Rod Lakin Knew There Was No Replacing Angelo Cataldi at WIP
“‘I’m not looking to replace Angelo. I’m looking to create a new show on morning drive that can hold up the standards Angelo created.”
Last October, Rod Lakin joined SportsRadio 94WIP in Philadelphia as its brand manager. Three days into his first week on the job, Philadelphia sports radio staple and morning show host Angelo Cataldi announced that he would be retiring from the station in December 2022.
The search has been on to determine a new sound for morning drive programming on the station, a profound responsibility placed on Lakin who recently completed his first year working in “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Lakin succeeded Spike Eskin at SportsRadio 94WIP when Eskin took over as vice president of programming at WFAN in New York. Before moving to Philadelphia, Lakin worked for Bonneville in Phoenix as the program director of Arizona Sports 98.7 and ESPN 620, an outlet where he began as a technical director and producer before overseeing station programming.
Angelo Cataldi has encapsulated what it means to be a sports fan in the city of Philadelphia. While he will remain on the air until the Philadelphia Eagles’ season comes to an end, Lakin and his team at SportsRadio 94 WIP have concluded their process to name a new morning show.
Last week, the station announced that midday show hosts Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie will be the new hosts during morning drive. DeCamara and Ritchie began working together on their midday program at WIP in October 2016. Previously, DeCamara worked as a local weekday evening host on 97.5 The Fanatic and national weekend host on ESPN Radio following a brief stint in Levittown, PA with 1490 WBCB-AM. Ritchie began working in sports media upon his retirement from the NFL in contributing roles at both ESPN and NBC Sports and as the co-host of The Artie Lange Show on DirecTV.
“They have a really good feel for each other [and have] worked together for a long time,” Lakin said. “Joe is kind of the ultimate Philadelphia sports fan. There’s a segment we do called ‘Beat the Hammer’ where he does Philadelphia sports trivia every Friday, and Joe could tell you who pinch hit in Game 3 of the 1993 World Series. Jon is on the other side of the spectrum as a former athlete – a successful one in the NFL – and I think they have a really good rapport and chemistry with each other; two very, very different perspectives.”
Additionally, it was announced that the morning program will continue to feature Cataldi’s longtime co-host Rhea Hughes. Morning show producer Joe Weachter will remain in his role but will also be joined by current midday producer James Seltzer. The next step for the Audacy-owned station will be to form a new midday team which it says will be named in the next few months. Regarding the morning show, the search process was thorough but having a local connection to Philadelphia from the onset was not necessarily a job requirement.
“Certainly it’s a benefit to have people that the Philadelphia sports audience are familiar with and hosts that have a familiarity with the market too,” Lakin said. “It wasn’t a non-starter for somebody that didn’t have Philadelphia ties, but at the same time – and especially in the case of Joe DeCamara being a lifelong Philadelphian who has seen all the great ups and downs [with] the sports teams – I think it is going to bring tremendous value to the new morning show.”
Cataldi was not directly involved in the search process, not being informed of the decision that had been made until it was completed and ready to be announced. As a longtime employee of SportsRadio 94WIP, he planned to support the decision no matter what and favored being kept out of the search, instead focusing on his ongoing role as a host.
“Angelo Cataldi is an institution in Philadelphia sports,” Lakin expressed. “…When people asked me about replacing Angelo, I said, ‘I’m not looking to replace Angelo. I’m looking to create a new show on morning drive that can hold up the standards Angelo created.’ For three decades, Angelo was the driving voice of Philadelphia sports media. He set the tone in this market and there will never be another Angelo Cataldi.”
Throughout the search process, Lakin did not feel a tremendous amount of pressure regarding making the right decision but was cognizant of its impact. It was not until closer to the announcement when he began to feel the weight of the decision being made and the enduring significance morning drive shows have with the fervid sports culture of Philadelphia.
“The effect Angelo’s had for three decades in this market is incredible,” Lakin said. “Really to see and to hear the responses… after we made the decision was the only time I felt the enormity of that decision.”
Lakin and Audacy Philadelphia Market Manager David Yadgaroff worked closely together in making the decision, but that started with defining just what they were looking for in the search. The key to finding the right fit was determining what they wanted the end result to be and how it would resonate with consumers and advertisers. Ultimately, the choice came down to three determining factors, creating a “strategic clarity” in planning ahead.
“We knew it had to be a show that was going to be the voice of the fan because that was the brand Angelo established so well over the last 30 years,” Lakin described. “We knew it had to be a show that had strong opinions and had the ability to define the sports narrative in Philadelphia [as] that’s critical for a morning show and Angelo has done such a great job with [it.]… Also, we know the show needed to have personality. When you’re talking about a morning drive show, you’re talking about an audience that’s coming in every day and they’re at their peak in terms of their mood and optimism for the day and they want to have fun.”
According to a study published in Emotion, people who operate on morning-driven schedules tend to wake up feeling more positive emotions than those who stay up late and do their work later in days. Furthermore, it was determined that as people age they usually become in favor of waking up early and doing things earlier in the day. The coveted 25-54 demographic aligns with these data which correlate positivity with those who start their days earlier, and sports media has the responsibility to know its audience in this regard.
“I think the best shows in this format, in particular in morning drive, are the ones that combine two things,” Lakin said. “They have a better personality sense than any straight sports talk show; and they have a better sports sense than any personality-driven radio show.”
Rhea Hughes got her first opportunity to join the morning show from Cataldi, and the two have worked together since she joined the program in 1997. She will remain on the morning programming with DeCamara and Ritchie, providing a source of experience and understanding regarding how to appeal to the morning audience.
“She’s a super-talented anchor and co-host and has great connections in the market,” Lakin said of Hughes. “I think it’s important to have some of that connective tissue to the old show. Angelo’s show has been very successful so I think it was a very natural partnership for Rhea and Joe and Jon.”
Al Morganti has been with Cataldi from the launch of the morning show in 1989 but will not be a part of the new program. While the exact capacity has yet to be determined, Morganti will continue working at SportsRadio 94WIP in a new role.
Additionally, Morganti will continue with his job as a studio analyst for Philadelphia Flyers live game broadcasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia. His presence on Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team has, according to Cataldi, been fundamental for the success and longevity of the program.
“[Al] was critical, and Angelo would tell you this, to the development of the show over the years,” Lakin said. “He’s had so many great ideas for WIP – events; programming initiatives; content. He’s just been such a great guy and such a great advocate for WIP over the years.”
Coinciding with the search to form a new morning show has been a period of sustained success for sports across the city. The Philadelphia Eagles remain the only undefeated team in the National Football League. Sports fans in Philadelphia and around the NFL expect them to make a deep playoff run, therefore delaying the launch of the new morning show and fans surely hope Cataldi’s tenure concludes with the Eagles’ second Super Bowl championship in five years.
As the radio station gets set to launch its new morning show, Lakin remains optimistic about the future of the format amid changes in technology and consumption habits. Management believes that DeCamara, Ritchie and the rest of this new morning show team will be a successful combination, and perhaps the familiarity among each other may catalyze the adjustment period, but it will be critical for the show to uphold the high standards established by Cataldi.
“It’s being the voice of the fan; it’s being the show that helps define the sports narrative in Philadelphia; it’s being the show of record in many ways,” Lakin said. “I think Joe and Jon are up to that task – it’s a big one – and at the end of the day, we’re going to put [on] a very, very quality show to the Philadelphia sports audience.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he interns in video production with the New York Islanders and formerly worked as production manager for the team’s radio broadcasts. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?
“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”
Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career.
Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff.
Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.
Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.
Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country.
Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.
Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.
Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.
Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!
A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.
FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan. MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team. I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”
JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions.
“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).
“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”
MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?
The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.
Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.
But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.
The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.
As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.
Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.
The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.
Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!
But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)
That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?
We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!
The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.
Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.
If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.
Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)
Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.
We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.
When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?
If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle
“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”
Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.
The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.
Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark.
It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.
Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.
Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.
One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.
It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.
It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.
One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.
Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”
There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.
We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.
The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.