This hopeless radio industry romantic gets slapped every now and then

I spent the mid-80s to early 1990s in Oklahoma City radio. Gawd I loved it. I had so much fun. I just yearned to work in the business. I was a receptionist at a print company, which led me to a job at an ad agency, which led me to a job in radio. I saw some amazing things. I learned and lived some really great music. I met a few stars from Def Leppard to the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island, who was in town for a boat show. He was so aged and almost choked to death on some food before his radio interview. And yes, he was wearing his signature blue shirt, white pants and skipper’s hat. And I will always love Elvis… always. This could be a whole other blog on its own. It was good times but there were also mean, back stabbing, heart breaking bad times. I choose to think of the good until something cruel pops up in the news. I do try to see both sides – as a business owner in a tough industry and for those survivors of it who think they couldn’t ever do anything else but radio until they are forced to.

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I was laid off in 1993 for the third time because there was yet another merger and takeover. I just said ‘that’s it, I’m out!’ Plus I just had no other options at other radio stations. I pulled together a resume and realized the skills I had were pretty good on paper. That perhaps this was my answer to not having a college degree on my resume. I also invested in a women’s 3-piece navy business suit that I would wear out and about. Today it would suffocate me. The next thing I know I’m hired to do corporate communications for an engineering and architecture firm. Those sweet, kind, very intelligent architects and engineers took me off the streets of unemployment and gambled on hiring me. Of course I had to change my entire wardrobe and tone down my, well … tone. I did not do well in an open office atmosphere that was for sure. I’ve got great projection that can annoy the silent types.

There was great excitement and yet apprehension when a local radio/media family bought a very successful radio group from out-of-state owners. I’m not going to name companies but many will know who I am talking about. Plus I don’t want it to seem like I’m trashing them. I understand there’s a bottom line with all businesses. I admire this family a lot.

There was joy at the announcement. The dad of the family was THE 1970s to 1980s radio media guru. Country radio ruled and they owned one of the greatest country stations Oklahoma City ever had.  He was a creative genius who was always right on. Everyone loved him dearly. He had a great family he raised well and in the business. The 80s were opulent and lavish. Fabulous parties were thrown every time an Arbitron book came out. The country station had an annual party and everyone was invited, including competitors. He was, and I’m going to say, still is (even though I haven’t seen him in years) admired by many. If I’m not mistaken, the 1980s oil bust possibly really hurt the revenue of the radio station. They too had their hard time. They kept diversified with evolving their sign company, tapped into the growing Hispanic market, became developers and so on. There should really be a book written on this family. It’s a great story.

Flash forward to this purchase – some thought maybe the local ownership would … well I don’t know what everyone thought but you always want to support local ownership, especially for radio. It’s just unheard of. So there was a thought that it would go back to a little bit of what it was like when there was local ownership but times are really different for radio with everything internet. Oh yeah, that’s right – they didn’t have all that back then. So yes, the ugly dark, mean side of radio reared its head.

The great thing about Facebook is I’ve found almost all my ole’ radio friends. I knew the day the hammer came down. The story of how it happened was upsetting. It was the last day of ownership for the former owner. They called in eleven people to a conference room and bang bang bang. It was a blood bath firing line, to be dramatic. Three people I know dearly were informed they were getting let go in front of the others. The others that survived had to be sick to their stomach for their colleagues but also that they came so close to being let go too. Why couldn’t they give respect to them and tell them privately? Two of them worked there for 20+ years.

With my new freelance gig I had grand romantic thoughts that I would like to have a small part-time job in radio either selling time or managing social media but then I get this reminder.

Now that the damage has been done to these three people I want to remain upbeat and positive for both sides. Yes – both. I may sound a little wise but I’ve been there. They will go on a spiritual journey, trying to find meanings to things … as small as watching ice skaters and not having to promote being there. And they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to. Think about it – you go on the air for 3-4 hours daily and more for so many years … they should become monk-like and not speak for a day or something silly. They’ll come out on the other side smelling like roses. Doesn’t America love a great comeback story? I do!

To the radio owners I wish them success because I love this business dearly. I hope they can evolve successfully with the changes they’re thrown every day. I’d really like them to offer more local business programming on their AM side at least and get rid of the mean talk radio shows that have just become insane. We need more positive local programming on radio that can advise on improving our lives. The Dave Ramsey show gives great financial advice, unlike a Rush Limbaugh show on a competitor of theirs. I think it would be successful if marketed and packaged properly- but then again, I don’t own a radio station but … if I were to win this $400+ million I would definitely buy a radio station and do whatever I want with it… Leslie’s OKC FM, get inspired! … Stay tuned ..

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2 thoughts on “This hopeless radio industry romantic gets slapped every now and then

  1. Really enjoyed your overview, Leslie. Having been fortunate enough to spend the past 40 years on the air, I appreciate your attitude. I have to admitt, I have a VERY course attitude toward the “consolidate -cutback” style of radio which has been happening these days. Buy a bunch of stations and start firing people and cutting the salaries of those who remain. Just a sick and WRONG methodology. In doing so, local radio is being destroyed. The industry ‘wonders’ why Pandora and other satellite style formats are growing. Duh!!…When you completely destroy the local element of your radio broadcasts, the local listeners have no reason to support it. These companies who are purchasing local stations need to keep in miind – The reason the radio station was such an expensive investment in the first place was a result of those hard working people putting in hundreds of hours, busting their asses to gain an audience. They ARE the ones who made the radio station profitable; Thus, being the reason these companies have to pay vast sums of money to purchase the radio stations.
    Then, these new ‘buyer’s’ way of saying “thanks” to those hard workers is to lay-off and cut salaries. A great motivator.
    On the other hand, I always enjoyed working with you, Leslie. You were very fun and yet very professinoal at the same time.

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