Kent Sterling Fired as Emmis Indy Program Director – Part Three

Being told to leave a place filled with people you care about is interesting.  The work was relentless and the concern unending, but the people made all the sacrifice worthwhile, at least to the day I was canned.  Had my wife taken a powder, as she was considering, that would have been an attention getter and I would have been challenged to change my obsession with helping the stations succeed.

My initial feeling was guilt over not being smart enough to get my bosses to allow me to continue to help WIBC and The Fan succeed.  Yeah, I know that’s crazy.  I dream about trying to help.  I’m at work, hiding in the shadows trying not to get caught working.  Very odd.  The staff knows I don’t work there anymore, and they all tell me things will be okay.  I know that, and tell them I’m fine.  My concern in the dream is for them. 

In real life, my focus is different.  When I’m awake, I’m trying to figure out three business things, and how to live a little bit better balanced a life.  Being responsible for the success or failure of a product that employs 50 people requires a best effort.  Being a good husband and father also requires a best effort.  That is the definition of a conundrum.  The loser in my case was to choose away from where I was most secure. 

All of that was good when Tom Severino was the boss.  Tom, from my perspective, was the master of balance.  He encouraged all of us to spend time with family and friends.  When Tom died in July, those at Emmis he left behind tried to serve two masters.  The first was to try to continue as Tom encouraged us to.  Follow the righteous path of building strong and profitable radio brands while maintaining our humanity and a sense of fun.  The other was to try to keep our jobs in a tough economy.  For me, those two focuses were proven mutually exclusive.

Now, I get to do things I like, and build them the way I want to with the people I like and respect.  And I get to spend time with my wife where I’m actually there, listening to what she has to say about things.  A good program director spends a lot of time trying to get the hosts and producers mentally right, so that when they walk into the studio, they feel good about their performance.  Talking into a microphone for three or four hours at a time without any feedback from the people you’re talking to is an unnatural act.  At the end of the day, I was about up to my eyes in listening – my daily quota for external input had been exceeded by the time I got home.

Now, I get to listen.  I look forward to seeing Julie and hearing about her day.  This is the way life is supposed to be, I think.  While I still feel terrible about no longer being allowed to help at the stations, I’m very happy that I get to try to move into a balanced life. 

I hope that my friends at Emmis get to continue to work toward the success we all know is possible there.  The Fall Rating Book was great for both WIBC and The Fan, and hopefully the best is yet to come from a ratings and revenue perspective.  What I genuinely hope for them is a little peace and balance.  The last two-and-a-half years have been filled with changes that have put people there in a state of discomfort.  We have said goodbye to a number of friends who were fired, quit, or died.  And the work continues regardless.  A talk radio station is a beast that requires feeding 24/7, and it never stops.

That cycle makes balance hard for everyone involved.  Shows are either being performed or prepared – all the time.  Add the chaos of change, and the people in that building are uniquely passionate or they would have turned their backs on the medium years ago.  Emmis is a passionate company that attracts passionate people. 

There is a life outside of radio.  It’s good out here, and the lessons I’m learning everyday out here will be helpful should I ever decide to get back in.

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