10 Questions with ... Michelle Rutkowski
August 23, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I worked at my college station, WONC, at North Central College in Naperville, IL, beginning in 1999. I was a News Director, did a regular airshaft, and I hosted my own specialty show, "Precious Metal," a weekly '80s hair metal show that showcased my weird, shameful, unabashed love for 80's hair metal. I interned at News/Talk WBIG in Aurora, IL in 2001, and followed that up with a promotions internship for Q101 in Chicago in 2002. After that, I convinced Todd "Fook" Fooks at Q101 to let me be his night show intern, where I handled important duties such as dressing up like Jesus & handing out valentines on the El, and also dressing up like a ski bunny and standing outside of a sausage shop. I eventually got hired on at Q101 as a Promotions Assistant after I graduated in 2003. Then, with the encouragement of Phil "Twitch" Grosch, I begged then-PD Mike Stern for an on-air audition, which turned into a part-time on-air shift in 2004. I juggled those two things with a stint answering phones/getting coffee/making oatmeal for the morning show on Q101's sister station WLUP (The Loop) for about 11 months in 2005. In 2006, I excitedly grabbed up the opportunity to only work on-air full time, and so I came here, 90 miles north, to WLUM/Milwaukee.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
In high school, I hurt my knee playing basketball and ended up announcing the games instead of playing in them. I discovered that I liked announcing better. And also accepted the fact that I sucked at basketball. I milked the injury longer so I could announce more games. Around the same time, I had a cousin who was doing overnights at Y1079. On Christmas Eve, my whole family would listen to him and call up and make obnoxious requests and torment him. I realized I wanted to be tormented like that too. So I combined that desire to be tormented with my desire to talk into a microphone and went into Communications at North Central College in IL. Now my dad calls and requests In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida because he thinks it's hilarious. It makes me happy.
2. What stands out the most from your five years at WLUM?
The fact that I am still here.
No, seriously. I have the attention span of a goat. (Do goats have bad attention spans? I think so.) I've never been able to be focused on any one thing for FIVE years. So, to be here and to be happy to be here is pretty neat.
3. What part of your job do you like best? Least?
Best: Laughing until I nearly vomit on a daily basis. (You're responsible for this, Jon Adler)
Least: Not being corporately owned means we don't have access to a company jet. Or a Batmobile. Life would be so much easier if we did.
4. What has been your biggest challenge since adding MD duties?
Trying to explain to people that "MD" does not mean I'm a doctor and then watching the look of disappointment wash over their faces when they realize I'm still in radio.
5. What is most important to you when deciding what new music to pitch for airplay on the station?
Figuring out if it makes any damn sense for us. Over the last few years, we've done a pretty good job of cultivating our own definition of what "Alternative" means, and then staying true to that definition. We tend to lean Indie as opposed to Active, and I think it's awesome that we've been able to prove that a station can have Arcade Fire & My Morning Jacket in power at the same time and still be successful.
6. What recent promotion has caused the most excitement with your listeners?
Mine, to Music Director, obviously. Oh, you meant station-wise? Uh, I think we gave away Captain America movie tickets a couple of weeks ago. People thought that was cool I guess.
7. What do you like best about living in Milwaukee?
Besides being able to gaze upon the glorious face of the Bronze Fonz whenever I damn well please, living in a city nicknamed the "Brew City" obviously has its perks. We are second only to Vegas in number of bars per capita. Yeah, it's the home of Miller, but local breweries like Lakefront Brewery and Sprecher put out some great beer. I didn't know what a New Glarus Spotted Cow was when I got here, now I get sad when I cross the state line and can't get one. People here are fiercely loyal to all things local: beer, coffee, music, etc. We've adopted that "local" pride at FM 102/1 as well, in addition to our born and bred local morning show; you won't find a single syndicated program on our station.
8. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Making an inappropriate joke. Shame on me.
9. What would surprise people most about you?
I know how to Polka. I can also speak French. I usually only do either of these things when the afore-mentioned Spotted Cow is involved.
10. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
"Be nice...until its time to not be nice." Patrick Swayze lived by it in Roadhouse. My boss, Jacent Jackson uses it as a method of dealing with jerk callers. Both of them deliver a devastating roundhouse kick, so I figure I can't go wrong adopting it as my blanket philosophy on radio in general. Being mean in this industry will only hurt you in the end. Conversely, should you encounter mean jerk-types, don't waste your energy trying to convert them into non-mean-jerk-types. Instead, put sardines in their hubcaps.
What are your hobbies?
Tetris Battle on Facebook isn't so much a hobby as a problem I have that probably needs some sort of addiction specialist's assistance to conquer.
Last non-industry job?
Teaching yoga at an all-women's workout facility. It's a miracle no one got hurt.
First record ever purchased?
I was the youngest in my family, so I bought a lot of albums because my sisters told me to so they could steal them from me. On my own accord, my first purchase was Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club.
Motley Crue/Warrant at the Rosemont Horizon in '89. I was 8. My older sister wanted to go, and my Mom thought we should all go see the show as a family, expecting all the songs to be like Warrant's "Heaven." She was a bit surprised.
Favorite band of all-time?
Let's see...what day is it today? Thursday? Ok, I'll say Fiona Apple then. Ask me tomorrow, and it'll probably be different.