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Saluting Black Broadcasters: Officer Brandon Tatum, Salem Radio Network

In 2016, Brandon Tatum was a police officer with the Tucson Police Department when a video of his experience at a rally for then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump went viral. Tatum has since turned that viral clip into a full-time job in the conservative talk space, first working on YouTube before joining the Salem Radio Network for The Officer Tatum Show, which airs live from 6-9 PM ET.

The former police officer has cultivated a large audience on YouTube. Currently, he’s approaching 3 million subscribers on his channel. But despite his success on the digital video platform, he doesn’t spot many differences between hosting a show on national radio and a YouTube show.

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“I don’t really think about audience differences, I just do what I normally do,” Tatum said. “I say the things that I believe in…and I don’t hold back. So I treat both of them the same way.

“I think I’m a little more explicit on radio because there’s less restrictions in comparison to YouTube. You can be completely banned if you say something YouTube doesn’t like. Radio is a little more free. So I think that sometimes I’m a little more raw on radio, but as far as preparation and the things that I talk about, the tone that I take is absolutely consistent across the board.”

The idea that he’s able to speak more freely on a medium regulated by the federal government rather than on YouTube wasn’t lost on the up-and-coming radio host.

“It is backward, in my opinion. I understand why, to a certain degree, but it is kind of weird that every platform isn’t open enough that you can say whatever you want to say. We live in America. If you’re going to be a communicative platform for people, it would behoove you to allow people to say whatever they feel,” argued Tatum.

“And if they’re wrong, let people challenge them on being wrong. But the censorship on social media is asinine to me. I get it. So many social media companies are private businesses. They exercise the right to do put whatever policy in place that they want…It’s something that I understand.

“I’m disappointed that it’s the reality of it. In the time that we live in, you have to just be mindful of being strategic about the way you communicate. On YouTube, I just can’t say certain things, but I still am going to communicate within their policy so I can still get the word out.”

Tatum admitted that one of the advantages of YouTube is the immediate feedback garnered from viewers.

“I know how many people are watching my YouTube channel. I can see the numbers. It’s almost like instantaneous feedback. I can see what people are saying about what I said because there’s comments and people send me messages and things from the YouTube channel. Radio is just a shot in the dark. I have no idea how many people listen to me at any given time, and I don’t know what they think about what I say. So that’s just a slight difference.”

Another difference for Brandon Tatum — who began his radio program with Salem Radio Network in 2022 — was breaking up his content to allow for commercial breaks.

“It’s kind of hard for me to stop for five minutes and then come back. And then when you come back, sometimes you have to read an ad when you come back. So then it’s even more of a time period between when we took the break and when you get back engaged in the conversation. So that’s just a little bit of an adjustment period for me,” said Tatum.

“And so that’s one of the differences and why it took me a little bit to kind of get used to that, to kind of get my ideas out, be able to take the callers, and get out of the break before I just completely run out of time. I still think it’s something I’m working off even today.”

Brandon Tatum said his first offer from Salem Media Group was to host a podcast, which he turned down because he thought the idea was too similar to his burgeoning YouTube show. However, when Larry Elder departed the radio network, that enticed him to consider the medium.

“That appealed to me more than anything. I thought ‘Wow, Larry Elder is leaving. There’s a gap there.’ There’s an opportunity to continue somewhat of the legacy of the black conservative voice. And I’m not trying to bring up the black thing. It’s honestly irrelevant, but people kind of see it that way. You don’t get a chance to hear from a perspective of a man in America that’s black.

“So I thought that Larry Elder did a wonderful job being that diversity of voice, and I wanted to continue that,” said Tatum. “I didn’t want the radio to go on without Larry and people not having an opportunity to hear what it’s like in this world that perceives you as a black conservative and that perspective.

“When it comes to talking about those issues, it’s kind of almost as if you don’t have the diversity, you’re limited. So I knew that there would be an opportunity for America to hear a wide variety of voices from different perspectives if I were to continue in Larry’s position, so that’s one of the major reasons why I did it. It wasn’t for selfish motives. I had no desire to be on the radio. When I thought about it, some people told me don’t do it. It’s too much. But I said ‘You know what? It’s bigger than me.’ And I really want people to be able to hear that voice.”

Brandon Tatum has taken the ball given to him by Larry Elder and ran with it. He maintains that he’s not the only Black conservative in the media space and believes that section will continue to grow in the future.

“There’s a tremendous amount of room for growth. I think that we haven’t even tapped into a fraction of putting out there the talent and the ability to communicate from black conservatives,” Tatum said. “I think for a long period of time there weren’t a lot of black conservatives. I mean, there’s an influx when me and Candace (Owens) started, there were really no prominent black conservatives doing it.

“Now? You probably have hundreds, and many of them have converted. Many of these people are already talented on social media, but they were liberals like me and Candace Owens. And so I think we’ve seen an explosion…I think it is just going to grow exponentially from here, given the fact that it spawns more Black people who have a conservative voice, and then also they’ve seen a level of success for me and Candace.

“The explosion of black voices, I think it’s incredibly important. A lot of young people can be influenced, if they hear the right people that they identify with, saying the things that they know to be true or they later find out that find out is true.”

Garrett Searight
Garrett Searight
Garrett Searight is Barrett Media's News Editor, which includes writing bi-weekly industry features and a weekly column. He has previously served as Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH, and is the radio play-by-play voice of Northern Michigan University hockey. Reach out to him at [email protected].

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