by Kent Sterling
There are a lot of people in radio who resent the grind of the job, and feel preyed upon because they need to deliver relevance to an audience with specific expectations for a show. Whatever else I may be, I will never be one of those people.
I have been a weekday radio host for all of four weeks, but everyday is still more challenging and thus enjoyable than I ever thought it might be.
As with every other job, effective preparation is the key to comfort, and comfort is the key to creativity and performance. I’m so far from perfect that I can’t see excellence yet, but I’m having a great time holding myself to the same standard that I employed with talent I managed.
The effect of managing for several years on my own performance has been interesting – at least to me. Where I would be very patient with talent, wanting only to see steady and incremental improvement from week to week, I am far more demanding on myself.
A bad day is intolerable to me. Last Tuesday was the first show of the 20 we have done where I felt like the audience didn’t get what we promise every day, and I was steamed. The result was more focused work, and a commitment to having more fun.
Corrections like that are routine, and disappointments less frequent as a result – or so I hope.
Segments where nothing happens send listeners station hopping, but they are worse for talent. They make you feel hollow and empty. Without expressing joy, dissatisfaction, anger, or love – or allowing an interesting guest the platform to inform or share a unique perspective – my spirit would drain behind a microphone.
There is no amount of money that would make it worthwhile for my to sit in a studio and bore myself. Boredom is what has prompted my professional failures in the past (a couple of firings in Chicago taught me the need to be vigilant in selecting jobs that provide unique daily tests), and there is no excuse for it in talk radio. If the host isn’t interested, there is no chance listeners will be, and just as was the case for me in all years and phases of school, I refuse to be bored.
From kindergarten through sixth grade, I had one teacher who taught another year after hosting me in their classes. If ADD or ADHD had been an acronym for kids whose psyches demand constant challenge or entertainment, I would have been the poster boy and I still am. My apologies to Mrs. Courtney, Mrs, Stuart, Mrs. Zimmer, Mrs. Georgevich, Mr. Zoerner, and Mr. Hammond for driving you into retirement or other professions.
Whether or not listeners will find their way to CBS Sports 1430 in Indianapolis from 3p-6p to have their brains fed or distracted every day or not, time will tell. But I can guarantee that at no point during any of the 12 segments of each show will I find the show tedious. If I bore myself, my head will explode.
It’s not being wacky and unpredictable that captures my own attention, but the preparation of a show that I will find interesting to host. I want to interview people about issues that interest me. I want to share perspectives and seek the truth in a way that is compelling. I want to express joy and outrage about those issues that deserve either.
For four weeks that has been the marching order I have given both myself and producer Nick Bosak, who has been a wonderful partner in this daily marathon of preparation and performance.
What we do each day is put together the absolute best we have to offer and then turn the microphone on and bring every bit of energy the show we have assembled deserves. It will never be perfect, but if it is relevant (sportstalk shows should be about sports), authentic (for all my flaws, being myself has been one of the biggest – although it can be a very good thing in radio), fun (that’s all I have ever demanded of life), and innovative (the toughest of the four traits of great radio to master), then we can leave the station after the show with a sense of pride.
Can’t wait until Monday at 3p to enjoy the very best three hours of my day.