Five years ago this week, I was replaced at my position at Salem Communications' Chicago branch. It was the culmination of 3 1/2 months of sitting on my hands, and the end of 11 quixotic years of pursuing my lifelong dream of a career in the radio industry. I went into greater detail about those final few months in a blog four years ago, and though I'm not necessarily at peace with how things played out, radio is a chapter in my life that is mostly behind me.
Even if that career path didn't totally pan out, part of me couldn't quite give up radio. In April 2011, I landed a job interview for a producer/sound engineer position for a time-brokered* show. The host of the show was a "life guru" and fitness expert who lived in a giant house in a tony Chicago suburb. Her show was on my old station for a short time, so I knew the name and the concept. The first two-thirds of the interview went fine; it was a pleasant conversation with just a handful of the usual bullet-point interview questions. I mentioned I had a blog --this blog-- when she asked for a sample of my writing; I nonchalantly showed her a recent entry and she discovered we different political beliefs. The interview was more or less over.
In hindsight, I dodged two bullets. The guy who helped me land the interview admitted that the life guru was an egomaniac and at times impossible to work with. If something bad happened, he claimed, everyone would take the blame except her. As such, her time-brokered* show has been on and off hiatus several times since our meeting in Hinsdale. By mid-2011 my search for radio work in any capacity was treading water, so I put more energy into finding work that suited my other skills.
Being replaced at the cluster was the second bullet. Since was I dismissed on April 30th, 2010, there have been four different people in my old position. The candidate that my disingenuous business manager preferred lasted 11 months before quitting, and there's been a different person at the front desk every year or two since. As I feared and rightfully assumed, both stations are more concerned with putting out a mediocre, pandering product for a fringe audience rather than compete with top Chicago AM stations like WLS, WGN, and WBBM. Things hit a bizarre nadir when this happened, as brazen and transparent a publicity stunt can get.
Though the tone of this blog post might seem spiteful, I'm happier now than I was in the waning days of my run at Salem. I no longer have to hide the fact that I'm a progressive in an office that was overwhelmingly conservative, and I no longer deal with irate listeners or incompetent management. I still volunteer from time to time at the station where I worked in community college, and for posterity I recorded some new airchecks last year. I still have some misgivings, but overall I'm better off.
*Purchased airtime on a radio station, usually as weekend programming filler, often a thinly veiled informercial.