarbano is excited for where the show is after one year on WEEI. As for the future, he has high hopes but admits that future goals are a little hard to set right now.

“Just one year in, we’re thrilled to be up over 30% in mornings year-over-year,” he said. “It’s so hard to predict the future in the middle of a pandemic, but we’re focused on continuing to build on the momentum and positive progress to date.”

Hill says one year from now will be whatever it will be. His only focus will be on the people that rely on his voice every morning to accompany them on their commute or in their homes as they work.

BSM Writers

Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?

“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”

Demetri Ravanos




Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career. 

Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff. 

Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.

Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.

Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country. 

Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.

Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.

Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance. 

Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!

A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.

FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan.  MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team.  I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”

JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions. 

“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).

“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”

MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.

Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.

But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.

The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.

As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.

Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.


The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.

Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!

But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)

That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?

We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!

The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.

Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.

Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)

Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.

We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.

When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?

If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.

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BSM Writers

There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle

“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”

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Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.

Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark. 

It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.

Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.

Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.

One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.

It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.

It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.

One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.

Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”

There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.

We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.

The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.

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Barrett Media Writers

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