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UPCOMING EVENTS

Radio Doesn’t Have To Tolerate Jerks

As many of you know, I’ve had (and continue to have) a romance with the radio industry.  We’ve been together for nearly three decades now.  Not every moment has been great, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the bitcoin in cyberspace.

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However, the industry continues to have a litany of different issues.

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Both myself and my colleagues at Barrett Media have done a detailed job going over the challenges that our industry continues to face.  There is one major issue that I have yet to see touched.

In my opinion, it’s the biggest one and cuts to the very root of the matter.

Radio has, over the years, enabled some very toxic work environments.  These ugly tropes are not uncommon in many corners of corporate America. 

Dishonesty.

Misogyny

Homophobia.

Disrespect.

Harassment.

Backbiting.

Execs on power trips.

Lack of accountability.

I’ve either experienced or witnessed all the above at one point of another in my career.  If you’re reading this, you likely have as well.

While radio, like many industries, has worked to greatly improve the overall atmosphere of their workplaces, many of the toxic aspects remain.

Why?

It all boils down to one thing: far too many companies have failed to adopt a “no a-hole policy”.

I’ve resisted talking about my current gig with Good Karma Brands as Executive Producer of the ESPN 1000 Chicago White Sox Network for a myriad of reasons. Namely, the obvious potential implication of bias and conflict of interest.  But, since I’ve never considered myself a journalist, what the hell?

I can honestly say unequivocally that my current job is the healthiest environment that I’ve ever worked in.

The biggest reason?   There is a strict “no a-hole policy”.

This prevailing credo is pushed down by the leaders in the company and (unlike many other places I’ve worked) is not mere lip service.

You must have a certain attitude to work here, no matter HOW talented you might be. If you can’t be a good teammate, you won’t be let in the door.

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This was apparent to me VERY early on.

I remember when I got the job.  I was both excited and nervous at the same time.  On one hand, it felt great to be EMPLOYED again, and working in sports.  On the other…well…I was going into what I thought could be a potential hornet’s nest of egos.

Why wouldn’t it be?  Three decades of working in radio had CONDITIONED me to think that way.

ESPN 1000, the flagship station, is full of veteran Chicago Market talent.  David Kaplan, Jonathan Hood, Carmen DeFalco, Jon Jurkovic, Marc Silverman, and Tom Waddle were (to me) larger than life personalities.  Hell, I grew up listening to them.  What kind of a challenge would it be to navigate these egos?  What “special rules” would I have to follow?   My questions were answered within an hour of getting the job.

Once the company-wide e-mail went out announcing my hiring, I got a message from David Kaplan.  He wanted to talk.  This was unusual as I wouldn’t be directly working with Kap (the station’s morning show host), and he and I had only met at a BSM Conference once before.  What was he scheming at?  My mind wandered in all different directions.  

All my pre-conceived notions evaporated once my phone rang.  Kap simply wanted to welcome me to the team.  We spent the next hour on the phone getting to know each other.  I mentioned all the old shows I used to listen to when he was on WGN, the mutual connections we had in the business, and (most importantly) the best steakhouses in the Windy City.

Once I got to walk into the office at State and Lake in the Central Loop, it got even better.

I quickly found that there wasn’t one person in that building, (talent, sales, or marketing) that I don’t enjoy working with.  There wasn’t one person that I would make a point to avoid.  To this day, even through several challenges, that has remained true.

That is a career first for me.  While I’ve enjoyed many of the people that I’ve worked with, there were always a handful that would fill me with dread if I had to even interact with them.

The people I work with are so enjoyable to be around…you WANT to help them win.  

What’s more, my teammates have shown me that you can be talented without being insufferable.  A great example of that is someone I work with on a nightly basis.

Len Kasper had just been named the White Sox Radio play-by-play voice a few weeks prior to me getting the job I now have.  It was quite the coup for the Sox, as Len had spent the previous 16 seasons on the North side of town calling games for the Cubs and was widely regarded as one of the best announcers in MLB.

Shortly after I got the job, I got Len’s cell phone number and shot him a text.  I briefly introduced myself and invited him to contact me at his convenience.  I was excited to talk to talk to him, but I also didn’t want to bother him.  

Within an hour, my phone rang.

We chatted for quite some time, and I was struck how down-to-earth, yet passionate Len was about his craft.  In no time, we dove right in and talked about how we wanted the broadcast to sound.  We covered everything: imaging, sellable features, engineering, etc.      

Even throughout the grind of the season, Len still has that “whatever you need from me” attitude.  There are no “special rules” and no matter what challenges we face; we know we’ll get through it.  The same attitudes are shared by Darrin Jackson (our color analyst) and Connor McKnight (our pre- and post-game show host).  Both are very talented at what they do, and don’t come with any headaches.

This gig has been refreshing and has made me a happier, more productive individual.  Yes, the days and nights get long during the baseball season.  I work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There are no such things as nights, weekends, or holidays off.  My spouse lives 90 miles away and I only get to see him 1-2 times a month.  Despite all of that, it’s the workplace environment and my teammates that keep me going.  I wish everyone could have the same work experience that I’ve been having.  

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All it took was a “no a-holes” policy.  

Ryan Maguire
Ryan Maguire
Ryan Maguire is a columnist for BSM, and a longtime sports and news radio program director. He has managed KIRO-FM in Seattle, WQAM in Miami, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 105.7/1250 The Fan in Milwaukee. Presently, Ryan serves as the Executive Producer of Chicago White Sox baseball on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. Originally from Michigan, Ryan still holds out hope that the Detroit Lions will one day deliver a Super Bowl title. He can be reached on Twitter @RMaguire1701.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I grew up on Chicago burbs, but about 5 years ago I made the switch from 670 the score to ESPN 1000 because the hosts were positive and uplifting. The score became alienating, smug and obsessed with social justice and race issues, with Dan Bernstein leading the way. Sports radio should be fun, not disheartening. Thanks Ryan for this article.

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