“He is slow, but he’s deliberate.”
That’s what a guy named Ron Johnson once said about me. I believe that Ron was frustrated that I wasn’t moving WJOB and The Calumet Press, a newspaper I once owned, toward establishing a larger news department.
“You’ll get where you want to go, Jim. But it’s gonna take a long time.”
I agree with Ron’s assessment. It was a similar message that my mom gave me 30 years ago as she was dying. She stole it from a Nike commercial.
“Jimmy. Just Do it.”
I was working for a trading firm at the Chicago Board of Trade and I was thinking about going off on my own to be an independent pit trader – a local. Eventually, after my mom died, I did just that. This decision made all the difference.
It must be painstaking for the three or four of you to ride alongside on this journey through transitions. There are basically three transitions that I write about:
Radio – It surely is dying, and I write this blog so that one day a team of students at a small liberal arts college on the East coast could answer the question – “What was it like to live a life of local radio?”
WJOB – This is a heritage radio station, which means it is one of the originals. We mean a lot to the Calumet Region of Indiana and Illinois. We broadcast daily live shows and we cover emergencies. We do high school games, parades and elections. But the world is changing. Much of what we did in the past has shifted to the internet. This is a blog about what that shift means for WJOB.
Me – For the past 13 years, I have been a manager, talk show talent and creator for WJOB, which has changed because radio itself is changing. How should I grade myself in these endeavors?
As a manager, I’ll give myself a C, if that. I am a bad manager. I manage through the shiny object method. That’s when a bird flies around and sees a shiny object and flies for that. Then there’s another shiny object, and it flies for that. The bird never reaches any of the shiny objects, but she does exert enough energy to be hungry at the next meal. I hope that makes sense.
A note on my managerial lack of expertise - I did go back to grad school a few months ago to get my MBA. Maybe that’ll help.
As a talk show talent, I’ll take a B. As a matter of fact, today is September 23rd. Tomorrow will mark my tenth year of doing the morning show on WJOB. I did a lot of radio previous to that – all the way back to 1985 – but for this show in this time slot, it’s been ten years tomorrow. Woo hoo.
My strengths as a morning host are pretty much the same things you read in this blog. I meander well. I really don’t transition from one topic to another in that what I talk about on the radio is all one big topic – the Calumet Region. I could be talking about a guy having sex with chickens one minute, and a few moments later I’m reminding people about the parade coming up on Saturday. Within the meandering, spoken or written, you can tell that I love the Calumet Region, everything about it… from the industry along the Lake to the mill rat mowing his lawn in black socks and tennis shoes on the hottest day of the year. I love Purdue, the Borman, the bike trails and Strack and Van Til’s. The list goes on, but mostly it’s that I love talking to the people of the Calumet Region. It is the love that keeps me from getting a C or a D as a talk show talent.
Love and meandering. These are my strengths. My weaknesses as a talent are similar to my weaknesses as a manager – I have no focus. I don’t prep. I just put on a wireless microphone and stand out on Indianapolis Boulevard in the morning and start talking. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, but a little foresight into the whole process could probably do me some good.
“C” as a manager.
“B” as a talk show talent.
How should I grade myself as a “creator?”
How does this sound – “incomplete?”
I get the sneaking feeling that if I have any real deep talent at all, it’s in this area. I’m starting to hear a calling inside, and it’s not just to shore up WJOB and to do a solid morning show. It’s something deeper, more purposeful. I don’t know what that is specifically, but I can sense that I need to make some time to find out.
As I’ve mentioned to the three or four of you who read this blog – thanks for not telling any friends, by the way. This cloak of anonymity seems to work well for all of us involved. – I’m working on an app. Actually, I’m working on creating a few things.
These are things that I’m working on for myself, outside of the station. It has taken more than a dozen years, but the station, more than at any other time that we’ve owned it, runs itself as well as it can.
I’m back to sitting at my dying mom’s bedside. Back then, I asked – should I go off on my own to trade independently? Or should I stay working for the trading firm?
I ask the three or four of you similar questions – should I put my efforts into building WJOB? Or should I build something separate on my own?
These are tough questions. And I share them with you because that’s what this blog is about – sharing with you the transitions in radio, WJOB, and Me. My struggles are part of the story.
There is a certain danger in showing too much. People can use my words against me, or at least try to. There are people in this world who would like to advance their own existences, and to do that, they would like to see harm or something close to it come to me. I absorb this. Competitors, angry listeners, politicians, regulators, and former girlfriends fall into this category, with others.
But I think it’s too important for future broadcasting students at a small liberal arts college on the East Coast of the United States that I don’t hold much back. I gotta show it to you as it happens. And if anyone wants to use what I have to write here against me, please note this disclaimer – This blog is for entertainment purposes only. Some names are changed to protect the flippant. And the veracity of the contents of this blog cannot be verified.
Where I want to take this is to write enough words to the three or four of you that I start to figure out where I want to go with radio, writing, video, podcasting, inventing and learning. There’s a lot to do and only so much time to do it. I’m late. I’m late… for a very important date.
A lot of, dare we say it, “artists” come to this point. Look to music. Neil Young left CSNY several times and came back. Jerry Garcia went off on his own and still did the Grateful Dead. Natalie Merchant, Sting, McCartney. Rock and roll history is filled with artists who for one reason or another strayed from their original band… and they may or may not have come back.
I, too, strayed from my original trading firm. A guy named Dennis Flynn gave me my start, and you can imagine the stink he made when I walked into his office and told him – “Dennis, I’m going off on my own to trade. I quit.”
Now what’s under consideration right now does not involve quitting WJOB. I own the responsibility of stewarding the spirit. I love radio and I love WJOB. It is my home, our home. I must do all that I can to protect its existence and to fortify it.
But what if to do this best means that I have to disengage a little?
That’s where I’m at right now. I hear the calling that I should work on some things that don’t have to do with overseeing daily operations at WJOB. Let Debbie and Ryan do it. There is something calling me, and whatever it is, it requires some time to figure out what it is. I feel a pull to explore:
I sense that my near-term destiny is in these five activities. Or maybe by exploring, I’ll find out that it’s not.
That’s where I’m at. On this eve of my tenth anniversary of doing the morning show on WJOB, I contemplate my future. I see it including the morning show. But I also see something else out there. What it is, I don’t really know. But I’d sure like to rearrange My Radio Life so that I can find out.