10 Questions with ... David "Renk" Renkiewicz
October 30, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Out of college, I started in the banking industry in Boston, Massachusetts, a great town for a young person. This work led me to a company that sold bond accounting systems to the banking industry, which afforded me the opportunity to travel all over the United States for the next 8 years. After marrying, I needed a job that required less travel; I accepted an offer to help a friend run his business in the pharmaceutical industry, dealing with FDA compliance. Several years later we decided to move the family from the Philadelphia area back to Michigan to be closer to my family. We landed in Battle Creek, Michigan. At that point, I decided to pursue my life long dream of Talk Radio. This pursuit led me to our local talk radio station, WBCK in Battle Creek. And here we are today.
1. You're one of the rare cases of a talk radio caller who became a host. How did that transition occur? Was it always in the plan for you to try to be a host yourself?
When my family and I moved to Battle Creek, I decided to pursue something that had been a dream of mine for quite some time, being a radio talk show host. I started listening to WBCK and regularly calling into their local call in show.
I sent an email to the Human Resources department of the radio station asking if there were any job openings at the station. I received the normal boiler plate response. How silly for me to think you could actually get a job through Human Resources.
I then sent an email to the Program Director, Mr. Tim Collins, in April 2006. I explained to him that I have come to a position in my life that I could and wanted to pursue my dream. I asked him how I could contribute to the station and try to get into radio. Could I possibly become a call screener or researcher or just some way to get involved? To my surprise he responded. He told me that I should do three things. One, continue to call in to the local show. Two, try to get a show on the public access TV station, and three send him a recording of me discussing an issue of the day.
Well, I did take him up on his first suggestion and I started to be a regular caller of the show. One day in July 2006, after I spoke for a complete segment on a national issue, I emailed the Program Director and told him that was me and please consider that as the recording of myself speaking about an issue.
I did not hear from the PD until the day after Thanksgiving. He had sent me an email asking if I would like to come in the following week and co-host a show with him. The regular host's wife just had twins and he was taking the week off. The PD was going to be the fill in host for that week. Of course, I said yes and on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 I went on air for the first time. The PD thought I did well and asked me to comeback and co-host with him on Thursday. I did and that went so well he asked me to return on Friday. After getting the taste of being on air, it confirmed to me this was a career that I definitely wanted to pursue.
After that I tried to think of ways that I could get back on air any way I could and I came up with a segment called "Renk's Rants". My brothers and I, during our years of playing sports, were always called "Renk" by our coaches as opposed to Renkiewicz, it was much easier. I thought it would be easier for listeners as well as a great marketing strategy to go by the name Renk. In "Renk's Rants", I chose a topic and wrote a 2 to 4 minute piece speaking specifically to that topic. I presented it to the Program Director, he liked it and on air I went. I believe I ended up with a dozen or so rants. After doing that I asked my PD if he would give me a show on the weekends. He eventually said yes, and that is when the "Live with Renk" radio show was born.
My weekend show was a great start, when it was not pre-empted by a Tiger game. It was also very valuable experience in which I earned the confidence of the programming staff at WBCK, and in a very short time, I became the fill in host for WBCK's local morning talk show called "Hotline."
At the beginning of August 2007, I was approached by my PD and asked if I would take over the Hotline show for 3 months as the current host was running for city commissioner. Before I answered, I asked him one question. "If I do well, will you give me a fair shot at taking over the show permanently?" He replied yes and on Monday, August 21, 2006, I took over day to day hosting of the "Hotline" radio show and never looked back.
Apparently I did well enough and at the end of my second month my PD offered me the opportunity to permanently take over the show. Of course, I accepted the offer, and eventually put my own brand on the "Live with Renk Radio Show."
2. You do a mix of national and local topics, but there's a lot of local in there. How important do you think it is to do Michigan topics on Michigan stations? Do you sense less, greater, or the same interest among your listeners in the local/regional topics as opposed to, say, the presidential election?
As a non-syndicated regional radio talk show host, I have to look at the market and determine what news my listeners want to hear, what they need to hear, and what can distinguish my show from the other syndicated talk shows.
In the case of the "Live with Renk Radio Show" I try to find a balance between local, state-wide, and national issues. Nationally syndicated shows are great resources for listeners with respect to the "big picture", but they are obviously not able to address in any detail individual state and local issues, nor are they able to relate the impact of national issues to individual states or localities. Whenever I get a chance to speak to a Michigan issue that I believe is important, I do. I also take every opportunity that I can to discuss the state-wide and local implications of national issues of the day. During the Bush and Obama Administrations, I have had quite a few opportunities to bring a unique perspective to national issues such as the Auto Bailout, stimulus, unemployment, and union/labor relations that are extremely relevant to Michiganders.
When I get an opportunity to meet my listeners on the street or at events, many tell me that they love how I can cover state as well as national and geo-political issues. They tell me they also listen to syndicated national talk shows but they do not hear Michigan issues on them. They love to have the ability to hear what is going on in Michigan, my take on those issues, and the ability to express their thoughts or opinions on those state wide topics.
I did, and still believe that my listeners not only want to hear and talk about state and regional issues, but also national and geo-political. I was correct in this belief. My listeners often comment on how they enjoy hearing about state, national and geo-political issues as well as the opportunity to call in and voice their own opinions on those issues. Listeners do not have to wait for hours to get on, as they often do with the national shows.
3. As you develop your show, what would you point to as the main things that are different about you, as opposed to other hosts? What makes you unique?
I believe it is the passion I have for my show, the issues, and my listeners. I have the fundamental need to get the honest, unbiased facts out to my listeners no matter where it leads. I have my opinion, but I separate my opinion from the facts. I do not want my opinion to lead me to the facts; I want the facts to lead me to my opinion.
I really want to lead my listeners to draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts I present to them. I do not want to tell them how to think but give them all the information I can so they come to their own conclusions. To that point, I was very proud when one of my listeners called in and said that I make him think of things in a way he never would have come up with himself. I give perspectives maybe from a story or analogy they would not have come up with on their own. I make it easier for them to understand the issue and help them in the formation of their opinions.
I come into an issue willing to listen to the opposing opinion. I also have an open mind to reconsider my own opinions, if someone presents new information to me or a perspective on an issue I had not thought of.
I do not have a problem admitting to my listeners that I may have either accidently given them incorrect information or that I have changed my mind on a certain topic. I remember a listener calling in to tell me I was the first radio talk show host she ever heard that would admit on-air when he was wrong. She said in doing so, it made her believe that I was truly trying to convey the correct information to her and the other listeners.
I will listen to every listener's thoughts, even if they are different then mine, as long as they are presented in a calm, factual way. If their opinion is not based on facts, I can accept that as long as they acknowledge that they do not know, fully understand or believe the facts are not important on that particular issue.
I originally had a co-host for the first couple of years of my show. I called him up and asked him what he thought made me different from other hosts. The following is some of what he had to say: "You do not sound like your typical cookie cutter right out of radio talk show university radio talk show host. Listeners can tell that what you are saying actually is coming from you and you have no prescribed agenda that is coming from someone else. You speak like a regular person and they can relate to you and you are very passionate about what you speak of."
4. About what are you most passionate these days?
I am most passionate about the fact that our mainstream media (MSM) has totally abdicated their role and responsibility as neutral arbitrators when delivering the news. They are now an agenda driven, ideological machine that chooses what facts to report and what not to report. It seems to me that the media either do not respect the intelligence of people as consumers of news, or are so ideologically driven that they have allowed themselves to become nothing more than propaganda outlets for their agenda.
Starting during the Reagan Administration, they stopped holding both sides of the political aisle to the same level of accountability and have ceased being the guardian for the American people. As many have said before, the reason the First Amendment exists without any checks or balances on the media is due to the fact that they are supposed to protect the people.
I have always told my listeners that I do not want the MSM to treat politicians on the right as easy and trusting as they do politicians on the left. I want the MSM to treat both sides of the political aisle the same, be skeptical of all of them. The MSM no longer meet this obligation to the people.
5. How do you prep for your show? What's your procedure? What are your go-to sources for material? And are you using social media -- Facebook and Twitter -- as part of that?
When it comes to my sources I believe all radio talk show hosts swim in the same pool for regional and national issues but it is the process I have developed in which I can cross check sources I trust, with a couple that usually have a different take. I look at many sources to determine what I believe needs to be discussed. My sources range from the internet, papers, magazines, television news, close friends who are politically knowledgeable and listening to my listeners to determine what is important to them.
When it comes to state issues I not only look at all the large state papers, internet sites and news sources but I have also cultivated some relationships in media, business, academia, and government that help me with back stories and information that are not part of the stories in the large papers and media outlets. These sources give me valuable insight which gives me a better understanding of what is going on and what is at stake.
When I zero in on an issue, I research as much as possible about it. I try to find out all the facts, weed out the clutter and look at all sides of that issue. Once I develop an opinion on an issue, I play the devil's advocate and try to take the opposing point of view to find holes in my own arguments.
I always find it very validating when I hear the nationally syndicated talk show hosts that follow my show choose the same national and global topics that I do. It tells me that I have everything they and their staffs have, plus the local and regional insights that they do not.
I am currently looking for ways to better incorporate Twitter and Facebook with my show to reach out to a younger generation.
6. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
Honestly, as I grow older I have come to the conclusion that my father is a hero of mine, however clichÃ© that may sound. He was a hard working man who devoted his entire life to his family. My father was a man who worked two jobs, his regular career working for GM Truck and Coach by day, and then he managed a bookstore at night. He did all this to provide a home for my mother, his mother in-law (God bless him), and four boys who are two years apart. Wait, now that I think about it, maybe having four boys all two years apart at home and a mother in-law is the reason why he had two jobs and was gone from early morning to late at night five days a week.
My influences are from everyone around me that I respect. I have always thought that you can learn something from everyone, from all stations in life.
7. In a similar vein, what other radio shows are you listening to, if any, these days? Do you listen to a lot, or do you try not to listen to what others are doing?
I am a big fan of talk radio and always will be. I periodically listen to Geraldo when I am at my station to hear what the host and people on the left spectrum of politics have to say. I listen to Rush Limbaugh on occasion because I believe he can articulate an issue and advocate for a position with both information and humor better than anyone else today. I try to learn from Rush how I may be able to improve my skills of articulating an issue.
I do not listen to a tremendous number of other radio talk show hosts for fear of slipping into group think, something I try my best to avoid.
8. Of what are you most proud?
I am a big family man and I am extremely proud of my wife and children. When it comes to my career, I am definitely most proud of the vision I had about the type of show I wanted to create, then mapping out a strategy to implement that vision and actually seeing it come to fruition.
For example, I am very much into music, all types of music. I believe music can relax someone so they can open up their minds, be able to listen to and possibly accept new ideas. Music can also be a powerful tool to deliver a message or illustrate a point. I had never heard this approach in any of the local or syndicated radio talk shows I listened to so I decided before my show started that I would attempt to spend the time needed to choose bumper songs that contain a message about the topic at hand. I find songs with lyrics that contain the message that I want to convey and I take the time to cut those songs up to best deliver that message in my bumper songs.
My listeners quite often tell me I have the best bumper music in the business and they love trying to figure out what my next bumper song will be. From a business stand point that means they will listen through the commercial break to see what I am going to play.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without __________.
…news. Hi, I am Renk. I am a news junkie.
I am and have always been a person who has a voracious appetite for the news. I need to know what is happening in the world and I usually have an opinion on it. Wonder why I wanted to be a radio talk show host and political pundit.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
The best advice I was given was "perception means more than you think." You think how you say something is perceived exactly how you intended it to be. However, the receiver's perception can often be different from, or even completely opposite of what you meant. Without careful thought and sensitivity to the receiver's perception, your message may become ineffective and possibly detrimental.
The worst, "don't be an open book." My philosophy is everyone has most of the same personal issues you or others have. If you are open and honest about all issues, people will be attracted to you and open to hear what you have to say.