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For Jamie Markley, Hosting MVR Feels Like More Than a Job

When Markley talks about MVR, you get the feeling he’s talking about a daily event he loves to be part of, more than a job. 

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If you hang out with friends and talk about life, politics, and goofy stuff, you should get a radio show. Jamie Markley did. 

“Our show is extremely natural, I think that’s one of the things we hear a lot,” Markley said. 

He’s talking about Markley, Van Camp and Robbins, heard on more than 125 radio stations across the country. Three ostensibly different guys from different generations that just like to shoot the s***.

“It sounds like three friends who get on with each other like only friends can. To me, maybe it’s because I had a big brother growing up, it’s the jawwing back and forth. It’s endearing, never mean spirited.”

He was a jock in Peoria for 10 years, married for three, when a morning job in Rockford opened when his station in Peoria was sold. He spent two years there, then he heard a station was looking for a morning person in Peoria. 

“My wife and I were just starting out with our kids and both of us had family in the Peoria area,” Markley said. We didn’t know what we were going to do. At the time I had an offer to do afternoons in Indianapolis. We were trying to take on The Bob & Tom Show. My wife wanted to get back home to Peoria. Nine months later we got back there.”

Before a career in radio, bands like KISS meant a lot. Markley wore a KISS shirt as a kid, and that can speak volumes about a person. I know because I wore one too.

If you didn’t listen to KISS, then you weren’t a kid in the 70s. Markley reminded me of a rock adage: ‘Rock and Roll is either going to hit you in the eyes or the heart, but it’s going to resonate with you somewhere.’ 

“Not only was KISS not your parent’s band,” Markley said, “they weren’t your uncle’s band either. It was something you hadn’t heard. When most people hear Rock and Roll All Nite, they still turn it up on the radio to this day. It’s music that keeps you young.”

Markley said one of the first albums he purchased was KISS Destroyer

The band KISS indirectly got Markley in trouble in Sunday school. 

“I grew up in the Methodist church. One time I had a KISS belt buckle and my Sunday school teacher went crazy. It was a Gene Simmons dragon belt buckle. I think I wore it on purpose.”

Alive was already out. One of my first albums was Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. I don’t think there’s a bad track on the album with songs like Uncle Salty.” 

According to Markley, Aerosmith was in bad shape in the mid-80s, doing lots of drugs. Joe Perry left the band after the album “Night in the Ruts.” Then Aerosmith came out with “Done with Mirrors” in 1985.  

“It was an album only Aerosmith fans bought,” Markley said. “It had a horrible marketing campaign. I saw them on that tour and they were terrible and wasted. Then they did the duet with Run DMC in 1986, got clean and sober, and released “Permanent Vacation,” their big comeback record in 1987.

Once in the radio business, Markley had the perk of meeting a lot of touring rock acts. “Eddie Van Halen was very cool,” he said. Pushed to choose between David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar incarnations of the band, Markley said he had to go with Lee Roth.

“When I was on rock radio, I was just a ‘rock dog,” Markley said. “All those guys were my heroes.  I was at Alpine Valley for Van Halen. Scorpions, Metallica, I was turned on to rock by my older brother and sister. It was Boston, Eagles, a lot of different stuff.” 

When Markley talks about MVR, you get the feeling he’s talking about a daily event he loves to be part of, more than a job. 

“It’s smart to be informed, but I think it takes more work these days to figure it out,” Markley explained. “There are so many differing agendas being played out. When you look around, with just the people you know, there’s a lot of amazing people. A lot of the conflicts are things covered by nose. I’m not saying there aren’t awful things going on. The difference is how we approach it on the show. We’re just honest and tell people how we feel.”

Just because Markley is on the radio, people seem to feel his opinion on a matter might mean more than most. Markley said that’s way off base. 

“If I’m going to a family gathering, or meeting old friends from high school, I don’t feel like I need to talk about my political perspectives or comment on everything in the news. I’m just there to have a good time. Sometimes people say they’ve got to get my opinion on something. I’ll tell you if you want my opinion, but I don’t feel any need to talk about it. There are some people who hear my opinions who never want to talk about that topic with me ever again. But I promise you’ll know how I feel on the air about every single issue.”

Markley was in no shape or form pushed our conversation to a higher plane, it just went there.

“When I was younger and said I was a Christian, I’m not sure what that meant,” Markley said. “I recall talking to my mom when I was 20 years-old. Some girl I knew had gotten pregnant. The conversation was rolling and my mom said you shouldn’t have sex before marriage. I told her that wasn’t realistic.” 

Markley questioned how someone could go to Sunday school and not know the basic tenets of Christianity.

“There were a lot of things that happened to me in a 36-hour period when I was 31 years old,” he said. “My mother was dying, my wife became pregnant, and the radio station I was at closed. A few weeks later my mom died and I started to spiral. I was in a different town, away from support.” 

Then came the booze, and Markley said things got pretty bad.

“I knew if my family was going to make it, we had to go back to Peoria,” he said. “I thought that would fit all our issues. I wasn’t ready for all that came my way.”

His path to spirituality was realized through all things, an MMA fighter. The man is Ryan Blackorby, who is also from the Peoria area.

“He truly had faith,” Markley explained. “My wife had been babysitting their first child. At the time he was doing some work for a children’s home.”

Markley said Blackorby had come to discover his faith a year or two earlier. The two friends started talking and Markley told him he’d never really read the Bible, and he’d never really been involved in Bible study in his life. 

“I think that turned out to be a good thing because we could talk. I saw him as a guy I liked,” Markley said. “When you think of people who have faith, you sort of envision a stereotype. But here was a real Christian guy and I wanted to know what that believing was really like. I can remember us getting together for lunch and I’d ask some basic questions.”

Blackorby told Markley to start with the gospels. Then they could discuss his interpretations. 

“I remember reading Matthew one day,” Markley said. “It was a Saturday in January of 2001. Suddenly, I realized all of what I was reading made sense. I realized I couldn’t fix things on my own as I was still drinking way too much. 

My wife and I talked and decided we should start reading the Bible. She jokingly called me a ‘Bible-thumper.’ I was trying not to be too pushy about my new realizations. She said that was good as I’d gotten drunk a few nights before.”

Markley knew his drinking had to stop, one way or another. He kept establishing drinking limits, like getting in a few quick ones. You’re not an alcoholic if you can stop, right?

“I might have a couple, and sometimes I’d just go ‘all in.’ Finally I realized, ‘Okay. I can’t do this anymore. As far as my career has gone, I think audiences perceive you a certain way. The subject of drinking pops up occasionally. You have to know my co-host Scott Robbins and I used to party a lot.” 

Markley said when he shares something about his drinking problems on the air, listeners would thank him for sharing. They’d say, ‘I had a drinking problem and when you said you had the same thing I felt God was coming through.’

“It’s so hard to seek sobriety when you’ve been doing it for such a long time,” Markley said. “Scott Robbins and I come from music radio. Especially when you’re doing a morning show, you’re trying to develop an on-air relationship with a friend. Alcohol was a buffer.”

When Markley talks about something personal on the air with Scott Robbins or David Van Camp, he is talking to a friend. 

“In the end, that’s what it is,” he explained. “ That’s what makes our show special. When you admit to your friends you have a problem.”

Markley said the Bible is complex. For instance, when you’re reading about the Garden of Eden, is that supposed to be taken in a literal sense? Or is it a metaphor? There’s got to be some wiggle room in there.

“There are all types of writing styles in the Bible,” Markley said. “One disciple tells a story about the history of man. Another talks about the creator. When I hear different people get their take on the Bible, it’s fascinating. Having someone like Blackorby get me through has been very fortunate for me.”

He never went to AA. When he quit, he went to a counselor who urged him to go to AA. 

“I understand it works for a lot of people,” Markley said. “If I fall off the wagon, I’ll probably go. There’s a Christian version of AA.”

Even though he’d never attended an AA meeting, he said it was an eerie experience. An alignment of powers that sure looked like they wanted him to go to a meeting.

“I was going to try to quit smoking. It was the last vice I needed to quit,” Markley explained. “I wanted to take a drive, and it was okay because I was sober. I remember it was New Year’s morning. I drove by the river just to sit. I was thinking about the coming year. I thought maybe I’d map out some goals for the year.”

Markley said a car pulled up and out popped a guy who was wearing a veteran’s jacket. 

“I figured I’d have just one more cigarette before I quit. I went up to him and told him I’d give him five bucks for a cigarette. He told me to just take one.”

Markley did. In mid-smoke, another person with a veteran’s sticker on his bumper pulled up and Markley figured it was some kind of veteran’s meeting. 

“I thought that was cool. Then I saw a woman pulling up who didn’t really look like she’d served in the military.”

Soon, other people started showing up at the same time. A light went on for Markley.

“I’m like, “Oh, this is an AA meeting.” I’m like, okay, I give. I understand why I was in this place. That’s the only one I ever attended. People went around and introduced themselves. I had actually commented to friends “I saw more love in that room than in a lot of churches I’ve been to.”

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BNM Writers

Nick Kayal Move Highlights Growing Appetite for News/Talk

Kayal moving to News/Talk is a trend that we continue to see in our business and there are several reasons why this will happen.





Sports Talk to News Talk.

The trend continued this week when Nick Kayal announced would be the next morning show host at WPHT in Philadelphia. In full disclosure, I know Nick, as I was an intern as he was an employee and growing his career at 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Nick built a very solid sports talk resume, but decided to make the move to news/politics.

As I was reading his announcement on social media this week, I felt like I was reading my own reasons for leaving sports talk for news talk on a permanent basis five years ago. Nick wrote, “Over the past 6-7 years, my apetite for political content has increased and now I finally get to voice my opinion on these subject matters.”

Expect this to be a trend that we continue to see in our business and there are several reasons why this will happen.

First off, sports talk is oversaturated. There’s just too much of it, and at some point we’ve crossed the threshold where supply has exceeded demand. There will always be room for great sports talk hosts, but jobs aren’t growing in that space, and in fact, are likely to shrink in future years.

Meantime, if we flip to the News Talk side of the business, the number of jobs expanding is admittedly also not a big part of the equation, but there is less competition in the space for those jobs when compared to Sports Talk, especially when it comes to younger hosts and employees. 

I say the following with all the love in the world for my News Talk colleagues: I was at this week’s FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) Radio Row event, and as a 34-year-old, I felt like a college kid given that I was significantly younger than most of my fellow hosts. There’s nothing wrong with that for right now, as many of them are still sharp, on their game, and delivering great ratings and revenue for their respective stations, but if we look 5-10 years down the road, they may want to find themselves on a beach or ski slope on a more regular basis. So, the next wave of News Talk hosts may not be in the News Talk space right now, and given the greater number of employees in Sports Talk, they may very well be over there. 

This is a natural migration for both sides. The News Talk bench is not deep and as the younger Sports Talk employee gets older, their interests may change. Most 25-35 year-olds care more about sports than news and politics. But as a generation that grew up during the explosion of Sports Talk approaches and enters their 40’s, their interests and desires could shift as well.

Just as important in this conversation is the fact that we all know sports, politics and culture continue to collid, for better or for worse, and those who may have more conservative-leaning beliefs and opinions are more likely to try and make that move.

As someone who spent several years in sports talk and maintain strong relationships there, I know those who don’t pray at the “Alter of Woke” feel like their opinions aren’t welcomed and will be shunned by their colleagues and bosses. They mask it, as they like to a prefer to talk about the games anyway. But when sports and culture collide, they clam up or just toe the line. 

How long will that last? How long will they want to continue to bottle it up?

I’m not here to answer it for them, but I know that for me, there was a point where I thought I’d rather spend four hours a day talking about things that impact my city, state and country than discussing whether or not a quarterback missed an open receiver on 3rd and 10 or a pitcher was left in a game too long. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love sports and love being a sports fan, but hosting a daily, local show where that is part of the job became less appealing when given alternative options. And I don’t believe I will be alone in this regard, especially as we move forward through the next several years in our business. 

Additionally, the icing on the cake is that in many towns, major sports news that a News Talk host will find interesting is, in fact, news, and will be a fit for the program. In Philadelphia, the Eagles are news on Monday after a loss to the Giants. In Kansas City, the Chiefs are news. Nothing is bigger. I do a Chiefs segment on Friday and Monday during football season. You can’t do four hours on it, but mixing it in is part of the job if you’re in a big sports town. 

Now, there is a downside. As I told Nick Kayal in a personal note after his announcement, “Be prepared to be shunned by some of your former sports colleagues”. 

A sad reality, but true, in my experience. Hey, that’s the “Tolerant Left”, right?

If you can get over that, which should be easy, then come on over. We’re having fun, making great content, and always looking for who and what is next.

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BNM Writers

Nick Kayal Transitions from Talking Sports to News/Talk

Kayal has worked almost exclusively in radio sports in Nashville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities, but made the switch to talking politics.

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Seasons change, minds change, and jobs certainly do.

Nick Kayal has worked almost exclusively in radio sports in Nashville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities. He most recently left Sports Radio 92.9 The  Game to do mornings on 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia. 

This isn’t just a job change for Kayal. It’s an entirely different animal. He’s switching from sports to news and talk. 

“Kayal and Company is the perfect show for me to host,” Kayal said. “I’ve got a multi-voiced show with an outstanding supporting cast. Greg Stocker and Dawn Stensland will have open microphones. We’ll have a guest from time to time. Some calls here and there, but it won’t be caller-heavy.”

Kayal said it will be a ‘good blend of things.’

The change has been in the works since the beginning of the year but was announced just yesterday. Former morning host Rich Zeoli will be moving to afternoons. Kayal said Zeoli has been looking forward to that.

“Rich knew the change was coming,” Kayal explained. “He was involved in the discussions. I think he really wanted to change his lifestyle. He even said so on air. Afternoons are where he started and I think he wanted to get back to that family balance. Rich is going to continue to do what made him so successful in the mornings. He does a great job at building an audience.”

Kayal said they will keep a lot of the same segments on the show. Instead of talking about Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, they’ll be talking about Joe Biden. The passion for sports and politics in Philly is the same, Kayal explained. “I don’t think my prep or delivery will change much. I want to hit on big stories, but I’m not going to filibuster on a topic.”

Getting ready for the new show, Kayal has had lunch with Stocker a few times to chat. Stocker will also serve as the show’s executive producer. The two have kept in touch through the spring and summer, and Kayal has been in Philadelphia for nearly a month.

Kayal said the response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive among listeners. 

“Twitter is usually a cesspool of negativity,” he said. “But this announcement has been 95% positive. Just a couple of negative responses here and there.

Kayal served as a host at crosstown sports 97.5 The Fanatic WPEN from 2009-2015 and doesn’t think the switch of focus will cause the show to lose listeners.

“I imagine some of the people who listened to me in sports might be a little shocked to hear me dealing with news topics,” Kayal said. “Listeners hate change, by and large. After a host change some might say they’re never listening again. That station is dead to me. People have their routines and they don’t like it when somebody or something messes that up. Most usually come back. Radio is very habitual.”

He doesn’t think he’ll miss sports all that much. That isn’t to say he’ll never do sports again, or that he’s sick of sports. 

“After 15 years of talking about nothing but sports, if I spent any more four-hour cycles talking about it, I’d blow my head off.” 

The show may touch on a major sports story if it happens, especially in Philadelphia.

“We might talk for a couple minutes after a win or loss. But one of the reasons I wanted to do this was the diversity of topics. I have an interest in a lot of things, including pop culture. We’re going to be dealing with a full menu of topics.”

He said any time you’re talking conservative news and politics, it’s the best of both worlds. 

“You may not want to listen to some of the mainstream media, so you turn to conservative radio. You have liberals who will listen to call you on your mistakes, but I’m open to that. The same goes the other way.” 

Kayal said he won’t mind admitting if he’s wrong on the air, like some other hosts. 

“There’s going to be some guys that BS their way through everything, stick to script,” he explained. “There are times when conservatives or liberals are off base, say something I don’t agree with. I’ll call them out on that.”

Dawn Stensland will be the news anchor at the top of the hour and co-host. 

“Dawn is like the protective mom who will go to bat for you,” Kayal said. “Rich Zeoli told me that this morning and said she’d go to bat for me too.”

Kayal will have a prep sheet going into the show, but he’s not afraid to dump one thing if another is working.

“I’ll call an audible at the line of scrimmage, so to speak. I want things to be organic on the show. If people are reacting to a topic, you can always get to an item in your preparation the next day. No need to rush. You have to go hard all the way through the show, finish strong. Like every other show I’ve done. There are benchmarks you need to hit during your show. People will listen for a period of time. If they’re in the car on the way to work, they’ll hear something. Then I have to approach the next hour as though nobody has heard the news, reset on the topic like it’s the first time I’m doing it. More than likely it’s a new audience. You can’t afford to have a bad segment.”

Sure, that can be beyond stressful. But if you come in prepared, if you have an opinion, make somebody laugh, make somebody mad, you’re doing something right.

“I want listeners to get the sound of the show,” Kayal said. “You’ll tune in to hear us having an exchange, bouncing off each other. I like to think we all have an innate ability to know where something is going, but chemistry between the hosts is going to be a major thing.”

 If everyone on the show has the same vision and check our egos at the door, Kayal said they’ll have a good show. He explained a show will have great ratings periods, and there’s a chance they will fall off. But the show must always deliver the best it can. 

Kayal went to school for criminal justice and pre-law at Temple. He studied political science for about a year, then changed to pre-law during his sophomore year.  He thought he’d be a defense attorney or prosecutor. 

“Law school only lasted three months,” Kayal said. “I just knew it wasn’t for me.” 

Some of the things he learned during his undergraduate degree and stint at law school helped him craft his arguments on the air. 

“I use those skill sets and traits in a monologue or during an interview,” he said. “It taught me how to ask leading questions. We’ll talk about crime on the show. It’s really about putting on a performance. So many guys are infatuated with being right, getting ratings, and revenue. To me, it’s not all about being right. 

He’d been reading Barrett Sports Media for a long time and came across a job opening for his new station, WPHT. 

“I’d always had the desire to do political stuff,” Kayal said. “I was working for Audacy in Atlanta, so coming to Philadelphia was almost like going through a transfer portal. Going back home has been icing on the cake. The process started in January of this year. They flew me out in March, and we did a two-hour mock show off the air. They had me fill in for Rich a couple of times in April. After the third week, I could tell they were pleased, and they offered me the job in June. I had to sit on it until yesterday.”

We now know Kayal can be trusted with a secret. 

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BNM Writers

The Intersection of Radio and Politics

Anybody with a radio career longer than one rating book has witnessed a stunt or two. Stunts can be remarkably effective for calling attention to something.

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Four of the most enjoyable years of my life were spent on Capitol Hill as Communications Director for Congressman Michael R. Turner (R-OH). Mr. Turner is currently the ranking Member of the influential House Armed Services Committee. Should Republicans take back the House in November, he will likely become the committee Chairperson.

When talking to old media friends during that period, I often explained that the job wasn’t that different from broadcasting. The Congressman was like the “morning guy,” and the communications position was similar to the marketing and promotions role.

When Texas and Florida Governors Abbott and DeSantis began sending illegal immigrants, or unregistered persons for the more politically correct, from their states to Democrat strongholds, critics referred to it as a stunt. Neither of the governors seems to mind the term stunt.

Anybody with a radio career longer than one rating book has witnessed a stunt or two. Stunts can be remarkably effective for calling attention to something.

I don’t know if the “Concert for Bangladesh,” the granddaddy of benefit concerts, solved the refugee problem or if “Live-Aid” ended hunger. I am sure that these events, which were stunts when you think about them, created massive attention for important causes.

When we first put Howard Stern on WYSP-Philadelphia, we had no idea what the ratings impact would be. At the time, there was no shortage of critics who said: “it will never work.”

We couldn’t know, with certainty, whether broadcasting a show from New York would work in Philly. We were sure that doing it would get WYSP, a moribund station, a great deal of attention. At worst, it would be a “stunt.” At best, well, that’s in the history books.

Speaking of Howard, I believe Donald Trump, a regular guest on The Stern Show for approximately 20 years, ripped off “The King of All Media’s” 1980s and 90s formula to win the presidency. Think about it:

  • He never apologizes – no matter what
  • The more outrageous, the better
  • He plays to a dominantly male audience who loves and defends him
  • He does what he does for his fans
  • It’s always “us” against the world
  • He picks feuds with others and then sics his fans on the attacked
  • The only thing better than the celebrity feuds is staff in-fighting
  • His live events are huge love-fests

What else do politicians have in common with broadcasters? 

Ronald Reagan was called “The Great Communicator.” Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932. Later that year, his public career began as a WOC-AM/Davenport, Iowa sports announcer. He moved to WHO-AM/Des Moines in 1933, where he famously recreated baseball games using ticker tape reports. He went to California to cover spring training for the Cubs, which launched his Hollywood career.

Radio demands storytelling skills: The best in class in politics and radio are great storytellers. What do you know about Abraham Lincoln’s personality? He loved to tell a tale. In the opening minutes of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” the president (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) tells a couple of free Black soldiers about the travails of barbers who have cut his hair. 

In another scene at the War Department telegraph office, Lincoln offers an anecdote about Ethan Allen, prompting an incredulous Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill) to proclaim: “You’re going to tell a story! I don’t believe that I can bear to listen to another one of your stories right now.”

At his best, Joe Biden tells stories. He has always gotten confused about numbers and details, not unlike Reagan. But he effectively uses stories to make his point. That’s how he became “Scranton Joe” and why we know “Corn Pop was a bad dude.”

Positioning matters: In 1992, realizing that the recession was the top issue on voters’ minds, Bill Clinton’s campaign advisor, James Carville created the positioning statement, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton stayed on message, promising to “focus like a laser beam on the economy.”

In 2008, Barack Obama simplified his positioning to a single word: Hope, to which he added the slogan, “Yes we can!” It brilliantly captured the zeitgeist and catapulted the first-term Senator to the White House.

Focus on a few big ideas at a time: Over the years, radio programmers have learned to focus on a couple of essential things at a time. When Barack Obama took office, he had a lengthy list of items that needed attention. The economy, unemployment, bank bailouts, and U.S. auto manufacturers were in trouble. Fighting continued in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bin Laden was still hiding, and the president wanted to use his popularity to pass healthcare legislation. It was too much for the public to follow, and it appeared nothing positive was happening.

A 55% to 43% margin agreed that “since he’s taken over in the White House, Obama has tried to handle more issues than he should,” in a March 2009 CNN/Opinion Research survey.

Reagan kept his agenda simple. He wanted to make the government smaller and less intrusive. He did that through tax cuts, known as “Reaganomics.” He wanted to win the Cold War by building up the military. Everything else was secondary.

Radio is a personal medium: Air personalities have always gotten out and pressed the flesh. Many figured out early in the game to use social media to build relationships with listeners.

Bill Clinton understood the power of building connections (no pun intended). Remember the first Presidential Town Hall Debate? A voter asked the candidates (Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ross Perot) a question about how the economy (national debt) affected them personally. Clinton walked to the edge of the stage, as close to the audience as he could. Only Clinton answered in human and non-technical language in what became known as the “I feel your pain” moment. 

During the same town hall debate, Bush checked his watch. These two moments pretty much sealed the election for Clinton.

Program to your P1s: In politics, they call it “playing to your base.” Whatever your thoughts about Trump, no president has ever focused so intently on their base.

Biden ran on a “Cume” strategy. He was going to unite everybody. During the Democrat primaries, he may not have been most voters’ first choice, but he was everybody’s second choice. During the general, Biden had broader appeal. According to a Morning Consult exit poll, 44% of Biden voters said their vote was more against Trump than for Biden, compared to 22% of Trump voters who said their ballot was primarily against Joe Biden. 

The concepts behind successful radio stations and winning political campaigns are similar. During my four years on Capitol Hill, I used countless lessons learned as a program director. When I returned to radio four years later, the skills I acquired in Washington helped make me a more effective programmer.

With continuing radio “reductions in workforce,” public service provides career options. Because there’s an intersection between radio and politics, the skills are transferable. The work is rewarding, and the experiences are fantastic. 

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