Meyerson, recommended

Thursday, January 2, 2020
A career devoted to creating content that keeps and builds an audience—from award-winning radio news that kept music-loving audiences from punching the button ... to what became Tribune Co.’s highest-clickthrough-rated editorial email product, Daywatch ... to creation of the innovative “Tinder for radio news” app, Rivet … and the critically acclaimed Chicago Public Square local news platform: Content strategist, podcast and radio engagement expert, email and social media pioneer—linking great work with growing audiences online, on-air, in print.

How can Meyerson Strategy help you? Email Charlie@MeyersonStrategy.com.

A sampling of recommendations. Many more posted to LinkedIn:

Clients

Jason Sherman, president, SHERMAN communications & marketing:I hired Charlie … to conduct spokesperson training with me for a billion-dollar, global healthcare client of mine. We co-trained six senior executives from all over the world during a half-day session. Charlie was brilliant, funny, thoughtful, and very effective. He helped to both put the participants at ease and raise and help them manage tough sample questions. His perspective as a journalist and professional interviewer was invaluable. Charlie’s years of experience … make him a terrific asset and partner.”

Sheryl Beck, broadcast representative at SAG-AFTRA:Charlie is exceptional! He created and led a social media training for our broadcast members that was so dynamic and informative, people just couldn’t get enough. He shared his vast wisdom, tips and insight and, at the same time, pulled virtually everyone into the discussion with participants sharing their best wisdom, tips and insight. The only problem was the training was just not long enough! At two hours, no one was ready to leave.”

David Weindling, executive director, Farther Foundation: “Charlie provided sage and practical guidance in honing our communication strategy. We saw immediate improvement in open rates, click rates and overall audience engagement.”

Aurora Aguilar, editor in chief, Modern Healthcare: “We had Charlie present at our annual editorial retreat. He gave us great insight into our distribution of content and offered some good advice on how to more successfully engage our readers through better headlines and concise writing. I would recommend Charlie for any editorial strategy consultancy.”

Molly McDonough, former editor and publisher, ABA Journal: “Charlie was a positive, energizing force for me and my co-workers. I appreciated the time he spent learning about our operation, then pointing out ways he thought we could improve, and most importantly, showing us how. I especially liked that he rolled up his sleeves and spent one-on-one time with staff answering questions, editing and coaching. His observations and suggestions led us to make immediate changes that proved good for us and our readers.”

Sarah Rand, partner engagement and communications consultant, American Institutes for Research. Charlie was great to work with on our podcast. He helped with the podcast at every step of the way from conceptualization to editing. Our team constantly kept Charlie’s mantra in mind as we created the piece: Don’t be boring! And the podcast turned out great!”

Stephen Anzaldi, internal communications manager, Northwestern University. “When I brought him in to share lessons with my colleagues in the Northwestern University news office, he took it to the next level. Charlie is incredibly effective in clarifying, helping to cut through the noise that has become online communication. Our email news alert is more crisp and sharp as a result. ... I’m tempted to go back to j-school to sit in on more of his lessons.”

Dan Haley, publisher, Wednesday Journal Inc. “Several years ago our weekly community newspapers were trying to figure out how to drive traffic to the updated news coverage we were posting to our then new website. We had breaking news on the site but people were still perceiving us as a weekly news product. Charlie ... directly laid out the solution. We had to build an e-mail list of our readers so that we could push out our news updates to them. That solution is probably the most central element of our success digitally. Now, multiple times a week, we send e-mail updates to many thousands of our readers. Today that seems obvious. Eight or 10 years ago it was a fantastic insight from Charlie. He is clear-eyed, problem-solving, direct-talking.”

Bob Rowley, director of media relations, Northwestern University. “Charlie ... presented a fascinating and informative lecture and Q&A for my media relations team at Northwestern University on maximizing our audience and sharpening our Web content. He’s a pro, a wise man and a great colleague. He knows the Web and the news business and would bring great insight and value to any non-profit organization, public institution or private enterprise.”

Linda Lenz, then-publisher, Catalyst Chicago. “Charlie examined the audience data for our weekly news e-blast and our Feedburner feed, finding patterns that prompted us to make changes—mainly in layout and headlines. Almost immediately, our Feedburner ‘reach’ rose 50%, and our e-blast click-throughs are trending up. Charlie presented his critique in a manner that made them easy for all of us to swallow. It was time very well spent.”

Sophia Madana, then-digital/social media specialist, VanderCook College of Music. “I attended a lecture Charlie presented on email marketing. ... After implementing his tips, the open rate of my email campaign is nearing 20 percent and the click-through rate has increased significantly. I happily recommend Mr. Meyerson as a consultant to any company or organization looking to amp up its digital presence without feeling too overwhelmed.”


Colleagues

Steve Scott, news anchor, WCBS Newsradio, New York City:Charlie’s not just ahead of the curve; he’s often the guy drawing the curve for others to follow.”

Alison Scholly, former chief operating officer, Chicago Public Media: “Charlie Meyerson is ... creative, well spoken, pays attention to detail, challenges conventional wisdom and has an affable relationship with all colleagues, whether they work in the news department or not. I worked with Charlie for many years at Chicago Tribune Interactive, and his leadership was frequently sought out by others because he was insightful, witty, respectful of others and worked tirelessly to collect and share audience insights with his team. I would hire Charlie into many leadership positions, but especially into roles that require consistent high effort, thoughtful decision-making, strong relationship-building skills and the ability to glean audience insights and take well-reasoned risks.”

Lou Carlozo, investment staff writer, U.S. News & World Report: “Charlie is, plain and simple, a visionary of news and radio content. He was the first person I ever met to grasp what ‘search engine optimization’ meant, in the mid-2000s. He was years ahead of his time. The same reporters who groaned at his wise counsel regarding SEO were scrambling to catch up years later. Charlie is wise, smart as a whip, and hands down one of the best news and radio pros I’ve ever worked with. I’m grateful for all he taught me, as it allowed me to go to AOL and achieve fabulous results in a short time. He also has a way of promoting loyalty and team play like few others I’ve met. He’s the best, period.”

Walter Sabo, former CEO, Merlin Media; and former vice president, ABC Radio Networks. Charlie is a great professional ... extremely collaborative and smart. He knows Chicago and understands the needs of the listener and the media community. I would work with him any time, anywhere.”

Boris Geisler, UX & UI design, innovation and production consultant—and architect of the Rivet Radio app: “Charlie is phenomenal! He combines a level of comprehension, professionalism, and joy that I’ve not seen in a newsman and story-teller. His attention to detail and sense of righteousness is what makes him a top-notch leader and strategist. He led Rivet Radio to journalistic excellence and a long list of awards. Plus, if it wasn’t for Charlie, I wouldn’t have the primary news source I enjoy every day! If you’re up to something big, hire Charlie! He knows!”

Former students and interns

Adam Langer, acclaimed novelist, critic and Forward culture editor. “One of the great pleasures of my college years was the time I spent as an intern at WXRT-FM. What, in part, made it such a wonderful and fulfilling experience was the presence of Charlie Meyerson. Always professional, informative, dedicated, and exceedingly well-prepared, Charlie helped me to learn the crafts of editing and writing, particularly under tight deadlines. He was both an excellent teacher and a terrific colleague.”

Scott Kitun, CEO at Technori, management consultant, and Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism graduate. Of all of the many instructors at Medill, ... Charlie ... provided me with the most value, post-graduation! I still rely on Charlie for guidance and mentorship years after having him as my instructor. His vision and understanding of the ever-changing media landscape is invaluable, as is his professional experience.”

Lauren Victory, reporter, WBBM-TV (CBS), Chicago. Charlie Meyerson mentored me since my beginning days as a journalist. When I was in my junior year at Northwestern University, ... Charlie focused on both the old and new of our industry—delving into ethics and the digital future .... Years after my internship, he remains a sounding board for me and a connection to several important journalists in the Chicago area.”

Giacomo Luca, reporter, KXTV-TV (ABC), Sacramento. “Professor, mentor, news director, friend: If you’re looking for the best of these, it’s Charlie Meyerson. He is one of the most influential teachers in my life and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without him. His News Reporting class was spot-on what it is like to work in a daily newsroom. He brings passion, years of experience and independent attention. He helped instill the skills I needed to go on to become a professional journalist.”

Kim Strickland, author, blogger and airline pilot. “I interned under Charlie at WXRT Radio in Chicago during the summer of 1984. ... He made me feel comfortable at ’XRT, like part of the team, even though I was just a kid, and he found a way to critique my writing in such a supportive and instructive way, I still carry what he taught with me to this day.... On days when I just don’t feel like sitting in the chair, I hear Charlie’s words in my ear, “Have fun and do well.” Do well. And so I try. Because I do not want to let this man down.”



Read more recommendations.

R.I.P., WXRT News

Thursday, December 19, 2019
I’ve said many times that my decade (1979-89) with the news department at Chicago radio station WXRT-FM sprinkled fairy dust over all the rest of my career.

The four letters WXRT sparked conversation and opened doors around the world. I owe that station and the people who brought me onboard more than I can say.

Word that WXRT’s latest owner, Entercom Communications, has eliminated the job of morning newscaster Mary Dixon—the station’s last standing journalist—puts an end to a tradition of award-winning reporting, presented over the years by a staff that at its peak numbered three.

July 1985 WXRT Featured Artists card
Here are some reflections from my fellow WXRT News alumni—to be updated as others react.

How did WXRT News begin?

Linda Brill, WXRT’s first news director, 1975-77: It began as a tug-of-war between news and music programming. Few believed that news could drive listeners the way music could. But when I started WXRT News in 1975, I was determined to make news a separate department—free of any influences other than pure, professional journalism.

C.D. (Charles) Jaco, 1976-79 and Brill’s successor as news director: People like owner Dan Lee, General Manager Seth Mason, Program Director John Platt, and … Linda Brill … supported long-form, in-depth newscasts, investigative pieces and documentaries. In just three years, stories like Brill’s exposé of college-paper-writing-for-profit scams, my documentary on Chicago’s American Nazi Party, and my trip to Cuba to track down Chicago airline hijackers engaged the audience and snagged ’XRT repeated awards as the best FM news operation in the country.

Marj Halperin, 1978-84: I knocked on ’XRT’s door, along with most other news shops in town, searching for a break in the Chicago market. Crusty C.D. Jaco agreed to an informational interview, though he had no openings. Within a few days of our meeting, or so it seems in my memory, he fired an errant employee and hired me! I came from out of state and had no idea how lucky I was, didn’t know anything about ’XRT. Was gifted with training and support for top-quality (and, ahem, award-winning) news, a stepping stone to a fun and varied career, as well as an introduction to lifelong friends.

Why was it important?

Brill: I hired the brilliant Charles Jaco and we took off running. We produced two five-minute newscasts a day, filled with hand-spliced natural sound and focused on local issues. We won national awards for FM radio news. And so “Chicago’s Fine Rock” also delivered fine journalism, on par with public radio broadcasts.

Jaco: It showed that listeners to a station that intelligently programmed music are also interested in intelligent news.

Neil Parker (the news director who hired me), 1976-95: Our listeners truly cared about the news and, thank goodness, they grew to trust WXRT News. I feel we earned that trust through our local reporting and relatable delivery.

Halperin: It’s hard to picture, today, a market in which we and other FM stations produced serious newscasts, independent reporting and breaking stories. But we did, and it was a critical part of the mix for an audience that valued more than just the hits of the day.

Michelle Damico, 1984-93: WXRT’s previous owner and managers … were committed to the community. They believed in serving listeners. And listeners had a great appetite for news. They trusted ’XRT—to be the music and culture tastemakers for generations, and for delivering to them the news that mattered locally and nationally.

What did it mean for you?

Parker: Getting my foot in the door as a young reporter (Linda Brill called to offer me a part-time gig on my 22nd birthday) and eventually becoming news director was incredible. Being part of what became a legendary team in the greatest news town in America was a dream, Among other things, the ’XRT experience even helped launch the next chapters of my career (media relations and executive training at both a global firm and at my own consultancy). And how many people can say they’re still good friends with so many pals from so long ago? I’m forever grateful.

Halperin: As a general assignment reporter based at City Hall, I had a front-row seat to the parade of mayors and mayhem that ruled the city in the 1980s. At one point, Mayor Jane Byrne tried to push us “regulars” out of the press room, complaining we were treating her unfairly—a familiar refrain from another politician these days, right? I came to work, only to find John Kass assigned my desk. (He worked part-time for a small, Southeast Side paper at the time.) For a few weeks, we worked elbow-to-elbow, till he kinda faded away. along with the whole controversy.

I learned how the city works, from the inside out. I covered every major development in city government, but also focused on communities; often, City News and I were the only reporters on the scene for neighborhood stories about housing, violence and the impact of a struggling economy. All of that prepped me for future jobs working “on the dark side” for government agencies, starting my own consulting business, and my current political commentary and activism—where I also focus on the needs of Chicago’s diverse communities.

Damico: I believed I was providing a public service, covering stories throughout Chicago as a street reporter and then being assigned to write and announce newscasts throughout the day. It meant that, as a radio station, we stood out as a rare breed. Our owners cared about the news and that was a source of pride. There was a time when ’XRT had the largest FM news team, when other stations were dropping their news teams thanks to Ronald Reagan’s media deregulation. We believed in the value of an informed public. But more importantly, our listeners expected the news throughout the day to be told by familiar and trusting voices.

Kathy Voltmer, 1995-98: I feel blessed to have been even a small part of ’XRT’s storied news legacy. Our dear friendships and our memories will endure.

What is WXRT without news?

Parker: Not quite the same. But all these years later, not much is.

Voltmer: I mourn the loss of the station’s once-mighty news department. And I mourn the decline of the radio news business, which I love dearly.

Brill: In this era of “fake news,” truth is even more precious. I share the outrage that Chicago listeners will be denied access to the honest, in-depth journalism of WXRT.

Damico: It’s further eroding its own identity. The news team made ’XRT special. Without the news, it will be just another radio station, located in Anyplace USA. It makes me sad.

Jaco: ’XRT without news is still an excellent radio station, but with an amputated limb. It’s also now apparently run by corporate weasels.

Halperin: The last bastion is no more a home for honest news coverage. It was a slow, but steady march from an initial three-person team with regular newscasts throughout morning and afternoon drive, plus 10-minute casts at noon a 6 p.m. But ’XRT did support news through a long and valiant struggle with various changes in ownership. I am full of praise and gratitude for that commitment and those responsible for it, even at the end of the road. Now: Can we talk about the further loss of women on-air? Another disappointing element of this story.

The Inside WXRT newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3, March 1988.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry in 1974 and 1976

Thursday, November 7, 2019
You’d think if you’d met the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, in the flesh you’d remember it.

Especially if he told you the real reason he made Mr. Spock look a little … devilish (about 32:17 in).

Well, I did meet him, and he told me that—and I confess that I forgot all about it.

Only when a longtime friend and neighbor lent me a vintage reel-to-reel tape player and I opened a long-filed-away box labeled “Gene Roddenberry” did I recall that I was actually in a studio with Roddenberry at college radio station WPGU in 1974—a half-decade after the original TV show had been canceled and a half-decade before the first Star Trek movie was to debut in theaters. (Photo: Roddenberry in 1974 by Nolan Hester for The Daily Illini.)

Not only that, but I got him to autograph a book, which sat on my shelf forgotten and unloved for years.

Here’s how it sounded, Nov. 7, 1974: A long-unheard interview with the visionary Gene Roddenberry, hosted by Phil Robinson with help from Jim Gassel, Bill Taylor, a so-young-and-nerdy-you-could-plotz 19-year-old Charlie Meyerson and a bunch of call-in fans.


Bonus 1: Keep listening past the end of that show and you’ll hear my second Roddenberry encounter—raw audio of a phone interview followed by the finished feature that resulted: An episode of WPGU’s mini-documentary series, Probe.

Bonus 2: For completists, here’s the aircheck of the full 1974 hour—including ads and a newscast by WPGU anchor Maggi Pratt.

Related listening: My interviews with science fiction writers Ray Bradbury in 1999, Cory Doctorow in 2019, Greg Bear in 1994 and 1996, William Gibson in 1993 and Douglas Adams in 1997 and 1992.

Check out even more of my conversations with thought-leaders through the years on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via your favorite podcast player, and at Chicago Public Square.


And thanks to Dave Mausner for lending me that tape player.

Excelsior.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
It’s an honor to see my name listed among those of so many actually talented people in the acknowledgments for A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, a biography from Danny Fingeroth coming to bookstores Nov. 5.

Publishers Weekly calls it “a fittingly ebullient tribute to a man who never failed to add one more exclamation mark.”

My contribution? Sharing audio of my encounters with Lee over the decades—here, here and here.

You can hear more of my conversations with thought leaders on this website, in Apple Music, on Spotify, via your favorite podcast player and at Chicago Public Square.