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Jason DeRusha Has Brought His TV Experience to Radio

DeRusha said he’s always loved doing television news. It wasn’t as though he was fed up and wanted a change. In fact, he said he had incredible freedom to be himself on television.

Jim Cryns

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Sure, it was a little cringe-worthy, but the sentiment was in the right place. 

When WCCO Television said “goodbye” to longtime television personality Jason DeRusha after 19 years, they brought in a guy and a piano into the studio. The musician lodged DeRusha’s name into the lyrics of a couple of songs. For instance, on “Let it Be” by The Beatles, the revised lyrics included “When I find myself in times of trouble, Jason DeRusha comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

I’m from the Midwest and I know that was a sincere form of flattery and love, albeit a little mawkish.

WCCO’s DeRusha jumped to television in June of this year. Four days later and six city blocks from the WCCO TV headquarters, DeRusha flicked on the microphone inside the WCCO-AM 830, which airs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. 

DeRusha said he’s always loved doing television news. It wasn’t as though he was fed up and wanted a change. In fact, he said he had incredible freedom to be himself on television. 

“I reported on what I wanted to,” DeRusha said. “The move to radio was very much about opening doors at what I’d consider a midpoint of my career. This was an opportunity to learn new things, explore a different medium.”

DeRusha grew up in Des Plaines in suburban Chicago. He attended Maine West High School and rocked 8.9 watts on an FM station. “In high school we had WMTH and did a lot of play by play. This was before the Comcast’s of the world.”

He went on to study journalism at Marquette University, about an hour north of his hometown. “I knew from a very young age I was looking for a school where I could get a great education with a broadcast program. At Marquette, I didn’t have to sit around to get involved.” 

A self-described nerd in college, he said he wasn’t the life of a party. Wasn’t a lot of fun. “I used to fill in on an easy-listening station but never told my friends.”

His relationship with WCCO has outlasted most marriages.  DeRusha started as a featured guest with Chad Hartman.

“I’d been filling in on shows for 10 years,” DeRusha explained. “This year during my first full-time week, I realized how different this was going to be from filling in. It’s one thing to do two shows a month, and quite another to do five shows a week. I now have creativity to talk about different issues and have fun. All that while still engaging with our audience.”

DeRusha said fans have expressed how different it feels in how he delivers stories. He said they’re taken aback by how he used to read a story on television versus ‘experiencing’ it more on the radio. 

“As a news anchor you don’t get to say as much as you feel as you’re always trying to get to traffic and weather,” DeRusha said. “Viewers said they felt I always had more to say than I was able to. Now I have that opportunity. It frees you up, a different way of thinking. The free-thinking allows you to make good talk segments that are different.”

On the radio, DeRusha will talk about ongoing stories, crime and some court cases, the same as he would on television. He explained topics covered on television will sometimes make a good transition to radio; other times they won’t. 

“I’ve always been a believer that life is the ultimate prep for morning and TV and talk radio,” DeRusha said. “Things I say must resonate with the audience, it must be a similar experience.”

He said in the past he was hyper-focused on local news and stories. But there are times we might want to talk about national issues.  He said his show and WCCO are a ‘full-service’ radio station. 

“We invite everyone to the table,” DeRusha said. “I’m not coming at you from the Right or Left. I may say something one side hates, then vice versa. I’m going to have strong opinions. If you disagree with me you might convince me of something. I’ve had callers make such a good case it forced me to rethink my stance. There’s nothing better than that as host. To recognize when you may have been seeing something in the wrong context. Listeners bring things to the table I hadn’t thought of. Or caused me to look at a topic in the way they described.”

 DeRusha said empathy for both sides of an opinion is critical 

“My whole career has been about bringing people together. Making them a little smarter than they were before. We want to laugh and have some fun. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I’m not going to come out being an absolute firebreather.”

Prior to DeRusha transitioning to radio, he’d heard horror stories about brand managers trying to micromanage the newbie. The boss walking them step by step through each segment. He said that hasn’t happened. 

“Brad Lane has been incredible with me,” DeRusha said. “He’s been a wonderful coach. He knew I was figuring out a new medium. He never tried to say, ‘look, if you took this position, the phones would light up.’ The whole process for our show is figuring out what my authentic take might be. Is it one of my interests or a curiosity?”

 DeRusha said he wouldn’t have taken this job if he thought they were going to push and mold him into a ‘personality,’ or to take a stance on a certain position. 

He said it has been a real joy they have not tried to coach him into amping up stories and issues. 

That kind of pseudo effort reeks of insecurity and the audience knows it when they smell it. 

“They hired me because they knew me and my work,” DeRusha said. “Audiences here know me too. If I’d come on the air as a different person, I think the whole thing would fall apart. On TV people can spot a phony. On radio it’s more acute and obvious.”

 DeRusha said he’s observed as other people have transitioned to radio from talk, and took a few notes along the way. He said his afternoon show is a drastically different approach than he’d take in the mornings. 

“I don’t have fifteen guests and we aren’t overloaded with news reports,” DeRusha said. “It’s more lifestyle, politics. In the afternoons, you have the chance to breathe on the air. Especially since I started off during a political season, I could have felt very constrained.”

DeRusha is a well-known food critic in Minneapolis, a regular contributor to Minnesota Monthly. “I started reviewing suburban restaurants around Minneapolis,” he said. DeRusha was a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for his TV work covering food. The publication had a restaurant critic, but that person was being spread thin. 

“The critic had a catalog that was huge and had trouble hitting all the new places,” DeRusha explained. He added it’s hard when a regular critic is reviewing a Michelin Star restaurant and then rushes  downtown to review a hoagie stand. There’s a bit of a cultural difference and it’s perhaps best to keep them separate.

DeRusha said he isn’t like Anton Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille. He’s not trying to put the hurt on a restaurant, scribbling disparaging thoughts in his notebook, describing how a health-hazardous rat just prepared his meal. Instead, he takes more of an illuminating approach. 

“I brought a journalist’s approach to food writing,” DeRusha said. “I ask a lot of questions. 

When he arrives at a restaurant, DeRusha said most of the young employees at the restaurant don’t see him as Anton Ego. However, the older managers may get a little bit of a heart palpitation when they see the critic at a table. “My wife laughs,” DeRusha said. “She can identify the point I’ve been ‘discovered’ as the food critic. I bring in a lot of other food writers, chefs, writers,” De Rusha adds. “I love the fact they get to talk about what they’re doing. Talk about issues they’re passionate about.”

On the radio, DeRusha said you can give things a try. See if something sticks. 

“That’s the beauty of this job,” he explained. “You give it a try and see if something works. If it doesn’t, so be it. The first six months have been a lot of experimenting. People have responded to things I’m passionate about. When I started filling in on talk, I realized it was important to ask the right questions to get a reaction. Now listeners want andexpect me to react.”

The host is the conduit, and at times the focal point. It’s a different rhythm in radio; telling a story, setting up the conflict, accentuating the rising action, revealing the decision point and result. In radio, you can start at the end and work your way back in a story. In television it’s the opposite. 

“You have lots of different tools in your belt,” DeRusha said. “Different techniques for various stories. When I’m on the air I think about how I used to listen. I have two teenagers. I used to spend the afternoon drive in the car listening to the show While driving one kid to practice and picking the other up from school. I often think about being the listener in that moment.”

BNM Writers

Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business

“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

Jim Cryns

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To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.

Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”

She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.

“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”

McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.

“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”

McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.

Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.

“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”

McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.

“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”

For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.

“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”

At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.

“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”

After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.

“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”

She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.

“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”

She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.

“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”

The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.

She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’

McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.

“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.

McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.

“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”

McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.

She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.

“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.

“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”

McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’

“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”

Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.

“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”

Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.

“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.

That’s got to be a southern phrase.

McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.

“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”

Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”

She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.

“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”

McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.

“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”

A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.

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BNM Writers

Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.

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Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.

In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.

Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.

It’s happened before.

Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.

It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.

In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.

We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.

I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.

It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.

Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.

The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.

At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.

And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.

Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.

Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.

Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.

As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.

Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.

There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.

The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.

As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.

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BNM Writers

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.

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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.”

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