10 Questions with ... Casey Hendrickson
December 4, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Casey started his radio career as a weekend host on KXNT in Las Vegas, and was made full time after a year of hosting. After several years on KXNT he went to KDOX in Las Vegas before moving to Indiana. He currently hosts Michiana's Morning News on 95.3 MNC (WTRC) in South Bend, IN, and has been temporarily hosting afternoons on 1190 WOWO in Fort Wayne, IN.
1. You got into the business in an unusual way, winning KXNT/Las Vegas' "RadioStar" contest. But what made you want to get into radio in the first place? Why radio?
I had been a KXNT P1 for many years. I had recently started blogging, and had started writing for Men's News Daily when I heard about RadioStar. I asked my family if they thought I could do it, but they all said no. I have major stage fright, and it was MUCH worse back then. My girlfriend at the time was the only one to really say to go for it. Completely out of character for me, I did. I even changed the topic I was going to talk about a minute or two before I auditioned. I guess it worked out. I made that girlfriend my wife.
2. You spent several years on the air in Las Vegas at KXNT and KDOX before making the move to Indiana. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make? What was the most difficult thing about changing homes and markets?
Other than leaving family behind, I would say learning what you can and can't say. Different markets have different cultures, and they aren't always interchangeable. Saying certain things on the show in the Las Vegas market may put off Indiana or Michigan listeners. You have to find that balance of being you, doing the show you want to do, appealing to the audience, and not faking it. If you can do that successfully, you'll be all right.
3. What's your favorite kind of topic for your talk show? What kinds of things, all else being equal, do you like to talk about?
As a News/Talk host, people are probably expecting me to say elections, scandals, or something like that. However, I really love living my life on the air, and interacting with my audience who've probably experienced the same things. Some of the best segments I've had have been talking about becoming a new dad, or how my bank screwed up again.
4. You spent the last several months doubling up by filling in at WOWO in afternoons while doing the morning show in South Bend. How hard or easy was it to do a split shift?
LOL! Man, has this been fun, but also very tiring. I've wanted two shows for a while now, so I was excited about the opportunity, even though it was only temporary. I'm on the air for 7 hours a day, have to prep in-between shows, and we just had our first baby in July. Throw in the radiothons helping the community, remote broadcasts, promos, going with sales to client meetings, and filling in for Jason Lewis a couple of times, and you start to get the picture. Did I mention I have insomnia? Staff at both stations are always asking me how I do it. I tell them it takes lots of water, hot tea, coffee, and Biotene. My throat is a little worse for wear, but I wouldn't trade any of it!
5. What's your process -- how do you prepare for each show? What resources do you use?
I try to be unpredictable, and have fun on the air. Why should someone listen to me if I'm rehashing what the national shows are talking about? If it's really big, obviously I do it, but I try to find an angle left out by other hosts. Of course, sometimes I think the national hosts are wrong. That usually makes for a good time.
I look for breaking big news, local news, and lifestyle topics first. If you do what all the national shows are doing your station might as well save some money and buy syndicated content instead of keeping you around. My first PD always told me to consider why the audience would care about a particular topic before I do it.
I'm kind of known for my show prep, and I have a system set up that is pretty streamlined. I use RSS for roughly 98% of my prep. I currently have 119 sources in my prep pipeline. I don't always check each source daily, but 80-90 of them get a visit from me every 24 hours. There's a few specialty sites I peek at a couple times a week as well. When I find something I want to talk about I hit Google to find more sources for that topic. I also prep throughout each show. You never know if what you find will be better than what you already have.
Every day after each show, I post the links to the articles I used on that day's program on my website. Everyone can see where I got my material, and can do their own research.
For the record, I do not pay or barter with anyone for my show prep. I'm a firm believer in doing the work myself. Perry Michael Simon's Talk Topics is in that pipeline, by the way.
6. How do you use social media in conjunction with your show, if at all? How do Twitter and Facebook enhance your work, or do they?
I've been a big advocate of social media in this business since MySpace was king of the hill. I wanted on that bandwagon early on, but actually met resistance from far-away corporate higher ups. I was actually forbidden from having a social media profile or blog by corporate at one point in time. My PD loved the idea, but the big wigs were worried about liability.
Federated Media is very social media savvy. They say they hired me in part because of my social media usage.
I use Facebook as additional phone lines during the show, and I actually interact with my audience there. Their comments get read aloud just as if they'd called in. It really lets people who prefer contact through social media to be a part of the show. I know a lot of stations and hosts that have Facebook, but they don't actively participate with their listeners. Seriously people, stop that! These are your listeners, and they want to be involved!
I'm working on being better at Twitter and Google+. Everything that happens on my Fan Page automatically goes to my Twitter account so that my audience can pick which platform they prefer.
We also use text messaging as if they were calls. Then, of course, I blog every day.
7. What would you say to someone seeking to get into the radio business today -- would you encourage them or discourage them, and what advice would you give them?
I get this all the time! Long ago, before RadioStar, I asked the same thing from my favorite rock jock. She told me to do a demo and drop it off at stations. I said, "Great! What's a demo, and how do I make one?"
Today, you have podcasting. You can actually practice being a host without risking your reputation. Buy a $100 USB microphone, plug it in, and start talking. Then listen to yourself. It's important to listen to yourself, and be brutally honest. You can not have an ego when self-evaluating. If you do, you'll never get better.
When I got started, I recorded every show on cassette (remember those), and listened to it in my car all week. I found things that were good, and I did them more. I found things that were bad, and I tried to cut them out of the show. I still do this today, but to a lesser extent. My PD is always teasing me about how I act like a show or segment could have been better instead of just being happy with a great segment. However, I know it could have been better, and it's my job to make it better next time.
Listen to you favorite hosts, and pay attention to the segments that you enjoyed. Then pay attention to the segments that you tuned out. Use this as a guide to finding your own unique style, and DO NOT IMITATE ANYONE ELSE!!
I know I'm supposed to tell people to not get into radio, but I really love it! I will say this, though: It's a lot harder than you are thinking.
8. Who have been your mentors and/or inspirations in the radio business?
Jay McFarland (Host-KSL) trained me at KXNT. I use his lessons in story telling all the time.
Jack Landreth (PD-KMBZ) gave me my first shot at KXNT, and taught me all of the basics and loads more. A true mentor.
Rush Limbaugh for teaching me the value of entertaining my audience.
Mark Levin for pushing me to get smarter.
Jon Zimney (current PD) for bringing me to Indiana and taking me under his wing. I've learned more about news from Jon than anyone else. Plus, he's always worried I'm going to leave for another market. That helps the ego.
There's been so many people in this business who've helped shape my career I couldn't possibly address them all. From hosts lending advice, Jason Lewis for giving me my first national exposure, production people who've taken the time to show me how to properly edit, and the bad people who've shown me exactly what not to do.
9. Let's say radio didn't exist or wasn't an option for you. If you hadn't gone into radio, what do you think you'd have been doing today? What would you like to be doing if radio wasn't in the picture?
If I hadn't gone into radio, I'd probably still be in Network Systems Administration if I hadn't reenlisted in the military.
I'd love to get into TV. I've done a little of it. I went into real estate when I lost my last gig, and I think I'd probably go back in some capacity. However, I love cars. I'd love to own a customization shop, and drive race cars professionally.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in the business?
You're never safe. It doesn't matter how good your ratings are, or how much revenue you're pulling in. You can still be let go. It's the nature of the beast.
Also, be yourself (cliche) and be honest. If you are wrong, admit it openly and own it. Don't hide from it. I can't tell you how amazing the reaction is from my audience when I publicly admit a mistake. Of course, those mistakes are few and far between. Other than that, have fun!