Tag Archives: Journalism

The Importance of Free Speech

Tom Taylor NJBAI had the honor this past week to attend the 71st Annual New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) Conference and Gala held at the Tropicana Resort and Casino on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

I plan to share more information about this East Coast NAB style event in a future blog, but today I want to focus on something Tom Taylor said that I feel is critically important for all broadcasters to hear.

Tom Taylor Receives Lifetime Achievement Award by NJBA

I’m sure, like me, you are still experiencing some “Tom Taylor Now” withdrawal since the time Tom announced his retirement in December of 2018 and his daily coverage of the radio industry ceased publication. For anyone who’s lived around the Philadelphia area, Tom’s style was akin to that of Channel 6’s Action News. You got all the news you needed to know, delivered in an easy to digest style, sometimes accompanied by a sense of humor.TT NOW

NJBA President/CEO Paul Rotella and his Board of Directors’ selection of Tom Taylor for his 31-year run as a radio trade journalist was well deserved.

How It All Began

Tom was the son of a radio broadcaster. He was born in North Carolina and started at a radio station where his dad once worked.

Tom moved to New Jersey over 40 years ago to program the heritage WPST in Princeton, New Jersey and he has lived in the Garden State ever since.

Tom left WPST after 12 years with the title of Station Manager and Vice President of Programming for Nassau Broadcasting to begin a career in radio trade journalism. First for Kal Rudman’s Friday Morning Quarterback (FMQB) and then to Jerry Del Colliano’s Inside Radio, both based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

For the last six years of Tom’s radio trade journalism career, he rejoined Robert Unmacht and Kristy Scott to form RTK Media and publish Tom Taylor NOW – Radio’s Daily Management Newsletter. That publication ended on Friday, December 28, 2018 with Tom writing his “Final sign-off for the daily Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter.”

Tom’s “One Quick Word About Journalism”

In his acceptance speech, Tom said something I believe all broadcasters should hear about the importance of journalism in today’s world and the role of radio/TV operators in carrying out our responsibility to the communities we are licensed to serve. Here’s what Tom said:

“I spent 31 years as a New Jersey-based trade journalist. During that time, no boss or business partner ever said ‘Don’t do that story, because it will make somebody mad.’ Or, ‘be nice to so-and-so.’ More than ever, we need to support good journalism. And as local broadcasters, the responsibility is especially on us, because people look up to us – or down to us – as ‘the media.’ We’re really in the crucible.

This is something I said at the opening session of the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas – Regardless of your politics, does anyone in this room really believe that journalists are the enemy of the people?

Mark Twain said this – ‘Free speech is the cornerstone of every right we have.’

Let’s not forget that – or why we became broadcasters in the first place.

There’s an old joke, where the guy says ‘I wanted to be on the radio when I grew up. But then, I was told I couldn’t do both.’ On the inside, part of us is still a little kid, and that’s probably a good thing. But the rest of who we are is… (are) grownups who have a responsibility to the community. As long as we remember that, we should have listeners (and podcast users, and video consumers, and social media fans).

Here’s the other thing I said at the NAB Show – Plan well. Try new things. And adopt some extra confidence and pass that along to the folks who work for you. It’s contagious. And as you go home from Atlantic City – keep having fun with broadcasting. Because I believe, and I’ll bet you believe, that it’s still magic.”

Thank You Tom

Tom Taylor is still an inspiration to broadcasters everywhere and I’m grateful for this friendship that has spanned over 35 years since moving to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984 and becoming a member of the NJBA.Sharan & Tom Taylor

You and your lovely wife Sharan, have earned your retirement.

Live well. Live long. And be happy.

 

P.S. Scott Fybush produced a podcast with Tom Taylor and you can hear that HERE 

The part with Tom begins in 11:16 minutes into the podcast.

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The Post-Fact Society

68P.T. Barnum, among many others, is credited with saying: “I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”

Barnum knew it wasn’t important what people said about him as long as they were talking about him. Only the noise level about Barnum mattered.

When I saw this chart from The DataFace measuring the newspaper media coverage of the two presidential candidates, it was eye opening.  68a It mattered little that most of that coverage was negative. What mattered was they spelled “Trump” correctly.

Fake News

Once upon a time, news came from journalists who worked for newspapers, radio and television stations.

Then along came the iPhone and social media.

Now the same device that could receive text, voice, pictures and video could produce it too.

Social media platforms provided mass distribution without a filter (aka an editor).

This provided the perfect storm for the production of fake news. A cottage industry in some parts of the world, some American citizens soon learned that producing internet stories that would get lots of clicks could be profitable.

Radio & Fake News

Even syndicated radio host Sean Hannity got snared in the volume of fake news being generated and had to apologize for using fake news stories to attack Obama.

Ad Supported Media Fight for Survival

In an effort to make a little coin, trusted media sources began accepting advertising that would lead their readers, listeners, viewers to unaffiliated sources that would serve up this fake news. In so doing, they inadvertently now wore the stink of the fake news creators. The public quickly could not discern the researched and sourced news from the made-up variety.

One PM Central Standard Time

Radio and television journalism didn’t always operate this way. PBS produced an excellent documentary about the coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The program was called “One PM Central Standard Time” and it covered how “the most trusted man in America” Walter Cronkite waited until Kennedy’s death was confirmed by  multiple sources before going live with the news to the nation over the CBS radio and television networks.

The Being First Obsession

Things changed when things started being published digitally. In this world, advertising paid based on clicks. Quantity beat quality. Sensational beat facts. Going viral meant big money to these new media folks. Plus the concept of “native advertising” means that advertising copy is presented to look like editorial.

All of these little changes contributed to consumers becoming less and less able to tell real news from what was fake news. Which has led to many not believing anything today’s media tells them.

And that’s a very sad state of affairs for journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
–Thomas Jefferson

21st Century Business Model Challenge

Starting with newspapers, then radio, then TV then digital, the business model has been one of ad supported media. The model is broken.

Disruption first destroys the old ways of doing things before the new ways are discovered and take root. We are living in that destruction period of disruption.

Our challenge lies in building a business model that will support solid journalism, quality entertainment and community service.

What others have shown us is that in a 21st Century world it will take a collaborative effort from people from all over the world to help build the new way.

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It’s Not for You

What’s not for you? Maybe this blog for one. I’m not writing this blog for everyone. I’m writing for people passionate about radio and education.

From years of being on the street selling radio advertising, nothing would frustrate me more than a business owner that said his business offered “something for everyone.” Even Walmart doesn’t make that claim and they come pretty darn close to being able to deliver on that positioning statement.

Today there are more radio stations on-the-air in America than at any time in broadcast history. Tragically, most commercial radio stations are trying to offer “something for everyone.” It’s been proven that when you try to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one.

I work at a big university. Yeah, we offer “something for everyone.” All universities do. However, in the state of Kentucky, the legislature said that some schools needed to be recognized at being best in some area and those schools would see those programs named a “Program of Distinction.” At Western Kentucky University the School of Journalism and Broadcasting is just such a Kentucky Program of Distinction. WKU is the only college or university in Kentucky so designated in the area of journalism and broadcasting. It also earns additional funding from the legislature.

College Magazine named WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting #4 in America.

I think in time, institutions of higher education will eliminate those things it does, but isn’t the best at. The days of everyone offering “something for everyone” are over; if they ever really existed.

Radio also needs to re-think its role in today’s Internet connected world.

Radio was at its best when it was serving the public interest, convenience and necessity. Radio was at its best when it was LIVE and LOCAL twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Radio offered something that everyone needs; companionship. Ironically, in a world where every radio station can have its broadcast studio up on a LIVE webcam where listeners can watch the air personalities, most studios are unoccupied. Radio today is show business without the show.

Looking at this another way, Comedy Central to me was a one hour network. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report were the only two programs I’ve ever watched on the channel. Watched religiously. Did I care if they were in HD? Did I care if they were in color or black & white? Did I care if the picture was a little snowy? Not really. It was all about the content. Content, that was not for everyone.

FOX News Channel and MSNBC understand this very well. (However, does anyone really watch “Lock Down”?)

Radio and higher education are both facing similar battles and they are both still operating in the “something for everyone” mode.

If you were to ask most people what they thought of radio, they’d probably tell you “it’s OK.” And therein lies the problem. No one is passionately pro or con. But they sure were in the days of Howard Stern or Howard Cosell.

Remember this dialog from Howard Stern’s movie Private Parts?

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.

Pig Vomit: How can that be?

Researcher: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Pig Vomit: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

Pig Vomit: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?

Researcher: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Love Howard or hate Howard, he made people passionate about radio.

As Seth Godin puts it: “You won’t be doing great work until you can say to people ‘It’s not for you.’ “

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