“You do too many things; we don’t know what to do with you.”
That advice from a senior cable news executive never hit home with Katrina Szish, and for that fact, many Newsmax viewers are thankful.
Szish, the veteran television personality, announced last week that she has joined Newsmax TV as an afternoon anchor, pairing with Bob Sellers to host its daily 2 pm-4 pm program, American Agenda.
To say that Szish’s path to this high-profile position has been unconventional would be an understatement. Her career has included red carpet conversations, discussions about pop culture and entertainment, interviews with political figures, and four years of hosting on QVC.
While most media personalities narrow down and find their niche – or rather, get shoved into one, with or without their approval – Szish has taken chances and grasped opportunities available to her. With or without the approval of traditional media managers or bosses.
After graduating with honors from Harvard, Szish interned for CNN’s Political Investigation unit in Washington, DC, and CNN Style with Elsa Klensch in New York. She was a correspondent for CBS News’ The Early Show, an anchor, reporter, and writer for ABC News Now, a freelance correspondent for E!, a correspondent and writer for CNN.com, a co-host on the Food Network, a host and correspondent for TBS and the host of Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty television series. Just to name a few of her stops, as detailed on her website.
Szish even worked under Anna Wintour as a fashion writer at Vogue.
She has appeared with Barbara Walters and Larry King, Bill O’Reilly, and Neil Cavuto. Szish spent time as a brand ambassador for clients including Yahoo, Mercedes-Benz, Calvin Klein, and others, and she worked in local news in major markets, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. She is a former fashion magazine Editor and hosted a weekly fashion and lifestyle show, The Szish List, on QVC.
So while many aspiring media professionals are content to fit in and let their career mold them, the 50-year-old Szish has chosen a different path, happy to take chances and build something unique. Her Twitter profile reads, “Truth-teller. Writer. Style Savant. Dog Mom.”
Correspondent Caroline John, writing for Earn the Necklace, called Katrina Szish “the ultimate style goddess” in her April 22nd piece announcing Szish’s departure from QVC, where she had been a premier fashion influencer since 2018. John wrote that Szish’s “fans are dejected” by her exit and that viewers have been “drawn to Szish’s engaging and entertaining persona as much as her style and recommendations.”
While many anchors would have trouble jumping from entertainment and fashion to news, current events, and politics, Szish has fit in well in her first week with Newsmax. Her Friday broadcast concluded with a spirited segment regarding a contentious segment on The View, which discussed Liberal animosity toward Black Republicans.
“I think we often see on The View any of their Republican hosts tend to get completely lambasted, where there’s not even an open discussion. It’s immediately dismissive.” Szish said during her program’s final segment last week. “That, to me, is so much of what we’re seeing. Whether it’s between former friends, whether it’s on-air, wherever it is. Is seeing something like this on-air, say with The View co-hosts, even make our society think, you know what, it’s O.K. to be dismissive if someone’s Republican, much less a Black Republican?”
Gone are the days of dishing on “party clothes.” She now opines on political parties.
Szish’s website says that another cable executive warned her, “You have to pick one thing — TV producers need to be able to put you in a bucket.”
Szish apparently took the advice to heart. She created an extra-large, multi-faceted, pliable bucket of her own making and jumped in to chart a distinctive path.
A path completely unique, personal, and successful.
Return Of White House Correspondents Dinner Draws Just Under 2 Million Viewers
“The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).”
For the first time in three years, the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) returned in Washington, D.C. on Apr. 30. The 2022 event was emceed by comedian Trevor Noah.
In his set, the “Daily Show” host cracked several jokes about the news media — especially towards Fox News. In one if the memorable lines of the night, Noah told the dinner audience, “It is risky making jokes these days… I mean, we all saw what happened at the Oscars… What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway, and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?”
The 2022 White House Correspondents Dinner averaged 1.85 million total viewers in the 10-11 p.m. Eastern hour on CNN, according to Nielsen Media Research. The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).
President Biden is the first sitting U.S. President in six years to have attended the WHCD — a nugget even he had amusingly quipped, “It’s understandable: we had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID.”
Prior to 2018 (but with the exception of 2014), the White House Correspondents Dinner had also been broadcast on MSNBC and/or Fox News Channel, in addition to its regular CNN outlet. For four out of the five-year period from 2013 thru 2017, the event had regularly drawn well over two million viewers combined across multiple networks. Like this year, CNN was WHCD’s lone broadcaster back in 2014, having then delivered just 1.09 million viewers.
The high recent watermark for the WHCD was set in 2016, for President Barack Obama’s final Dinner and which was emceed by then-Comedy Central host Larry Wilmore. That drew 4.9 million viewers, including 3.02 million from CNN alone.
The following is a year-by-year viewership track for the past eight White House Correspondents Dinners (focusing on the ceremony’s final hour):
2022: 1.85 million (CNN)
2019: 0.95 million (CNN)
2018: 1.35 million (CNN)
2017: 2.38 million (1.69 million on CNN, 0.69 million on MSNBC)
2016: 4.90 million (3.02 million on CNN, 1.14 million on FNC, 0.74 million on MSNBC)
2015: 2.60 million (1.18 million on CNN, 0.89 million on FNC, 0.53 million on MSNBC)
2014: 1.09 million (CNN)
2013: 3.24 million (1.49 million on CNN 1.49, 1.11 million on FNC, 0.64 million on MSNBC)
Cable news averages for April 25-May 1, 2022:
Total Day (April 25-May 1 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.497 million viewers; 242,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.686 million viewers; 74,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.541 million viewers; 109,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.134 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.119 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.117 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.113 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (April 25-30 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 1 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.319 million viewers; 360,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.179 million viewers; 123,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.755 million viewers; 156,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.174 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.155 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.139 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.070 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.048 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. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.572 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.538 million viewers
3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.498 million viewers
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.472 million viewers
5. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.465 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.346 million viewers
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.194 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.128 million viewers
9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.072 million viewers
10. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.884 million viewers
30. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.122 million viewers
41. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.853 million viewers
• Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.723 million viewers
• Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.571 million viewers
• The Daily Show (CMDY, Mon. 4/25/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.428 million viewers
• Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.424 million viewers
• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.227 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, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.639 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.591 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.521 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.511 million adults 25-54
5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.509 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.490 million adults 25-54
7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54
8. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.478 million adults 25-54
9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.456 million adults 25-54
10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.425 million adults 25-54
46. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.291 million adults 25-54
55. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.274 million adults 25-54
85. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.237 million adults 25-54
137. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 4/26/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.170 million adults 25-54
147. Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.163 million adults 25-54
211. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.132 million adults 25-54
• Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.073 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
KOA’s Mandy Connell Went From Earning a Living in the Air to On it
Connell said a lot of her life has worked out that way. Serendipitous opportunities have always seemed to come her way.
Mandy Connell once earned her living in the air, not on it. This was during an era they served full meals and champagne, not just a bag of crumpled, stale peanuts. You had leg room and didn’t have to kiss your knees from New York to Denver.
“I was still in school at Florida State University,” Connell said. “I met a Delta Airlines flight attendant in a bar, and she said she thought they were hiring.” Initially, the woman at the bar said it might take months to get an interview, but Connell was hired and started training as a flight attendant a few weeks later.
Connell said a lot of her life has worked out that way. Serendipitous opportunities have always seemed to come her way.
This next bit of happenstance changed her life–for a second time.
She was mostly on “reserve,” but when holding a rare regular schedule one month, Connell was chatting with another flight attendant about a mid-air fight between passengers a couple of weeks before. “She asked what I did, and I jokingly told her I jumped on the P.A. and gave the passengers a blow-by-blow description for those that didn’t have good seats.”
When she described the fight, there was a gentleman passenger nearby who heard Connell talking.
“The man told me I should be on the radio or television,” she said. “He gave me his card. I thought, ‘Great, this guy wanted to get me on his casting couch.’” On her return trip the next week, the man was again on the flight she was working, this time with his wife.
“He pointed at me and told his wife I was the woman he told her about.”
It turns out this man was Dick Robinson; someone Connell calls a radio legend.
“He owned the Connecticut School of Broadcasting,” Connell said. “He still does.”
“One thing led to another, and I was offered a scholarship at Robinson’s Connecticut School of Broadcasting.” She said Robinson’s daughter was about her age, and he sent her to pick Connell up at the airport. “We had lunch at his home. He showed me his office, and there was a wall completely filled with photographs with him and everybody; the Pope, presidents, just about anyone who was anyone.”
Upon graduation from broadcasting school, Connell took an internship in Miami at WINZ. “I was with Clear Channel when they launched the first digital system,” she said. “I was an unpaid intern, and I was helping paid people learn Audiovault.” That led to some promotions. “Then I got a crappy job two night a week from 7 to 3 am, doing weather on the top of the hour. It was a lousy job but a magical experience.”
Like most jobs in radio, you never forget your first.
After that gig, Connell said a solid opportunity came when she was hired as a producer of a radio show on 104.1 in Orlando. “I had a falling-out with the host of the show,” Connell said. “I made some mistakes I won’t do again. Don’t date the host is all I can say..” Connell said that was a huge career lesson for her, but she learned how to run a radio show.
Self-described as ridiculously honest, Connell said she’s not afraid to upset the rules if they’re bad rules. “I just think living honestly is a good way to live. I’ve taken my work seriously.”
Her show airs daily from noon-3 pm on KOA 850 AM and 94.1FM in Denver. Connell starts her workday by gathering ideas for the show. “I get up at six, take my daughter to school, and I’m ingesting the news all morning. I don’t start my show until noon. I mostly focus on things that strike my fancy.”
She said topics that can drive a reaction from listeners are always in her mind. “We just did a show about a poll about Black Americans and things that mattered to them. We unpacked everything in there. That was super cool.” She said some hosts might take a snippet of that topic, but she quickly discovered it had so much more to offer.
Connell said she wouldn’t talk about anything on her show unless she got excited about it. “I don’t like taking topics into the next hour. People tend to repeat themselves, and nobody wants to hear that.” At the same time, Connell knows new listeners come along every hour, so it’s a judgment call.
Her show covers news of the day, ridiculous topics you talk about with your friends, and interviews with newsmakers and shakers Connell finds interesting. “No day is like another, and every day is a potential train wreck. And I mean that in the best possible way.”
When I spoke with Connell, there was a leak from the Supreme Court regarding abolishing Roe v Wade. You’d think that would be an A-list topic for a talk show. That is not the case with Connell.
“Even though I talked about it on my show, it’s a loser topic. The leak from the Supreme Court would have been the top story on any other day.”
It’s not going to sway people one way or another. They’re already entrenched in their views.”
The future of radio is something Connell thinks about all the time.
“For us, we are looking at streaming options as a huge part of the next era,” she said. “I don’t know if the radio industry goes away permanently. It’s like when cable came out in the 70s. Everybody was sure network television was going away. I’m loath to say radio will go away.”
Does she march to a different drummer? Connell thinks so. “I tell my daughter my brain doesn’t work like other people’s brains,” she said. “I think my gift as a talk show host is because I look at things that are disconnected and bring them together. Some people think I’ve lost my mind, but it works for me.” Connell sometimes said her show could be schizophrenic, and she likes that.
On her show, they do a question of the week, and it is often a bit out there. “It’s always a philosophical question, no specific answer,” she said. “Sometimes our answers make us sound like bad people,” she jokes.
Connell admits she leads a simple and relatively dull life off the air.
“I’m a combination of a newshound and introvert. I only read on vacation, but most of it is for the show. I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside table that are mocking me.” Film and television are out too.
“I hike a lot,” she said. “I don’t ski, golf, but boy, can I walk.” She’s doing this hiking in Colorado. You know, the same terrain dangerous wild animals call home. “I’ve never seen a mountain lion or moose. Those moose can kill you.”
She said while Covid-19 was truly a global tragedy, it wasn’t so bad for her. “I got to work from home. I don’t like running around like a crazy person. I’ve got a full studio in my home.”
“I tell people all the time; Covid was very good for me. I was able to shut down and evaluate what was important in my life.”
One thing is certain. When someone tells Connell to ‘Take a Hike,’ she’s more than happy to oblige.
Preparing To Be Different
“What’s more important; convincing people to join their side or entertaining?”
In my first week writing for Barrett Media, I learned that being a columnist is a lot like being a talk show host. No sooner do you plan an idea when the news cycle forces you to tear it up and start over.
This week, I absorbed a lot of talk radio covering the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s initial draft opinion that could overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. So much of the discussion was the same, even predictable, from hour to hour, making it an excellent subject for reviewing how we frame topics.
When beginning to work with a talk show host, especially one who spends considerable time on political issues, I ask what their goal is for each show (aside from getting big ratings and making a lot of money)? What’s more important; convincing people to join their side or entertaining? Too many shows are more intent on getting people to join the hosts’ political battles than entertaining.
I can’t say that I knew Rush Limbaugh well, but throughout his legendary career, I had meaningful conversations with him on a couple of occasions. One of those discussions was shortly after he came to New York. Rush impressed on me that his primary job was to entertain listeners. If he created a few new conservatives in the process, it was all the better, but he was clear that his first role was as an entertainer. There’s no question that Rush believed in the power of his ideology and his ability to present it compellingly, but when in front of a microphone, he was an entertainer first.
The conservative shows shared common themes as the SCOTUS news broke. There was considerable focus on the leak itself. It was stated as a matter of fact that the occurrence would forever change the Supreme Court. Yet there was not much discussion on what would change. Are the justices canceling movie night? Are the conservative and liberal factions going to enter and exit through different doors? Now that the court is forever changed, what will be different?
Most hosts tried not to gloat about the coming victory instead they focused on why Roe was a poorly constructed decision in the first place. As proof, nearly every show quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the ruling. Better than Ginsburg’s assessment might have been the words of Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe majority opinion. Later in life, Blackmun was often critical of the decision.
Guests and callers were less shy about sharing their glee over the end of Roe. They were sure to recite statistics and gruesome details about murdering babies. Those are the types of emotional appeals that conservatives typically slam liberals for using. It’s not entertaining and ignores the historical difficulty the courts have had resolving when life begins.
Putting aside President Biden’s statement, “no one can make the judgment to abort a child,” determining when a fetus becomes a person remains controversial. Blackmun wrestled with the issue in his 1973 opinion. Ultimately, the court rejected the notion that the use of the word person in the constitution included fetuses. The Supreme Court settled on the three trimesters of pregnancy for setting regulations.
In its 1992 Casey opinion the court modified the trimester standard to fetal viability. Alito’s initial draft doesn’t address the subject at all. The court has yet to accept that abortion is “killing babies.” Conservative talk show hosts need a more nuanced and less emotional appeal here.
Liberals, on the other hand, have discovered the “what’s next?” strawman. Despite Alito clearly stating why abortion is a unique issue, advocates insist that overturning Roe will lead to outlawing contraception and reimplementing segregation, among other ridiculous claims. President Biden went so far as to wonder, “what happens if a state changes the law saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children? Is that legit under the way the decision is written?”
Nobody bought the “what’s next?” argument during the gay marriage debate. Back then, conservatives posited that allowing members of the same sex could lead to polygamy and bestiality. None of the conservative nightmares happened because of gay marriage, just as none of the scenarios liberals are suggesting will happen in a post-Roe world.
My body, my choice, is a popular refrain used by both sides. Conservatives used words similar when it came to government mandates regarding Covid vaccines. Yet, the same people have no issue commanding a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Conversely, abortion rights advocates who say my body, my choice have no issue with the government ordering people to get vaccinated. While both sides were quick to point at the other’s hypocrisy, neither dealt with its own conundrum.
When I’m listening to a talk show take on an issue widely covered, I’m listening to hear something that isn’t in the talking points. Does the host exhibit superior logic, and can they link all the data? Indeed not every show fell into these traps. If yours did something different and I don’t know about you, please drop me a line. I’m always looking for great talk.