A message for Pink

While my heart is heavy for Pink’s family, particularly his wife and son, I am forever grateful that I was able to call him a friend.

I got a bit long winded for my first non-radio broadcast. What was meant to be a short remembrance turned into a rambling mess of admiration. But that’s understandable, given how easy it was to share memories of Pink. Here’s my message for Pink.

shane pink

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My radio sabbatical

Why am I leaving radio? The most honest, detailed answer would require a long explanation best delivered over a few beers. The short answer is it’s just time. I know that’s lazy and doesn’t offer much in the way of explanation. It’s kinda like saying, “it is what it is.” There’s not a whole lot of satisfaction in hearing that as an answer, but it’s the best I’ve got right now. It’s just time.

Let me try to anticipate some of the questions and reactions in response to my radio sabbatical (I’ll address why I’m calling it that in a minute).

First, do not email the GM, call the radio station, or march down there with pitchforks in hand. Well, you can certainly do all of those things, but don’t do them thinking the radio station kicked me to the curb or demand they reinstate me. (Although, I did appreciate many of you doing that last time I left the station.) This time it was my decision. And management even let me stay on the air after they knew I was going to leave.  That was a class move on their part. Or maybe they just didn’t care, but I’m going with class.

Maybe in a future blog or podcast I’ll elaborate on why I’m leaving and why I feel it’s time. But not today.

Speaking of the future, what should you expect from this website? Will you ever hear from me again? Am I going to podcast? I don’t know. I’ve got some ideas bouncing around in my head. What comes of them is going to depend largely on what my free time and schedule look like now that my alarm will not be going off somewhere around 3am. But stay tuned.

I do not know who or what is going to take over the morning show. That’s no longer my domain.

So why a sabbatical? Technically, yes, I’m quitting radio. But I’m still relatively young and who knows what will happen down the road. I remember as a kid hearing that my grandmother, a college professor, had gone on sabbatical. I didn’t really know what it meant at the time, I just got the impression it was like a timeout from your job to go do something else. It’s time for me to go do something else.

Finally, it’s been an honor to be a part of your morning routine for almost five years. I appreciate all the comments, calls, emails, gifts, and support you’ve given over the years. I appreciate you helping with our toy drives and fundraisers. I still have the bumper stickers you made and the baby gifts from when my children were born. My wife can give you dozens of stories about listeners coming up to her and asking how “little Elvis” was doing. It’s all still very surreal that anyone remembers, pays attention, or has ever been moved by anything I’ve said on the air. And I’m grateful for it all.

But during my time on the air in Waco we’ve moved five times, sold a house, bought a house, had two kids, lost a dog, lost a job, got rehired, and, now, quit a job. My wife commuted from Waco to DFW for the better part of three years. While pregnant. Twice.

We moved back to DFW and that’s made the logistics of doing a radio show for Waco somewhat difficult. So it’s time for us to make some things permanent. It’s time for me to go do new things. If you’ve listened to the show you’ve probably heard me tell you about the SAT/ACT tutoring I’ve been doing on the side for the past decade. I’m going to do more of that. You’ve heard me complain about the problems we face as a society in educating our children. I’m going to stop complaining (or at least stop publicly complaining, or maybe just complain a bit less) and try to figure out how to best address these problems and involve myself in the system, if for no other reason than to be a more informed parent and educator.

All that requires time and a new focus on new things.

Thank you again for everything you’ve given me over the past five years. I hope I made your morning drive, time at the office, or morning school routine a little more interesting and though provoking. If so, then I did my job.

Thanks, Waco and Central Texas. It’s been great.

Shane

P.S. You can still follow me on twitter and find me on facebook.

Little Elvis at Lake Waco

Little Elvis at Lake Waco

Lemonade stand 2012

Lemonade stand 2012

Tea Party at Indian Springs park

Tea Party at Indian Springs park

With my favorite people at the HOT fair and rodeo

With my favorite people at the HOT fair and rodeo

Uncle Ted

Uncle Ted

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores

One of the outstanding baby gifts. Nipple hat.

One of the outstanding baby gifts. Nipple hat.

Glenn Beck book signing in Waco.

Glenn Beck book signing in Waco.

State Sen Brian Birdwell

State Sen Brian Birdwell

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A Radio Miracle

Unless something unforseen happens (and that’s always a possibility in this industry), I’ll be back on the air doing mornings on News Talk 1230 starting January 3.  I called it a radio miracle because things like this don’t happen all that often.  And they’re even rarer in this day and age.

This is the age of consolidation, outsourcing and cost-cutting.  And I don’t have a problem with any of those things.  That’s not to say I always agree when they’re done or that I would have done things the same way.  I do think that many decisions made by higher-ups in radio (of many different companies) are resulting in an inferior product.  But there’s more competition than ever and decision-makers have to figure out how to keep their stations and companies relevant, profitable and growing.

But rarely do you get laid off by a company (a big, evil radio corporation like Clear Channel) and then get re-hired by that same company without a stint somewhere else in between.  But that’s exactly what happened to me.

To be clear, I had options to go other places.  The details aren’t important at this point and I’m not trying to act as if I had a chance to make Limbaugh money or that stations were beating down my door.  This is a tough business with limited opportunities.  But there were other things I could have done.  I was also shot down for some openings.  So it goes.

But at the end of the day I was offered my old job back with the big, evil corporation that laid me off in the first place.  So I took it.  There was a part of me that wanted to go somewhere else and do better with another company – a big part.  But I also wanted to finish what I started, so to speak.  And there were people within the company that went to bat on my behalf.  To get a big company to rehire someone they just laid off is no small feat.  For that I’m grateful.

So I don’t know where this really puts me.  I’m not comfortable in my long-term job security (but neither are a lot of people in this business who work for a lot of different companies).  But I also believe there is the potential of a big upside this go-round.  If nothing else it has revitalized me and has made me even more eager and appreciative to be on the air.

But above all else, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you, the listeners.  Be it the calls to complain about my departure or the emails and online posts telling me how much you enjoyed the show, they all mattered.

It now looks as if I’ll be around for an immensely important election year, both locally and nationally.  It also looks like both my children will have been born in Waco – lil’ Elvira is due at the end of March.  For all of that, I thank everyone who helped make this happen.

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Live and Local

Let me begin by saying just because I’m not angry at Clear Channel for the moves they made that led to my departure, it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it or that I enjoy being off the air.  And it surely doesn’t mean I think the station is going to be better off for it.  I still don’t know what the ultimate move there is, but it’s probably not going to be local.

You’ll still get the live part, but the local part is fast becoming a thing of the past in smaller market radio.  Actually, this has been the trend for years.  Radio stations get jocks to voice track a show and just dump in their segments from hundreds of miles away.  It was an easy way for a station to sound local but not have to pay a warm body in the studio.

But talk radio has always been a little bit different.  You can’t fake a local talk show host.  You can have a live, syndicated host, but that’s not the same.   Syndicated hosts like Rush and Savage are great at what they do and I’ll always listen to them.  They are true entertainers and deserve every one of their affiliates and every one of the dollars they make.  But a talk station – a talk station – still needs a local identity, a local presence.

Or does it?

The answer Clear Channel is banking on with its restructuring is no, it doesn’t.  My guess is the company feels it has a great farm league of talent (which it does) that it can plug into these smaller market stations and, after a while, nobody will know the difference or remember that ol’ what’s-his-name who wanted to name his kid Elvis and hammered the local hacks like Buddy Skeen.

It’s a balancing act we’ve walked for years in talk radio – local or national?  Local gives you the benefit of being, well, local.  A national guy gives you a tremendously entertaining talent you can’t get from the local guy.  But what about some kind of hybrid?  Something in between the local and national?  My guess is that’s the route we’re going here.

Plenty of radio folks hate this trend.  Its defenders will say it’s a necessary move that will allow the company to continue to provide quality programming in the new and ever-changing media world in which we live.  I don’t know.  This might be cutting off your nose to spite or face or it might be the move that catapults the company to a new level of success thereby allowing it to grow, expand and hire more people in new areas in the future.

I do know there’s no substitute for a local guy in a studio right down the road from where you work or live.  There’s no substitute for running into your local host at the vet, the gun store or the grocery.  There’s no substitute for someone telling me “you don’t look anything like I thought you would” or “I couldn’t stand you at first.”  There’s no substitute for calling a local number and going on the local airwaves for other locals to hear.

No, there’s no substitute for any of that.  But there might be a replacement.  Let’s face it: those of us in the radio business want to be successful.  We want to be the big national guy or at least be the big fish in a big pond.  But to do that we’d have to displace someone else – a local guy somewhere else.  Or maybe you become so big that you run some other local guy out of town.  So maybe my unemployment is some other guy’s opportunity to make it big.

But it’s not necessarily as simple as that.  The problem so many in the radio business have with this massive restructuring is not only that we weren’t given an explanation about any of the speculations I’ve made above.  It’s also because many of the people who were canned weren’t doing a bad job.  That’s the worst of it – the vast majority of us weren’t stinking up the place.  We had advertisers, listeners and followers.  We weren’t the big guys but we were holding our own.

So at the end of the day the question still remains: is radio in my future.  And the answer to that is still as clear as mud.  Stay tuned.

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A New Way of Doing Things

That’s what you tend to hear from upper-management types on why you’ve been let go (laid off, canned, fired, downsized).  In my case it was a RIF – reduction in force.  That’s just a fancy human resources way of making the layoffs sound a bit more palatable.  The only reason I decided to write this blog post was to answer many of the questions that linger for listeners about why I’m no longer on the air.  I didn’t need it as some cathartic experience and I have no desire to trash my former company (more on that in a minute).  And, as of right now, I don’t even feel the need to talk about anything political or give you my take on the news of the day.

Here is a link to a New York Times piece on what happened with my job and hundreds of others across the country.  I think the reporter did a pretty good job of capturing what I had to say but, as always, there’s more to the story.  Here’s the quick rundown:

  • I did not quit; I was let go as part of a company restructuring plan.  I’d like to think I wasn’t fired.  To me that implies you either screwed up or weren’t getting the job done.  This was bigger than me.  But fired or laid-off in some company reshuffling, the net effect is still the same – I’m out of a radio gig for the time being.  Wednesday, October 26th was my last day and after the morning show that day I was officially done with the station.
  • I’m not bitter.  Really, I’m not.  Radio is not a business for the thin-skinned nor is it the same industry as it was when I got in 12 years ago.  And it’s certainly not the same is it was back in its glory days two and three decades ago.  I know many of my laid-off brethren are pissed, angry, despondent and hate Clear Channel for what they view as an “it’s all about the bottom-line” mentality that’s sucked the life out of radio.  There might be something to that, I’m just not one of those people.  If eliminating my position is what the higher-ups thought was in the best interest of shareholders and the vitality of the company, then so be it.  That doesn’t mean I agree or think my radio station or dozens of others across the country are any better off because of the changes.  News Talk 1230 in Waco now has no local presence on the air.  That’s a shame.  (I’ve got more thoughts on that we might get to in a future post.)
  • Is radio in my future?  I’m not sure. Ask anyone who’s made a living at broadcasting and they’ll all tell you the same thing – it’s like a virus you can’t get rid off.  It’s something that’s in your blood and it’s part of who you are.  Why else would I wake up at 3am, spend hours a day preparing for a show and not make all that much money doing it?  I was one of the people in this country that truly enjoyed their job.  I never liked hearing that alarm at 3am, but I always enjoyed going to work.  There’s nothing like doing a live show – knowing that you’re part of people’s morning routine, knowing that people wake up to hear you.  It’s flattering, humbling and nerve-racking all at the same time.  It’s also a tremendous responsibility.  The big question now is is my passion for radio worth subjecting my growing family to the rigors and uncertainties of making a living in this business.  I don’t know the answer to that question, at least not at this point.

There’s much more on my mind about everything that’s happened over the past couple weeks.  I might address some of it in future posts, but I’m not really sure what I want to make of this blog or if I even want to update it all that often.  For the time being, if you care to you can comment on this post and I’ll try to answer any questions or concerns you have.  And please share this with others who might be wondering just what the heck happened to that guy on the radio.

If nothing else comes of this blog or my radio career let me say this: I truly thank each and every person that tuned in over the years.  It’s been an honor to share the airwaves with you and talk about all the things that make us tick.  One listener said my show was the reason her teenage son began taking an interest in news and politics.  Thanks, kid.  But just remember, it was your Mom who was smart enough to dial in The Shane Warner Morning Show in the first place.  Smart lady.

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