It’s 11:26pm on a Tuesday night in March. By the time we’re done talking, it’ll be Wednesday. There’s that to look forward to.
I know you hear this a lot, but the world is spinning at a frantic pace. We’re hurling through space in what could be our last days. I’m serious. That’s how I feel. How about you?
Did I ever tell you that I have a sister who works at WJOB? Her name is Jennifer. She’s like my other sister, Allison, and two brothers, Jeff and Brian. They don’t have any interest in bringing attention to themselves. They don't come on the radio and appear rarely in this blog.
I was like that for a long time. As a trader, I didn’t want anyone to look at me unless it was a broker from across the pit.
“Here, look at me. Give me the trade. I am greedy and I am hungry and I want to buy a nice car.”
Sometimes the broker would see me and give me the trade. Sometimes the trade wouldn’t work out at all. A couple times I lost all of our money and had to ride the train home to tell my wife. That sucked,
But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that on the train ride home, I felt peace. I’m not kidding. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Both times, it was sunny. Despite losing everything, I had hope. One time I gave ten bucks to the guy who plays Beatles at the Van Buren station. That was extravagant. I felt free.
It doesn’t feel so good, though, when you have kids. That may have been what brought me to my senses. All of the sudden, we couldn’t sign my stepson up for youth baseball. We skimped on taking the girls to the doctor.
“Come on, Alexis. It’s not THAT high of a temperature.”
I don’t know why I’m talking about this. It’s 11:33 on a Tuesday night. It got cold again. When it’s cold and still like tonight, there is always the call of a faraway train. It blows its horn. And the woodchuck chucks and the heater turns on every few minutes. Better wear socks to bed.
My sister Jennifer and I went to see our grandmother today. She’s in a nursing home. I have been putting this off for a while. So has my sister and our other siblings. It’s a pretty good home and all, and I realize that in the condition she’s in that grandma has to be there. But I miss her already and she’s not even gone.
Maybe she’s a little gone. She had trouble placing my sister and me until it was time to leave. I kissed her on the head. So did my sister. Then grandma reached up to touch Jenny’s hand.
“Where you kids going?”
“We’re going shopping, grandma.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Then take me with you, goddamit.”
She’s 98 or 97 or 99. I can’t remember. She has outlived three husbands, three children and whole generations. My brothers and I can drink a lot of whiskey, if called upon. But we could never outdrink grandma.
…. I told the three or four of you the other day that I felt some sadness at our success in bringing the Indiana high school boys basketball tournament to Facebook Live video. We’re at 110,000 views for last week’s games. Although I’ve invested a lot into streaming video, I didn’t intend for it to break the bond between radio and high school basketball.
That’s one radio sadness. Here’s another.
I remember the day that the Loop came on the air. I was on the way to Hegewisch Records in a Buick. We were all excited to have a new rock station. We cranked the new Who album all the way there. When we got to the record store, I went straight The Who section and bought the new album. It was the Loop’s doing.
I don’t know what’s happening to radio. It’s not entirely dying. It is turning into something different. Christian rock is big. EMF will do well with the change.
But what about longtime radio people? Where are they to go? What does the future hold for the radio people who work for me? What does the future hold for me? Radio is changing and everyone associated with it better figure that out real fast. This is a warning for anyone who thinks they’re gonna do a show and just expect to get paid for it. Those days are over. Something new is taking over. I don’t what is next. But I do know that whatever is next will require a whole new set of skills.
Since the Loop is only garnering a 2.9% market share, you may not know that Erich Mancow Muller was on in the morning. He’s a Chicago rock jock shock legend.
“Lots of great folks will be without a job and that’s very sad,” Muller said.
This makes me think about my own students. And the young people who are coming to WJOB to learn radio. Today, a new kid showed up. Will Hatczel. He studies communications at Ball State University and he’s into radio.
Am I doing the right thing by encouraging him to learn the craft of the spoken word? Am I doing my Sports Broadcasting students right by teaching them how to host talk shows, do play-by-play, do sports updates, produce game coverage? What about the young people who work for me? We come together for an unspoken purpose – to make beauty at this 94-year-old radio station. But what is the future?
A couple of you may be surprised by my doubts. After all, I’m investing bigtime in streaming video. It’s starting to work. I may make a lot of money on it one day.
And I could, in the end, give us our own television network. It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. It could help our image of ourselves. We stand in the shadow of Chicago. They’re good. We’re nothing. That’s the general sense of things.
With our own video presence, we can walk about with a little more confidence. I could help bring this to my home. This is not nothing.
But I worry about my old friend, radio. Radio has always been there for me and, if you’re reading this, most likely for you, too.
As a confused youth in the 70s, I would listen in bed to John Records Landecker play Beatles songs into the night. I’d listen to Stan Makita and Bobby Hull score goals for the Hawks. On summer afternoons, there was Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau telling us that even though the Cubs lost today, Ernie Banks would be at the park again tomorrow. That’s all you needed.
At Berkeley, there was music, for sure, on the radio. But I would stick a transistor under my pillow at night and listen to people in San Francisco talk. After Berkeley, I got a job at WJOB and that has made all the difference.
It’s one thing to say that I’m writing this blog because radio is dying and I want to catch the transition. It’s another thing altogether when it happens for real.
That’s what Chicago radio icon Steve Dahl said today. It’s 12:05am on Wednesday. Good night.