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.
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.
Chrissy Paradis is a BNM columnist and veteran sports radio producer. She’s worked in Las Vegas, Washington DC, Raleigh and Hartford helping personalities such as Rob Dibble, Tim Brando, Steve Cofield, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies. You can contact her on Twitter @ChrissyParadis or by email at Chrissy.Paradis@gmail.com.
Does the Republican Establishment Get It?
For many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections.
In a move that seemed to go against the wishes of the patriotic American grassroots, the Republican party on Friday re-elected RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel.
The media immediately took notice, as many on television and radio are now wondering why the party would re-elect a chairperson who has been so unpopular with the base of its party.
Grant Stinchfield discussed this issue Friday night on his program, Stinchfield Tonight, which airs on Real America’s Voice network.
“Ronna McDaniel holds on to her chairmanship of the Republican Party. By a whopping total of — what were the numbers– 111 to 54. Harmeet Dhillon only received 54 votes. Mike Lindell 4 votes. This is proof to me that the Republican establishment is dug in,” Stinchfield — formerly of Newsmax — said. “Don’t tell me they’re out of touch. See, you tell me they’re out of touch, that implies ignorance. They’re not ignorant about anything.”
As sentiment for Dhillon grew in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, many influential politicians and party donors publicly offered her their support and endorsement. These included Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), as well as donors Mike Rydin, Dick Uihlein, and Bernie Marcus.
Also on board were musician and outspoken conservative John Rich, along with the state GOP of Nebraska and Washington State. Countless journalists and media personalities, such as Charlie Kirk, Miranda Divine, and Lou Dobbs, also came out publicly in support of Dhillon. Former President Donald Trump remained neutral, not making a public choice of either of the three candidates.
For many of Dhillon’s supporters, the deciding factor was public sentiment across the party’s base.
“They’re reading the same chat boards. They’re getting the same emails I’m reading. I will literally post something about this race when I was supporting Harmeet Dhillon. There was not one comment – not one – that supported Ronna McDaniel. Everyone wanted change,” Stinchfield said, noting that the party elite saw the same groundswell of support for change.
“Now, nobody has an issue as Ronna McDaniel is some evil kind of person. I don’t believe she is. I believe, though, that she is part of the establishment. She’s been around too long as far as the establishment goes. And she’s been ingrained in doing business as usual. It’s not working.”
In making their choices known, many Dhillon supporters simply pointed to the scoreboard during McDaniel’s reign.
“Think about where we are. 2018, we lost the House. 2020, we lost everything. 2022, we won the House, but we should have really steamrolled the House and we should have taken back the Senate, which we didn’t do,” Stinchfield said. “That means we’re on a real losing track since she took over. I don’t like being on a losing track. I like being on a winning track.
“Something has got to change when you talk about all of this. So how does Ronna McDaniel get 111 votes and Harmeet Dhillon only get 54 votes, when everyone, every Republican voter I talk to said it was time for change?” pondered Stinchfield.
And even more than the losses, for many it seemed that the Republican establishment stood idly by as Democrats changed the rules and worked behind the scenes to alter elections. The most recent example of which came in Arizona, where presumptive gubernatorial favorite, Kari Lake, was “defeated” when countless voting irregularities occurred in some of the state’s most deep-red areas.
“Under her watch, Democrats instituted a mail-in ballot scheme. That may be even worse than losing, when you talk about the House and the Senate and all these things. The fact that we now have a junk mail-in ballot scheme across the country under Ronna McDaniel’s watch is serious trouble. Very serious trouble,” Stinchfield said on Friday. “And so the reason it is is because the Democrats are rigging the system.”
For years – until Donald Trump descended the golden escalator and took the world by storm – the Republican party had the reputation of being the party of the rich. Rush Limbaugh used to refer to this wing of Republicans as “the country club crowd.” President Donald Trump flipped the narrative completely, offering a clear vision of hope and patriotism to working-class America.
Reputable polling — such as Richard Baris’ Big Data Poll — consistently showed Trump running well ahead of almost every Republican candidate during the 2022 mid-term election cycle. In other words, Trump still maintains considerably more support across the country than most of the individual Senate or House candidates experienced.
Many experts believe this is because voters still view Trump as an outsider, while they view the Republican party much less favorably.
“Let’s tell you how out of touch they are, how elitist they are,” Stinchfield said, calling out the GOP establishment. “This meeting that went on, do you know where it is? It’s at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch in California. One of the most expensive resorts in America. You’re lucky if you get a room for a thousand dollars a night down there on Dana Point. Now, it’s a beautiful hotel, but why is the Republican Party holding an event there? Then I went back and I looked at what RedState did. RedState went back and looked at some of the expenses that the Republican Party under Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was spending money on.
“Take a look at this. $3.1 million on private jets. $1.3 million on limousine and chauffeur services. $17.1 million on donor mementos. $750,000 on floral arrangements. Now you compare this to the Democrats. The Democrats spent $35,000 on private airfare. A thousand dollars on floral arrangements. A thousand. Not $750,000. A thousand. And the $17.1 million they spent on donor mementos, the Democrats spent $1.5 million.
“Democrats know where to put the money. It’s not giving donors gifts. Donors shouldn’t want gifts. If you give money, give money. You don’t need the fancy pin to put on your lapel.”
Following her loss, Dhillon warned her party that it must listen to the base, saying, “if we ignore this message, I think it’s at our peril. It’s at our peril personally, as party leaders and it’s at our peril for our party in general.”
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
The State of the Radio Industry and Technology
“As the industry continues to evolve, radio broadcasters must find new ways to monetize their digital offerings and adapt to changing listener habits.”
After writing some three-dozen columns for Barrett Media, I often hear that I don’t provide a balanced view of the radio industry. Therefore, this week, I will write about the strengths and weaknesses of the radio industry. It may be a little simplistic, but it will make sense at the end. I promise.
The radio broadcasting business continues to evolve in the digital age, with strengths and challenges to consider. One of the most significant strengths of radio is its ability to reach a broad audience. Radio waves can travel long distances, allowing local stations to reach listeners beyond their immediate area. This makes radio a powerful tool for both local and national advertisers. Radio also reaches audiences in their cars, at work, and at home, providing advertisers with multiple touchpoints. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, radio reaches 93% of adults in the United States each week, making it one of the most widely consumed mediums. Furthermore, radio is a cost-effective form of advertising, with lower ad rates than other media forms. This allows small businesses to reach a large audience without breaking the bank.
Another strength of radio is its role in emergency communication. In times of crisis, radio can provide important information to listeners quickly and efficiently. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all radio stations to have emergency alert systems, allowing them to disseminate critical information to the public promptly. Radio can be a lifeline for communities during natural disasters, power outages, or other emergencies, providing updates on road closures, evacuation orders, and other important information. Radio can reach remote areas where other forms of communication may not be as reliable. This makes radio a vital tool for emergency responders, who rely on it to coordinate responses and disseminate information.
Despite these strengths, the radio industry faces several challenges in the digital age. One of the biggest challenges is competition from other media outlets, such as streaming services and podcasts. The rise of these digital platforms has led to a decline in traditional radio listening, which is likely to continue.
According to a Nielsen report, traditional radio listening among adults aged 18-34 has dropped by 20% over the last decade. Additionally, many radio stations are struggling to monetize their digital offerings, which has led to a decline in revenue. However, radio has been able to adapt by incorporating streaming services, podcasts, and other digital platforms, which allows them to reach a wider audience and cater to changing listening habits.
Another challenge is the consolidation of the radio industry. In recent years, there has been a significant amount of it, with a small number of companies owning multiple stations. This has led to less programming diversity and less market competition. This can lead to a homogenization of content, with less local flavor and less opportunity for new voices in the industry. However, many smaller independent stations have survived by providing unique and localized content catering to the needs of their community.
Despite these challenges, the radio industry continues to generate significant revenue. The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) says that radio advertising revenue in the United States reached $18.9 billion in 2019. The radio industry has been able to adapt to the changing market, with many stations now offering a combination of traditional and digital programming. The industry has also been able to monetize digital offerings by incorporating targeted advertising, sponsorships, and other revenue streams.In conclusion, the radio broadcasting business is facing challenges in the digital age, but it continues to have an enormous audience reach and role in emergency communication.
Additionally, the industry continues to generate significant revenue. As the industry continues to evolve, radio broadcasters must find new ways to monetize their digital offerings and adapt to changing listener habits.
If my analysis seems a little simplistic or this column doesn’t seem like my typical style, it’s because I didn’t write it. The column was written using artificial intelligence (AI). More specifically, by the hottest tech trend these days, ChatGPT.
How hot? Here are a couple of data points from a report in Axios.
- In June, generative AI was covered in only 152 articles. Just six months later, the topic has generated roughly 12,000 news stories, according to MuckRack data.
- At this year’s CES trade show, 579 exhibitors were listed under the show’s “Artificial Intelligence” category — more than double of those categorized as “Metaverse” (176), “Cryptocurrency” (19), and “Blockchain” (55) combined.
ChatGPT is AI technology that allows you to have regular conversations with a chatbot that can answer questions and help with tasks such as writing columns.
ChatGPT is what Siri wants to be when she grows up.
ChatGPT is currently open and free while it’s in its research and feedback collection phase. If it’s not perfect, it’s certainly a lot of fun. It is also quite helpful when researching a topic (as long as the information you need is pre-2021). It is much more efficient and precise than Google, any other search engine, or Siri. I find myself obsessed with seeing what it knows and can do. If you try it, you probably will be too.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.
WTIC’s Todd Feinburg Caught The Radio Bug At An Early Age
“I don’t do Fox imitation radio, which is the backbone of a lot of talk. I want to think. I want my brain to be turned on.”
The man is familiar with turbulence, air pockets, and I hope to god he’s never experienced wind shear. You see, early in his career, radio talker Todd Feinburg was a helicopter traffic reporter in Boston.
“I love to fly, but hated being in the air in that contraption,” he said. “It was like a VW bug, a little bubble with a blade on top. If the wind wasn’t blowing too hard, it was fine. It was an amazing way to get to know Boston. I always loved being on radio, and got a charge out of it.”He was seemingly destined to be involved in radio, in one form or another. Feinburg’s mother tells him a story about when he was young that explains a lot of his future endeavors.“My mother is 92, but still very alert and intellectual,” he said. “She tells me how they had borrowed a tape recorder more than 60 years ago. It was a reel-to-reel and they had set it on the dining table. I was two years old and sitting on my father’s lap.”His father was an engineer and took an opportunity to explain a contraption on the table.“He described to me how a voice went through the microphone and onto the tape,” Feinburg said. “I guess my eyes lit up, even though there was no way I could have understood what he was describing. They said they knew right then I was going to be involved in radio in some way.”Isn’t that how all news talkers get started?As a former restaurant owner, along with his wife, Feinburg can be critical, or at least wary of new places. He wants restaurants to deliver on what they promise.“We went to a restaurant in Cambridge, MA last week,” Feinburg explained. “We didn’t know what it was, but it was described as a New American restaurant, whatever that means. We decided to give it a shot. They had a knack for making all the usual dishes seem different.”That causes some immediate skepticism about the delivery of a promise. Feinburg said he’s kind of a traditionalist and wants his pancakes to be pancakes. The pancakes he was familiar with and grew up eating.“But these guys made theirs with cornmeal instead of wheat corn. I could actually see the corn and I should have been appalled. But they were amazing. My wife is a believer that a restaurant experience can be magical,” Feinburg said. “She has an uncanny ability to do that and she’s been cooking since she was a kid.”Feinburg said cooking can be totally intuitive, like radio. No two meals are exactly alike, just as no two radio shows are alike. “I feel that to be effective you have to maximize potential. Access both sides of the human brain. Get both sides firing.”Some restaurants run a great kitchen but can’t run the front of the house. Feinburg said gone are the days when you should expect service like we did 10 years ago. Covid may have had something to do with that.“Hosts used to thank you when you came in,” Feinburg recalled. “Today you get some teenager chewing gum or on their phone. Often in an outfit that is too sexy and just ask, ‘Two for lunch?’ Then she starts walking toward the table and is there when you arrive.”He said he tries to calm himself before he goes out to a restaurant. Prepare myself for any possible experience. He and his wife prefer to go to a particular restaurant where the staff has been tested by Feinburg, so he really gets it his way.Feinburg said artisanal pizzas are hard to make and expensive to produce. If a pizza sits too long before it is served, it loses a lot of its quality.“I try to develop a relationship with the server upfront,” he said. “I acknowledge I know they’re busy, but explain how the chef wants us to enjoy his special pizza hot. They get the hint and bring it out right away. It’s a win-win because I often leave them a much higher tip.”When he’s not out eating hot pizza, Feinburg can be heard daily from 3-6 on WTIC NewsTalk 1080. He also hosts a podcast, a longer segment where he can extend solid conversations that need more legroom.“If I find something going in a good direction on the air, or if I think there’s a lot more meat to a topic, I’ll find a way to pick it up on my podcast,” Feinburg said. “Sometimes a story might be long-winded but still going in the right direction. I’ll find a place to stretch it out. By the same token if I’m interviewing someone on a podcast and come across some interesting stuff I can cut that up and use it on my live broadcast.”On the air Feinburg enjoys bouncing off audio cuts saying it adds life and energy to the spoken word format.“You can make fun of some cuts and that gives you a lot of direction and momentum. As a host you learn to adapt. I’ve done morning drive for five years in Boston. It’s a tight clock and you get six minute segments if you’re lucky. Then you’re off to traffic and weather. You want a guest to give you a good six minutes, but some people can’t talk and that stalls the segment.”Feinburg attended Tufts and majored in political science. His mother was a professor at the university in early education and child psychology.Everything changed for Feinburg when he discovered the school’s radio station, WMFO. “We’d call it WM F*** Off,” Feinburg said.Feinburg said these days Tufts is probably more prestigious than when he attended in the 1970s. “It’s not quite an Ivy League school,” he said. “I don’t think it had as strong of an identity when I was there, but a lot of schools have been elevated since then. We’ve got so much Federal money going into schools. It wasn’t an irrelevant school, but now it’s well thought of in Boston and is synonymous with Ivy League. You get the benefits of the city without having to be in the city.”Perhaps from exposure to his mother’s work, Feinburg said he enjoys politics from a psychological point of view.“I like to see how psychology is responsible for what happens in our lives,” he said. “Particularly with politicians and how they’re always running a two-bit hustle on constituents. I don’t do Fox imitation radio, which is the backbone of a lot of talk. I want to think. I want my brain to be turned on.”He said it’s politicians who have enabled Connecticut to go ‘down the tubes.’“It used to be one of the great states from a fiscal perspective and economic position,” Feinburg said. “It was an economic actor. Companies wanted to go there. They liked the geography. Now it’s gotten to the point where the governor has ravaged the state. It’s too expensive to live here. Companies are moving out. Young professionals don’t want to move here.”He said he blames the Democratic party for the mess. “The Democrats destroy the poor people while trying to appear to advocate for them,” Feinburg said. “They entrap people in these violent places. That is where my politics differ from them. We suffer from sluggishness. Everything is failing to function. We need to do better than our founders did. If you’re poor, you’re trapped. Struggling. If you’re new to the country or area, people move to Hartford. Then people you know or relatives are looking for a place to live, and you tell them to come to Hartford. So, they go there. You have violence that wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else in the state. You’ve got the worst schools. You get sent enough government money to make sure you don’t starve. There’s no capital, no way to start a new business. There’s no education. You speak some kind of dialect, and there’s nobody who tells you the right way to speak.”Why would Democrats push for and work for such entrapment?“They’ve created a core constituency,” Feinburg explained. “They prioritize desegregation and that’s not an achievable goal. They funnel billions of dollars into a model that is stupid that doesn’t help anyone. They’ve ruined public education. You can’t have a top-down school system and have it work well. We don’t do anything that way.”According to Feinburg, we know how to fix the crippled educational system, but don’t.“We know how the market works. Give the 10,000 dollars allocated to a student to the parents and let the parents spend it where they want to spend it,” Feinburg said. “If it’s a charter school, or in-home schooling, let them do that. “We’d have the education problem fixed inside of 30 years. You’d have the whole thing fixed. Political parties are evil. Parties are middlemen. It’s supposed to be ‘We the people’. Politicians have their hands on the levers, and they don’t tell us the truth.”Feinburg said some lawmakers who voted on legislation aren’t even privy to legislation they’re voting on.“This goes for both parties,” he said. “Leaders want it to get something passed, they don’t even tell others it’s coming up for a vote. They just want to push something through. People may find they’ve voted for something horrible, against their ideals.”When we talked about the tragic experience in Memphis, Feinburg quickly pointed out how police departments are unduly violent toward black people.“But how are the police departments controlled?” he said. “It’s the same as with schools. It’s the unions that get in their way. It all goes into collective bargaining.”Feinburg doesn’t listen to a lot of talk radio, with one exception.“I listen to Tom Shattuck, who comes on before me,” he said. “He’s a friend and he approaches things differently. Otherwise, I dabble in listening.”Dabbling isn’t a bad way to go.
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.