CNN interested in resurrecting ‘Crossfire’ – Maturity of political news audience in question

Dylan Byers reports in his Politico “On Media” column that CNN is looking to resurrect “Crossfire,” the popular debate show from their past where a Democrat pundit goes head-to-head with a Republican pundit.  According to Myers, CNN has been in talks with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter as potential hosts.

Great… Absolutely great! Just when political television can’t get any more immature…

I typically don’t like television debate shows because it is so hard to house an effective debate in either a 30 or 60 minute block that will also include periodic commercial breaks. Assuming that such a show is a half-hour, with 12 minutes of commercials, that leaves 18 minutes for debate time on what will likely be no less than three topics, but possibly as many as six or seven topics .  There just isn’t any time for an effective debate. Instead, you’ll have typical talking points with a lot of (Newt) screaming that leads absolutely nowhere. Talk about an absolute waste of time!

CNN is seemingly willing to try anything in hopes of jump starting their day-to-day ratings. While the Fox News Channel and MSNBC feature more partisan programming, CNN has more or less remained neutral in hopes of attracting an audience interested in news “down the middle.”

Unfortunately, people seem to think that style of news is boring. For that reason, the partisan blend of news and opinion shows you see on Fox News and MSNBC continue to do well. Just more living proof that too many people are perfectly okay having their political news spoon fed to them as long as they generally agree with the ideology of whoever is doing the feeding.

Good reasons to keep an extra ear tuned to WTMJ in Milwaukee

In recent weeks, former WGN-AM 720 General Manager Tom Langmyer (pictured, right) has been keeping busy with some added consulting work for WTMJ-AM 620 in Milwaukee.  I have high respect for Langmyer and the work he did at WGN, especially for the job he did re-building the station following the disastrous Kevin Metheny era. So of course, I am interested in observing any changes, regardless how minute, that may occur at WTMJ under Langmyer’s watch.

Sometimes, it is the simple things that can help make a difference — such as simple branding. One of the changes at WTMJ since Langmyer’s arrival is the station’s branding, now dubbed “Wisconsin’s Radio Station.” Simple and to the point, much like the “Voice of Chicago” branding that WGN originally adopted in 2005 (and again re-introduced in July, 2011).  While I don’t expect a slogan to make or break a radio station, a solid branding tagline can be the first step towards extensive changes that hopefully do make a difference down the road.

An added note of interest for today is the reunion of Langmyer and Rob Hart (pictured, right), a Chicago radio news veteran. Hart, now the sports anchor for the morning show on WLUP-FM/97.9 The Loop, previously worked under Langmyer at WGN (Hart left WGN in 2011 after accepting the morning news anchor position at what would become WIQI-FM/FM News 101.1 (original FM News call letters for first few months were WWWN).  Hart will be filling in for the station’s 12pm-3pm show later today. Hart will make the quick commute to Milwaukee after finishing his morning shift at The Loop.  Hart previously worked at WTMJ as a news anchor and reporter, before moving to WGN.

I’ve been a Rob Hart fan since listening to him fill-in on WGN’s “Noon Show” in 2009 (then hosted by Bob Sirott). The personality Hart showed in that one hour went well above the news anchors who were filling in for Sirott that week. I was happy for Hart when he got more fill-in opportunities in late 2010, after Metheny was out of the picture. When Hart filled-in for morning show host Greg Jarrett for three weeks in December that year, I wrote on the message board that the station should make the bold switch and make Hart the permanent host.

At FM News 101.1 Hart was eventually moved to middays where he hosted his own two-hour talk show, which was marketed as “expanded news coverage.” Unfortunately, the gig didn’t last long as about a month later, WIQI dropped its news format to become an all-90s music format under the branding i101 FM.

Hart has shown great potential in the limited time he has had as a talk show host. I’m looking forward to listening to his show today. While I have no idea how much longer his current contract will keep him at The Loop, I can’t help but feel that his potential is being wasted as a sports anchor (which is the position that was assigned to him after the demise of FM News 101.1 – both stations are owned by Merlin Media). Whenever his time with The Loop does conclude, I suspect he won’t have too much trouble finding new work.

Any news/talk station looking for a bright, young broadcaster would be very wise in hiring him as soon as he officially becomes available.

Taking a Look at CBS Sports Radio

CBS Sports Radio Logo

I’ve listened on and off to CBS Sports Radio since its Jan. 1 debut. Overall, there isn’t much about CBS Sports that separates it from any of the other sports radio networks. However much you like national sports on the radio will probably be the main decider if you like CBS or not. Folks in larger markets will likely prefer more local alternatives.

That said, based on my own listening, here are a few random opinions…

  • First and foremost, Jim Rome leaving Premiere Radio to go to CBS  Sports Radio was a big deal. Despite any snafus with the juggling of affiliates as a result of his exit from Premiere, Rome’s star power is large enough to make up for it in short time — if it hasn’t happened already. Love him or hate him, he brings new ears to each affiliate, giving the other shows potential for immediate exposure.
  • The morning show with Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson is somewhat of a mixed bag. As lead host, Tierney is solid but his surroundings doesn’t give him much to work with. While Barber seems to rarely speak, Jacobson tends to overcompensate by trying extra hard to be witty. More times then not, her attempt at sarcastic humor comes across as mildly annoying. It’s also worth noting that I sometimes have a hard time telling Barber and Tierney apart. Their voices sound alike.
  • I haven’t had the stomach to give either John Feinstein (late middays) or Doug Gottlieb (afternoons) any extended listening. I hear enough of them recite their awful CBS Sports Minute segments, which are heard on various CBS-owned sports stations throughout the country, including 670 The Score/WSCR-AM in Chicago.  That may be an unfair assessment on my part, especially since the few hours of Feinstein I have heard were not as bad as I expected. With a blend of co-hosts around him, which is what he appears to have, may make the show OK. I will make an effort to listen to more of his show.
  • Bringing Scott Ferrall from Sirius XM for late evenings was another positive move. The combination of Ferrall’s raspy voice and unique personality allow for a more fast paced and fun show, which is just perfect for late evenings.
  • The CBS Sports updates (branded simply as Sports Flash) run three times an hour. In 2013, that is far too much, especially when they can run over two minutes long (or three minutes on weekends). ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio have both reduced their respective updates from three times an hour to two. Why CBS opted for three, I don’t know.
  • The CBS Sports Radio jingle or the jingle’s instrumental bed is overplayed tremendously.  You’ll hear it at the beginning and conclusion of each sports update and usually at the beginning or end of a show segment. If listening to the network for any extensive period of time, the listener is likely to get tired of the jingle plenty fast.
  • The CBS Sports Radio web presence is a colossal mess, for many reasons. First and foremost, why they have been unable to secure the URL by now is beyond me (the network was first announced last June!). For the first few months while on the air, their official website,, were a few simple webpages with relatively little information about the network or their  shows. A few weeks ago, the site was re-launched to include newer headlines and podcasts. From a technical standpoint, the re-launched website is very bizarre as they chose to build each individual show page under its own sub-domain. Anyone familiar with optimizing websites for search engines will know how backwards this is when developing a website.
  • Since CBS Sports Radio doesn’t have a dedicated Chicago affiliate, I’ve been listening either on my smart phone via the Tune In app or on the computer via live stream. Ed Sherman of recently interviewed Chris Oliviero, senior vice-president at CBS Sports Radio. Oliviero said that while they are working to get the network in every major market, they have no business plan for having a channel on Sirius/XM. Even though I believe satellite radio will be a losing venture in the long run, I think it is a colossal mistake to ignore such an easy opportunity for expanding their presence.

As I wrote above, CBS Sports Radio doesn’t seem that much different than a Fox Sports or Yahoo Sports Radio. At least CBS doesn’t come across as trying to be “holier than thou,” unlike ESPN — which is a huge a positive.  At this point that’s good enough for me — I’d prefer CBS to ESPN for that reason alone.

NBC Sports Radio launched their 24/7 schedule on April 1st. I will have thoughts on NBC in the very near future.