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Kmele Foster, The Fifth Column and Why You Should be Listening

Foster co-hosts The Fifth Column podcast with Matt Welch, Editor at Large for Reason, and Michael Moynihan of Vice News. Foster described the podcast as a “weekly rhetorical assault on the news cycle and the people that make it…and occasionally ourselves.”

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Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0.

Diamonds in the rough.

Green Bananas.

The next great thing.

These are all terms that audio brands have kicked around for years as they have tried desperately to find new talent that they can build around. 

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve tried to always keep my ears open for talent that can cut through the background noise of a cluttered audio space.  On the rare occasion when I DO notice someone…on TV, online or on the radio that can grab my attention for an extended period, I make sure to take note.  In my cloud of files, I have what I call “The Futures List”.  This is a collection of names that I keep should I ever find a content provider that wants a recommendation on a talent, or if I have a need to hire one.

This past week, I was able to add another set of names to the list.

Recently, I spent a Saturday morning doing what I usually do, drinking a Nespresso and watching Real Time with Bill Maher. 

One of Maher’s guest panelists was Kmele Foster, identified as the co-host of The Fifth Column podcast. 

Truth be told, as much as I enjoy Maher, many of his guests tend to be rather forgettable.  I hear them parrot the same talking points that fit their political ideology.  By the time, the episode is over, I don’t even remember their names.

This episode presented an exception to that rule.

The more I had the chance to hear Foster speak the more I thought to myself, “How the HELL have I not heard of this person?”   

Check out the highlights from his appearance.

After watching that episode of Real Time, I started scouring the internet to find out as much as I could about Foster. 

I also opted to do something that I vary rarely do…spend time in the podcast space.

THE FIFTH COLUMN PODCAST

As a rule, I tend to avoid podcasts.  There are a million of them on the internet and, with a VERY few exceptions, I find most of them to be garbage.  The production values are usually poor and there is little direction to the conversation.  As someone that has worked (albeit briefly) in the podcast industry I found many of the people involved to be more interested in the technology that delivers the content rather than the quality of the content itself.

So, I started listening to The Fifth Column Podcast with low expectations.  Less than five minutes into my first listen, I was hooked.

These guys were DAMN good.

Foster co-hosts The Fifth Column podcast with Matt Welch, Editor at Large for Reason, and Michael Moynihan of Vice News.   Foster described the podcast as a “weekly rhetorical assault on the news cycle and the people that make it…and occasionally ourselves.”  Man, he wasn’t kidding.  This podcast was all that and more. 

GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN

There are two looming problems with spoken word media; being disingenuous and catering to echo chambers.  In a way, these problems go together. Many talents manufacture opinions based on the events of the day and the demos/leanings of their audience.  This has made a lot of content predictable.  If you tune into Rush, Hannity, Beck, etc., you KNOW what their stance is going to be on an issue.  If you tune into Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, or Pod Save America, you know what you’re going to get as well. 

Not the case with and The Fifth Column.

Foster, Moynihan, and Welch come across as refreshing voices in an ecosystem of talent that do nothing but parrot the same talking points and cater to groupthink.   They are independents in every sense of the word.  They take jabs at people on the right AND the left and offer often humorous critiques of both. In one moment, they mock Melania Trump for being vapid.  In another moment, they turn around and criticize Pete Buttigieg for being unrealistic about how the 10,000 people who lost their jobs on the Keystone Pipeline will find work.  They were very unpredictable.  It kept me wanting to listen about what they were going to say next and what surprises I had in store.

They come off as real and understand that issues are not black and white.  There are complexities in every problem facing the country and they can’t be solved by adhering to absolutes.

They are also unrelenting in their criticism of mass media.  In a recent episode they talked about watching the Biden Inauguration coverage and how ridiculously over the top it was.   This exchange between the three hosts literally had me laughing out loud:

Suddenly Joe Biden is this figure of immense…world historical gravitas.  It’s like…Joe Biden?

And everyone was comparing him to “The Avengers”.  And, I haven’t seen that movie, but I guess it’s a movie about boring corporate Democrats.

It was impossible to watch even one…slice of coverage anywhere on any cable network and not feel, like, totally infuriated by the overwhelmingness of their take.

In a way, I felt a bit of validation as I expressed a similar opinion in a recent column for BNM.  In a bigger sense, it was refreshing to hear voices who have no problem rolling their eyes at things that many others see as sacred.  While I didn’t agree with everything they had to say, they made me think.  They also made me feel comfortable that, if I were to engage with them, I wouldn’t feel attacked, patronized, or shut down.  I appreciated the fact that my own ideas were being challenged, yet there was an air of very healthy dialogue throughout their conversations and interactions.

Spoken word media, and in particular the news/talk space, is in dire need of fresh, independent voices.  Foster, Moynihan, and Welch present that. 

They are a welcome addition to my Spotify playlist, and would be a welcome addition to any audio brand looking for a way to cut through the clutter. Check out The Fifth Column Podcast here.

BNM Writers

Biden, Harris Jan. 6 Speeches Deliver Viewers To All 3 Networks

“Fox News was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.”

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Marking the start of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris, followed by President Joe Biden. Harris stated, “On Jan. 6, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful — the lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.” In Biden’s speech, he said “At this moment, we must decide what kind of nation are we going to be… Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth, to live by it.

Both speeches occurred in the 9-10 a.m. Eastern hour on Jan. 6. The rankings according to viewer figures among the cable news networks were, once again, similar to those of recent news events. Fox News Channel was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.

The window for CNN’s coverage went from 8:45 a.m. to 10:28 a.m. ET; while more precise data for the speeches themselves were not made available, the time period offered was still enough to achieve cable news’ runner-up spot in adults 25-54. CNN drew 187,000 in the demo while MSNBC did 182,000.

CNN delivered their most-watched hours of their week (ending Jan. 9) in the hours following Biden’s speech. Within the time frame of 10:28 a.m. to noon Eastern, which included a 22-minute speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the network averaged 1.25 million total viewers and 238,000 adults 25-54. Still, Fox News Channel topped those figures; from 10 a.m. to noon, they averaged 1.74 million total viewers with 272,000 adults 25-54. For FNC, the week marked 21 consecutive weeks in which they outdrew CNN and MSNBC combined according to total day data.

The Weather Channel achieved its highest rated week since the week ending Sep. 5, 2021 (Hurricane Ida). Winter Storm Garrett swept from Colorado to Maine, helping bring more than 6 inches of snow to parts of the Tennessee Valley and the Northeast. Snow totals have ranged from 2 to 5 inches in the Washington, D.C. to Baltimore to Philadelphia corridor to close to 10 inches at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and in southern Connecticut; the five boroughs of New York City received snow levels in-between. Most of the channel’s top hours occurred between the 8-11 a.m. ET time period from Jan. 3-7.

Cable news averages for January 3-9, 2022:

Total Day (January 3-9 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.408 million viewers; 223,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.746 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.548 million viewers; 113,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.196 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.191 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.161 million viewers; 39,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.121 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.105 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (January 3-8 @ 8-11 p.m.; January 9 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.303 million viewers; 365,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.284 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.705 million viewers; 153,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.227 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.206 million viewers; 66,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.218 million viewers; 47,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.142 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.053 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54

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

1. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.606 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.576 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.515 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.382 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.365 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.330 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.311 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.279 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.125 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.953 million viewers

18. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.444 million viewers

133. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Thu. 1/6/2022 10:28 AM, 32 min.) 1.260 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.620 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.576 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.565 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.557 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.502 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.472 million adults 25-54

22. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.359 million adults 25-54

65. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Fri. 1/7/2022 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.255 million adults 25-54

177. Forensic Files “Time Will Tell” (HLN, late Sat. 1/8/2022 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.155 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

Dave Ramsey and Those Evil Millionaires

Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.”

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Readers got another strong shot of common sense for their dollars and cents last week from the radio host known for delivering it in daily doses over the years.

During last week’s launch week for his new book, Baby Steps Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth – and How You Can Too, author and radio host, Dave Ramsey, took to the airwaves to share the underlying philosophy of his newest hit.

“We launched this book in the middle of a society where a portion of the people are out there; I call them the hope stealers. Their job is to steal your hope,” Ramsey began. “Their job is to tell you that the society, the culture, the country that we live in is so broken that the little man can’t get ahead. You stand no chance unless you inherit it from a rich uncle. You can’t make it; we need socialism. We need wealth redistribution. Wealthy people are evil anyway, and so they should be punished.”

Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.” To Ramsey, this is anathema. After all, the radio host has made a name for himself, as well as created thousands of jobs through his multi-million dollar business by becoming the financial voice for the “little man.” He began small, became a millionaire, lost it all through bankruptcy, and then prospered much more than before through the reliance on true, Biblical financial principles.

“A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes,” Ramsey quoted the story. “It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society. Billionaires should not exist. When American capitalism sends us its billionaires, it’s not sending us its best. It’s sending us people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing their problems with them. They’re bringing inequality.”

Ramsey pointed out the apparent case of jealousy and envy.

“Two evil character traits of anyone who is one with money. Money is evil; money is bad. If you get money, you are evil, and you are bad,” Ramsey said. “You should have it taken away from you and given to someone else….so that they are evil and bad, I guess. I never thought about that part. If we give it out, is it not a problem for the poor people that get it. I mean, if it’s bad, maybe we should just centralize it with a few people and destroy them instead of giving it to other people. That’s kind of illogical. The critical thinking breaks down on this, doesn’t it?”

And as usual, Ramsey didn’t hold back what he thought. As he has said countless times, he’s an “expert on his own opinion.”

“I’m old. When I was young, we called those communists,” he said. “This is straight-up Marxism.” He then referenced Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s policy adviser, who said “every billionaire we have is because of a policy failure” and that “a moral society needs guardrails against it.” 

Co-host John Delony, questioning the logic of the extreme leftist logic Ramsey was referencing, asked a real-world question to test the integrity of the socialist theory.

“I’m just thinking of the first guy that popped into my head, everybody’s favorite target – Elon Musk comes up with a cool computer program and sells it for a lot of money. Helps a lot of people do a lot of things. Then he develops a car and a battery. What’s the inherent evil there? I’m perplexed by the argument,” Delony said.

“It’s not logical; it’s not critical thinking skills. Marxism never is,” Ramsey answered, cutting through the propaganda. “What ends up happening is that the whole thing is about vilifying wealth and the wealthy so that we can do a power grab and move the money around and get credit for it. It’s a power grab thing. That’s generally what’s at the core of Marxism or these kinds of things all along.”

As Ramsey has been saying for years, and studies support, the wealthy lead all income earners in consistent giving.

“In the real world, the most generous people on the planet are the wealthy,” Ramsey noted. “This is actual data, not theory, not political rhetoric that’s trying to beat a drum. But the actual data says that wealthy people feed more starving children than not-wealthy people.” 

“88 percent gave to a charity in 2020,” Delony pointed out, referencing a survey of 1626 households with a net worth of at least a million dollars.

“Millionaires, there they are again!” Ramsey chimed.

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BNM Writers

The NFL Weathered the Storm, Fans Once Again Are Addicted

The NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.

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The NFL has us all wrapped around its finger. 

Don’t take my word for it, just look at the numbers. As we get set for the NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we are nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever. 

The NFL’s regular season viewership rose 10%, which is a bounce-back from a 7% drop in 2020. 

About 17.1 million viewers tuned in to regular season games on TV and online. It was the highest regular season audience for the NFL since 2015, according to a statement from the league. With the audience for traditional TV falling, NFL games continue to dominate the ratings, ranking as 91 of the top 100 telecasts this season, the league said.

So what happened? 

Well first we need to look backwards: 2020 was a perfect storm. The NFL did go political to a degree, adding “social justice” phrases to the end zones and the backs of players’ helmets. It was not as in-your-face as what the NBA did, but it was noticeable. It bothered a portion of fans who may have temporarily stepped away from watching football in a boycott. Add to that an incredibly tense 2020 election season, along with being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was natural to expect to see a decrease in viewership.

Oh, and let’s be honest, the mostly empty stadiums were just ghoulish. 

But the NFL weathered the storm. Because that’s what it does. It’s the best product on TV and it’s brought many back into the fold as things have gotten back to normal in 2021. 

It’s also why I never boycotted the league. First off, I knew I wouldn’t last long. We all need outlets from the insanity of the news cycle. I knew myself too well. And if I was going to boycott, I was going to do it right. I never thought I could do an NFL boycott “right”.

Was that weak of me? I know I certainly took the backlash from some of my listeners. But based on the ratings numbers we are seeing this week, it seems like many who were tough talkers in 2020 have quietly come back to the league with their tail between their legs. 

For the record, I’m OK with that. I won’t be admonishing anyone over it. The NFL puts on a first-class product. And let’s be honest, the NFL knew that they could toe the line of doing “enough” on the social justice front to appease those requesting it, while allowing time to heal wounds of those not wanting it, and not hemorage their audience in any significant way.

It turns out the NFL was right. Once again. We can’t get enough. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. And we’ll be tuned in starting with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday. 

So as we get ready for another season of NFL Playoffs, there’s no conversation around politics infringing on the product and the league is dominating TV ratings in a way no other sport or show is coming close to duplicating. 

The NFL weathered the storm, the stadiums are full, fans are back, and we’re all, once again, addicted. 

It’s OK to admit it. I am. Will you? 

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