10 Questions with ... Ben Sarro
June 9, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
1. What got you started in radio, and why did you go into radio in the first place?
I was given the opportunity three years ago to host a daily morning, community affairs and political happenings show that focuses primarily on local and state issues.
As cliche as it sounds, I've always loved radio especially the news-talk format. Growing up, my friends were listening to rock and pop radio and I was listening to Bob Grant, Bruce Williams and Barry Farber. The opinions and voices of regular people really caught my interest.
2. Describe your show and your style -- what makes you unique as a talk show host? How do you bring the experience you gained from working outside radio to your present job?
The show is guest driven, with as many as 8 guests per show. Understanding that attention spans are short these days and that the average listener is going to station-hop, we want the listener to be offered up diverse guests and topics. We cover everything from the local political scene, to the first-in-the-nation primary, to state issues, to the little old lady that got an award from the Rotary Club. Everything must come around to having a connection to something happening in the Upper Valley of NH/VT.
I'm interested in hearing what drives people and their motivations; therefore, I find I'm not an argumentative person. I have my views, but think it's really important for the listener to hear a guest without a host that argues and speaks over them. That worked years ago, but the audience is shifting from seeking opinion to seeking information. I try to inform the audience rather than mold their ideology. I would also add that I go out of my way to be "real" on air, meaning I live my life on air, much to my wife's chagrin... No issue is barred, and the key listener response is they feel they know me on a personal level...
I was in sales and management. Sales experience makes it easy for me to hear people out and try to help them find solutions also sales is a job that requires research, and those experiences have immeasurably helped me get a well-rounded understanding of many topics.
Management experience has helped me to manage time, but also to realize that the listener and advertisers, the ultimate bosses, are needed more by me than I’m needed by them. This is an important note to remember, as sometimes, talk hosts can get buried in ideology and politics rather than entertainment and promotion.
3. What, in your opinion, makes a good guest for talk radio? What criteria do you use in deciding who to put on the air or who to try to get as a guest?
Clearly, a guest has to have something of importance to the audience, and whatever the guest is saying, promoting or doing should affect listeners directly and be someone we can bring in from our backyard. Ultimately, the person should have influence or live in the listening area; we can't afford to have guests that can be heard on every national and internet show. Those two venues aren't going to talk about small market issues that people deal with every day; that's where local radio's future is.
I ask myself one overly simple question when pitched: “Who cares?" If I can't come up with at least 2 demographic answers for that question, I quell it.
Guests who are just a little off and guests who can leave their sensitivities at the door also make good radio. I think the guest who is calculated and guarded is a difficult guest.
4. You've interviewed practically every candidate for office in New Hampshire. Has the idea of running for something yourself crossed your mind? Would you consider that?
Every day, I think about running for office, and I have been approached by political movers to do so, then I remember that politicians don't control the board, so to speak, or the podium at the statehouse, debate, town hall, etc. There's great power and control in what we do, and that keeps me behind the mic.
5. New Hampshire and Vermont raise certain images to those from outside -- laconic locals, mountains and snow, "Live Free or Die," college towns, Bernie Sanders and "Newhart." What would surprise people unfamiliar with the Upper Valley?
It's not as laconic or as closed as rumor has it. I find the people here to be very charitable and friendly. When I moved to the area 7 years ago I was told that acceptance was a multi-generational endeavor and that people were not open to "those from away". Being a native of Delaware, I'm the ultimate "Flat-lander,” and I have made friends easily here. It never ceases to amaze me how the locals get together to help those in need at the drop of the hat. It's a very community-aware area.
6. Who have been your mentors, inspirations, and/or influences in the business?
My current boss Bob Vinikoor gave me and many others with no experience a shot and I greatly admire and appreciate that. I was "discovered,” if I may be so bold to use that strong of a term, by David Bernstein, who is most notable as a former PD for WOR. He continues to be a great source of mentorship and honest evaluation. When I need a cheerleader or radio advice, I can turn to him.
7. Of what are you most proud?
As far as radio goes, it's the fact that I do 3 hours of talk and news alone. I have no screeners, producer, engineer, intern or even a gofer. I have a person who submits local news stories and helps to book about 5-10% of the guests; otherwise, this is truly a one man show. When I started, I didn't know what key to hit on the board to turn the mic on. I'm proud that I can walk in every day alone and perform a show with as many guests, variety, and production values as I do.
Personally, I'm proud and appreciative of my wife, who never hedged or has ever said anything negative about my entering this business, which can be difficult on personal time and lives.
8. What do you do for fun?
I'm an outdoorsman and love fishing and hunting. I'm a big fan of the arts and my wife and I are active RV-ers, having traveled to 47 of the lower 48; somehow, we went all around Nebraska!
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ________.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best- Be yourself and always answer a question honestly, don't ever hedge no matter how embarrassing or insidious, listeners will appreciate honesty and candor even if they disagree with your answer.
Worst- Don't sweat the small stuff...