10 Questions with ... Steve Donovan
September 16, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I've only worked at one station in my entire career, WXLO (104.5)/Worcester, MA. I was hired in June of 2003, I left in September of 2007, then I returned in October of 2008, and I've been here ever since.
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
I was lucky enough to be a part of the 100 Watt flamethrower, WJPZ (89.1 FM) as a student at Syracuse University. I was offered an audition while I was working as a standup comedian in New York City. I thought... I could make people laugh every day and yet sleep in my own bed every night? I leapt at the chance!
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Boston radio in my youth was like the 1927 Yankees (Matt Siegel, Dale Dorman, Charles Laquidera, Jess Cain, Dave Maynard) these guys seemed to personify Boston and dictate what the city was talking about. I've been shooting to achieve that kind of presence. Today, I lean on the advice of Emily Boldon, "Morning Guy" Tai Irwin, and Michael Rock.
3) What makes the Worcester market unique?
We're a two-book diary market in the shadow of Boston. Every Boston station can be heard here. (One Boston station has billboards on each road entering the city!) Plus, Arbitron (or somebody) has re-configured the markets whereby half of Worcester County is no longer considered part of Worcester, in radio terms. That being said, we have a 50,000 watt signal that has us live in five states. So it can be a challenge to know who to talk to at times.
4) What is it about the Jen & Steve show that you feel really makes it cut through?
Our show benefits from the camaraderie that Jen and I have been able to build by virtue of working together for over 10 years. We're not all that shy about sharing our personal lives. Jen's off on her 3rd maternity leave and the listeners feel like they've been able to share that journey with her.
5) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
Doing more with less, I suppose? Plus, for me the worst feeling is when a show is just commenting on what other people are doing. The best radio is when we actually create content that can't be found anywhere else. Short answer: "relevance." If you can ensure that, you'll never be out of work!
6) What do you like best about working in the Hot AC format compared to other genres?
The moms who listen to our show while driving their kids to school don't want their kids learning anything inappropriate from us. That took some getting used to. But, there is something to the subtlety that you need to joke about potentially offensive topics so that she laughs and it goes completely over her kids' heads. That's been a fun challenge!
7) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
I make an honest effort to shake as many hands as possible during remotes or events, and I answer every email or FB post from listeners.
8) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
Twitter is huge. Scoop.it has also been great. We're lucky enough to be able to subscribe to a couple of prep services. And, even though this probably wasn't what you were looking for, it's been amazing for me to see the overwhelmingly negative effects on our show those days when I've missed breakfast!
9) What type of features do you run on your show?
My favorite feature is one that we started with my (now 73-year-old) dad who is a retired Boston cop. Each week, he reads lyrics to a song and a caller has to identify the song title and artist to win. There is an undeniable beauty to hearing a 73-year-old man, with a thick Boston accent say: "She's got dumps like a truck, truck, truck...Thighs like what, what, what...Baby, move your butt, butt, butt..."
10) What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen in the business?
A repeal of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
What do you do in your spare time?
I perform standup comedy, and act in local commercials.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Center Field for the Red Sox.
What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
Our producer was moonlighting at a local convenience store. One morning, he tells us that they had been robbed again. (There were a string of robberies of this particular chain all summer). For reasons that escape us now, we thought it would be a good idea to say on the air something along these lines: "We certainly wouldn't want to encourage anyone to commit robbery, but if you were already planning on doing it, could you wait until Tim's working? That would make for a great topic for the show." Our GM, and the Corporate HQ of the store, strangely enough, didn't agree?
Tell us what music we would find on your MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
James Brown, Led Zeppelin, old school Hip-Hop and R&B. Since we play none of that on our station, I won't ever get sick of them.
What do you like to read?
Magazines? Sports Illustrated, Time, The Atlantic. Books? Stephen King, Ken Follett, David McCullough, David Halberstam. The Boston Globe.
What advice would you give people new to the business?
Write thank you notes.
What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
If the spouse of your PD doesn't like your show, and is in your demo... you're in big trouble!