FRIDAY’s sessions at DON ANTHONY and GABE HOBBS’ 10th annual TALK SHOW BOOT CAMP at the MARRIOTT MARINA DEL REY concentrated on talent and news, with two panels of talk hosts and a gathering of network and local news programmers. The two-day event concluded TODAY (3/8).
The opening panel on FRIDAY include hosts representing a variety of styles that depart from standard talk hosting. CUMULUS Rock KLOS/LOS ANGELES morning co-host FRANK KRAMER learned the ropes in music morning radio, while iHEARTMEDIA News-Talk KOGO-A/SAN DIEGO’s LADONA HARVEY said that her approach has always been to “be myself,” starting with an Oldies morning show in PHOENIX, and JAMIE MARKLEY of the syndicated MARKLEY AND VAN CAMP show developed in Rock radio and said his approach to politics is to look for the humor in it.
BEASLEY Sports WBZ-F (98.5 THE SPORTS HUB)/BOSTON morning co-host RICH SHERTENLIEB admitted that moving from Alternative to Sports “made me sick to my stomach,” but he and co-host FRED TOUCHER gave it a shot because they were assured that the station wanted their humor and style to continue, and the combination worked. And the team of BRIAN WHITMAN and JENNIFER HORN from SALEM News-Talk KRLA-A (AM 870 THE ANSWER)/LOS ANGELES discussed their approach, which HORN described as “having fun” while she and WHITMAN’s politics differ. WHITMAN, pointing to empty seats in the audience and joking that the fire marshal would be bringing people to the room, said that while his political position is to challenge the listener, the primary intent is to entertain.
Asked by moderator Dr. DALIAH WACHS about the #MeToo movement, HARVEY decried the infantilization of women and said “it’s up to us … to correct bad behaviors,” advising women to take charge and fight back when mistreated. WHITMAN said that on accusations and responses (as in the BRETT KAVANAGH Supreme Court confirmation hearing), talk radio “needs to get away from politicizing facts and truths” which, he said, “insults the intelligence of the listener.” And SHERTENLIEB called Sports radio a “vast wasteland” for women hosts, pointing to the lack of female hosts in the format.
KRAMER then emotionally related the story of how he opened up on the air about his own experience with childhood sexual abuse on a 2017 show in response to the #MeToo movement. And HARVEY voiced concern that the movement might be shutting down legitimate conversations about the issue.
The panel also discussed memorable bits (SHERTENLIEB remembering having former CELTICS reserve BRIAN SCALABRINE agree to play his Twitter critics one-on-one, HORN recalling a WHITE HOUSE visit (featuring WHITMAN’s celebrated TRUMP impression), working with co-hosts, and the job outlook.
West Coast Bias
A panel moderated by agent ERIC WEISS of some of his WEST COAST-based clients included iHEARTMEDIA News-Talk KFI-A/LOS ANGELES’ JOHN AND KEN and TIM CONWAY JR. and the syndicated ARMSTRONG AND GETTY and CHAD BENSON.
JOHN KOBYLT described how he and KEN CHIAMPOU “hardly talk before the show,” doing their show prep separately before doing the show fresh; CHIAMPOU said he does research and then sends the material to their producer, who puts the show together. He also credited listeners who act as “junior producers,” alerting the show to topics. KOBYLT described the show chemistry as like improv comedy, while CHIAMPOU said that he and KOBYLT have never had a problem with clashing egos (“we make enough money,” KOBYLT joked).
JOE GETTY said that he and JACK ARMSTRONG’s relationship is similar to JOHN AND KEN’s, preferring to go into a show fresh; he said that the chemistry kicked in almost immediately and that there has been “zero development since then.” ARMSTRONG added that he doesn’t care who says something funny on the show, just that someone does.
CONWAY said that working alone after working with co-hosts at KLSX/LOS ANGELES is like “a break from my marriage every day” and allows him to be alone during breaks.
BENSON’s background is in music radio, and he described how he took his entertainment background into Talk radio, proclaiming him “blessed to be able to merge the two.”
JOHN AND KEN’s activism began at WKXW (NEW JERSEY 101.5)/TRENTON, and KOBYLT told the story of how that happened when CHIAMPOU asked a caller complaining about then-Gov. JIM FLORIO’s tax increase “why don’t you do something about it?,” leading to the “Hands Across NEW JERSEY” tax revolt that put the station and the show on the map. KOBYLT said that the activism represents the interests of people who feel like they have no representation. “You gotta create a sense of drama, and theater, and emotion that you can change things,” KOBYLT added, describing how “unleash(ing) a couple hundred people on a politician” gets results (“we bludgeon them into submission”).
“Comedy is in your blood,” CONWAY’s father (actor/comic TIM CONWAY) once told him. “Too bad it’s not on your show.” Despite the joke, CONWAY said that his father did have an influence on him, both in his comedic sense and because the elder CONWAY is widely liked and respected.
BENSON described his daily process, handling national and local (SACRAMENTO and PHOENIX) shows, as involving “mostly me,” a solo prep routine that is “tough, but, man, it’s worth every second. (GETTY responded that BENSON “works so hard it makes me tired.”)
On their growth into syndication, ARMSTRONG noted that the thing listeners say the most about their show is that they find the show “funny”; GETTY said that the syndication is “the lust for world domination, obviously,” but also responding to the need by smaller stations for shows looking for a morning show at low expense.
On influences and developing their acts, BENSON cited ROBERT W. MORGAN (for whom BENSON served as one of the legendary jock’s last producers), while KOBYLT said he was influenced by TV variety and talk show hosts and CHIAMPOU by music radio and that “we hate people,” which made it easy to take on politicians.
KOBYLT proclaimed, “It’s a ridiculous job. We yell at the walls for four hours … we’ve got a good deal.”
And Now, The News
The final panel of the conference focused on news, with CHRIS BERRY moderating and KFI PD ROBIN BERTOLUCCI, ENTERCOM News KNX-A/LOS ANGELES PD KEN CHARLES, CBS NEWS RADIO’s CRAIG SWAGLER, and ABC NEWS’ ANDREW KALB discussing topics like the value of network news to local affiliates, defining what qualifies as news to listeners (BERTOLUCCI noting that her concerns driving to the event were not necessarily political but involved everything from traffic to the R. KELLY story), the local angle (CHARLES pointing out that “if they (listeners) don’t care, they aren’t going to listen,” leading him to drop the station’s focus just on “hot zips” in favor of the larger picture of news relevant to the entire market), and competing with traffic apps (CHARLES citing the value of reliability, empathy, and “the why,” “all the things that (WAZE is) not”).
On presentation, SWAGLER said that CBS has to offer both exclusive content and other content packaged in a unique way, answering the question “How does it relate to you?” He offered an example of reporting the price of oil but putting in the personal touch of explaining the effect on gas prices at the pump. KALB discussed how his network covers breaking news, pulling in AARON KATERSKY and ALEX STONE whenever a major story emerges, and reporters on the scene immediately available for affiliates like KFI to bring on the air with their hosts.
As for when to break from regular programming for breaking news, BERTOLUCCI said “you know it when you see it”; She also counseled stations to stop thinking of themselves as in the radio business fighting over the 16% of listening to AM radio, but rather as audio producers fighting over all ears. CHARLES added that the delivery of messages has to be different for the different audiences on various platforms, which means video and text. “We have to have multiple strategies for multiple platforms or we’re not going to succeed,” CHARLES said, adding, “I need 10 more years on AM. I’m not going to get it,” leading to the need to develop content for other platforms.
That need, KALB said, has changed his business as well, with reporters needing to provide affiliates not just audio but video and copy as well. “What’s good for affiliates is good for me,” he said, describing how he jumps into action when an affiliate like KFI calls with a request for material.