12:37am on a Wednesday
Alexis had a Hispanic Bar Association meeting, so I went to longtime sponsor Giovanni's Restaurant for a plate of baked trout and asparagus and then came home and went to sleep by 7pm. That's the life of a rough and tumble Midwestern morning radio host.
The only problem with going to bed that early is that you wake up in the middle of the night alone. There's only the three or four of you to talk to.
Yesterday's show was almost exclusively centered on Donald Trump's remarks about a local guy, Judge Gonzalo Curiel. He's the guy from the Indiana Harbor section of East Chicago who's now a federal judge in southern California. Trump says he's biased because he's Mexican. That's started an uproar, charges of racism and judicial tampering even from Republicans.
Verlie Suggs joined me as "co-host," and since she holds some pretty strong anti-Trump views - and she doesn't back down from anyone - it made for some pretty contentious radio. A lotta new callers. I don't know if they're coming to the show because of the new FM station... or from the Facebook Live video posts. But they're coming from somewhere.
Afternoon host Ron Harlow sent me this text this evening (while I was asleep).
"I def think we get a spike in listeners with Facebook Live. Folks that never listened did today."
... We're certainly in a period of transition. On Friday, we added the new FM station. On Monday, I started up the "JED's afternoon Region update." It got about 400 views on Facebook the first day. It's not radio. It's me talking in the late afternoon about what's going on to Facebook Live viewers. I don't know where we're going with this. It could be another one of these things that I start and then finish a couple of months later. For now, allz I know is that I like doing it.
... Another thing that's new is that I'm weening from hosting the "Community Programming Initiative." This is the late-morning slot in which we sell time to people who want to come on the radio. Mostly it's towns and cities and the Sheriff and a few businesses. They come in, I talk to them on the radio about their city or organization, they pay us, and then we go on to the next one. We have about two per day and after 8am I have for several years hosted them.
But now Sam Michael hosts many of the shows. Or the people host it themselves. Some of the shows started hosting their own a while ago, like Janet Venecz of the Edison Crime Watch or Matt Baker of Financial Perspectives. Dave Kusiak hosts his own, and Kevin Smith hosts the mayor of Hammond's show. Steve Kavish hosts the Making Finance Personal for the guys from Oak Partners. Tom Dabertin hosts the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce show.
Past that, though, I have hosted many of the shows for years. The School City of Hammond, the Munster show, the Highland show, the Whiting show, the Teamsters show, the East Chicago show, the Vyto's Pharmacy show, the Haven House Show, etc. My routine has been to do a regular radio show from 5:30am to 8am and then do another hour or more of hosting the Community Programming Initiative. It's a program that I developed during the recession years that kept money coming in to the station - and got a bunch of people from the community on the air. The CPI worked. But in the end after being on the air sometimes for four and a half hours, you burn out. You don't have much left in the tank to run your business effectively and, god forbid, think of and try new things.
Like writing this blog. Do you think I wanna sit down and spit out pages for the three or four of you after hosting four and a half hours of radio? I love radio, you know that. And I love this Calumet Region of Indiana and Illinois. But if you think about it, hosting radio is like being at a cocktail party and for four hours straight you gotta think of something to say to the person next to you so that there's not that awkward silence known as "Dead Air." It can be exhausting.
So station manager Debbie and financial manager Jennifer (my little sister) and producer Ryan - otherwise knows as "the big three" that tell me what to do at WJOB, along with "la jefe," my wife Alexis - have finally allowed me to give up the reigns of the Community Programming Initiative.
We sent out an email last month and talked with many of the clients to let them know that I won't be hosting their shows anymore. We'll provide them a different host, but other than in special situations, I won't be hosting.
Sam Michael, a recent graduate of Purdue Calumet who produces the video in the morning, is hosting many of the shows. He did a good job yesterday hosting the Munster show with councilwoman Leigh Anne Mellon and councilman Dave Nellans. And Sam also hosted the Teamsters show with, I believe, sec-treasurer Richard Knipp, along with Larry Regan and Harvey Jackson. Debbie Wargo is hosting a few, too.
It's a good opportunity for Sam. He does a little homework for each show and comes up with an outline of what to talk about. I never did that. The people would just sit down and we'd start talking. Most of the time that laissez faire attitude toward show prep would work in that we could josh our way through the topics. But in the end you gotta give each show its due. And with everything else going on, I haven't been doing that for the last year or so. It's time for some new energy in the Community Programming Initiative.
... In other radio news - selling. When Ken Rutkowski flew in from LA and came straight to the studio to do the show on Monday, he said during every break that he wanted to talk about the importance of sales to any business. But when we started up with the show live, somehow we never made it to that topic.
That, of course, as the three or four of you know, is by design. I steered to other topics, specifically getting Ken or, later, Garry Meier to talk about the things they've done and learned. We never got to sales.
The reason for that? I don't have much to add on that topic. Here's how we've done sales for the last few years since the recession - We do the best radio we can do and then we wait for people to call us to buy advertising. I'm not kidding. Remember when I hired that rather expensive yet qualified consultant to come in and tell us what to do to better manage our radio outfit?
He met with Debbie, me, Jen, Ryan... and then asked to talk to our sales department.
"What sales department?"
He couldn't believe that we existed without going out and trying to sell radio time. "This doesn't make any sense. How do you get money?"
"Ah, we wait for people to call us. And then we sign them up."
"You've got to be kidding me."
Said consultant suggested that if we were to hire just a couple of sales people we might be able to double our revenues. I thought about it for a second.
"So we'd have to have at least two more people working around here?"
"Yes. That would be a good start."
It's a matter of quality of life. Like I told the three or four of you before, I sold my soul for the legal tender before. Now, I just want to make something beautiful. And spending my day chasing dollars in other people's offices doesn't qualify for that.
At least it didn't. I spent a good portion of my day on Tuesday putting together big sales proposals. Part of that is that good people want to spend good money at our, now, two radio stations and even on our Facebook Live channel and Debbie and Jen and I are just so busy that we never getting around to sending them our rates or even a plan. That's negligent and bad business. I get that. But if I'm gonna show the three or four of you the good and the bad of My American, Radio Life, then I'm gonna have to admit to some things also.
And one thing I gotta admit to is that we don't know how to sell radio. Period. After 12 years of owning WJOB, we're still newbies when it comes to selling. That's what I didn't want to admit to Ken Rutkowski. That's why I used my awesome hosting skills to steer to something else.