10 Questions with ... Mark Starling
February 10, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Joined WDBO in October 2013 as anchor for Orlando's Evening News after working in Washington, Rochester, Ithaca, Tampa, Lakeland. Also makes guest appearences on HLN with Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell.
1. What got you into radio? Why radio, and when did you decide it was what you wanted to do as a career?
My truck breaking down got me into radio. I was working for a magazine as a photographer/sales rep in Orlando when my truck decided to break down on me in between photo shoots. I heard an ad on the radio for a broadcasting school while I was waiting for the tow truck. I called a friendâ€™s dad who worked in radio and asked him what he thought of going to broadcasting school with the hopes of eventually ending up in radio.
He told me not to bother and gave me a job one day a week as a board op for Tampa Bay Bucs football gamesâ€¦strangely, that was the year they won the Super Bowl. It wasnâ€™t until they asked me to fill in on the morning show at WLKF for a week while the PD was on vacation that I realized nothing else compared to working in radio.
That Monday morning shortly after the show started was when I realized I had been bitten by the bug. Between the fast pace and the adlib, I was completely hooked!
2. You've worked in news in several markets; What are the unique things about covering news in a market like Orlando? And, as someone who's worked in markets across Central Florida, do you think Florida gets a bad rap or is there really a disproportionate amount of weird news coming out of the state?
Working in a market like Orlando has been one of the best things I could have done for my career. Orlando has a constantly changing news cycle with an intense amount of breaking news all the time. The minute you catch your breath, another major story will break and the entire process starts all over again. It really is an amazing market for news.
I honestly donâ€™t think Florida gets a bad rap; there is so much odd news that comes from the Sunshine State its almost hard for us to believe at times. A lot of that is due to the fact that most people that live in Florida are from somewhere else; thereâ€™s a huge melting pot of people and cultures hereâ€¦ and, of course, a massive number of rednecks. We have a huge â€œHey Yâ€™all, watch thisâ€ factor here.
3. As anchor for the evening news block, what's your philosophy as to what kind of stories get the biggest play? What do you think your listeners are looking for on the drive home, and how do you give that to them?
I wish I could say that it was my philosophy that shaped the evening news block, but I canâ€™t take credit for that. We have an amazing team at News 96.5. Our Program Director, Drew Anderssen, and News Director, Joe Kelley, have really fine tuned our product to give listeners exactly what they are looking for when it comes to content. Our GM, Susan Larkin truly supports the product and allows us to do what we do best.
As far as the evening news team goes, I couldnâ€™t do my job without them. Nick Figueredo, Tony Marino, Monica Rix, Joe Ruble, and Josh Miranda, Tim Melton, and Jackie Oâ€™Brien, Scott Anez are truly the best of the best. We might not always agree but we work it out and get the job done. And without our morning crew, Ken Tyndall, Marsha Taylor, Samantha Jordan, Darrell Moody, Laurel Lee, Kirk Healy, Ed Torrence, they are all such a huge part of the content and direction for the rest of our day. Without them thereâ€™s no evening team. They start our programming day.
News 96.5 is truly a team effort. We donâ€™t report news, we break news. Thatâ€™s what sets us apart from the others. We concentrate on what we know our listeners are looking for, hyper local stories that affect them and the national stories that are top of mind. When thereâ€™s good reason to go in-depth on a story, we do it. Super-serve the listener is the name of the game.
In Central Florida thereâ€™s a big emphasis on local economy, government waste and the threat of terrorism. We also cover a lot of severe weather in the summers and most importantly weâ€™ve been given the tools we need to do our job and do it well every time.
4. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
Hands down, my hero has always been my father. Iâ€™ve never met anyone that can come close to being the man that he is.
My influences arenâ€™t really radio people to be honest. Viktor Frankyl, author, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, the late Peter Jennings, and the late Tim Russert. All three have amazing personal journeys that can be a wealth of information and guidance.
My mentor would certainly be my first PD, Bob Crewsâ€¦strangely enough just a few years after he hired my he retired and then came back to work a few months later and I was the PD. Weâ€™ve always stayed in touch and heâ€™s always been a great sounding board for whatever conflict I might have found myself in. I know he will always shoot straight with me, even if it's not what I want to hear.
5. Describe your work day- what's the process? What resources do you use and how much time and effort go into each day's show?
My work day starts around 5am when I get up, I generally turn on News 96.5 and listen to the morning show to find out what the early news track of the day looks like.
Then itâ€™s on to reading and skimming through 5 or 6 newspapers online to get a grasp on whatâ€™s happening on the national scene and the viral stories of the day.
Once I get to work at 10 am, the first part of my day is spent reporting, I can be in the newsroom or out on the street doing a live shot for the News at Noon.
2:00 rolls around, and I am getting my newscast prepared for PM drive. Iâ€™m on the air anchoring top of the hour and bottom of the casts until 6 and then Orlandoâ€™s Evening news airs from 6 to 7.
Again, it is a total team effort.
The planning for each day's show really does start with the morning news cycle and continues all the way through the day right up to the last second before we go to air with Orlandoâ€™s Evening News.
Our team meets to figure out what our lead story will be and we figure out how the cast will be stacked and then executes the plan. If a story breaks during the newscast we refocus our efforts on getting as much information as we can and get it on the air.
6. Do you use social media in conjunction with your work? How do you use Twitter and Facebook, if at all, as part of your work?
Social media is a major part of our product; we use Facebook and Twitter to help cycle our information and to set appointments for listening.
Sending out a tweet about a story thatâ€™s coming up during a newscast is a great way to not only increase listening but to increase listening across multiple platforms.
In this day and age, a station that isnâ€™t using social media is probably not going to make a very big impression.
7. What do you do for fun?
Outside of work, itâ€™s all about music for me. Whether I am playing with the band Iâ€™m in or just picking on my guitar on my back porch itâ€™s all about the music.
I also try to spend an inordinate amount of time at the dog parks with my 2 dogs. Music therapy and pet therapy are the only way to survive in the news world.
8. Of what are you most proud?
Iâ€™m most proud of the fact that I proved a lot of people wrong by doing what I love. So many people tried to tell me radio wasnâ€™t worth pursuing and it was never something that I should even think about trying to do. I may not have made a million dollars but Iâ€™ve always done what I love to doâ€¦RADIO!
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...listening to the song â€œthe Weightâ€ from the Band.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
I think the best advice I have ever been given came from my father: â€Donâ€™t let the bastards grind you downâ€. This one is still a work in progress for me.
The worst advice I think Iâ€™ve ever been given: â€Radio is something you should just do as a side gig, get a real job like normal people.â€