It’s rare when you have an opportunity to create something new. Build something from scratch. And I’m about to embark on my third and fourth at WJCT.
I was the first news director hired by the station. Up until shortly before I arrived, the station had been largely classical music. David Anderson was brought in to make the change over to a news/talk station, and that move has been successful by any measure. The audience had more than doubled, and fundraising has nearly tripled. Expenses have gone up, too, but we I think we stack up against almost any station in a comparable market. We’re doing pretty well.
I mention that because we held the station 50th anniversary open house today, and It was really great to have so many people come through the studios and mention that they either hear me on the radio or watch me on television. It’s nice affirmation.
So, as the first news director, I basically built a news department from the ground up. I can honestly say that, everything that the WJCT news department is, I’ve at least had a hand in. A lot of it is directly attributable to me. I’m proud, based on some of the things the folks who came through the place today said to me, and the people on my staff. That’s one.
Second was “Week in Review”, which was intended to be a radio news roundup show featuring journalists from other news organizations. When I pitched the idea to CPO (that’s Chief Programming Officer .. not Chief Petty Officer) Rick Johnson, he said “that’s a great idea, and I think it’d work well on television, too”. I said “Rick, you know I’ve never been on television before”, and he said “not to worry, you’ll be fine”. That was almost 8 years ago. So I guess I’ve done pretty well for a 13 week initial run. The show, unfortunately, is going away at the end of September … the victim of budget cuts. But it’s been a good run, and I’ve got a project I’m working on to fill the void.
That would be “Something New” #3. Again, I’m not re-inventing the wheel, but it’ll be new for us. I’m working on a call-in show, which will air weekly for a start. I’m hopeful to have a proposal in front of the program venture fund committee when they meet next month. If the calls we got during the storm the other day are any indication … it should be fairly successful.
Which brings me to #4.
State of the Re:UNION. This will truly be something new. I’ve written about this a bit before. Al Letson is a Jacksonville spoken word artist/playwrite/actor/really interesting guy. He was one of three winners of the Public Radio Talent Quest, and I was fortunate to be able to help him through the process. I wasn’t allowed to coach him much, but really, I didn’t need to. I offered advice when needed, but I hope my principal contribution was to make Al feel comfortable when he came to work on the challenges, which gave him the “hostiness” he needed to win.
I’ll let you browse the SOTR website to find out about the show.
But what’s more exciting to me now, is that I get to work with Al and a panel of other Public Radio professionals to help develop and market the show. I’ll be flying out to LA next month for a series of meetings at NPR West, which I’m also looking forward to seeing. My hope is that the show will be successful, that it will be picked up by CPB for a full year, and that we can be the presenting station of the show. There’s a lot to be said for producing a nationally syndicated show.
So far, I’m two for two. I feel pretty good about three and four. And it makes it fun to get up and go to work in the morning.
But not tomorrow morning … it’s Sunday.