| The Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum

You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

September 9, 2016 11:24 am  #1

The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

It’s a part of talk radio everyday. And it probably shouldn’t be. Here’s the Top 10 List of the things you hope you never hear on that format. (This is my ranking. Your mileage may vary.)
10. I heard this on another station and just wanted to comment on it.
No. If you heard it there, call them. We don’t have to help the competition.
9. I just want to comment on a topic you did an hour ago.
Again, no. You should have called in back then. We’ve moved on.
8. First time caller, long time listener.
Could there be a more hackneyed and clichéd phrase than this one? Turns out there can be – see #7.
7. Thank you for taking my call.
A feeble attempt to butter up the host. They’re doing a talk show. They’re supposed to take callers. And in many cases, it's the producer's decision who gets on air. 
6. Regular Callers
Whether it’s Mike from Buffalo or Sonny from Richmond Hill, those same voices and those same opinions should be used sparingly so as not wear out their welcomes. (On the other hand, on a slow day, they can really save your bacon.)
5. Let’s go to Paul from North York. Paul? Are you there? Paul? Paul?
You waited on hold a long time. When it’s your turn to go, be there and speak. And if you can’t wait on hold, don’t dial the digits. (I especially love those people who call in and then put the host on hold while they take another call!)
4. Turn your radio down.
People either forget this or just want to hear themselves on the radio. But everybody loses when they don’t listen and the delay creates on air chaos.
3. “I just wanted to say rep…snurt…Glock..part…government.”
A tribute to the technology provided primarily by Bell and Rogers, as cell phones crap out just as the caller/guest hits air, forcing the host to wait out the garble, put them back on hold or just simply move on. Either way, it’s a momentum killer.  
2. As I told your screener…
Nobody heard or cares what you said to the producer. And there’s no reason to say this phrase.
1. “How are you?”
Hard to believe this simple phrase would end up at #1, but it’s the default opening for nearly every nervous caller.. And it happens almost every time you take a call. Worse yet, if you acknowledge it, you then have to spend even more time asking them how they are in return, wasting more air time.
Various hosts have different ways to deal with it. The late John Michael of CKTB used to use “ditto,” a bit he stole from Rush Limbaugh, who was desperate to put an end to the useless greeting.
Mike Stafford sometimes uses, “I appreciate it,” and then moves on.
And The Fan’s Mike Wilner has all but given up, telling each successive caller on Jays Talk that he “continues to be fine.”
Honourable mention:
The caller who just wants to talk over the host and get in his point, instead of trying to have an actual conversation. Show, caller and listeners all lose to a cacophony of noise that contributes nothing.

Last edited by RadioActive (September 9, 2016 11:26 am)


September 9, 2016 12:04 pm  #2

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

The problem with "Regular callers" is that, depending on the show, it can tend to sound too much like an infomercial, if not careful.

#7 is fine, considering RadioQuiz thinks the callers are useless and not needed at all for a talk show.


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.


September 9, 2016 12:15 pm  #3

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

I cut callers with 8,7 and 1 a bit of slack.  It's an alien world to them, and if it's not, they're regulars and should have probably been screened out.  This is the caller sticking their big toe into the pool to check the water temperature.  They don't know how it works, what will happen, or even if it's like a regular phone conversation.  The screener can tell them 6 ways to sunday it's just a chat, but they hear that whoosh of white noise to clear the hybrid, and they're on the air.  Now what.  This is their way of getting a breath and proceeding with the call.  These are the 'normal' things you would say, that ground the caller and let them continue.

The other part is brushing off the 'how are you' question, because that tends to fluster the caller even more, and makes you sound like a bit of a dick to anyone other than the hardcore listeners.  You just hope it isn't asked.  Much like a newscaster saying 'thank you' to the reporter, then painfully watching and waiting through the Dejero delay for the reporter to look up and reciprocate. (Cellphone IFB's please )

The regular callers are a pain in the ass, but they're nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  "NDP Don" Fraser was more recognized in focus groups than half the on air staff.  Infact many figure he was a host himself.  These folks believe they're a key part of the show, and are insulted when you tell them they aren't going on.  Sunny in Richmond hill another good example, but there are tons.  Crazy Mary is another one who jumps to mind,  she can call a cooking show and come up with how black folks are responsible for too much sugar and egg being used in a cake mix.  She starts of great, but you just sit there listening, waiting for it, and she never disappoints.    I knew when Stafford had a fill in screener when he'd answer the phone with "Oh Hi Don..".  Admittedly I'd turn it up to hear the sparring match, waiting for it to inevitably result in some type of Jerry Adams or Ian Paisley climax. .  

I mute the caller after their first question or comment.  If there's a follow up I'll unmute them but rarely.  I don't depend on callers to make a show, and never have.   The best they have is always first out, and if not you have a weak screener.  Callers have always been cannon fodder for me, akin to the front row at a comedy club.  You know you're sitting there, you know you're a target and inevitably you will be made to look like an asshole at some point in the show.  Callers should be fun tools for a host to use, or expand on their points,  but never considered a 'key' part of the show.  People listen for the host and their opinions and interaction, and if they don't, IMHO (which is never really H) they're doing something wrong, or they are hosting coast to coast.  (See Cannon fodder again).    


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.

September 9, 2016 12:32 pm  #4

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

BTW when listening to the general public's opinion on radio, keep in mind the skew involved.  I'll never forget a focus group we did of listeners who weren't aware of it, but they were all 'large' contest winners. Every one of them.  

We asked the usual general questions and one was 'what do you think of radio contests'.  Out of 32 listeners only 4 thought they were a good idea.  28 thought they distracted from programing, were nothing but disguised hype for the radio station and wouldn't miss them if they never happened. 

Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.

September 9, 2016 1:11 pm  #5

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

Charlie wrote:

The one that irks me most is regular Stafford Show caller "Terry".  The pompous ass never fails to come across as all-knowing and self-important.  As soon as I hear his voice, I change the station.

Funny, Terry's only been on The Stafford Show maybe once a year, for at least the last five years! Sounds like he may have triggered some sort of PTSD. CURSES, TERRY!


September 9, 2016 1:18 pm  #6

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

LOL.   Let me clarify my point as I comment on a list of "things we don't want to hear from callers on talk radio" - my position is that if you have a well prepped talk radio show - you don't NEED callers, instead you use them to add to the flow of the show.    When you do a show that REQUIRES callers to fill the time, the result is usually "pick a number from that list" kind of show.  I will add one more to the list - the ultimate sign of desperation of a host is when they ask a follow up question to the caller that has nothing to do w/ the reason they called.    If you rely on your callers to prep your show.... It will suck.   Always.


September 9, 2016 1:45 pm  #7

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

ig wrote:

.. or they are hosting coast to coast .. 

or they're hosting "Midnight in the Desert"  (which was as bad as the terrible Phil Hendrie experiment) .. 

when 1010 decided to broadcast Art Bell's "Midnight in the Desert" while 640 was already broadcasting Noory's "Coast to Coast", i surrendered.  i bought a Crane Internet radio.  with the world now at my beckon, i haven't looked back for my late night listening.


September 9, 2016 2:36 pm  #8

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

Terry "I have an adopted Chinese daughter and five cars" from Port Perry has not been on the Stafford show for
months.  He's called but not put on-air.   He's also all over 'RB.  The worst is "Jeff from Orillia" right now.  He has been the last caller on some shows and first caller on the next.  There are maybe only three or four screeners in Toronto who can properly screen a show.  The rest don't even know what the topic is or don't care if they're very old, off-topic or just nuts.  BTW a show that relies on only calls can work....if the screener's good.  Callers aren't "prep".
You have no idea what you're talking about.

Last edited by Miker (September 9, 2016 9:19 pm)


September 9, 2016 3:04 pm  #9

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

I concur with your point about screeners. You validated my point by acknowledgIng that most screeners are not great.   Knowing this... You can't rely on your screener or your calls as a host, but you can rely on your prep.   I never said callers were prep, I pointed out that if you rely on them to provide the great content for your show, they will always disappoint.


September 9, 2016 3:19 pm  #10

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

Talk radio is a snooze festival.  Larry Solway started it in T.O.  TuneOUT factor BIG time.  Moved it to day time.  Then John Dolan...and now...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...pure pony piss...minus the pony.

Who the phuque cares?


Great for sales though.  We have a wide demo...12 - 99 and each and every one of them is an ignorant, uneducated moron.  So?  How much do you want to spend with us this year?

Last edited by Old Codger (September 9, 2016 3:26 pm)


September 9, 2016 3:25 pm  #11

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

Hmmm, Jim Richards on RB is doing a minor theme on his Friday show, "taking a stand" by "being the first in Toronto" to ban the phrase "as I told your screener..."

Say, you don't suppose someone there saw this and...nah, must be a coincidence. 

     Thread Starter

September 9, 2016 3:50 pm  #12

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

ig wrote:

I cut callers with 8,7 and 1 a bit of slack.  It's an alien world to them, and if it's not, they're regulars and should have probably been screened out.  This is the caller sticking their big toe into the pool to check the water temperature.  They don't know how it works, what will happen, or even if it's like a regular phone conversation....The regular callers are a pain in the ass, but they're nowhere near as bad as they used to be.

Iain: I actually agree with you – those phrases are like vocal crutches, as a nervous caller gets revved up to say what he or she phoned in about. The problem comes when you hear it over and over and over and over again in the same show from different people. 
As for “regular” callers, they can be a pain. But I do recall one host who actually turned one of them into a huge plus. (Much like Stafford sometimes does with “Deb from Fargo.”) That host was the late great Earl McRae, who started out – and ended life – as a newspaper columnist. But at some point he branched out into broadcasting, and I was proud to call him a friend.
Earl was a brilliant writer, mimic, wit, broadcaster and even artist, whose caricatures were hilarious. His first radio job came at the old Telemedia-owned CJCL (now the Fan 590) back in the early 80s, when it was still at 1430. There was an old guy named Jack Gordon who used to call his Open Line Sports show every single night.
This guy was a real character, with a gruff, nasal voice, always griping “don’t give me that pan gravy!” whenever he didn’t agree with something. He was entertaining, I’ll give him that. But his act began to wear thin after about a week or so. And then Earl decided on the spur of the moment on air that he sounded like one of those guys from an old Hollywood prison movie.
That did it.
From then on, he would always ask him if the warden was giving him enough time to call the show and it started spreading from there. The next time he called, they played a sound effect of a cell door creaking open before he came on. The call after that featured the sounds of guards’ heavy footsteps, with clanking chains, marching down a corridor, followed by the cell door opening. The next night, women would scream as he trudged in chains down the cellblock. And it got more elaborate every time.  Every night was something else. And at the end of the call, the cell door would slam closed, marking the end of Jack for that day.
I never did ask Earl, but I wonder if people actually believed he was a prisoner? The very last time I heard him was on one of those you-couldn’t-have-planned-it-that-way-if-you-tried moments that are magic on radio. Jack came on to the requisite SFX and began ranting about Harold Ballard and the Leafs or some other local team. After about a minute of him going nonstop, Earl started singing quietly into the mic, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over,” as his producer slowly lowered Jack’s pot down and faded him out.
He later told me it was totally unplanned, but just as Earl finished his song and the last sonic moments of Jack’s voice faded out, the cell door clanged and he was gone. It was one of the funniest "theatre of the mind" bits I’ve ever heard and I wish I had a tape of it. But it shows how some creativity can turn a regular caller nuisance into something listeners can’t wait to hear.
It doesn’t happen often. But with the right host and a bit of luck, it can. And when it does, it's great. 

     Thread Starter

September 9, 2016 9:24 pm  #13

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

There are call screeners?
Most disappeared under the big corpse "spell of cheapdom."
The big talker where I worked for 4 years in Vancouver used to have full time screeners who did nothing else while a full time producer worked to come up with instant reference material for the host if the caller brought up a topic with which the host was not familiar.
While I was there, the screeners were fired and the board op, who had to run the board, insert the commercials, record and edit clips from the show did the "screening", if he could fit it in.
The producers, one for each show, became a couple for all shows and could no longer monitor the program to assist the host(s).
As for dealing with callers starting with those "catch phrases" on that list, my favourite host was Peter Warren who simply said: "Get on with it!"


September 9, 2016 10:44 pm  #14

Re: The Top 10 List Of Things You Hope To Never Hear On Talk Radio

Working with THE best radio personality this side of The Milky Way Galaxy has taught me quite a few things about screening calls.

Many consider the role to be less important than the office cleaners who soak up the accumulated spittle from around the mics at the end of every broadcast day.

After having spent some time behind the mic, working with other screeners, I've learned just how damn important a GREAT screener is.

There's a flow to a topic, to a show. Weak callers disrupt that flow. A screener's job is to eliminate the pests, and keep the best - by ANY means necessary.

It's nobody's RIGHT to have their say on privately owned and operated airwaves. You don't need to provide a caller with a valid reason as to why you don't want to grant them audience with the Great and Powerful Oz.

A good producer will not:

1. Pay ANY attention to their smartphone, unless it's related to the show they're working on (connecting with a guest). Distracted Driving, meet distracted screening. Doing either one can lead to disastrous consequences!

2. Talk to a caller for more than 15 seconds. Get the calls racked up. Don't engage in friendly chit-chat. Your job is to connect the caller with the host, not to engage in your own personal radio show behind the scenes. Nothing is more frustrating for a host than to see a screener engaged in a minutes-long chat with a caller while other lines are either ringing or sitting on hold. Being brief with a caller also avoids the "as I said to your screener" opener, and ensures that a caller's content is fresh and original. You should be able to determine a caller's potency seconds into their pitch. Some producers gab on with the callers to boost their own ego and soak up attention (which happens from time to time, but should never interfere with the show)

3. Keep a rotten caller on hold, instead of dropping them. If you have no intention of putting a caller on air, why are they still on the line? Drop them. Tell them that the lines are jammed, that you won't be able to get to them. Tell them that you'll pass their comment on to the host. Tell them their phone signal is too poor. Tell them they have the wrong number. Simply say "Appreciate the call. Have a good one! *CLICK*". DO NOT KEEP THEM ON HOLD. Many producers are afraid of slighting a listener, hurting their feelings. Boo-hoo, too bad. Only the best go on first. This isn't an "everybody should have a fair chance to say their mind" scenario. Allowing the weak to proceed only suggests to them that they should call in again in the future. You want to nip that in the bud right away.

4. Put on a caller who's already been on the program that day, on an earlier show. This requires a producer to listen to the major shows on a regular basis, to be able to identify the callers that have already made it to air. Part of the job of being a good producer. Callers get one shot during the course of the show. Hearing a diverse mix of fresh voices encourages more people to call, as they believe they have a better chance of making it on with the host.

5. Overuse regular callers. As mentioned, Terry in Port Perry, J-j-j-eff in Orillia, Toe-knee in Mississauga, Frank the Legal Beagle, Pete "The Right is always right" in Whitby, Enzo in Etobicoke, Larry in St. Catharines, Johnny in Oshawa, Amanda in Peterborough, Karen in Goodwood, Doug in Peterborough, Rob in Whitby, Mark the Ex-Cab Driver, Cee-cee the American Trucker, Mohammed in Etobicoke, Drew, Tom in Keswick, Mike in Scarborough, John in Woodbridge, and a sea of others are heard much too often on GTA talk radio. Some will hit every show on all stations in one day (get a job!). Except the shows I work on. Every now and then, fine. But rarely. I've trained a good portion of the regulars not to call during my shift - they now know they won't make it to air. We appreciate their eagerness, but c'mon, let some fresh blood have their say. Besides, regulars often share opinion, when callers with actual experience on an issue are being sought.

6. Put on the very old and the very young. Remember your demo. Your callers should reflect your station's demo. Don't put on young kids or senior citizens sucking oxygen out of a tank if your demo is A25-54, or W25-54, or M25-54.

7. Put on callers that are hard to understand or painful to listen to. Caller has a thick accent? Goodbye. Nothing racist about it. If you're struggling to understand them, how will the host or listening audience fare? Caller speaks too slowly? Click. Caller wants to make a quick, lame one-liner? No. This isn't Laugh-In.

8. Let callers have control of your conversation. You the producer are in charge, the callers are not. ALWAYS control the conversation, from start to finish. You decide whether or not they get a chance to join the host. That power does not reside with them. If you don't have a good feeling about a caller, drop them. You have the power! Cut them off before they start to ramble. "Make sure your radio is off, and hold on for the host" is preferred over "okay caller, I'm going to put you on hold for the host, is that okay?" Don't ask them, TELL THEM! If a caller swears at you, HANG UP!

There's more I'd like to say, but I'm tired. Imma lie down now and go to sleep.

Last edited by Fjiri (September 9, 2016 10:45 pm)