Radiogurl a la Carte

Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2005
Pissing Contest

Some people are not cut out to run a business. And for once, I'm not talking about Boss.

BJ and I have talked several times about another radio station where we have both worked in the past, one of the stations here in town. And we still shake our heads, utterly amazed that these people are still in business at all. Because they don't have a clue how to run a radio station or any other kind of business. So when Boss declared a "pissing contest" with the other station, BJ and I just snickered behind our hands and decided to sit back and watch this go down. Methinks there may be a reason I am sticking around, after all, because I wouldn't miss this for all the world.

The owners of the other station have known Boss for a couple of years longer than I have, and I've known them for only a couple of years less than I've known Boss.

BJ hasn't known them for as long, but he had the misfortune of working for them for seven years, during which they screwed him over many, many times. I was sharp enough to have walked away from that minefield years ago, after working for them only a few months. After hearing BJ's war stories, I can only thank God that I did.

These people don't know the first thing about radio. I know I said that before, but really, I mean it. They don't know ANYTHING about radio. I went to work for them just before they went on the air for the first time. I literally helped them build the station, then tried to train them on operating it.

The operative word here being "tried."

Maybe six months into the picture, they decided to make over the owners' niece into the morning-show star.

Now, said niece was then a fairly likeable person, if a little off the beaten path. She'd been hired to do the office work. She had a marginally okay voice, and that was all. Ten years or so later, that's still all she has, and they still have her positioned as their morning drive person.

In radio, morning drive is prime time. That's when everybody is driving to work, glugging down bucket-o-coffee and punching tunes to the maximum capacity of their car's speakers in hopes that by the time they reach work their late night and too-early morning syndrome will have magically evaporated into the thrum of Black Sabbath, N Synch, or Tim McGraw. Your musical poison of choice, spiked heavily with the (theoretically speaking) witticisms of one or more smart-assed disc jockeys.

Imagine instead of the polished, smart-assed voice(s), you instead get the fingernails-on-blackboard of a woman whose idea of a great morning show is to whine at you like an ex wife looking for alimony. There's nothing remotely like humor, she doesn't know anything about music, and they don't have any news at all, not even a national feed. It's like they are trying to play Vegas lowball with their numbers. They don't seem to get that when you have no listeners, you don't get advertising dollars to fluff the niece's ego.

Incidentally, this is not just my personal opinion, though I certainly share it. Their Arbitron ratings are negative numbers, baby. We're talking something flying so low it could almost be classified as underground - if it were cooler, that is.

The story gets better.

While all of the original nonsense was going on, the female half of the husband-and-wife owners was having an affair with somebody here in town. That was actually what made me decide to leave. I'd worked through that kind of battlefield before and there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to get caught in the line of fire again. I got out while the getting was good. Since then, I have been regaled with the whole story of how that unfolded. The same people own the business but the proportion of ownership was divided against cheating wife, by order of the judge. This was a screaming, fighting, nasty divorce. She remarried her sugarless daddy and they're living uglier ever after. The ex-hubby remarried someone else and according to Boss, he's more miserable than ever.

Knowing some of the things I do about them, these details don't surprise me, nor do I feel sorry for any of the pathetic players in that sordid little moral vacuum.

Until BJ, they couldn't keep anyone with any talent at all. A decade ago, they screwed over my morning co-host before my two weeks' notice was even up, and apparently they decided if they were going to ignore all rules of convention, ethics, and common sense, they might as well make it a running joke. Ten years running, according to my calendar.

In addition to the professional void at the top of their smokestack, they are hobbled by the station format. (And I use the term loosely.) People on the street remark only to ask what they're playing this week or if they're still on the air. Nobody knows if they're rock, country, soul, Spanish, talk, or Apache-language. Worse yet, that is NOT an exaggeration. They used to bill themselves as "Town and Country." Cute catch phrase but absolutely horrendous programming. When you program radio, you must know your audience and play to them. If you're going for the cowboys, you play country music. If you want the aging hippie population, you play oldies rock. And so on. But you never, on a single station and without even a regular schedule for listeners to rely on, play a combination of all of the above.

Lately they've decided to focus most heavily on the country music, which is what our station plays. It was a pointed attempt to take our audience away, since we're the number one station for the county. Keeping in mind that Boss used to be FRIENDS with these witless wonders, that didn't go over well.

And therein begins the pissing contest.

The best part is, our would-be challengers still don't understand the first thing about creating a station format, about programming. While they've programmed in a heavy rotation of country music, it's still interspersed with James Brown, new age, and God only knows what else. They have no news staff (and don't recognize that around here, news is THE selling point for your station.) They don't understand why their sales people quit, after they change the rules for commission once the sales person hits a certain level of success. They can't even find and keep a decent station slogan, for pity's sake. They just keep paying the niece more money to do a bad job.

I'm telling ya, these people are so clueless they give "clueless" a bad name.

Meanwhile at our end, Boss has the only two actual radio saavy people in town working for him. That's not a brag, it's a fact, and everyone in town knows it. (Except the dingbats who decided to declare a feud.) We've got the number one ratings in town, by a wide margin. We've got the only operating web presence and the only in-house IT person to keep things going. Whatever else is true, Boss knows programming and knows the radio biz inside and out. What's more, so does BJ (who worked NYC radio for a long time.) I don't have nearly the years that they do, but neither am I a novice. In addition to doing news, I've done programming, minor engineering, and obviously, IT.

I honestly believe that even more than his friend's visit, Boss has been rejuvenated by this insanity. After going a week without eating, who can blame him if he wants to play with his food?

We've already set a few things in motion that upped the ante. We've filed some paperwork and handled some long-range planning. The team morale jumped several notches just from the belly laughs.

It didn't take much. Just knowing what we're doing.

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )