10 Questions with ... Jag
May 12, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WVTK (92.1 Kiss FM)/Burlington, VT - Middays/Mornings/Production - 2004-2006
- WXXX (95 Triple X)/Burlington, VT Nights/Production/Imaging - 2006-2011
- WKQI (Channel 955)/Detroit, MI - Nights/Middays - 2011-2012
- KVDU (Voodoo 104)/New Orleans, LA - PD/Afternoons - March 2013 to Present
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
I got to Syracuse University wanting to be a sportscaster (like most kids that go to "Cuse"), but when I became involved with the student run WJPZ (Z89), I fell in love with music radio! Of my college friends, I met 75% through the station, many of whom I'm still close with.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
There are too many to list! Jeff Wade gave me my first paid gig, Dave Ryerson gave me my first full time gig, and Ben Hamilton at WXXX is an incredible developer of talent, and he prepped me to jump from market 137 to market 11.
In Detroit, I learned a TON from Michael McCoy, Nick Craig, Joe Rosati, and Mojo. Here in New Orleans, I feel that I learn something from Don Gosselin every day. I really feel like he and my GM Dick Lewis have my back. Also, my friend and PR guru Matt Friedman is a former radio and TV guy who's always an excellent sounding board.
3) What makes your market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
It's probably easier to answer "what DOESN'T make it unique?" It's New Orleans! The music, the food, and the entertainment are second to none! There's ALWAYS something to do! Saints fans are the most crazed fan base I've ever encountered, and New Orleans itself has its own vibe and culture that just can't be put into words.
4) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
The lack of up and coming talent. My old college station, WJPZ, is one of the few remaining "training grounds" in radio. The staffs are smaller, and everyone has to wear more hats which cuts into the time they can spend developing new talent.
5) What do you like best about working in the Hot/AC formats compared to other genres?
Up until now, I've spent my whole career in Top 40. But at age 33, I feel I can relate to the demo a little bit better now. I can play Semisonic's "Closing Time" and say "I remember this was huge, my senior year of high school," and that actually means something.
6) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
We have a couple of prep services, but you can't rely on those exclusively. Every day, I try to watch the local morning news, check the web sites of all four local TV stations, both newspapers, and honestly, Facebook and Twitter. I'm just as likely to find something interesting from a friend in my news feed as I am from a jock or one of our sister stations.
7) What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen in the business?
I'd like to see more of an emphasis on local content. As we face more competition than ever before in our history (iPods, satellite, streaming services), it will be our personalities that set local radio apart. We need to offer our listeners something that other audio sources can't. That means always being compelling, adding local flavor, or both whenever possible.
8) Please describe the best promotion you've ever been part of? Also, what was the worst promotion you've ever been part of?
Best: In Detroit, we did "Show Us Your 1D Channel 955 Spirit" for One Direction tickets. We had teens all over Metro Detroit paint their car with One Direction related stuff and OUR logo. There were moving billboards everywhere (and a few irate parents when some kids used paint that wasn't safe for cars.)
Worst: At one of my first stations, we gave away a brand new Toyota Scion. The problem was, we brought it to about 75 remotes over 6 months to qualify people for the giveaway. The promotion dragged out, and eventually we gave away a "new" car, with 3,000 miles on it.
9) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Learn, try, and do EVERYTHING. I missed opportunities earlier in my career because I didn't learn Selector in college. Conversely, my broadcast journalism degree and news experience led me to a temporary morning show gig on a News/Talk station when I was on the beach in Vermont. That gig got me a foot in the door, and I was able to take over nights on the Top 40 down the hall when it opened up. Also, network! Network! Network! The more people in the business that know who you are the better.
10) What is the one truth that has held constant in your career?
DON'T BURN BRIDGES! This business is way too small, and everyone knows everyone by about two degrees of separation. When Tony Travatto had to lay me off in Detroit, I told him that I understood it was part of the business and there were no hard feelings. Two months later, Don Gosselin called Tony to ask about me before bringing me to New Orleans. I'm glad I didn't burn that bridge. And truthfully, to this day, Tony is a PD that I can often reach out to for advice.
Who is your best friend in the business?
Josh Wolff with Clear Channel in Salisbury-Ocean City, Maryland. Josh was a year behind me at Syracuse, but he's had a large hand in me building my resume. I'm convinced he knows everyone in the entire business. He's the person I can all to discuss the radio minutia of my day. Much more importantly, he's one of my best friends in real life.
Also, Matt DelSignore, another of my closest friends, who was my PD at Z89, and is now doing big things in the radio news world as the DC Bureau Chief at all news WNEW in DC.
I'm also happy to say that I've kept in touch with people I've air-checked as they came up, like Michelle Lewis at FM 100 in Memphis, and Ralphie Aversa at WPLJ in New York.
How often does your airstaff front and back-sell songs?
We use imaging to frontsell new music, either a liner, or a produced custom intro. The jocks back-sell. While I don't discount the importance of forward momentum, nothing's more frustrating for a listener than hearing an unfamiliar song, then NOT be told what it's called.
Who is the most amazing talent you've worked with?
I can't give ya' just one! Jamie Scavatto at WXXX might be the best writer I've ever met. Mojo in the Morning's entire staff in Detroit is an incredibly well oiled machine, and Joe Rosati has done some of the best imaging I've ever heard. My current promotions director here in New Orleans, Jeanne LaCombe, kicks ass and takes names every day! She's been an invaluable asset in terms of station promotions and teaching me all about New Orleans. She's basically my APD, and a Jill of all trades.
What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
As a 23 year old board-op at a News Talk station, the last two hours of my Saturday shift involved babysitting the satellite while waiting for Accuweather to call with the forecast. Desperate to land an on-air gig in the music world, I went to work on my demo in a production studio, unaware the station was off the air.
Do you have any good stalker stories? Misty requests? "Fatal Attractions?"
When in Vermont, a listener hand-knit me two pillows and a blanket made of New England Patriots logoed fabric. It was left outside the station on my birthday. I still have them. They're very comfortable. And Go Pats!
How did you get your on-air name?
My Mom told me she gave me the middle name of "Alexander" because she thought I'd be destined for "Great Things." Then I got into radio. :)