Dan Miller shares secrets about finding news media mentors

Although not a kingmaker per se, Phil Boyce has cultivated a list of royal talents throughout his radio career. His honed instinct discovered and honed the presentation skills of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and many others.

“I’ll never forget Sean Hannity’s early days,” Boyce recalled. “WABC was number one in the market in 1995. Sean contacted me and said he would like to come back to New York. At that time, I still thought he was too green, at only 32 years old. When we fired Bob Grant, Hannity said, “I want to be his replacement.”

There is a radio adage that goes something like this; You never want to be the guy to replace a legend. You want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced a legend.

“Hannity was talking to Fox and I told him to let them move him to New York. I advised him to write in his contract that he had the right to do radio wherever he wanted… for me. This little clause has saved my bacon many times. It has become huge. I can tell you now that Roger Ailes is gone. We didn’t get along. He wanted Sean off the radio. Not many people can say they fought Roger Ailes.

Gretchen Carlson can.

Phil Boyce is senior vice president of Salem Media Group for all spoken word formats. He joined Salem in February 2012. Prior to joining Salem, Boyce was one of America’s top News/Talk program directors.

“Salem is a little right-wing and we’re a Christian organization,” Boyce said. “Some may see this as an opportunity to discredit you for being who you are. Take a stand on what you do. We’re a bit lonely on the right. Media means left. They’ve got a lot of camaraderie on their side. We feel sometimes a bit outnumbered.

You know you’ve arrived if you have a Wikipedia page.

“I’ve had this page for a long time,” Boyce explained. “I guess I’m honored. But I’ve also seen Wiki pages that aren’t entirely truthful. People will put things on pages like Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s that just aren’t true or nice.

Boyce grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, moving to the city with his family when he was a sophomore.

“My father built houses. He could do anything with his hands. He could fix a car. I don’t remember he worked for anyone else. I remember he was working on televisions. I think my favorite thing to do outside of work is the 5k and 10k rides through Disney. This is very fun. You have to train for them, you just can’t show up and start walking.

Always full of curiosity, Boyce remembers being only five years old in his father’s 1955 Chevy.

“We were listening to KUSH in Cushing, Oklahoma. We passed a building and there was a tower behind it. I asked my father how the radio signal went from the tower to the car. I was fascinated by the whole concept.

Boyce said Pueblo was a great place to get into radio. Only 100,000 people lived there when he was young, but there were 11 radio stations.

“There is more than that today. I had a lot of opportunities if radio was the field I wanted to go into. I started a little on the air when I was 14 years old.

His Sunday school teacher was the PD of a small Christian station, KFEL in Pueblo. Boyce asked him if he could take him to visit the station so he could get an idea of ​​what was going on there.

“I think a lot of us were bitten by the radio bug at an early age,” Boyce explained. “Shortly after, KFEL hired me even though my voice hadn’t changed yet. Here, I was just a child reading telegraph dispatches about the Vietnam War.

It must have come as a shock to listeners to hear about the bombardment of Saigon from a high school freshman with a squeaky voice.

“I remember that first feeling, hearing myself on the air the first time,” Boyce recalled. “You never talk like you think you will on air, but after a while I got used to it. Right from the start, I knew I wanted to be more in management than in the air. I had more interest in managing what came out of the enclosure than in creating it. I became news director, program director and director. Things worked out for me.

It’s the understatement of the year.

Boyce said working in radio has been a fabulous career.

“It’s always fun, I want to do it, like when I was a kid. All the new technologies have made me keep learning, staying fresh.

Boyce explained that new technology has kept him on his toes.

“You have to be aware of what people are listening to, otherwise you can find yourself in trouble. You will get bored quickly. If all we had was a radio, we wouldn’t have this daily challenge. I felt a bit frustrated. »

In life, if you’re lucky, you’ve discovered what you do best. In Boyces’ case, it was about digging up gems.

“My talent has always been finding new talent, nurturing it. I’ve always been good at that. I think that’s what God wanted me to do. I can see new talent as clear as day .Usually I look for someone who is driven to succeed.Someone who has a curiosity about lots of different things.They see the world in a different way and have something intelligent to say.

Boyce credits Ed Astinger with much of Salem’s success in finding talent.

“I haven’t found everything,” Boyce said. “Some talented people have flown earlier than they thought. Both Hannity and Levin were like that. Seb Gorka was a great find. I came across him by accident. He was an author who wrote three books and was a regular on Fox News. He was doing these 3-4 minute shots with Hannity. I asked him if he could be that good for 3-4 hours, and he said he could. He had dreamed of being a radio presenter since he was a little boy growing up in London.

Curtis Sliwa was also an interesting choice of radio host.

“I have a lot of respect for Curtis,” Boyce explained. “When I came to WABC he was the overnight guy. My predecessor told him he would never be more than a guy overnight. He needed to be matched with someone. Ron Kuby was my choice. Curtis & Kuby became the top morning show.

Chemistry tends to reveal itself to Boyce, and he says it’s extremely important.

“Chemistry is important. Camaraderie is important, especially with a team of two or three people. If you have chemistry, it will mask other issues. The people you are trying to turn into a team. Some will say they can do better without another person. It’s like a little piece of linoleum sticking out of the floor. It’s not going to happen anymore. »

Boyce said he likes when things grow organically, especially with a two-person team.

“Someone is driving the bus. The other person is right next to them. Driving the bus is a skill. Curtis had that ability. When I was working with a morning shift in Los Angeles, I had to find the right driver. Jennifer Horn became that driver. Grant Stinchfield is a great number two, but Jennifer is driving the bus.

Boyce has worked with some terrific talents like Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt. In recent years we’ve had Mike Gallagher, Brandon Tatum and Charlie Kirk.

“Hannity is pretty much the same guy he’s always been back on WABC,” Boyce said. He is very intelligent, passionate about what he believes in. It doesn’t really change. He wants what’s best for America. It’s an honor to be friends with him.

After all these years in the business, Boyce told Salem, he’s like a kid in a candy store.

“I use all of these skills that I developed years ago to handle all the spoken word stuff that we do, and it’s a target-rich environment. I give full credit to our CEO, Dave Santrella. He let me run Salem New York, Salem Radio Network, Salem Podcast Network and Salem News Channel. We continue to develop this thing, finding new ways to develop new talent and move to new technology. This is how you take a successful product to the next level. I’m still doing that here, years after I joined a radio station at 14, and I’m still having a blast every day.

The man is still a teenager at heart.