10 Questions with ... Jon Marks
November 4, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Host at small station in South Jersey, WNJC, while in college. Started as an intern at WPEN when it first flipped to Sports in 2005 and was on the AM Dial as Sports Talk 950. Hired as Update Anchor and Producer shortly thereafter, few years later a Part Time Host and Producer/Sidekick for Mike Missanelli. Full time host at WPEN-FM, now 97.5 The Fanatic, since 2012.
1. First, back to the beginning and when you got into radio as an intern -- why did you want to go into radio in the first place, and how did you get the job?
I've always had a fascination with media, radio in particular, from a very young age. Talk radio, newsradio, play-by-play, etc. Talk Radio really started to intrigue me when Howard Stern was syndicated to Philly in 1986.
As far as getting the job, i went to college later in my life. When I read that Philadelphia was getting a 2nd Sports Radio station, I applied and they hired me as an intern. I was hired a short time later, and I've continued the climb since.
2. When you got into radio, you worked your way up to update anchor, producer, and eventually host. Was hosting your goal from the start? Did you think of yourself, ultimately, as talent rather than a behind-the-scenes guy, or did you have to work into that mindset?
Hosting was the goal from the start. I wasn't getting into the business to be a producer, talking was always what i wanted to do. I did realize, of course, that becoming a talk host in a major market like Philly wasn't going to happen overnight. So I earned some part time hosting gigs on weekends and overnights and it snowballed from there. I don't think I thought too much about it. I just worked hard and smart and hoped to create some luck along the way.
3. You're a Philly guy (Willow Grove- plenty close enough- and Temple); In a market like Philly with a idiosyncratic sports history and approach, do you find being a local is a benefit or even a necessity? How difficult can you imagine it would be to come into the market from elsewhere without having lived through, say, the Kotite years or knowing exactly WHY fans got frustrated with Andy Reid while the rest of the nation thought he was just a good coach?
While I wish I didn't have to live through the Kotite years, it absolutely benefits me being from here. Having an encyclopedic knowledge of the last 30 years in this city certainly helps. It's tough to study what happens in a city's history, both in sports and newsworthy events. Having lived it gives me a certain credibility that isn't easily earned as an outsider. With that said, talented people from the outside can and have succeeded in Philadelphia. If you can do radio and entertain people, you can succeed anywhere.
4. You do some TV, too -- is that something you want to do more of, or are you more comfortable on the radio?
I love doing TV and hope to continue and expand my role in the future. TV is a very different dynamic though. Naturally more comfortable on the radio, but I'm starting to get there on TV.
5. You've gotten to work with several strong on-air talents -- not to make you choose the best, but what attributes make a good on-air partner? What do you think you bring to the table, and what do you hope your on-air partner will bring?
I worked as Mike Missanelli's Producer from his 1st day at the station. The role quickly grew to an on-air side kick and a big part of the show. I listened to Mike since before i was in high school, so I understood his style and what he did best. It was a different dynamic since i wasn't a co-host per se, but i understood my role and what I needed to do to put on the best show possible. We worked very well together.
The best on air partner knows what they do well and maybe more importantly, what they don't do well. Understanding the dynamic of the show and knowing their role on the show. Being entertaining, informative, and fun doesn't hurt either. I'm at my best when I'm loose and not taking things too seriously.
6. Of what are you most proud?
Professionally, going back to school in my late 20's and following my dream of being on the radio. Being a part of the Mike Missanelli Show, which beat the long time competitor in just a year and became the #1 Afternoon Drive Show, all of that with a terrible AM signal. We performed well enough to move to the FM Dial as 97.5 The Fanatic, Philly's First FM Sports Station, forcing the hand of the competition, who had to move to FM to survive.
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
Oh, wow, this is a great question. I've never had a hero, but both of my parents showed me the value of hard work. They earned everything in life and were given nothingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and they gave me everything they could to make my life better. They also supported me when i went back to college and encouraged me to follow my dream.
As far as influences in the bizÃ¢â‚¬Â¦..as I mentioned before, Howard Stern. The best ever. Steve Fredericks and Mike Missanelli. The Guy Talk Format that CBS and Tom Bigby perfected in the 90's. It is really the foundation of what I believe to be great talk radio. Craig Carton seems to be cut from that cloth, I've been following him since he was in Philly. Tony Bruno and how entertaining he is. Great laugh. Larry King.
Mentors: I'll mention him again, Mike Missanelli. He knows radio and how to get the most out of you. My PD Matt Nahigian has taught me a lot.
8. Crystal ball time: What do you think the radio business will look like in ten years? Will it all be online, will it be the same as now, will sports still be as strong a format as today? Are you optimistic about radioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chances in a more crowded competitive landscape?
10 years ago, my station was playing AM Oldies. It flipped to Sports in October of 2005. Since then, it seems like most major markets have at least two sports radio stations, some have 3 or even 4! In 2009, we went to the FM Dial and two years later our competitor did the same. Today, FM Sports is here in a major way and it's connecting us to new and younger listeners that never would have found us because they never considered flipping to the AM Dial. So with multiple stations in each market, FM Sports, and the addition of National Neworks like NBC, CBS, and the rebranding of Yahoo Sports Radio..I feel great about Sports Radio going forward. However, we also have to stay ahead of the curve and realize that the landscape will change, people's listening habits will change, our listener him or herself will change. I have interns who think "#" is a hashtag, not the number sign!! Ten years ago, we didn't have smart phones, texting was just getting started, and social media was in it's early stages. Today? People's faces are glued to their iPhone. Everyone has ADD. We need to grow our formats to keep up with our society.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without __________.
...my beautiful wife. She makes me smile no matter how my day was. 2nd answer: A Newspaper!! Not online, an actual newspaper that you hold in your hands and fold along the crease. Could be a Philadelphia Daily News or Inquirer. I'll even take a USA Today if there is nothing else.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best advice: "Always work hard, no matter what you are doing. The rest will take care of itself."
Best advice in radio: Get comfortable being uncomfortable. It can bring out the best of you and your show.
Worst advice: "Don't change, you are who you are" Well if you are acting like a jerk or whatever else, do something about it and correct it. Self evaluation is a good thing.
Worst advice in radio: "Taking anything that anyone else says as gospel" I always seek advice, but i take it with a grain of salt. We are all different animals and none of us have all the answers.