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UPCOMING EVENTS

News/Talk Radio Hosts Should Embrace Topics From Every Avenue Possible

The Kansas City Chiefs again found themselves at the center of the sports and news universe this past week. By now, you’ve likely heard about kicker Harrison Butker’s commencement speech at Benedictine College, a small Catholic college in Atchinson, Kansas, that got picked up and covered worldwide. And, if you’re a radio host, you probably have an opinion on his speech. If you haven’t seen his speech in full or read a transcript, you can do both here and come to your own conclusion.

There are two enormous takeaways: one for sports radio and one for news/talk radio.

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For sports radio, there needs to be a focus on diversity of opinion, not just diversity of looks. I scanned sports radio across the country, and the overwhelming sentiment was that Harrison Butker was wrong to say what he said, with most misrepresenting his comments during the commencement speech.

It was like they took copy from the MSNBC newsroom and regurgitated it on their radio show. But what happened? As of this week, Harrison Butker’s jersey was sold out on the NFL Shop. And it wasn’t just his men’s jersey that was sold out; his women’s jersey was sold out too.

And when it comes to the political leanings of sports fans, they are overwhelmingly traditional and right-of-center in every major professional sport.

A recent Harris Poll showed the political leanings of every league. A nationally representative sample of 4,116 U.S. adults age 18 and over showed that sports fans are slightly more conservative (55%) in their self-identification.

58% of college football fans identify as conservative (the most of any sport), 57% of MLB fans are conservative, and 56% of NFL fans identify as conservative. Even amongst NBA fans, 51% of their fans identify as conservative.

While there can be value in diversity of background, suits seem to be much more obsessed with favoring physical diversity traits over diversity of thought and ideology. At a time when sports, politics, and culture continue to mix, ensuring any outlet is ideologically representative of the audience is more important than focusing on the melanin levels of the individuals behind the mic and in front of the TV.

Now, for News/Talk radio, these cultural topics are worth discussing. Don’t view them as “sports stories.” They’re not. Harrison Butker is as relatable and engaging a story as we’ve had in recent weeks. 

It gets you away from the day’s politics and into a relatable, easy-to-discuss topic that will likely engage your audience. The day-to-day politics can be mundane and might appeal to the P1s, but broadening topic variety, especially when you can spin it in a relatable way that broadens your audience while still keeping your P1s entertained, is a win-win.

Every adult can relate to attending a graduation ceremony, hearing a commencement speech, and reacting positively or negatively. We’ve all done it as students, parents, uncles, aunts, or grandparents.

Bring your audience into the topic, set the scene, and make it relatable as you intertwine the cultural moment we find ourselves in 2024 and how the media has reacted, and you can weave it into politics if you so choose.

The angles and topics have been endless the last week and a half, with several layers to explore and discuss. You don’t want to beat a dead horse unless you’re in the market like I am in Kansas City, but exploring topics that transcend “traditional” News/Talk will only broaden the audience for your show.

Pete Mundo
Pete Mundo
Pete Mundo is a weekly columnist for Barrett Media, and the morning show host and program director for KCMO in Kansas City. Previously, he was a fill-in host nationally on FOX News Radio and CBS Sports Radio, while anchoring for WFAN, WCBS News Radio 880, and Bloomberg Radio. Pete was also the sports and news director for Omni Media Group at K-1O1/Z-92 in Woodward, Oklahoma. He's also the owner of the Big 12-focused digital media outlet Heartland College Sports. To interact, find him on Twitter @PeteMundo.

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