It’s 4:48pm on a Wednesday, a rainy Wednesday. These are the days that remind you that you will live the next six months in wind, rain, cold and snow. The Grateful Dead had it right:
Run me out in the cold rain and snow…
I’m goin’ where those chilly winds don’t blow.
One of the places that the winds blow but they’re not usually chilly is Los Alamos, New Mexico. That’s where Alexis’s sister, Rose, and her husband, Brad, live. We visited them last year and I don’t know why but on days like today I think about climbing small mountains in the desert sun.
There’s cold and rain today, and I got an email from Rose in which she provided a succinct family update:
Hope you are doing well. Brad and I are doing great. The weather here is still pretty mild and sunny all the time.
I don’t believe that Rose is rubbing it in, but she could be. Rose and Brad are part of a group labeled “My Heroes” in that they chucked their lives here in the Region and opened up a bike and ski shop in Los Alamos. They work all of the time at it, but in the evenings there is rarely cold, rain, or snow.
p.s. I am one of the few who reads your blog. I always enjoy it!
This brings us to the point about who actually reads the story of My Radio Life. Sometimes one of the three or four of you will stop me in the canned goods aisle at Strack & Van Til’s and tell me that you read the blog. I appreciate that. But I suspect that a good portion of the three or four of you don’t live in the Region at all. I suspect that you used to but now you live somewhere else. Is that true?
My radio day started like any other.
5:30am – I start talking on Indianapolis Boulevard. I wear a wireless mike and roam on the sidewalk between the building and the boulevard. It’s raining and it’s windy. You can feel the chill – and the coming chill – in your bones.
6am – I go back in the building and start talking on the radio. Several people call. I can’t for the life of me remember what we talked about.
6:45am – Jeff Strack, the CEO of Strack & Van Til grocery stores, and Ashleigh, the Strack’s public relations person, come into the studio. They talk about raising $100,000 in two months for the Northwest Indiana Bank. It’s called the “Round Up” campaign. That’s when you round up your bill at the checkout counter for charity. If you’re bill was 83.14 and they ask – “Would you like to round up for the Northwest Indiana Food Bank?” You say, “OK.” And you wind up donating 86 cents to the Food Bank. How they can get to a hundred grand doing that is beyond me.
Let’s talk about Strack and Van Til’s for a second. They, of course, bought the naming rights to our studio and are one of our biggest clients. There’s 20 grocery stores, but, as you know, there used to be more. That’s because in the late 1990s the Strack and Van Til families sold most of their interest in the stores to a company called Central Grocers, which ultimately went bankrupt last year.
In comes Jeff Strack and Frank and Sam Van Til and some others… and they buy many of the stores back from the bankruptcy court. They were pitted up against Albertson’s grocery stores, which is huge nationwide, and they won. If you ever see a long magazine article about how all of this went down, read it. You won’t be disappointed.
7:25am – Al Hamnik, perhaps the longest-running sportswriter in Indiana, comes in. We talk about John Friend. He was my high school football coach who went on to be the athletic director at Purdue Cal (now Purdue Northwest) for a long time. There’s a big hullabaloo to honor him tomorrow night in the fitness center around the corner from the WJOB studios. I’ll be there backslapping all the old-timers. Al will be there, but he will be working.
“It’s the life of a sportswriter. You hurry up and do your interview and you wind up in a tiny cubby hole writing your article. There will be no socializing for me tomorrow. You know that world, Jim.”
Yes I do know what world. I wrote for The Times for five years doing exactly what Al talks about. I won’t be doing it tomorrow. I’ll be backslapping.
We also talked about Junior Bridgeman, the forward from the undefeated and state champion East Chicago Washington 1970 basketball team. Bridgeman went on the own a bunch of fast-food restaurants. Now he’s the head of bottling for Coca-Cola for America. Al told me that according to Forbes, Bridgeman is worth 600 million dollars.
That’s a lot of money. And as far as I can tell, Bridgeman is just a good guy. It’s a story that warms your heart and, as mentioned before, we are entering six months of darkness and cold, rain, and snow. So we could use it.
9:10am – The WJOB morning intelligencia, which includes:
… We run around the studio frantically to erect in about ten minutes a place for a live studio to come in. It’s the One Million Cups that we do every Wednesday. We don’t make any money on this, in case any of the three or four of you are asking, but sometimes what you’re doing is beyond money. That’ll make sense some day concerning One Million Cups.
Today a guy named Darrin…. showed his protopliers. It’s a multiuse tool that’s shaped vaguely like a side-opening pair of pliers. You can use it as a screwdriver, hammer, wire-cutter and more. Darrin is in the concept stage, meaning he hasn’t gotten to the point that he has a prototype for his protopliers yet. But he will. That’s why I host these get-togethers in our WJOB studios. It’s to connect Darrin with a local manufacturer who can help him get a few made. And then to find him funding.
If it all works out, eventually there will be a bunch of Darrins coming up with ideas and making them realities. The Region will be better off for it. You watch. Silicon Boulevard.
9:45am – Jesse James presents his idea to the live and online and radio audience. It’s a heated blanket you throw over your driveway so you don’t have to shovel. Jesse, like Darrin, is in the concept stage, meaning he doesn’t have any made yet. That’s why he comes to One Million Cups.
10:30am – We have a WJOB meeting of the people above. I tell them that Debbie and I are working on developing a budget and strategy for 2018. It comes down to a simple decision.
The issue is that for most of the 13 years that Alexis and I have owned WJOB, we have not actively gone out and sold advertising. I know that if a long-time radio person stumbles across this blog, he or she just gasped.
“How do you run a commercial radio station without a sales team?”
Believe me, we’ve asked ourselves this question a lot over the years. Enough people call us to buy advertising that, basically, we don’t have to have a sales team.
Also, when we need a little dough to get something done like build a digital vertical video streaming system, or we simply need a few grand for a couple of cameras, I go out and find it. It’s there.
The issue now is that we are not living up to our potential. We can debate why we have not done this, but the three or four of you already know the answer – it’s me.
I guess, if forced to admit it, that when I left trading at the Chicago Board of Trade, I wanted to re-center myself. A lot of guys came out of the Board of Trade and have not done well with their lives. I’m thinking that there was a bit of extended PTSD associated with the whole experiences of easy money, drugs, gambling, traveling and hard money. Hard money is when you lose all of your money and have to go find easy money again. I did that twice.
By the time that I left the Board of Trade, I just wanted to simplify things. So I bought a couple of struggling radio stations and a newspaper. We have all worked our asses off on both of these longstanding icons. It has been tough for a lot of people.
But for our family… the media – especially WJOB – have allowed me to hold it together. I know that that sounds a little dramatic, but that’s how it has gone. I truly believe that WJOB rescued me from a possible tumble into the abyss. A lot of guys I knew at the Board of Trade made that tumble. WJOB prevented mine.
Instead, I have resisted attempts to grow the stations beyond three full-time people (Debbie, Ryan and me) and a whole bunch of part-time people. it’s truly a village to make a radio station and we can all be proud of what WJOB has become, including the three or four of you.
What has to happen now is that we have to learn how to sell. Period. I don’t know how exactly that is going to happen. I don’t know anything about marketing and neither people on the team. We’re starting from scratch. I’ll keep you updated as it goes along.
Today, I went around the room to Ryan, Christina, Sam, Jimmy and Debbie, and we all spoke about what we think should happen to establish some marketing. They had some pretty good ideas. The prevailing theme is that we have to hire a marketing manager. As of today, that’s what Debbie and I gonna concentrate on – hiring a marketing manager.
There was another thing that came out of the meeting – that each of them wouldn’t mind selling advertising. They just don’t know how. I threw out the idea that on Mondays, Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, from 10am to noon, we man the phones. We all go to a corner of the offices and just call businesses and ask them if they would like to come by and see the studios and discuss what we have to offer. That would be asking communications people to help sell, but where is Les Nessman when you need him.
As mentioned a whole bunch of times, “My Radio Life” is about a radio guy in transition. We’re in transition from radio to video, from towers to fiber. There’s also the transition of me from radio junkie to businessman. I’m going to school for my MBA. I’m doing things that we’ve never done before like mapping out a budget and even a marketing strategy. My guess is that I will lead the group down a bunch of dead-end paths before we get it right.
But we will get it right. It just might take a while.
11:15am – I host the Bishop Noll show. It’s called “Noll Today.” BNI president Paul Mullaney does a couple of announcements and then we talk with Sean and Abigail. They’re freshman at Noll who are way into science. Sean built a little robot. Abigail built a shoe for people with cerebral palsy. I hope that one day one of them cures cancer.
Noon to 4pm – I know that there’s a ton of stuff to do, so please forgive me that I took a four-hour nap today. This hasn’t happened in years, but it’s the catch-all for exhaustion and a touch of a cold. I was walking out of the studio today after the show, and Hammond schools superintendent Dr. Walter Watkins was there.
“You have a cold,” Watkins said out of the blue.
“How’d you know?”
I ask this because one of the things you can never do as a radio host is to tell your audience that you don’t feel well. You can joke that you’re sore from playing basketball and that you’re getting old. And you can tell a funny story about stubbing your toe in the dark and waking your wife.
But you can’t tell them that you’re tired and cranky and feel like shit.
“I could just tell,” Watkins said.
And that comment disappointed me. I thought that I had been able to conceal the cold for several hours on the radio and on Facebook Live. But evidently not.
“You sound different,” Watkins said.
Maybe I did. You get that tunnel sound in your voice when you have a cold. No one else mentioned it. Either way, I laid on the bed to write you a blog and wound up falling asleep dreaming about marketing teams and New Mexico.
6:30pm – Shamari Walker and I are set to join others from Purdue Northwest to watch a live stream from the mother ship in West Lafayette. Ten students from up here – I’m one of them – have entered the Burton D. Morgan business model competition. They give away $100,000 in cash prizes. You present your idea or proof of concept and the judges choose who gets the money. Part of the process is to attend these workshops. For the last one, Shamari and I drove to W. Lafayette in the rain and got home around midnight. That sucked. So we’re eternally grateful that Purdue Lafayette is gonna stream the workshop to us up here in Hammond.
What is it that Shamari and I are entering in the competition? And who is Shamari again?
We are entering the HeyJED app. You know, the one that nobody’s using. It’s an app on your phone that lets you send me a message that can go on the air. That’s it for now. I think the app will change radio as we know it. No one else does, except maybe Shamari.
Shamari is the junior at Gavit High School who can write code like nobody’s business. I provide the vision for what to accomplish. Shamari maps it out and makes it happen. He’s 17 years old.
So that’s the synapsis of My Radio Life day so far. Sometimes I wonder why you and I keep going through this. There’s a lot of repetition. But as mentioned, I missed the boat in recording for historical sake the decline and fall and resurrection of the Chicago Board of Trade. There has been a long decline and the beginning of a fall for radio. But that’s only temporary. You watch, the three or four of you, radio will rise again.
And I’m gonna to do my part to see that it happens.