2019 National Radio Day is August 20th and I chose on July 24th to make my appearance with Paul Brown on KFNS The Fan 590 St. Louis my salute to an industry that will be 100 years old next year.
1920 is when KDKA radio signed on in Pittsburgh. I got started in the business 54 years after that while in college and continued in it for most of my career before bowing out in 2007. I got a chance to work for some legendary radio stations like KMOX in St. Louis and KMBZ in Kansas City. Even one of my early stops was at a legendary station; WSDR in Sterling, Illinois at the time was regarded as one of the better small market radio stations in the country. It’s revenue was over $1 million a year; a huge sum then in a coverage area of less than 75,000 people, and it’s a huge sum today with increased competition.
Working in radio is why I chose last year to get into podcasting. There still is something romantic about the spoken word creating pictures in minds. But real storytelling existed for decades on radio and is being recreated again in the 21st via podcasting.
The appearance I made with Paul Brown extends a friendship we’ve had for 35 years. He had a solid career as a TV sportscaster in Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky in the 1980’s. When he moved to St. Louis in the early 1990’s, the openings were rare.
Turn the clock ahead to 1993 and the Great Flood on midwest rivers that summer, including the Mississippi River in St. Louis. It was THE story coast-to-coast. Paul was in school and I told him he actually was eligible for an internship at KMOX where I had worked. He thought I was nuts but I told him they (and everyone covering the flood) needed warm bodies to report 24 hours a day.
He called the late John Angelides, KMOX’s news director who jumped at the chance to get Paul in the newsroom. Interns didn’t make on-air appearances but as time went on, the demands made by CBS, who owned KMOX at the, gave the station the opportunity to put Paul on the air. Note that I didn’t write gave Paul the opportunity – union rules were very tight and it took some human resources acts of God and creativity to get someone on air. Paul did get on air, not just on KMOX, but CBS too for their top-of-the-hour newscasts.
I was happy for him. He made the best of it. He was one of the better storytellers on air. In 1997, Paul left KMOX to return to television at a station I once worked at and helped build their newsroom from scratch, KDNL Channel 30, as a news reporter. He did a solid job there for a station which struggled to find an audience, because the audience didn’t find them as measured by Nielsen. Sadly, the station owner had enough and cancelled news in 2001.
I don’t know if Paul has any regrets leaving KMOX radio. But his 4 years there showed a storyteller with talent could reach an audience with impact. I did the opposite thing Paul did. I left TV to get back into radio, at KMBZ in Kansas City and it was a great move for me.
I enjoyed my time on air with Paul. We had fun. That’s the key to anything on-air, radio, television, 2 tins cans and a string. If you’re not having fun doing it, the audience will see and hear it and be turned off.
And you have to have great content. NPR proves that and they are taking a lot of radio listeners away from commercial stations who dominated the field for so long.
I looked to see if there is a National Podcasting Day. Guess what? There is an International Podcast Day celebrated on September 30.
As former Yankee Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Mel Allen would say, “How about that!”
Enjoy my appearance with Paul talking about one thing I did for years on radio, report current events and politics.
And revisit Episode 10, when I had Paul talk on August 9, 2018, the rioting in his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed by a police officer during a detention stop, and put the small St. Louis suburb on the world map forever.
Scott Simon, Simon Says
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.