10 Questions with ... LaDona Harvey
January 15, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
KMGN/Flagstaff; KOOL-FM/Phoenix; Shadow Broadcast Services; KSDO/San Diego; KOGO/San Diego.
1. First, how did you get into radio in the first place? What drew you to going into radio?
When I was 5 and living in El Paso, Texas, I used to listen to X-Rock 80, and I was fascinated by the voices coming out of my dad's high-end Pioneer stereo... so I grabbed a screwdriver, and took it apart. While it was plugged in. When my dad saw what I was doing, he yelled at me and asked what I thought I was doing... to which I replied, "I'm looking for the little men inside!" He figured out pretty quickly that I was NOT going to grow up to be a civil engineer. And, yeah, I am still nuts.
2. You started as a music station jock and ended up in news, then as a talk host, which is a goal many jocks have. How did you make the transition from DJ to talker?
It was a loooooong transition. When I got out of music and went into news, I actually started listening to talk radio, which I had not really done before. I immediately realized that it was the hardest job in radio (outside of being the boss of me), and took skill WAY beyond what you learn reading liners and introducing "Baby Love" for the trillionth time. I listened to Stacy Taylor, Roger Hedgecock, George Chamberlain, and Rush Limbaugh, and found the format intriguing in that no one cares if you make someone angry. In fact, it's just the opposite. I have spent my whole life mouthing off, and decided that getting paid for it was a heckuva lot more fun that apologizing for it.
3. It's interesting that you were able to transition from authoritative news anchor to someone who is not at all shy to express her opinion. When you were anchoring, were you always desirous of being able to "be yourself" -- be opinionated on the air -- or was that something that you had to have coaxed out of you? In your mind, were you destined to be a host more than an anchor?
I think that most people in radio are hoping to be let out of their cage, as it were. I am so opinionated that I had to sit back and make sure I wasn't sounding as snide through the speakers as I did in my head. Getting behind the mic as a talk show host was not an easy transition, since I had trained myself to give the aural equivalent of the blank stare... so that took some time. I still occasionally catch myself being far more diplomatic than I should, but I am breaking that nasty little habit.
4. As a midday host, you do a range of topics that cover things that drive-time hosts tend not to cover -- for example, while you do political topics, you also do lifestyle and family stuff as well. Is that by design for the time period or is it more representative of what interests you? What DOES interest you, among the kinds of things you talk about on the air?
My favorite topics are local. Luckily, I believe ALL topics are local, you just have to find it. My audience is primarily made up of the men I went to high school with. I was the mouthy, jokey girl... Peppermint Patty, essentially. But prettier, I might add. So this is the guy I palled around with in the 80's. He may be older, but he hasn't changed that much. At our heart, all of us want to know about the things that directly affect US: taxes, schools and wasteful government. Plus cars, music, movies, health issues, and stories that let us laugh at the ridiculosity of ourselves and, even better, other people, usually named Lohan or Kardashian. As it happens, these are all things that interest me too, so I like to peel back the onion and look for the story behind the story. Also, I often broadcast in the nude, just to keep the listener intrigued.
5. How are you using social media in conjunction with your show? Is it a prep source, is it a listener engagement tool, is it entertainment, all of the above, none, some?
Social media is HUGE! I troll Twitter and Facebook for stories and videos I think will go viral. During the show we tweet about upcoming topics that our followers will be interested in. YouTube, FailBlog, Icanhazcheezburger, Fark.... there are so many places to go for content that can be used to bring people to 600 AM. Thank God. We post upcoming segments on Facebook and Twitter as well, and try to make them creative enough that their inclination is to go ahead and turn on the radio... or fire up their iHeart.
6. How DO you do your show prep? What do you use, and what's your process?
Boy, show prep starts the minute I wake up, and ends when I go to bed. I've burned through two iPhones and am now using my iPad in a way that Apple stockholders appreciate, all in the name of prep. I flip through KOGO and several other major market stations in the morning to see what's breaking before the show. And while I try not to steal other people's stuff, I start looking for new angles on those stories as I hear them. I troll Twitter and Facebook for trending topics, and I listen: at the store, at the gas station, or wherever I might be. I eavesdrop shamelessly in public places. It's quite lucrative, in terms of content.
7. Who are your mentors and/or influences, in radio and in life?
I would have to say I got my storytelling style from Paul Harvey. No relation, by the way, or I would be bumming around a Fijian beach with his money. KOGO morning man Chip Franklin probably has more to do with my having a talk show than anyone else. He really pushed me to pursue talk rather than news, but that may have been because he wanted me out of what little hair he has left. He also encouraged my PD, Cliff Albert, to give me a shot. Roger Hedgecock was great to work with, and taught me that government lies. He did it with more patience than I can gin up. I nurse the same sort of outrage at wasteful, decietful government as John and Ken, up at KFI, and think they are about the best team in talk today. Phil Hendrie has been incredibly kind to me, and gave me some fantastic advice when I was given mid-days at KOGO. He may be the SINGLE most talented person in radio today. And without Andrew Ashwood, I would be back in Flagstaff, Arizona waiting tables. I miss him. And of course (shameless pandering, here), Cliff Albert. He trusted me. He may regret it, but he gave me my show, and without him, I would be a millstone around Chip's neck.
8. What do you do for fun?
I am about the worst surfer in the world, and I surf badly, as often as possible. I like body boarding, hiking up at Torrey Pines State Beach. My friend Chrissa Chase and I are trying to put together a movie on the natural wine movement, which we both think is going to be a HUGE deal in the next decade. I am thinking about starting to golf, just so I can drive Chip insane. I am deathly afraid of heights, so I bungee jump about once a year. One of these days, I will just be a body hanging off the end of the rubber bands, having finally succumbed to a heart attack. I read voraciously... and everything I can get my hands on. I really don't want to see how much money I blew on Amazon last year, though my accountant may be able to help me write it off.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______.
...tilting at windmills. Hey, I am in talk radio; It's not like I have anything better to do.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Don't be afraid to reach out to people you admire for help. And for God's sake, be kind to the people coming up behind you. You were there once too.