10 Questions with ... Jared Morris
June 18, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
2004-2012 WGMD FM 92.7 (Talk Host, 9-12, Operations Director) 2012-present WXDE-FM Delaware 105.9 (afternoon drive) 2008-2012 BBC Sussex contributor
1. How and why did you get into radio in the first place? What drew you to work in radio?
I got into radio because I needed a full time job that was '"creative'"- I broke up with a long time girlfriend and realized that bumming around playing in bands and not making money and living at home wasn't going to help me meet a woman. So I decided to go to college. So I needed a major. Music was my first love, but radio was a close second. I started listening to talk radio at 16 (Art Bell) and it was the only thing that really caught my attention that I thought I could probably make a living at. I had 17 other jobs before radio, and I was miserable at each one of them. What drew me to radio (specifically Art Bell) was that "electric" feeling in the middle of the night. I could sit awake in bed totally alone and feel like I wasn't alone. It was the callers. Hearing real people alive and awake... Man, TV could not compete with that. I was drawn to radio because it was real.
2. As a host, what's different about you? What makes you stand out from the pack of radio talkers?
I'm not doing a show to get anyone elected or force my beliefs on people or to hear myself talk. I really, honestly, do not have any agenda other than "let's get those phones ringing." I used to call my show "Talk Radio for the Rest of Us" because I was at a place that had Rush and THEN an 8 hour conservative talk block. -- I wasn't "talk radio for the rest of us" because I had a different political ideology, it's because I listened to people. I know that type of programming is becoming in vogue a tad, you know "anger is over" --- "not just politics" -- but I was doing that in 2005. Plus, I really believe in being real.. being authentic, as they say. What you're getting with me is the real Jared Morris, for better or worse.
3. You made the move with Dan Gaffney from WGMD to Delaware 105.9 last year-- how did that come about, and how do you feel it's gone so far? Has it been difficult or easy to get your old audience to find you at your new location?
Dan was the PD at WGMD and when he left the station went in to panic mode and started making all kinds of changes. I was offered a job at DE1059 shortly after Dan left and I liked the idea of trying something new in what seemed to be a more stable environment, there was a ton of negativity at the other place and that isn't great for creativity. I've been working with Dan for my entire career and I thought that if I could help him out in his new venture AND if it were good for my career, then I'd be on board..
How is it going? Good. I love the direction of the station and the staff. I mean, truly I'm honored that we have a full deck of phone calls most days, and we haven't even been on the air for a year yet. We have great advertiser support and a great sales staff, and I feel like all the heads are sort of coming together. In the last 2 months I feel like we've really started to bloom and all jive together. It's a challenge building an audience. I feel like I'm doing it (if not from scratch) from close to scratch -- there hasn't been a 'local' talk presence in the afternoons in our market in the last 10 years. There have been local guys doing "national news" shows, baby Rushes and whatnot, but no one doing straight local talk. My last job was from 9-12, and I still hear some of those voices (especially still from 9-12 on our station), But, I feel much more like I'm growing a new show. Again!
Also, much of the publicity, rightly so, has been given to our morning show. There's a guy who's been in the market for 30 years, he's on the billboards, I'm just trying to create my own buzz. I'm still hearing people say "Wow, I'm glad to hear your voice again." or "I just found you!" -- But the call volume has increased a lot since, say, December. So, it seems like the word is getting out. You know, we're going up against a station that has been in the market for the last 30 years but even more than that we're going against iPhones and Droids and a cell phone while driving ban! Those things are the distractions for talk hosts of the modern era, seriously getting through THAT clutter. So, I make sure to play Words with Friends on the 7s. Candy Crush Saga at 6pm.
4. How, if at all, has being a musician influenced how you do radio? Are there similarities between performing music on stage and performing talk radio?
I've never been afraid to embarrass myself. Music taught me that. The similarities aren't in the performing, it's all in the writing. Writing music, Show prep, getting thoughts out... It's all on the same page. I actually think I could learn more about performing and writing music from talk radio than the other way around. I'd like to try and take the concepts that work in talk and adapt them to music. Like getting right to the point... Why not start a song with the chorus, just like in talk. Get to the meat first. You know, all that Holland Cooke "12 Seconds of Greatness" stuff. That stuff works great for talk, why not music as well? The performing is a little different. Playing music is me in my rawest form. Only on really brilliant days am I able to access that part of me on the radio. It's a little more difficult when you're within the constraints of a talk radio topic, when you're playing music you're more free to just be. Although the concerns are the same... are there enough people listening? How do I get people to interact? How do I relate and what does the audience want?
5. How do you approach using social media in conjunction with your show -- is it a show prep tool, a means of engagement with the audience, or something else?
Show prep, yes. I was very heavily into Twitter a few years back, but... I feel like some callers got lazy and only started interacting on social media. Now I use it mainly as show prep, a way to gauge which topics people are talking about. If i post a news article on Facebook and it gets 59 comments, I'll try it on the air. I've noticed more and more people like to use Facebook instead of email, so it's basically my email address as well. But, like today, I saw a guy post a story about a Delaware Casino bailout that didn't break until after I started my show. It became the last two hours of my show, and I never would have even seen it if it weren't for a listeners facebook post. Hosts can rely on it too much and get lazy, but as a balance, it's a great tool to gauge what people are really talking about. If everyone is posting about the local weather and posting storm photos and you're talking Obama and the NSA, you're not really connected to the people.
6. Who have been your mentors and inspirations, in radio and in life?
Well, Dan is the reason I'm working in radio. He gave me my first job (actually internship) and then helped me get in the door at Delmarva Broadcasting. So, for that, I'm very grateful and I feel like we share enough philosophically about what talk radio can be that we work well together. Not to be utterly cliched, but God is a great, if not "inspiration" - at least a reason to keep getting up in the morning. In radio, working (briefly) with Don Geronimo challenged me to be better everyday I'm on the air. I've always loved the way Art Bell let callers talk. Didn't argue with them. Let them hang themselves, so to speak. I like Todd Friel's honesty. New Jersey 101.5, of course and WPHT in the 1990s when you were hearing hyper-local hosts, all day and all night.
In life? I don't know. I'm motivated by trying to be the best at the station everyday. So that's my inspiration and it's difficult because we've got a talented crew. And my wife. My life has changed for the better since my marriage in 2011. She helps me take care of the things that are hard for me (the everyday things, like getting the mail. Also, more haircuts) ,,,and I'd like to thank the academy.
7. Who and what makes you laugh?
My friend Jon Grunes. I read his Facebook everyday and it is ridiculous. He makes me laugh. The funniest thing I've heard in the last couple of weeks was something our midday host SuMo (Susan Monday) said. We were on a bus trip, and I guess it was an export from Canada. She comes out of the bathroom and says "Everything was written in French! I didn't know what to do..." then she gets really serious and says "no... really."
Honesty makes me laugh. I hate irony and cynicism. The modern era is way too cynical. I like honesty. To me, reality is funny. And things you can't tell if they are real. Andy Kaufmann made me laugh and Spike Jones. Things that you think might be real, and then surprise... we were just being stupid.
8. Of what are you most proud?
I liked being on BBC and winning Best of Delaware and speaking at Talkers in New York, but what I'm most proud of is building a local audience in every time slot I've been put in. When I first started I replaced Dr. Laura at WGMD, man, were people mad I wasn't dolling out advice about people's shack-up studs, but I built a strong audience from 9-12 of local callers. I did the same thing when the station wanted to expand their local line-up, I volunteered to man the evening slot and built it from The Savage Nation to a strong local audience and I'm doing the same thing now from 3-7pm.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
...All Access Talk Topics.. stop taking time off. Actually I don't think there's anything I can't do without. Probably my heart medication. But before you ask.. I was born with an irregular rhythm, it's not high blood pressure.. for the last time!
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
People aren't the same everywhere you go. There were a ton of, what Michael Smerconish would call "too old, too white, too male and too angry" listeners where I worked before. A lot of that took my love for what I do away. But, since "making the switch," I'm learning that it doesn't have to be that way. That we really can just listen to each other and not have to always be angry. It's a world of difference, changes the whole way I look at the thing. Makes me think that radio can be fun again. That and support the advertisers that support you. We have such a great group of local businesses that I'm proud to have relationships with.