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Beech Grove, Indiana

Friday, July 19, 2019

Hammer and Nigel on ratings roll

Indianapolis, IN (July 19, 2019) — In two short years, Jason Hammer and Nigel Laskowski have made a big name for themselves in news-talk radio.

While “The Hammer and Nigel Show” is flourishing now, WIBC-FM 93.1 took a big risk in 2016 putting the two former rock ’n’ roll disc jockeys at the helm of a news-talk program, the station’s bread and butter.

The station took an even bigger risk when it moved the show to WIBC’s key afternoon-drive time slot. Today, with audience growing and ad sales booming, the move is paying off.


Hammer and Laskowski, both Hoosier natives, host a show that is so popular, the Emmis Communications Corp.-owned station is moving an hour of the popular syndicated Dana Loesch show to expand the local show.

“This has nothing to do with the Dana show not doing well,” said David Wood, WIBC’s program director. “This has everything to do with expanding a local show that is doing really well and that is still growing its audience. We think by starting an hour earlier, we’ll get an even bigger bump.”

The move has as much to do with expanding ad inventory as audience size.

“The Hammer and Nigel Show”—which currently runs 4-7 p.m.—has become one of WIBC’s highest revenue generators, sometimes selling out its ad inventory. The show runs 15 to 16 ads an hour, or 48 total for a sellout. So Emmis officials decided to start the show at 3 p.m. beginning July 29.

“Right now, ‘The Hammer and Nigel Show’ is a must-buy if I’m buying for an advertiser seeking the male audience. They own the male 25 to 54 [demographic] during their time slot,” said Bruce Bryant, president of locally based Promotus Advertising. “The fact that they’re selling out their show to the extent the station wants to expand it by an hour is a real strong statement about the strength of the show.”

The reason advertisers love the show is simple: It’s hitting its target audience like a sharpshooter at close range.

In the last six months, it ranked No. 1 in the market in four months and No. 2 in two months in the sought-after audience of 25- to 54-year-old men. In that demographic, it battles with classic rock stalwart WFBQ-FM 94.7 for the top spot. “That’s an important demo because it’s been proven to be one with a lot of expendable income,” Bryant said.

The show also has done better than many news-talk programs with women. In June, it scored a 5.5 share among all listeners in the 25 to 54 demographic in that time slot, which ranks it No. 7.

“‘The Hammer and Nigel Show’ is a bit different from your traditional news-talk show,” said Kristine Warski, media director for MKR, a local full-service advertising agency. “They’ve fused news and entertainment and, by doing so, are attracting a younger audience than news-talk has traditionally.”

News-talk boom

The news-talk audience has seen an uptick in size nationwide in the last three to five years as radio stations have successfully mixed entertainment and commentary with news and politics. The format’s biggest audience has traditionally been older men.

The intense political environment—juiced by the Donald Trump presidency—has also fueled radio’s news-talk format. And while the growth of the internet has hurt some formats, not so with news-talk, experts say.

“The growth of digital platforms and social media have gotten a lot of people fired up about news, current events and politics. As a result, you’ve got a lot more young people opting in to news-talk these days,” said Scott Uecker, a University of Indianapolis communications instructor and general manager of WICR-FM 88.7. “The news-talk format, if done right, is very strong right now.”

And with presidential, gubernatorial and mayoral elections looming in 2020, “The Hammer and Nigel Show” is positioned to grow even more. “There’s going to be a lot of political ad dollars flowing into this market and candidates are going to want to reach engaged voters,” Uecker said. “And listeners of a show like ‘Hammer and Nigel’ are likely to be more engaged.”

Most ad buyers say this market will see millions of dollars in political advertising in 2020—spread across radio, television, print, digital and outdoor.

But Uecker said there’s more to the growth of the show than just its position to snag political ad revenue. “Radio is about connecting with an audience, and Hammer and Nigel are really good at connecting with an audience,” he said. “They’re talented individuals and good communicators who know how to relate to their audience, so I’m not surprised at the success they’re having.”

Hammer, 41 and Laskowski, 43, attribute their show’s success to its conversational and unique style. “There’s nothing else like it on local radio,” Laskowski said. “There’s no yelling and no finger-pointing,” Hammer added. “After a long day at work, that’s the last thing anyone wants—more yelling and finger-pointing. And that’s what you get with a lot of [news-talk] shows.”

While politics is certainly a big part of the show, Hammer and Laskowski said they spend only about half the time covering politics and the other half talking about pop culture, sports and other news.

Not so right?

WIBC has long been known for conservative—some would say right-wing—content. And while “Hammer and Nigel” might not be as right-leaning as another popular WIBC show, “Chicks on the Right,” there’s little doubt it falls into that category.

Still, neither Hammer nor Laskowski would consider themselves strong conservatives. Hammer said he leans slightly right, while Laskowski calls himself “a moderate.” “We hate everybody,” Hammer said. “I tend to vote against people more than I vote for people.”

There’s no doubt Hammer and Laskowski push the edge. The show recently got a cease-and-desist order from lawyers representing Morgan Freeman, after someone on the show impersonated the actor reading Trump’s tweets. And the duo admits they have no shortage of left-leaning folks who tweet or email their complaints. “We love it when liberals tweet or email us,” Hammer said. “We always tell them, ‘Thanks for listening.’”

There was some initial skepticism the duo would make good news-talk hosts.

The duo approached Wood in 2016 when on-air host Greg Garrison was nearing retirement and WIBC officials were contemplating what to do with the station’s lineup.

Hammer and Laskowski had been rock ’n’ roll DJs early in their careers. By 2016, Hammer was working as a promotions director at Emmis and Laskowski was doing on-air work for one of Emmis’ Terre Haute stations. They also were co-hosting their own interview-heavy entertainment-oriented podcast.

“We had the best fake radio show in the city,” Hammer said with a laugh. But on a serious note, he noted: “We were trying to find a station to put us on. We knew we could attract a strong audience. It was just a matter of finding someone to believe in us.”

Their current show requires a skill set much different from spinning records. Hammer and Laskowski say they do a minimum of four hours’ preparation for each show. “We’re in constant communication with each other, even when we’re off the air, discussing potential content for the show,” Hammer said.

Hosting a music shift on radio requires minimal talk between songs. “It got to the point I could step in the studio a minute before the show started with no preparation,” Laskowski said. “It was really just a matter of doing short intros and exits. What we do now requires a lot more thought and analysis. Of course, we’re not afraid to share our opinions, but we want to have an informed opinion.”

Laskowski, who started his broadcasting career at 18, had become well-known during a four-year stint ending in 2002 as the nighttime DJ on alternative rock station WOLT-FM 103.3. Hammer made his mark spinning tunes on Top 40 station WZPL-FM 99.5 from 2001 to 2010, where he also did some news and sports.

The two joined forces in 2012 when “The Hammer and Nigel Show” debuted on WOLT, where it gained a cult following. That iteration of the show, however, lasted only a little more than a year before it was cut for budgetary reasons.

Next-generation news-talk

Despite being intrigued by the idea of putting the duo on WIBC, Wood told Hammer and Laskowski that Indianapolis-based Emmis wasn’t interested in a replication of their podcast. He wanted something more news-driven, and agreed to give “Hammer and Nigel” a tryout of sorts in June 2016 with a weekend show.

“We heard there was skepticism” from Emmis higher-ups, Laskowski said. “But pretty early on, David Wood had complete faith in us.”

With many radio station owners trying to find the next-generation news-talk format, WIBC executives quickly realized they had found theirs.

“It became very obvious [during 2016] that these guys needed to be a part of the WIBC lineup,” Wood said. “They weren’t the traditional high-brow news-talk-show hosts. They were the guys next door, the guys you want to get your information from because you trust them. And by adding an element of entertainment, Hammer and Nigel have proven that news doesn’t have to be boring.”

That element has brought the show an audience much younger than the traditional news-talk format, which normally ranks higher with audiences over age 45 and stronger yet with audiences over 55. Advertisers are looking for an affluent-yet-active consumer, and that means listeners in their 20s to 50s, media buyers said.

In addition, Wood said, Hammer, who grew up in Beech Grove, and Laskowski, who hails from Lizton, “are very plugged into the community. They’ve been a part of this community their whole lives, so they’re dialed into it.”

“Hammer and Nigel” got off to such a good start that a national syndicator contacted Emmis about using the pair as fill-ins on national shows when those shows’ hosts were on vacation or hiatus.

Wood opted to rearrange WIBC’s lineup and slot “Hammer and Nigel” into afternoon-drive time in June 2017.

“That’s obviously an important time slot for any radio station, so it was a big decision,” Wood said. “Those guys haven’t let us down in any way.” There’s no thought currently to syndicating the show, he said, because it’s simply too local.

In central Indiana, it has attracted a variety of advertisers, including financial services firms, travel agencies, home improvement companies and others, Wood said.


Ad buyers most often buy bundles of 30-second radio advertisements. Buyers told IBJ that spots on “Hammer and Nigel” run $100 to $300 apiece, based on how big a package an advertiser buys. One buyer called that pricing “strong.” “The demand for advertising has been outstanding,” Wood said. “That’s a big part of the reason why we’re expanding the show.”

While Wood would like to see “Hammer and Nigel” continue to expand its audience, station executives are being careful not to broaden the appeal too much. “If we focus on the core, we’ll likely draw in people on the fringe,” Wood said. “If you try to attract everyone, you end up attracting no one.”

Hammer and Laskowski have no intention of altering their show’s formula. Hammer called Trump “the gift that keeps on giving.” “Because there’s been a four-year buildup of vitriol, the 2020 election is going to be 2016 times 100,” Laskowski said.

It’s “going to be a circus,” Hammer added. “And we’re ready to roll.”

Hammer and Nigel On Facebook


SOURCE: IBJ

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Masonic Lodge hopes to save historic items

Beech Grove, IN (July 17, 2019) — The Beech Grove Masonic Lodge is hoping to salvage a big piece of presidential history after a large fire destroyed a substantial portion of their building. Fire broke out at about 3:00 AM, July 8th at Beech Grove Lodge 694 on the south side of Indianapolis.

The fire damaged most of the second floor, including the roof and attic. “The first floor has severe water damage and will probably need to be completely gutted,” said Kevin Upshaw, Master of Beech Grove Masonic Lodge.

A few valuable pieces of history got caught in the flames, including remnants of a visit by U.S. President Harry Truman.

“October 15th 1948, president Harry Truman visited Beech Grove lodge — We still use that chair that Harry Truman sat in, and it's really special to us,” Worshipful Master Kevin Upshaw said.


Beech Grove Lodge is noteworthy in Indiana’s Masonic history, as well as to the cultural heritage of the fraternity. In 1948, President Harry S Truman famously snuck away from the press during a campaign stopover in Indianapolis to attend the Master Mason degree of Donald Bauermeister, a young sailor from Indiana who was his physical therapist on board the Presidential Yacht back in Washington.


The President was crisscrossing the Midwest on a whistle stop campaign tour, and was traveling through Indiana at the time. Don and his father had attended Truman’s stump speech in Kokomo earlier in the day, and were invited by the President to ride in his private railroad car the rest of the way into the city. While underway, Truman suddenly informed his staff that he wished to visit the Beech Grove Masonic lodge that evening.

Harry Truman was an enthusiastic Freemason. Before becoming President in 1945, Truman had served as Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Missouri, and remained an active supporter of the fraternity all his life.
 

Rumors of the President’s ‘secret’ trip to Beech Grove that night spread like wildfire, especially among the railroad community. The Secret Service had taken pains to convince the press that Truman had gone to bed early aboard his train at Union Station, and even used a body double decoy to convince them. Nevertheless, over a thousand people gathered in the streets outside of the lodge to try to catch a glimpse of the President entering the Masonic Hall at 7th and Main Streets.

Truman was famously on a campaign stop when he snuck away from the press to attend the Master Mason degree ceremony of a young sailor from Indiana who was his physical therapist on board the Presidential Yacht. Eventually, many of the items he touched and used during the ceremony would become part of the lodge’s history and lore.

Plaque outside the lodge

"By the time the president showed up here, there were 1,000 people in the streets surrounding this wanting to catch a glimpse of the president. It is an example of national history, because even today, it's very unusual for a president to suddenly say, 'Hold it, I want to go and do this,'" associate director for the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana Chris Hodapp said.

Everything from the “master’s chair” Truman sat in to items he used instantly became invaluable to the lodge. Now, many of those items are charred or covered in smoke and ash. Members of the lodge haven’t had the chance to evaluate all of the damage due to the building being unsafe.

He arrived just before the second section of the degree began, and nearly three hundred Masons packed into the lodge room, the social areas, and even lined the staircase. Because Masonic degree rituals are considered secret, Truman’s non-Mason security agents were not permitted to actually enter the lodge room during the ceremony. Forced to wait nervously outside, the President assured them he was in the safest possible place on Earth.

Inside, Truman was invited to preside over the ceremony, and sat in the Master’s chair. When asked how he wanted to be formally introduced to the gathered members and visitors, he humbly declined the presidential title and instead asked to be identified simply as a Past Grand Master of Missouri.

Monday's blaze started on the second floor near the East in the lodge room, and authorities have determined the fire was caused by an electrical problem. Thankfully, there were no injuries. The lodge room and about a third of the roof and attic area are a total loss, but the flames were confined to those areas by the closed Tyler's and Preparation room doors.


The present hall of Beech Grove Lodge was dedicated in 1942. Because of the major structural loss and tremendous water and smoke damage, it is expected that the building will be gutted and rebuilt, but the exterior facade will be retained. Charters of the lodge and the Eastern Star chapter were both consumed by the fire. On Wednesday members and work crews were hurriedly attempting to remove all surviving paper records and any other salvageable items, as the building is now unstable.

Papers and Records. Photo: Free Mason For Dummies 

Members of the lodge report that the famous meeting’s 1948 register book with the President’s signature suffered smoke damage from the fire, along with original photographs from the event. The Master's chair that President Truman sat in is currently buried under the collapsed portion of the roof beams, but a preliminary look holds out the possibility that it can be salvaged.

Upshaw says they’re still waiting on damage totals, but estimates are well within the tens of thousands of dollars. He says they plan to rebuild, but first must take stock of everything. Until then, they’re relying on the help of other lodges to get them through.

“We’ll keep going, and we’ll be back in there. It’s not the furniture that makes the lodge, it’s the brothers,” Upshaw said

SOURCE: Fox59
SOURCE: FreeMasonForDummies

Beech Grove High School Graduate Paints Mural

Noblesville, IN (July 17, 2019) — Sunday afternoon, Betsy Reason, the editor of The Times in Noblesville, Indiana received a news tip that an artist was painting a mural of a train under the railroad bridge, on the underpass wall, near the Forest Park boat launch in Noblesville.

So she grabbed her camera and headed that way.

After parking her car in the Son Shine Service lot on the south side of the bridge, she nervously walked north alongside the busy Indiana 19 and under the bridge until she was in sight of an artist painting the underpass wall.


His blond hair was tied back in a ponytail, and he wore a do-rag and headphones. She assumed he was listening to his favorite music.

The mural that he was painting -- of the Leviathan steam locomotive No. 63, in red, black and gold, exiting from a block railroad tunnel -- was beautiful.

He caught a glimpse of the journalist before she climbed over the guard rail, but he kept painting. She walked up closer to admire his work. By that time, he had removed his headphones.

She introduced herself, then he.

The 46-year-old mural artist was Travis Neal of Broad Ripple, and he was selected from applicants who responded to a Noblesville Parks & Recreation and Hamilton County Tourism/Nickel Plate Arts open callout for a commissioned mural artist.

The original concept started as a “White River monster,” he said, “a tall tale from the 1800s of a Loch Ness-style sea serpent” lurking in White River. The City wasn’t thrilled with the concept, so decided to change the theme. “So we went with the train,” Neal said, describing the Leviathan, a re-creation of the Lincoln Funeral Train, which stopped in Noblesville five years ago.

He started painting the mural Saturday morning, doing all of the blocking in and shading. The color work started Sunday. He was hoping to finish it up over the weekend. However, the sun became too intense on the mural before he could finish. So he’ll return again soon to complete the project.

“The detail work is taking a little longer than I anticipated,” Neal said of the 16-by-10-foot wall mural that may be a little wider.

The prep work included a masonry primer and pressure washing the wall. Darren Peterson, president of Nickel Plate Arts, an architect, artist and member of Noblesville City Council, volunteered his time to help prep the wall and gridded out the blockwork, to make it look like blocks, around the opening of the mural’s railroad tunnel. Peterson worked the early part of Saturday and Sunday with the mural artist.

‘The train’s all me,” Neal said proudly.

He answered interview questions between the sound of passing traffic under the railroad bridge. “Trucks are a nuisance,” he said, shaking his head. A few minutes later, he said, “The canoe buses are a nuisance. They go too fast, and they are really, really loud,” as one of the buses passed.

But he likes the spot. “I’m pretty thankful that I’ve been able to work in the shade. The traffic is kind of a pain in the neck, but it does provide a breeze.”

Neal said he’s enjoyed painting the mural. “It’s a labor of love. If I could do this full time, I would be a very happy boy. Every project is a new adventure, new challenges. I really enjoy that,” said the artist, who researched the train to figure out how to best portray the locomotive, which the City approved before starting on the wall.

“With shade like this, it will practically last forever, especially with the extra UV coat on it,” he said.

In total, he expects to put in 20-24 hours painting the mural.

While there has been a lot of traffic passing by, he said, some drivers have stopped. “Lots of people. People are very gracious.”

Mural artist Travis Neal of Broad Ripple has painted a steam locomotive train mural under the railroad bridge that crosses Indiana 19, between downtown Noblesville and Forest Park.

Neal has been an artist all of his life. “The mural thing kind of took off when I moved into my house in 2000 and painted my dining room wall kind of a tribute to my mom, a 12-foot-wide reproduction of (Vincent van Gogh’s) ‘Starry Night.’ Ever since my first taste of working large scale, that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

In summer 2018, he painted “Aquarium Surprise,” a cat looking in an aquarium, a wrap-around mural on the traffic control box at 116th Street and the pocket park in Fishers. He has painted murals all over the state, including Sailor Jerry murals, for bars and restaurants, all unique to each establishment, including the Free Spirit Lounge in Indianapolis. He does a lot of commercial work, particularly reproductions of logos.

The mural business is mainly weekend work. During the week he manages a Signarama sign shop in Carmel. Neal, an Indianapolis native, graduated from Beech Grove High School. He’s a member of One Zone Chamber of Commerce that serves Carmel and Fishers, spends a lot of time on Geist Reservoir and golfs often in Hamilton County. He has a wife, Carole, of 25 years in September, and they have three cats.

The project carried a commission and materials fee of $1,000 for completion and installation of the artwork on the wall. Noblesville Parks & Recreation and Nickel Plate Arts made the final selection from artists who submitted their applications by May 16.

This “art installation” of the Leviathan steam locomotive would “help drive local engagement,” “beautify the boat launch area” and “serve as a local landmark,” the callout said on the Nickel Plate website.

Neal agreed to collaborate with the Noblesville parks staff to confirm a design that would be “community friendly” and “ideally ties into Noblesville history, Indiana history and/or the local community.”

“I think Travis was the perfect fit to this project. It’s a project that is physically really challenging because of its location,” said Aili McGill, executive director for Nickel Plate Arts in Noblesville. Being that there were a few entities involved, and the design changed from the first mural mockup, and it became a little trickier to implement, she said, “Travis has just the right personality to balance all of that, and he also has all of the skills we wanted. He’s incredibly talented.” She’s hoping that other artists who applied can be worked into future projects.

Over the weekend, social media was abuzz with comments on the Nickel Plate Arts’ Facebook post, picturing Neal and Peterson working on the mural together.

The majority of the Facebook comments were positive about the art.

But there were some who asked why the Leviathan reproduction was chosen over a locomotive that might have been more relevant to Noblesville and Hamilton County history.

That is a legitimate question.

So she asked McGill, who elaborated more about how the mural was originally going to be the river monster, “since that spot is so close to the river. Connecting the boat launch to Forest Park, that could be fun.” But the monster didn’t embody what the City wanted to say in that spot on the wall and asked for another mural proposal. “Because a river monster is a leviathan, we started playing with the idea of commemorating the Lincoln train that happened a couple of years ago.”

McGill said, “Looking at all of the locomotives that we could that depicts the history of the Nickel Plate Railroad, it was just going to be endless. We were a little concerned that we weren’t going to get all of the details right to make everybody happy. So we decided to do a train that’s been on those tracks, just not one that is specifically connected to the Nickel Plate Rail.”

The City has an ordinance that murals cannot be advertisements.

While the Leviathan mural may “not make those (Facebook) commentators happy,” she said, “We didn’t want this to appear to be a sign advertising actual train rides in the park.”

McGill said, “I am fairly certain that we’ll have other pieces that we’ll connect to the history of the railroad in Noblesville. We just don’t have them solidified yet.”

A dedication and celebration of the mural will be announced by the City of Noblesville soon after the mural is completed.

Visit Travis Neal on Facebook below:


SOURCE: The Times

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