Local radio as we know it will at some point be absorbed into a digital black hole. Yes, this is sad. But it is inevitable and as with all deaths local radio will push through to another state. A continuous death by a thousand cuts and one day you look back and realize that are something entirely different.
It is not as if this is the first industry that I was a part of to die. As you know, for 18 years I traded in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade. I did really like to add and yell push sometimes and play with my gum. I was attracted to the action and the money like nobody's business but in the end I just really liked it. I didn't love it. So when I started to hear the footsteps that pit trading was gonna die and turn into something else... I fled rather than fought. I stepped aside rather than morph into a guy sitting at a computer with charts and algorithms and a black box... (click Read More below)
But in the end I didn't love pit trading as I do radio. Maybe you understand that, maybe you don't. My romance started lying in bed at night listening to pop hits on WLS and WCFL. The big 89. Larry Lujack. And going to bed listening to Bulls and Hawks games. Driving around with my grandpa or my dad listening to Cubs' games. And then there was WJOB in the morning. Every once in a while my mom would have it on while we got ready for school and the guys on the air - mostly all guys then - would talk about stuff that I knew. How cool was that. I've been in love with radio since I was six years old.
Can't say that about trading. Can't say much at all about pit trading, actually, since the Board of Trade slash Chicago Mercantile Exchange announced that they're essentially closing all the pits in July. Sad day but part of seeping from one state to another, like liquid to a gas, body to a spirit, and then back again to ice and subcutaneous rock. It's all just the same records playing over and over on a dusty turntable in the middle of the night.
So there. I just can't get it out of my head that I am again in an industry that is dying. Sorry all you lifelong local radio geeks, but you know it as well as I do that it's dying. I will as long as I live never forget that moment out by the pool at the Radio Convergence conference in San Jose, California. Talking to this radio lifer from Washington state about the changing industry, and somehow he slips in - "Yeah, well we've been trying to find the golden egg for 15 years at this conference..."
And I stopped him - "You mean to tell me that you've been doing this conference for 15 years."
"Oh yeah, maybe even longer than that. And we're still talking about the same stuff."
Yikes. That's when it really hit me - I'm in another dying industry. It's gonna die and what am I gonna do about it?
In a weird way, I could probably turn into one of the guys who stayed at the Board of Trade. I basically left in 2004 and never went back, but I get info through the grapevine about all the guys who stayed. And once in a while I'll run into one of them. And besides looking a lot older than when I left, which is natural, they have a deeper fatigue in their eyes. Fighting a death. You see it in a grandpa, an older uncle... the eyes are tired of the fight. They still make enough money to send their kids to private colleges and take trips around the world, but the eyes don't lie, even in the light of a late night Chicago bar.
So there. Will I eventually wind up with the tired eyes? Probably. I am a local radio guy just like the local radio guys of the 90s, 70s, 50s... maybe even before that. If you're in love with radio, you're also in love with being in love with radio. And that keeps you coming back for more even though you risk tired eyes.
I wake up at 422 to do a morning show. A zillion local people call me and tell me the traffic or their opinion or criticize me or argue or congratulate me and Alexis. It's always different and I am addicted. I wake up jonesing. Sometimes over the weekend I start feeling at little blue on Sundays, as if I'm waiting for a bus that's running late. Part of that Sunday evening blues goes back to sitting around the kitchen table as a kid with a pile of homework that I've been putting off for a week. That's a different kind of blues, though.
Mine stems, I believe, from the fact that I haven't been on the radio since Friday morning. It's Sunday today, but I probably won't get the radio blues tonight. I've been on the radio all weekend announcing games from the East Chicago sectional. And I can't tell you how much fun that was, especially since my alma mater pulled off a big upset to win and move on to the Regionals in Michigan City next weekend.
Anyhows, the radio blues hits me on three-day weekends also and on that rare occasion when Alexis and I go on vacation. After a while I just wanna do radio. After owning the station for 11 years now, I just can't wait for the next morning show, the next high school game to announce. The most peaceful moment of my day is when I open the door to the station and start the teapot. Showtime, baby. No mo' blues.