Kent Sterling Fired as Indy Talk Program Director (part 2)

The number of hits on this site that my posts on being fired continue to accumulate troubles me, but never one to spurn an audience I offer this update.  The problem with explaining things after being canned is that it’s almost impossible to be perceived as anything but either morose and bitter, or ridiculously brave-faced.  Hopefully, this is interpretted as neither.

Being fired is a game-changer.  No doubt about that.  My old boss Tom Severino used to say that change is great when you choose it, but sucks when it’s chosen for you.  That’s true.  The thing that sucks is that you feel like you’ve somehow let everyone down – your family to an extent but especially the people who worked for you.  The people I managed are great, and deserve nothing but great things.  They trusted me, and now I screwed up so they have to adjust to some new person.  That’s not what happened, but the feeling is that somehow they are in peril because I’m not their to help.  It’s somehow arrogant, ignorant, and naïve all at the same time.

I’ve seen how radio talent and producers adjust to PDs being fired before, and it takes about 48 hours – which might be generous.  WIBC and The Fan continue to broadcast, and sound just like I left them.  That is what I would expect from a group of dedicated professionals.  The ratings for the Fall Book were outstanding for both radio stations, so I couldn’t be happier for the people there.  WIBC has been on an uptick for the past six months, and The Fan has had its three best months in September, November, and December so the rule of thumb that it takes two years to build a talk brand to the point that it can become a destination is just about right.

I’ve found a bunch of people I know in the same position – trying to piece together enough stuff to make a living while also doing only things you love.  I like the idea, as you might imagine, that doing what you love can also sustain itself as a profession.  Who knows whether that can be pulled off or not.  I may not be bright enough.

There is always the media, which is endlessly fascinating to me.  It is so filled with corkheaded dunderbrains that making sense of it, and building something positive in it is very alluring.  Take the failure of Air America, which never had a chance in the world to succeed.  The arrogant tools decided to provide a product without an audience.  Jeff Smulyan speaks often of the folly of hubris, and nothing smacks of hubris like a liberal talk radio network that only existed to counter the wildly profitable and popular conservative media like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.  “If people listen to Rush, they’ll sure as hell listen to us because we’re smarter and right about everything!” seemed to be the mission statement for Air America.  No one bothered to listen to Rush to hear that he is a superb radio talent, and that he is a conservative is really almost beside the point.

Clearly, interest in media survived my removal from it.

The Conan/Jay debacle is also very interesting.  I can’t imagine the unpleasant meetings and nervous stomachs in Burbank.  There are a bunch of people who screwed this up but good, and the collateral damage to NBC is still incalculable.  Can whatever they throw on to replace Jay pick up enough audience to make the affiliates happy?  Will the Winter Olympics capture America’s imagination and drive numbers for the February sweeps?  Can Jay win back the viewers that abandoned NBC completely from 10p forward?  Where will Conan land, and will the marketplace support another 11:35p show?  How many of the kooks who saw the idea of Jay at 10p on paper and said, “Damn it, that looks smart as hell,” will survive?  When will NBC grow the stones again to try something so outrageous?

Writing about myself is just about as self-indulgent as anything I can think of, so why would I do it.  I’m healthy, happy, and busy.  My friends have been fantastic, and my wife has been amazing as always.  I was foolish enough not to notice and appreciate it as much as I should.  Learning never ends, and this experience has been a good teacher.

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