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Does News Radio Become Conservative Talk Radio North of 9 AM?

Everyone in the radio industry knows that last week was a rough one for many within the Audacy family. Layoffs all across the country as the company tries to improve the balance sheet and come out of bankruptcy. There is no reason for me to go into details on the impact at my station. It certainly won’t help me to discuss it publicly, and it certainly won’t bring anyone back.

All I will say is that in the near term, I am adding an extra on-air hour to my day. Generally speaking, this is no problem. I like to talk, and that happens to be my profession.

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Having said that, historically, we have a line in our programming day, and that line is 9 AM. Before 9 AM – south of it — we have our morning show: News/weather/traffic, some interviews, and hopefully, some humor, insight, and positive energy interspersed throughout. After 9 AM – north of it – the shows focus on callers and opinions, with conservative opinion being the predominant theme.

As a self-avowed independent, the morning show is perfect for me. I thrive south of 9 as I get to react in real-time and make a concerted effort to look at all sides of an issue, while making the show (hopefully) a safe space for democrats and republicans alike.

We’re proud of what we’ve built, and we don’t want to jeopardize it.

Taking that 9-10 hour feels a little dangerous, and I’ve actually been here before.

When I first started on the morning show a few years back, I took on that extra hour after yet another shift in personnel. It was just after Rush Limbaugh had died, and we were in limbo regarding whether we should look for another syndicated show or go all-in on local. While we were figuring it out, the three local shows picked up the slack.

My hope then was to utilize the extra hour as an experiment of sorts. I wanted to take that independent lens and apply it to each issue. I talked a lot about silos, and how everyone seemed to stay too snugly within their own rhetorical silo, closed off from other viewpoints, sometimes never even hearing them.

I was a split-ticket voter on issues. On some, I found one side’s take made sense, while on others, I took the other side. I thought that flexibility would give me credibility and create good radio as I would expect a lively conversation each day. Boy, was I naïve.

What happened?

I angered everybody.

It didn’t work, simple as that.

A few years later, I am back north of 9, and I will not make the same mistake. I am not afraid of the difficult conversations. I am not fearful about taking a stance on an important issue. But with 2-plus years under my south-of-9 belt, we have a growing brand to protect. Why compromise progress with a few time-filling hot takes. I haven’t changed my mission: I still want to break down silos and be an equal-opportunity critic.

But this time, I think I will do it through other people’s voices and my questions.

If this extra hour lasts months – or without an end date – it’s likely unsustainable, but for now, it’s about taking the guests I call “not enough timers” – the people I seem to always want to keep talking to at the end of segments – and giving them more time. The clock is different north of 9, with a lot more space to have full conversations, more podcast-like than morning show.

I don’t know exactly how many of those guests I have, but I am trying to line ‘em up as quickly as I can.

Attorney from the Alex Jones Sandy Hook case: Let’s talk Trump immunity case.

My former co-host with 30 years in the market: His career history including Rush Limbaugh’s late-night phone calls in Kansas City.

State House lobbyist: Whatever I can eek out of him!

Now, it feels like the interview show I always wanted but never had. It may get tiring – and I have no idea how long it will last — but it interests me, can still work to erode silos, and feels decidedly less dangerous.

Brian Shactman
Brian Shactman
Brian Shactman is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Radio. In addition to writing for BNM, Brian can be heard weekday mornings in Hartford, CT on 1080 WTIC hosting the popular morning program 'Brian & Company'. During his career, Brian has worked for ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC, and local TV channels in Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find him on Twitter @bshactman.


  1. I don’t listen to WICC that much anymore because the political talk is repetitious and tiresome, and too many of the callers are either unfocused or off-kilter. Instead of pursuing topics that will antagonize one side or both sides of politics, why not find topics that encourage common ground? For my own weekly show on WAPJ-FM, I find guests and subjects that will appeal to a wide audience – I just did interviews with a historian who has a new book about Churchill’s relationships with FDR and Eisenhower, a former Fortune 500 executive seeking to improve the education system and an athlete promoting a vegan lifestyle. IMHO, instead of trying to erode silos, ensure they don’t get built in the first place.

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