Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Collected and Edited by Rick Kaempfer
Highlights and links to the big stories in the news this week about the media. This column appears twice a week at MEDIA NOTEBOOK
Experts predict horrible upcoming year for the media
(Wall Street Journal) There is no immunity for the media business. Shrinking ad budgets and a weakened economic outlook will take a dramatic toll on all sectors of the media business in 2008 and 2009 -- including the fast-growing digital sector, according to a series of revised ad forecasts released Tuesday.
Media giants hit new low as market plunges
(Marketwatch) David Wilkerson writes: "Time Warner Inc. and other diversified media conglomerates hit fresh lows, as a broad global selloff was touched off by renewed fears over the spread of the credit crisis. With several potential deals now in limbo thanks to the credit dilemma, no signs of a short-term lift in advertising revenues, and uncertainty about consumer spending casting a pall over subscription-based media, entertainment stocks remained trapped in a downward spiral."
Press may own share of financial mess
(Washington Post) Howard Kurtz writes: "The stakes are enormous in a fast-moving crisis where the traditional concern about journalists causing a run on the bank is hardly a theoretical danger. But as news organizations chase exclusives about the Wall Street meltdown, they also are grappling with a troubling question: Why didn't they see this coming?"
Obama’s Personal Ties Are Subject of Program on Fox News Channel
(New York Times) Jim Rutenberg writes: "During a weekend of Republican attacks on Senator Barack Obama’s personal associations, Fox News Channel ran a program Sunday that made provocative assertions about similar connections, called “Obama & Friends: The History of Radicalism.” Sean Hannity, the conservative radio and television host, was the host of the hour-long program, which raised, among other things, unsubstantiated accusations that Mr. Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago was “training for a radical overthrow of the government.” The statement came from Andy Martin, a conservative writer and frequent political candidate who is credited as being among the first — if not the first — to assert in a chain e-mail message that Mr. Obama was secretly a Muslim."
(Sadly for Mr. Hannity, he hadn't looked into the previous statements of that "guest," a devout anti-Semite. That led to the confrontation below...)
What happens when Sean Hannity gets Hannity-ed?
(Salon) Glen Greenwald has an excellent analysis about this Fox special (see above story), and what inspired Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs to "Hannity" Sean Hannity. The two men engaged in a "Guilt-by-association-off" on Tuesday night regarding the guest who accused Obama of being a terrorist-sympathizer. It's not a pretty story, and Sean Hannity should be ashamed. Watch the video at the end of this piece and decide for yourself if he is ashamed or not.
SNL rides high on campaign satire
(Wall Street Journal) Rebecca Dana writes: "NBC's "Saturday Night Live" drew another crush of viewers this weekend, with approximately 10 million tuning in to watch comedian Tina Fey's latest sendup of GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. That rating, based on preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research, is 42% higher than the same show last year and 23% higher than last week's episode. Comedian Tina Fey's impersonation of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has helped drive SNL's high ratings this political year. Interest was fueled by last Thursday night's vice-presidential debate, which drew 69.9 million viewers to become the most-watched VP matchup ever."
SNL Ratings still going strong
(Hollywood Reporter) Paul J. Gough writes: "The politics-fueled ratings train of "Saturday Night Live" keeps rolling along -- and it seems to be getting stronger. SNL averaged a 7.4 household rating/18 share in the metered market overnights, Nielsen Media Research said Sunday afternoon. That's within a tenth of a rating point of its Sept. 13 premiere, which itself was the highest-rated show since Dec. 14, 2002, when Al Gore and Phish appeared. And, as expected, Saturday's show was heavy on the politics. It marked the third appearance this season by Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, along with surprise guest Queen Latifah sitting in as moderator Gwen Ifill and regular cast member Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden. The 11-minute opening number drew rave reviews not only in the ratings but also the blogosphere, where the clip -- and Fey-as-Palin saying the GOP ticket would be all "mavericky" -- gained wide traction overnight."
Gwen Ifill on the VP Debate
Media gives Palin a pass
(Realclearpolitics.com) Richard Cohen writes: "In effect, columnists, bloggers, talk-show hosts and digital lamplighters everywhere have adopted the ethic of the political consultant: what works, works. It did not matter what Palin said. It only mattered how she said it -- all those doggones, references to her working-class status (net worth in excess of $2 million), promiscuous use of the word "maverick," repeated mentions of "greed and corruption on Wall Street" (Who? Be specific. Give examples. Didn't anyone here go to school?) and, of course, that manic good cheer. Palin knows that the standard is not right or wrong, truth or lie, but the graph that ran under both debaters on CNN, measuring approval, disapproval or, maybe, the blood sugar levels of certain people in their focus group. Things have changed. Might used to make right. Now a wink does."
Campbell Brown's new voice
(NY Times) Jacques Steinberg writes: "After often laboring in relative obscurity since she began hosting “Election Center” in March, Ms. Brown said she was less concerned by any blowback than she was elated at finding a voice and identity for her program — and a means to be heard over the cacophony of prime-time cable news. While her program has benefited from heightened interest in the presidential race, the theme she has fashioned for “Election Center” — she calls her mission to hold politicians and others accountable “No bias, no bull” — seems to have found more resonance with viewers than previous CNN efforts at 8 p.m."
Don't call her a mini Bill O'Reilly, though. This is a mini Bill O Reilly...
http://view.break.com/581294 - Watch more free videos
TV's new Odd Couple: Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan
(Associated Press via Huffington Post) David Bauder writes: "If Olbermann's show has a drumbeat that drives it, Maddow's 'got a little bit of a symphony,' he said. She also doesn't back down from a fight. Olbermann's Countdown is well-written and meticulous, but he relies on guests who rarely disagree with him. Maddow frequently brings on guests to argue with her, none more so than Buchanan. He can exasperate her, and vice versa. To date, it hasn't become nasty. To a certain extent, Maddow credits Buchanan with giving her television career a push. A few years ago when Buchanan hosted a show at MSNBC, he remembered her and sought her out for work. 'I like debating things with Pat,' Maddow said. 'He's funny and quick and intellectually coherent, even when his views are totally toxic.'"
New book celebrates WLS
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "Just the cover photo alone -- showing an incredibly young Bob Sirott and Larry Lujack -- is well worth the price of a new book about WLS-AM (890). Due out Oct. 20 by Arcadia Publishing, Chicago's WLS Radio is Scott Childers' long-awaited history of the 50,000-watt giant from its founding in 1923 by Sears-Roebuck (inspiring the call letters for "World's Largest Store") to its current identity as a Citadel Broadcasting news/talk station. While the book pays proper homage to Herb Morrison's Hindenburg broadcast ("Oh, the humanity!") and the "National Barn Dance" days of the old Prairie Farmer station, the real emotional draw is to the Top 40 heyday of WLS as "The Rock of Chicago." Childers is one of millions who grew up transfixed by "The Big 89." But in his case, he turned his interest into vocations as a Chicago radio personality and the unofficial historian of the station. His WLSHistory.com Web site led directly to his writing the book. Enhancing hundreds of rare and riveting photos are Childers' authoritative captions. It includes an introduction by Jeff Davis, the longtime WLS jock and voice of the station."
I previously interviewed Scott about this
Mini Interview: Len O'Kelly
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Every week I'm featuring excerpts from my SHORE Magazine article about 14 local radio voices. This week: WFGR Radio's Len O'Kelly.
Chicago Radio Spotlight interview: Jack Landreth
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with former WLS & WLUP producer and current program director Jack Landreth. We talked about his days producing for Don & Roma, Kevin Matthews and Paul Harvey, plus his current job which included a stint producing the Penn Jillette show. He's got some great stories. Coming this weekend: the host of Living Large on WIND, Geoff Pinkus.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
By Rick Kaempfer
My son Tommy (age 12) and I have always had a Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner relationship in the morning.
I tried absolutely everything to wake him up for school, but instead of actually accomplishing this impossible feat, I fell off a cliff, got hit in the head with an anvil, and had a stick of dynamite blow up in my face. The entire Acme catalog didn’t help rouse him at all. I was a complete and utter wake up failure…until last week.
That’s when I just gave up.
Instead of subjecting him to the tickling machine (wow, does he hate that), the karaoke dad (I’ve performed entire Broadway shows), or the parade of lights (my personal favorite), I simply walked into his bedroom, and announced that it was time to get up. While he was grumbling and moaning, I added: “This is your only warning. If you don’t get up soon, you’ll miss your bus, and you’ll have to figure out another way to get to school. I’m counting on you to make the right choice.”
Of course, I suspected he would make the wrong choice.
I was right. Twenty minutes passed. Then thirty minutes. Finally, about ten minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, Tommy finally made it to the breakfast table.
“You have ten minutes until the bus gets here,” I said.
“WHAT??” he squealed.
I was totally unemotional about it. “Yup, sorry. You’ve still got to get eat breakfast, get dressed, make your lunch, and brush your teeth. Good luck with that.”
That led to a flurry of flailing arms and legs, loud thumping up and down the stairs, and frenzied questions about the time: “How many more minutes?”
Cabinets slammed as he prepared lunch. Water splashed as he brushed his teeth. His shoes were barely on his feet when he barreled through the front door on the way to the bus stop…just in time.
The next morning when I told him to make the right choice, he made it twenty minutes earlier.
This morning he came down only thirty seconds after I opened the shades.
Memo to Wile E. Coyote: You’ve just been trying too hard.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Every Monday stop by for jokes, links to stories you might have missed, amusing photos and video, and more. Contributions and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Click on the "Email Me" link on the right to contribute.
Joke of the Week: Good Things to Know, contributed by "K"
Birds of a feather flock together and crap on your car.
A penny saved is a government oversight.
The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.
The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.
He who hesitates is probably right.
Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ' XL.'
If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.
If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble.
There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt.
Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words 'The' and 'IRS' together it spells 'Theirs'.
Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.
When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.
You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.
Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.
First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It's worse when you forget to pull it down.
Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf
Stories you might have missed
1. Reaction of Cubs fans
(Note: your humble blogger is quoted early and often. This is an AP story that appeared in almost every paper in the country.)
2. Who is voting for John McCain?
(You have to watch this video to get a feel for Obama's actual chances in the South.)
3. Britney's ex plays the sex tape card
(Allegedly, all she's wearing is a pink wig. Remember when she was a mouseketeer?)
4. Sarah Palin nude on the north side of Chicago
(Creepiest part of this story? The artist says his daughter was the model for Sarah's body. Ew.)
5. National Review Online: "I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me."
(And he's not joking around either. He's totally serious. It gets even better after that: "And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.")
Video of the week: More starbursts ricocheting...
Photo of the week: Now that's a Halloween costume. Contributed by "B"
Regarding Suburban Man: Older parents, younger children
"Does hiring a 20 something babysitter every now and then to ”run” the kids count as a valid suggestion? Well, ok, if not - here are some other ideas that kind of work in our house:
Engage the older sibling(s) to do the “dirty-work”. We tell our 9 year old that she is preparing for her babysitting career by taking care of her 5 year old brother. I get to supervise from the park bench while she “runs” her brother around the park. This only works during the times that they are not fighting with each other (about 5 minutes total on a good day in a one hour park visit).
Engage them in an activity that you can still actually do like bike riding. They ride slower than I usually do (amazingly) so it isn’t very much exertion to go on a bike ride in the neighborhood. However, this plan backfired when I took the older one on the Chicago lakefront path and she realized most people ride much faster than Mom. She decided she needed to be a speed demon and keep up with the racers and young folk. I could barely keep her in my sites. In retrospect, it didn’t work as well as I had planned.
Plant your garden on a rooftop deck 3 stories away from the kitchen. You can send the offspring up to pick tomatoes, peppers, herbs, whatever and they get to climb the stairs. However, it can be a problem when 1) they don’t come back because the sand box or other such diversion got their attention or 2) they bring you back the wrong herb or worse, the leaves off some inedible plant; nice green, unripe tomatoes or totally squished peppers or tomatoes because they also decided to bring some toy down from the deck. But, heck, they still went up and down those stairs and got some exercise and I didn’t have to do it.
Put the sprinkler out and let them run through it several hundred times as you watch from a nice lawn chair.
Take them to the local children’s museum if the weather is bad and let them run it off in the various exhibits designed to tire them out while you watch and take a picture or two while they are having fun.
If none of this works, hope that the 20 or 30 something neighbors are outside and playing with their kids – especially if they don’t mind a few more….oops, that won’t work for me – there are no under-40 parents in our neighborhood! In fact we have a few 50 something parents with young kids. We all just share the workload depending on who can bend, run, ride or whatever on that particular day and keep our sense of humor about the whole thing. The kids are keeping us young (I think)."
"I had my last child when I was 39 and he is now 12. Try playing basketball, biking, etc. at 52. He knows all my tricks so I have to think of something else."
"I was 32 when I had my last one, and they are now 13 and 15. I actually (kinda) miss those semi-active days, because now I swear I spend the entire afternoon driving home from work, only to cart kids around all evening. I can barely straighten up the last time I get out of the car. Aaaaah, the sedentary life. It’s only a couple of years away for you…."
"Let me tell you about the opposite end of the spectrum.
My son was an accident which happened in the middle of college. I managed to finish and get my degree, but let's say the first two years of school were much easier than the last two. As a result, my son grew up with a primary parent that was younger than his friend's parents. High school is just around the corner for you, Rick, and the things they come up with will make you think you raised an idiot. More accurately, that THEY think YOU'RE an idiot. It will be worse when Sean is in high school, because you'll be a decade older than you are now. My condolences.
One thing in your favor is that you have boys. They are less complicated. Girls will mess with your head. They'll come up with elaborate stories and use all their friends as accomplices. It takes some thought to come up with excuses when you're a girl. All moves are carefully thought out and planned, like a game of chess.
Boys are more basic. They will LIE right to your face and the thing is, you KNOW it, because there's no way in Hell that the school "forgot" to mail his report card three semesters in a row, or that the beer can in your trunk walked in there by itself, or that your son slurring his words and praying to the porcelain God "must be coming down with the flu." He smelled like Hot Damn schnapps, so as my sick little bit of revenge, I've been buying cinnamon flavored Crest ever since because I know he can no longer tolerate the taste. I'm mean that way.
Sometimes they don't bother to lie. You ask they a question and they shrug. Who broke the door? "I don't know." Who lost the remote to the TV? "I don't know."
I believe that the younger parent catches onto the lies more quickly, because it wasn't that long ago that we were using them on our parents. The older parent is more gullible. I think it's because they're just too tired. Most of my friends in high school were babies of their families. Their parents had them in their late 30's/early 40's and by the time their youngest child was in high school, they were exhausted. Or senile. Or just didn't want to deal with it any longer. My parents were younger. I got away with nothing. Meanwhile, my friends gleefully took advantage of their parent's advanced age by breaking curfew and getting into all kinds of trouble that I was never around for because I had to be in by 11:30.
So, my advice? Caffiene. Make sure you are WIDE awake when they start to drive and come home with fresh dents in the car. Or smell like a brewery. Or start minimizing the computer screen as soon as you walk into a room, so you won't see their MySpace page or know who they're talking to on AIM. I may be younger than most of his friend's parents, but I am definitely not stupid, and the good thing is, he's very well aware of that. I overheard him say to a friend once, "Right. My mother's never going to believe that. She's too smart." It was a proud day for me."
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Jack Landreth spent nearly a decade behind the scenes of high-profile Chicago radio shows like Don & Roma, Kevin Matthews, and Paul Harvey. He is now the program director of KXNT and KSFN in Las Vegas.
1985 WLS Chicago (Producer, Don Wade & Roma)
1992 Paul Harvey News Chicago (Producer)
1992 WLUP Chicago (Producer)
1994 KFMB San Diego (Executive Producer)
1996 WWTN-FM Nashville (PD)
1998 KNST Tucson (PD)
2001 KTSA San Antonio (PD)
2003 KXNT/KSFN/CBS Net Las Vegas (PD)
Rick: As a Chicago boy, it must have been a big thrill to begin your career working for the legendary Big 89. Was that the station you listened to growing up?
Jack: I remember as a kid listening to all of my favorite jocks. Lujack, Landecker,Winston, all of ‘em. I could not get enough of their banter. I loved the interaction, not only with callers, but with each other. I craved anything and everything that would happen on the radio station. I remember a charity basketball game that WLS put together when I was in 4th or 5th grade. Out in the parking lot, during half time, I approached my hero as he was smoking a cigarette (yes it was). Lujack (photo) actually said to me, and I’ll never forget it, “hi kid.” That was it, but that was enough. I loved that station and those personalities from then on.
But as with all teenagers, my tastes changed and I listened to more and more radio. While my parents listened to the great Wally Phillips, and Bob Collins, I absorbed everything that was being done by Brandmeier, Murphy, as well as the not so knowns as Chuck Britton and Jeff Davis. After school, I went in to advertising, but didn’t like it all that much.
In the mid 80’s I met Chuck at an event, and we became friends. One day after hanging out at the WLS studio, Chuck introduced me to some guy in a tie whom he referred to as the Program Director. I didn’t realize it, but John Gehron (photo) asked if I wanted to help out at a remote they did every week at Ed Debevics. I said yes, and for I think it was $30 a week, my start in radio became reality. From there, I became a board-op, sometimes fill in jock, and general do anything kid. A few years later, when Larry Lujack originally retired from radio, I knew it came full circle. While we were all helping Uncle ‘Lar clean out his office, I had a plant that he took from me, put in the back seat of his car, and slammed the door. In only the way my radio hero could, he turned to me, ready to leave radio forever, put out his hand, and said to me those words that any wet-behind-the-ears radio kid wanted to here. In his booming voice with the engine running, he looked at me and said “Good luck in whatever the f*** it is you want to do with your life”. Quite a long way from “hi kid”!
Rick: You got your start working for Don & Roma. If I'm not mistaken, you were their producer when the station switched formats and became a talk-radio station. What was that like in those early days of the talk radio format; the growing pains, the listener reactions, and the transition of the Don & Roma show from the music format to the talk format?
Jack: Actually, I wasn’t D&R’s producer until shortly after the switch to talk. If I recall, there were only a few of us that were at WLS in the old days that transitioned to talk. In the latter days of music, I called it the “Glen” station, because I think we played Glen Campbell, Glenn Miller and Glen Frey, and probably all within an hour! John Gehron had long ago left and we had been rudderless for sometime.
When Drew Hayes and Tom Tradup came in, it was a refreshing change that had everyone excited. I felt horrible for some, including one of the great talents that I had admired since I was a teenager. For many years, I was board-op-ing Tom Snyder and Sally Jesse Rafael’s show, which came off the sat at 7pm. John Landecker (photo) was doing afternoons, and I would come in the station and sit in my studio, the famous “Studio A”, with a sandwich and listen to John everyday. He would be in “Studio E” (High atop the downtown Burger King), and as I would wait for board control, I’d listen to all the great bits I had loved! The last days before the switch to talk were tough, as I knew John would not be a part of the new format.
As for D&R, the change to talk was nothing to them, as I always though that the music got in the way of their mid-day show, so the switch to mornings was easy. What was different, was show prep. I know this sounds like one of those “when I was a child” moments, but we did NOT have internet back in those morning show days. I would be up around 1am, go through video from the night before, get in the car around 2:45am and head down LSD. I would pull around Belmont to see if Don & Roma were at the bus stop, and if they were, they would climb in and we would head to the Tribune building to pick up a bunch of newspapers. We would all meet up in the conference room, chopping articles, highlighting headlines, running through video tape, and put a show together. It was tedious, but it was the most thourough show prep I had ever seen. To this day, if I fill in a morning show, I still do it the same way. I chop the paper, and rip through what I can. Screw the internet!! There’s nothing like the smell of news ink on your fingers in the morning!
There were days that we may not frame a question correctly, or maybe we would take a bit too far (Rinny?). But those were the days we didn’t know any better and just had fun. I remember some days Don would say “Get Rush on the phone”, and I would call Limbaugh’s New York apartment and BS with the new guy on the phone. Or I would call a friend of mine who worked with then VP Dan Quayle, and he would jump on the phone. It was a pretty cool time for News-Talk, and we just did it by instinct.
Rick: Tell us something we don't know about Don and Roma.
Jack: They’re married. Okay, it was still a secret when I left!
Rick: After leaving WLS, you worked with an even bigger legend--Hall of Fame broadcaster Paul Harvey. He was getting up in age then already. Can you believe that he's still doing it now, sixteen years later?
Jack: Every day, I would get to the Harvey offices and listen to Paul’s 7:30 broadcast. When he was finished, he would always stop by my office, take half a step in, and in his booming delivery, exclaim “Good Morning, Jackson!”. I will never forget those days. It was THE Paul Harvey, but I always saw him as the news guy. If I put him on any other pedestal, I would never have gotten my job done! Mr. Harvey will always be a news guy no matter what, but first and foremost, he was a family guy. The love he had for his wife Angel, and the pride he had for Paul Jr. was so prevalent during the short time I worked for him. Mr. Harvey is a legend in real man’s clothes. I love him!
Rick: What was your role when you worked with him, and can you give us an insight into how he puts his newscast together?
Jack: I would go through every newspaper from every town in the country. Again, this was before internet, so all of the “For What it’s Worth” stories came from the small town print papers. Besides working on those stories, I would help out where I could from mail to phones. In Paul Harvey’s office, no one had titles, no one was better than anyone else. Most of the time, Paul changed the ribbons on the news wire machines, simply because he was the first one in.
He would get in early, 4am or so, and put on his blue smock. It was one of those smocks that doctors wear, complete with an ABC logo patch, and the name “Paul” stitched on the right pocket. All of the wire machines had spit out stories all night, and he would scour each and every fiber of those paper rolls. He would then go into his office with the stack of stories, and start typing his scripts, large type and double spaced. He would then take the daily stories, add his famous live reads (Page two!), stack the stories and include whatever we had for him. Then off to the studio where he did Paul Harvey News for the world to hear. After that newscast, it was off to Rest of the Story land, and whatever else needed to be done. When the morning was over, he would walk down to the garage and drive off in his Buick. Yes, he drove a Buick every day. And yes, it took his assistant June Westgaard years and years to convince him NOT to park on Lower Wacker!
Rick: After Paul Harvey, you made another leap...this time going to work for Kevin Matthews at the Loop. I can't even imagine that transition. Can you give us a few examples pointing out just how different those two experiences were?
Jack: One of the first things I did with Kevin was to write a faux “Rest of the Story” with the subject being anyone from Kevin Butler of the Bears to Steve Dahl. I thought it was a fun thing to do, but Mr. Harvey was not amused. It was the first time that I didn’t think of how my actions could hurt someone else. I of course apologized to Mr. Harvey and realized that the Loop was a VERY different animal.
Both talents had similar traits. Both Paul and Kevin (photo) were unbelievably talented in what they did. Both had egos the size of Lake Michigan, and both were somewhat strange ducks. My experience with Kevin was however, much more difficult. He was one of those hosts that no matter what you did, it was wrong. Yes I knew a lot of that was the bit, but I wondered if I had made the right choice. After some time, I would come to learn that Matthews, along with Brandmeier, Steve & Garry, and later on, Bonaduce were talents that would help me focus on what mattered the most….entertaining the audience with compelling content. That’s what mattered most. Years later, I talked to Steve, and thanked him for those years. Every now and then I run into Danny, and love to talk those old “Loop” days. I sent Kevin an e-mail when he moved back to Grand Rapids, and I’m sure I’ll here back one of these days.
Rick: In the mid-90s you made that leap out of the market, away from your home town, and it's obviously worked out for you. I don't think a lot of radio people realize that the transition from executive producer of a big time show to program director is a logical move. You're going from essentially being the program director of a show, to a program director of a station. What have been some of the biggest challenges for you in that transition?
Jack: Honestly, there really weren’t any BIG challenges. The most difficult transition was all of the suit stuff like budgets, quarterlies, and meetings. But the core of the job, creating content, was easy. Whether it was San Diego, Nashville, Arizona, San Antonio or Vegas…there is always a need for great audio content. A producer has to think of the show and direct it to garner ratings and revenue. A PD has to do the same with all of the shows. And if you take the sales equation out of your job description, you won’t have a job. One of the most important things I learned as a PD as opposed to a producer is that this is a business, and must be successful as a business or the fun won’t happen. Another challenge was to never take anything personally in this business. I love people that are into what we do, and whether a competitor or a co-worker, we are all in this small broadcast world together.
Rick: I know that in your current job (PD in Vegas), you were an important cog in the recent Penn Jillette show, which also aired here in Chicago. I've met Penn several times over the years and he's one of those larger than life personalities (and not just because he's so physically big). What were some of the highlights and lowlights of that experience.
Jack: I’ll start with the lowlights. When the show started, it was part of the whole “Free FM’ rollout. New shows all over the country, to all sorts of newly formatted talk stations, with “regional” programming was the new directive. It was quite a challenge for anyone involved, whether it was New York with David Lee Roth, Chicago with Rover or West Coast with Carolla. We were this one hour, fill-in-the-blank show that was just sort of …. there… in the beginning. Penn was awesome. He had an idea of the show, and really wanted this to work. But in those early weeks, there were so many people from so many places telling him what to do. It really sucked and I think the show suffered some early hits. Phones came from New York so we had no idea who was calling or who would fit during a segment. Guests were nil if any. Nobody was on the same page with the show, and we saw it going into a steep dive. I met with then CBS President of Programming Rob Barnett, and just basically said I’m taking over the show, this is how it will run and that’s it.
We moved phones into the Slammer Studio (Penn’s house), and focused daily on what we would do to make a good show. Whether it was celebrity guests coming out to the house for the show, or fun elements each day such as Monkey Tuesday, Ask Layman Penn, or Pull of the Weasel, we gained a lot of momentum. Those days were some of the best days I had in radio. It was raw, at its newest, and Penn was an incredible talent to work with. He would learn every aspect of the radio business, and apply everything he learned. The highlights were each and every day after those first few months. It was such a pleasure to be a part of that team, along with Penn, Michael Goudeau and Patrick DiFazio. We ended the show knowing we should leave while we were on-top during the Free FM days. We have lunch together every week or so and talk radio often, and with all of that said, I don’t think those were the last days of Penn Radio. Stay tuned!
Rick: Do you ever make it back to Chicago?
Jack: Every chance I get! And every time I get back, I always have to make that commute downtown, park somewhere where I know the meter will run out too quick, and walk the old haunts. The last time I was back, I met up with Don & Roma for the last part of the show, and we made our way next door to have breakfast. Roma ordered eggs with lobster pieces, and I believe Don ordered the same. Not to be different, I had the same. But as we talked the old days of radio, and the new days of radio, something happened which confirmed to me that dreams certainly do come true…...
Don paid for breakfast.
I’ll be back!