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Martha Zoller Possesses a Resume Most Would Envy

Martha Zoller’s maiden name was Martha Mitchell during the Watergate era. That’s nearly as bad as being named Booth during the Lincoln administration. 

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It’s exhausting just talking to her. She’s got more horsepower than the Energizer Bunny, and she’s faster with her ideas and thoughts than Speedy Gonzales running a mile.

Martha Zoller’s maiden name was Martha Mitchell during the Watergate era. That’s nearly as bad as being named Booth during the Lincoln administration. 

She caught a lot of heat for her name. “I learned to deal with it,” Zoller said. “It was a great conversation starter. People would ask me, ‘Where’s John?’”

Zoller was born to Frank and Juanita Mitchell. Both worked in retail, and Martha went to work for the upper-scale Rich’s department stores, which is known today as part of Macy’s. Rich’s enjoyed a long run from two years after the Civil War until 2005. 

As a young woman, she said she loved to sing, mostly at church. 

Zoller also played the piano but admitted she wasn’t that good. For the most part, not what you’d call an ‘outside girl.’

“That’s the way my mom wanted it,” Zoller said. “She was one of the few women on the street who had a job, and I don’t think she wanted me running around on my own all day.”

Frank Mitchell joined the service before the war and served a few years. When he was about ready to be discharged, Pearl Harbor happened. “Anybody who was already in the service had to stay,” Zoller said. He was later captured and placed in a POW camp.

Frank met Zoller’s mother Juanita at Fort Jackson in South Carolina before he deployed when he first joined. “He was in the New Jersey National guard when they met,” Zoller said. “He rode horseback in New Jersey and became part of a mechanized unit, then was shipped overseas.” 

One might wonder why someone would marry just before going into an environment where your chances of returning were not good. “They had to,” Zoller explained. “In those days, couples weren’t having sex before marriage, so if they wanted to, they had to get married. That’s what you had to do back then.”

I suppose that’s as good a reason to get married as any.

Frank was captured in September of 1944, but as was his fashion, he played it down. “My father said the worst thing the enemy did was not feed them,” Zoller said. Fortunately, he later escaped. 

The war left him, like many others, with scars that never really healed. He suffered from what is referred to as ‘Survivor Guilt.’” Frank Mitchell had trouble understanding why so many of his younger comrades were killed in the war and survived. 

“Because of that he was a functioning alcoholic,” Zoller said. “He’d have a few drinks, and invariably the war would come up in conversation. He was a great guy, but when he was drinking, you didn’t want to be around him at 8:00 in the evening.” 

Her father’s sacrifice was something Zoller doesn’t take lightly. His service is not taken for granted. “I tried to write down everything he said,” Zoller explained. “There are records at Rutgers University. Eddie Leonard was one of the four soldiers my father escaped with, and he gave an oral history which confirmed a lot of the stories he told us.”

Zoller took her reading very seriously. “I loved to read,” she said. “I was the youngest of four kids, and I wanted to read everything I could so I could contribute to conversations at the dinner table.” Zoller said her older brother and her father would argue at the table about the Vietnam War. “They had very different ideas about that war,” she said. 

She graduated from the University of Georgia on the heels of Watergate. “I met Gerald Ford on the White House lawn and introduced myself as Martha Mitchell from Georgia,” Zoller said. “I think he thought, ‘This kid is playing a joke on me.’”

“When I graduated, I couldn’t find a job in journalism. I was a production major and never thought I’d be in front of a microphone.” She produced training videos for Rich’s, but her position was eliminated during the recession. They offered her a position as an assistant buyer. “My dad was in sales, and my mother was a buyer,” Zoller said. “So, I had some knowledge in the field. It was fun spending other people’s money.”

Zoller has a radio resume most would envy. For eight years, she was named to the ‘Heavy Hundred’ Talk Shows Hosts in America by Talkers Magazine. For three straight years, she was one of James Magazines’ ‘Most Influential Georgians.’ 

With her show, The Martha Zoller Show, which runs daily on WDUN from 9-11 on weekdays, Zoller said she tries to be open-minded when booking guests. “I’m kind of known as the ‘velvet hammer,’” she said. “I’m open to talking to anybody.” She said she’s happy to bring a Democrat on her conservative-leaning show, someone she disagrees with, and engage in thoughtful and kind discourse. 

“I recently had a guest who felt I was going to sandbag him,” she explained. “I gave him a fair shot, even if I asked him something he may not be thrilled to talk about. Since I was fair, they want to come back. I ask them something they want to talk about; then we focus on something more contentious.”

Zoller said on the big talk stations, talkers are less willing to veer from the ‘formula’ of enraging and denigrating those who disagree. “I’m lucky because I work for an independently owned station,” she explained. “I’m in the Metro Atlanta market but not subjected to all the ratings pressure.”

She worked on Michael Dukakis’ campaign in 1988. At the time, Zoller saw him as a conservative Democrat, something she herself identified as. “At one point, I realized I had nothing in common with these people,” Zoller said.

“They were busy bashing people who had achieved success in their lives. I was 27 years old, and I had every intention of being ‘successful,’ so I stayed until the end of the campaign, but that was it between me and the Democratic Party.”

In 2012 Zoller ran for congress in Georgia’s 9th District. She garnered endorsements from Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity and led in five of the district’s 20 counties. But Doug Collins, a three-term member of the Georgia House from Gainesville, prevailed. 

Only after all this experience and earning of her proverbial stripes did Zoller enter radio. 

I started at WGGA in Gainesville, Georgia. “I think we had about 12 listeners, so I was able to hone my fledgling skills,” Zoller said. “We were too small to have any callers. I had my first show on the Fourth of July, and I’m almost certain we had zero listeners that day.”

After that, it was on to flagship WDUN radio. Zoller said she was excited to work at WDUN, sharing how the sausage was made. After her unsuccessful bid for congress, Zoller wanted to return to radio. “WGAU in Watkinsville, Georgia had a job opening in the mornings,” she explained. Zoller hated it. “Getting up at 3:00 in the morning wasn’t for me.”

In 2005, Zoller was part of a group of radio hosts to broadcast live in Iraq. “The first night in Kuwait, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton,” she said. “After that, we were housed in tents with soldiers. I used my helmet as a pillow, and there was a girl from Detroit who was on suicide watch. I think she was just homesick.”

Even before they went to Iraq, Zoller knew there would be a ton of difficulties with technology, and she wasn’t disappointed. “I was asked why I was the only one who didn’t get mad at everything when something didn’t go right,” Zoller said. 

Later they went on to do a week of shows from Iraq, where she met many lifelong friends. “There were no accommodations for women in some areas,” Zoller said. “I slept in a storeroom.” 

She thinks her listeners respond to her being so honest on the air. “They love the stories I tell,” Zoller said. “I had a health crisis in November of 2020. It was so bad my husband called the kids to town as he didn’t think I was going to make it.”

“It was Thanksgiving, and my husband asked why my breathing was so labored. That was enough to take me to the hospital. I was so weak I couldn’t walk in the door,” Zoller explained. The doctors immediately placed her in the ICU. 

In her rare quiet times, she still reads and will watch some stuff on the television. “I just started watching Yellowstone, and I watched Bridgerton. I like a good Rom-Com and am a fan of the James Bond series.” Zoller wasn’t thrilled with the last one. (Spoiler.) “They killed him in the end. Now they have to reboot the whole series.” 

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Possible Reversal of The 1973 Roe vs. Wade Decision Dominates Network TV Coverage

“Surprisingly, the overall cable news landscape remained relatively steady in prime time on May 2.”

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News of Justice Samuel Alito’s initial draft majority opinion that would have the Supreme Court overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights — immediately spread like wildfire on the evening of May 2nd.

The development, first reported by the website Politico starting within the 9 p.m. ET hour, holds monumental implications for the nation if the Court officially does overturn the law.

Yet, surprisingly, the overall cable news landscape remained relatively steady in prime time on May 2. Compared to the three prior Monday nights (averaging Apr. 11, 18 & 25), MSNBC’s flagship program “Rachel Maddow Show” slipped 4 percent to 1.94 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Its lead-out “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (1.45 million) was down 7 percent. 826,000 then tuned in to “The 11th Hour” up 3 percent.

Over at CNN, the 9 p.m. hour of “Anderson Cooper 360” (660,000 viewers) ticked up one percent. “Don Lemon Tonight” grew ten percent in the 10 p.m. hour (689,000 viewers) but fell two percent in the 11 p.m. hour (517,000 viewers).

Fox News Channel’s coverage focused on how the leak from the Supreme Court occurred. “Hannity” (2.79 million) stayed even, while the subsequent two lead-out programs on the night jumped up the most (of all cable telecasts) in raw figures — each increased by two million viewers: “The Ingraham Angle” (2.4 million; +9 percent from the 2.2 million average of Apr. 11, 18, 25) and “Gutfeld!” (2.15 million; +10 percent from the 1.95 million average of Apr. 11, 18, 25).

Cable news averages for May 2-8, 2022:

Total Day (May 2-8 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.484 million viewers; 241,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.631 million viewers; 69,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.478 million viewers; 102,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.183 million viewers; 52,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.132 million viewers; 32,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.132 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.112 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.111 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 2-7 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 8 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.286 million viewers; 352,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.996 million viewers; 107,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.605 million viewers; 131,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.223 million viewers; 26,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.206 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.149 million viewers; 54,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.142 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.059 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.052 million viewers; 10,000 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. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.449 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.431 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.371 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.284 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.220 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.188 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.182 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/6/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.151 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.047 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.876 million viewers

36. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/2/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.941 million viewers

159. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 599” (HBO, Fri. 5/6/2022 10:01 PM, 55 min.) 0.870 million viewers

161. Stanley Tucci “Piedmont” (CNN, Sun. 5/8/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.859 million viewers

290. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/8/2022 11:01 PM, 42 min.) 0.567 million viewers

356. The Daily Show (CMDY, Wed. 5/4/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.434 million viewers

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

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.623 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.553 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.533 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.503 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.480 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.475 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.474 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/2/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.445 million adults 25-54

9. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 5/3/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.444 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.441 million adults 25-54

76. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/8/2022 11:01 PM, 42 min.) 0.231 million adults 25-54

81. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 5/2/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.228 million adults 25-54

96. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 5/2/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.211 million adults 25-54

129. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 5/3/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.167 million adults 25-54

152. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 599” (HBO, Fri. 5/6/2022 10:01 PM, 55 min.) 0.154 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

What Would a Jeff Warshaw Consortium Takeover of Cumulus Mean?

When the news of Warshaw’s consortium became public, some of us looking for a knight on a white horse wondered if this was what we had been waiting for. The announcement led to the question: would a Jeff Warshaw-led Cumulus be an improvement over the current management?

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On April 14, 2022, reports became public that a consortium led by Connoisseur Media CEO Jeff Warshaw made an unsolicited, $1.2 billion bid (including debt) to acquire Cumulus Media.

Reuters reported that Warshaw planned to take the company private with a bid of $15 to $17 per share. As a result, Cumulus shares which traded in the $10 – $11 range over the past year, jumped to $14.21, a 40% increase and a level not seen since July 2021.

Cumulus management responded to the reports by acknowledging the indication of interest and stated it was “reviewing the letter.”

During Cumulus’s Q1 22 earnings call on May 4, President/CEO Mary Berner announced a $50 million stock buyback program and rejected the Warshaw consortium acquisition bid.

Radio companies have lagged the overall financial markets for over a decade. I have participated in conversations with groups that already own radio stations and others currently outside the industry who have considered buying radio groups.

In 2013 music streaming service Pandora bought an FM station in Rapid City, South Dakota. Upon first hearing that news, some of us thought perhaps they realized how undervalued FM signals were and would invest in the medium. Alas, Pandora thought they had found a backdoor means to lower its music royalty costs but otherwise had little interest in broadcast radio.

As somebody who has been involved in every facet of the radio industry for nearly 40 years, I was interested in far more than just the investment implications of the proposed buyout.

When the news of Warshaw’s consortium became public, some of us looking for a knight on a white horse wondered if this was what we had been waiting for. The announcement led to the question: would a Jeff Warshaw-led Cumulus be an improvement over the current management?

To answer that question, I used reviews from the website Glassdoor. Reviewers can rate the company on a one to five bases, with five the best and one the worst.

These reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt as former employees may have an ax to grind, but this caveat holds equally true for all employers.

The company Jeff Warshaw currently runs, Connoisseur Media, receives an average of 2.9 stars (out of five) on Glassdoor. This rating is based on just 32 reviews, so the low sample size is a factor to consider.

Cumulus currently has an average of 3.2 stars on Glassdoor based on over 800 reviews.

These Glassdoor reviews suggest that a new Cumulus led by Warshaw wouldn’t be an improvement over the current management. If it takes a knight on a white horse to make Cumulus a better company to work for, it will have to wait for another day.

To be fair, I don’t know Jeff Warshaw. I have never spoken with him. I would appreciate the opportunity to talk to him at the appropriate time (assuming that his attempted takeover remains ongoing). I also welcome employees of Connoisseur or Cumulus who feel the average reflected on Glassdoor is unfair to contact me (andy@andybloom.com). I will accept comments and input anonymously regardless of whether it is more positive or negative than Glassdoor poses for use in a future column.

While we’re looking at the reviews for Connoisseur and Cumulus, it’s a worthwhile exercise to see how the other major radio broadcast groups fare:

iHeart also rates a 3.2 with over 2,200 reviews.

Audacy receives a 3.5, which is misleading as it’s based on 23 reviews. Entercom had 691 reviews and rates a 3.1.

The best I can find in the industry among the majors is Cox with 4.1. Again, this may be deceiving. Apollo Global Management scores a more modest 3.1.

Hubbard has no reviews. I’m not sure why.

SiriusXM appears to have the highest current score at 3.6.

You’ll find common themes, positive and the negatives are dizzyingly familiar across the companies throughout these reviews.

The main reoccurring negative themes include:

· Low pay

· Long hours

· No chance for advancement

· Doing the work of too many people

· Management pays lip service to feedback but doesn’t do anything

The main reoccurring positive themes include:

· The people

· Fun place to work

· Perks – such as free tickets

· Glad to be working in the industry

I was curious about the differences between the companies employees rated higher and lower to work for. Listening to a couple of recent earnings calls revealed some of the variations. In next week’s column, we will examine some of the differences.

Are the pros and cons listed above familiar to you? I welcome your input and anonymous comments for next week’s follow-up column. Please reach out to me at andy@andybloom.com.

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BNM Writers

Dave LaBrozzi Knew What He Wanted From Day One

LaBrozzi has nearly four decades of experience in radio, most recently as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City.

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Dave LaBrozzi was very high on my interview ‘wish list,’ second only to the guy who does the insurance commercials with the nasty emu. There seems to be little LaBrozzi has not accomplished in his career (with the exception of doing an insurance commercial with an obnoxious emu.)

He’s got that voice that hits you like a freight train. That radio voice, even if he doesn’t sit in front of the microphone these days. One of those booming set of pipes you’re just born with.

LaBrozzi is one of those guys who knew what he wanted from day one. Or at least when he was ten years old. Truth be told, he said he was one of those kids who sat at his mother’s kitchen table talking into a wooden spoon as though it were a microphone. 

“I wanted to be the next Pirates play-by-play voice,” LaBrozzi said. “Working as a disc jockey was right up there too. The spoken word has always been a passion for me.”

Future moves in his life were made with one eye focused on a career in radio. It’s the only career he’s ever been involved with. Today he’s with KDKA Radio News, the world’s first commercial broadcasting station. “It’s an honor to be here with these legendary call letters,” LaBrozzi said. “It’s become a second home and a thrill to be sitting in this office.”

LaBrozzi has nearly four decades of experience in radio, most recently as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City. Prior to WABC, he was Program Director of WPLJ-FM. In addition to his work in New York, Dave spent 14 years as Vice President of Programming for Audacy’s Baltimore stations and has also spent time programming in Nashville, Austin, San Antonio, and Pittsburgh.

LaBrozzi was appointed brand manager for KDKA, overseeing the content strategy, talent, operations, and branding. 

KDKA was launched in 1920. It started as an opportunity to instantaneously provide news and information about the presidential election returns in the race between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox. 

LaBrozzi said he’s extremely proud of his current on-air lineup. “Larry Richert has been here for 25 years. Kevin Battle has come back. In all, we have a really solid staff that’s deeply entrenched in the community.”

When LaBrozzi drops into his chair behind his desk in the morning, he checks the stories to make sure they’re talking about what matters to people on any given day. “We’re working hard to get back with the community, checking in with people one-on-one.” 

LaBrozzi said they grade stories after they’ve aired, deciding whether they hit their mark and if they mattered. He said it’s important to talk with people and visit neighborhoods.

“I hope local papers hang on; they play such a vital role in the community.

I started in a small station in upstate Pennsylvania with 2,000 people. It was an oldie’s station. The first record I played was ‘Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again,’ by The Fortunes.” 

That song must be like a first love for LaBrozzi. If he’d played a Lawrence Welk song, he might not be where he is today.

His father was a high school administrator and was able to identify his son’s strengths and weaknesses from the get-go. 

“He knew my academic career wasn’t going to send me to Harvard,” LaBrozzi said. “He also knew I had the passion and drive to succeed.”

LaBrozzi tells his on-air folks to connect with listeners one-on-one. “It’s all about being authentic,” he said. “I want them to share their life experiences. Audiences can tell when a person is disingenuous. You can have a different sound on the air, but you have to be real.” He went on to say his staff is very passionate and believes in what they’re doing.

He was born in Emporium, Pennsylvania. Today the town boasts a population of close to 2,000 people. Compared to Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, that’s a metropolis. He went to Mansfield State College, but the radio bug called, tugged, and pulled. “I tell people I got thrown out of college because of what I didn’t do,” LaBrozzi jokes. He said he’d intended to get a business degree, but the math requirements sent him running for the exit.

Why radio? “I think it’s a passion, drive, not that different from being an athlete. It’s something deeply within our souls. “My wife was in the business but gave it up to home-school the kids.”

When he’s not busy being a radio executive, LaBrozzi likes to indulge in books. “I’m reading Ernest Hemingway right now,” he said. “I’ve watched some of the Winning Time series on HBO. It’s entertaining if not factual.”

Then came the dreaded question. Where do you think radio is going?

“I think social media is doing so much to help our industry,” LaBrozzi said. “We need to embrace all it offers. There’s always a need for more information on a local level.”

With LaBrozzi ‘in the can,’ now I have to track down that Emu guy.

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