Monday, February 18, 2008

Cards on the Table

In my time at KWNR, I had been a part of four ownership changes, four different versions of the morning show, and five different Program Directors. Program Directors are the ones that make decisions regarding (duh) the programming aspect of radio. Basically, they're the boss of the jocks. I had never felt uncomfortable with all the changes that had happened in my 12 years with the station until the new pd (henceforth referred to as NB- new boss) came on board.

New bosses make changes, and I had dodged that bullet for years. When NB started, we were told flat out that it wasn't because there was anything wrong with the station, but that NB would make the station even better. Ok, whatever. It's not like they're going to say "NB is going to drag us down into further mediocrity". All is well. Good. Let's move on.

The first meeting with NB and the airstaff produced this most memorable quote- "I'm going to take some of you out of your comfort zone". Hmm? Comfort zone of what, regularly beating our competition? It sounded like a good zone to be in, yet we're going to be moved away from that. I hate needlessly vague warnings like that. It pretty much screamed out that whatever we had done in the past was meaningless now that the new sheriff was in town.

The morning show met with NB twice a week, which was fair. Some shows have to meet with their boss everyday after the show to go over the content and see what worked and what didn't. Imagine if you had to undergo a performance review at the end of your day EVERY DAY. That's what a lot of radio morning shows have to go through. The meetings consisted of us telling NB what we had in the hopper for the next few days, interviews we had coming up, etc. NB would critique the show, what he wanted to hear more of (Natalie), less of (me), and more suggestions for the future. We hated meetings of any kind, but realized that a lot of other shows had it worse that we did.

Typically, all three members of the morning show would meet with NB together, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One day, we received an e-mail that NB was going to "shake things up" a little. Taking us out of our comfort zone, if you will. We were going to meet with NB individually, instead of as a group. Me first, then Mark, then Natalie. I half joked to Mark that the reason I was first was that I was going to get fired, and NB would then share the news with Mark and Natalie. Ok, maybe NB did it by height, tallest to shortest. Still, my initial explanation made plenty of sense and gave Mark a big headache.

Once inside NB's office, there was the requisite small talk, followed by this....NB- "I'm a cards on the table guy.....". My heart started to race. "Oh my God, I was right!", I thought. Turns out that I wasn't fired (that day, at least), but I was told by NB that the senior vice president of the company did not like me, both personally and professionally. "He doesn't think you're morning show material". Ten years of strong ratings go a long way of proving that wrong, but dare I criticize the senior vp? My bigger concern was why he didn't like me as a person, as our infrequent dealings had been nothing but pleasant. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and I never had a bad thing to say about him. I asked NB why senior VP didn't like me. Honest to God, the answer went something like this...

"It was for something you said ten years ago, but he can't remember what it was".

Let that sink in. A very powerful cog in the Clear Channel machine didn't like me.....AND HE COULDN'T REMEMBER WHY!!! Mark wanted me to pick up the phone and call senior VP, but I really didn't think it would accomplish anything. If he can't remember, he can't remember, and my phone call pushing his buttons could only harm my case. NB assured me that he would handle senior VP, and that I should just go about my work and show senior VP that I was a morning show guy. "I'll work with you", he said. Suddenly all my years of accomplishments seemed to be slipping away. My stomach hurt all the time. My sleep was off, which is terrible for someone who has to get up at 3 each morning. I was pretty much miserable at work now, and I don't know if I came off that way on the show. Mark and I started to have more disagreements off the air. Prior to NB's and Natalie's arrival, our total number of fights was zero. Now, it was surprising when we went through a show and didn't have some kind of falling out.

I guess you could say that the one who was chosen to be taken out of his comfort zone was me.

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