10 Questions with ... Dan Lynch
June 23, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Since 1994, I’ve worked for twenty stations in ten markets, in six states, and three time zones. I’ve been fired three times. One firing spawned some national pub. I’ve held positions as program director, production director, news director and at my current job I take out the trash. I try to be a student of this evolving industry.
1. What got you started in radio, and why did you go into radio in the first place?
I grew up 50 miles west of Chicago, and at age 17, while listening to WLUP AM 1000 (Brandmeier, Mathews, Steve & Garry, etc.), I thought, I wanna do that somehow, some way. My on-air start began at WFXW in the Chicago suburbs, where I talked the PD into letting me host an evening sports talk show. It was bad. I was too immature; I tried to be Steve Dahl and Jay Marvin. I was eventually fired for offending a listener, and I deserved it.
2. You've been a jock, a newsman, and here, you're a talker and news guy. What was your original goal -- did you aspire to be a jock, a talk host, a newsman, all of the above, anything in particular? And what are your ultimate goals in the business?
My original goal was to be a talk radio personality, and I’ve done that. I loved being a disc jockey; that’s how I discovered Sam Cooke, the best pop singer of all time. The best talk hosts I ever heard were jocks: Jay Marvin, Steve Dahl, Stern, and Limbaugh. Now, I want to work as a talk host or talk programmer in a competitive market because I have out-of-the-box ideas that would be far more effective than the current approach most stations are taking.
3. How do you use social media? Is it a show prep resource, a way to engage with readers, a place to perform, all, none?
I use it for getting news leads, and I sometimes engage with listeners in a conversational way. I like to preserve the magic and intrigue of radio by being aloof. Many experts say you have to be a 24/7 social media narcissist: ya gotta churn out videos, blogs and pic-chats nonstop. But familiarity breeds contempt, and social media narcissists get ignored. All humans are afflicted with self-centeredness: be different and resist it. Be aloof. Be mysterious, like Greta Garbo, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Depp and Barry Sanders, and stop annoying people with pointless selfies! The whole “look at me” philosophy makes you and your station look desperate, opportunistic, and insincere.
4. How do you try to stand out from the average talk guy? What makes you different?
I’m not a crusader. I’m a devout comedian. Limbaugh has inspired countless crusading political talk host wannabes, and neo-con talk radio has become a cliché. It leaves listeners in a depressed state. So instead of giving harangues, I have guests on providing free advice for listeners such as veterinarians, lawyers, auto mechanics, and psychiatrists. The result is that I can draw female listeners, NPR fans, leftists, and younger listeners. I talk politics too, but I merely mock and ridicule the neo-fascist Republicans and Democrats who are ruining this country. The politicians are not worth fretting over.
My news approach is bizarre too. The service elements should be delivered with verve. I don’t consider myself a journalist; I’m a performer. It’s okay to read the news with verve, flavor, attitude, and panache. I learned this from watching Jon Stewart and listening to Rich Strong, Warner Wolf, and Chet Coppock. News people are too serious.
5. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the course of talk radio in the coming years? What do you think needs to be done to keep it viable (or is it a lost cause)?
I’m optimistic. But programmers need to drop the right-wing neo-con talk format! It’s overkill. Position your talk station as useful to the listener by airing shows relevant to their life such as NPR’s “Car Talk”, “Handel on the Law,” Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, or Joy Browne, or develop your own local “Dear Abby” type show. These shows draw because they discuss the listener’s life; all the while, your competitor is airing angry, bitter, political talk that scares off advertisers. I guarantee this useful talk position will draw millennials, women, liberals, and NPR listeners.
6. Who have been your mentors, inspirations, and/or influences in the business?
Ken Misch, the PD at WDKB, is a pro. Bruce Enrietto (www.bruceinthemorning.com) is great, too. I call these guys for therapy because they understand the product. They know that this business is about the listener. I like Dan O’Day too. I purchased a Dan O’Day seminar on morning shows, and I applied the techniques and they worked.
7. Of what are you most proud?
In 2007, I walked into a dump called WGEZ in Beloit, Wisconsin, to host the morning show. This abused 50-year-old station had never made so much as a blip in the Rockford Arbitron. When I got there, they had a cluttered morning show with loads of short-form crap. During the week they carried Scott Shannon’s True Oldies channel, and on the weekends, Spanish programming. The manager gave me carte blanche, so I removed the clutter, instituted formatics, wrote parody songs, and rocked the phones. But most important, I played the hits. This rim-shot 1000 watt AM garnered a half share (12+) in the Rockford market within 18 months. After I left, they reverted to college radio-type programming, and it never happened again.
8. What do you do for fun?
Drink home brew with my buddies, play Wiffle Ball with my children, kiss my wife, laugh at the world, and I love a good read, preferably a classic.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ___________.
…making my family laugh and checking my hair in the mirror.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst advice?
Best: John Paul II often said “Be not afraid.”
Worst: When I was young I was told by several people, “Get a job doing what you love.” That’s folly. It’s okay to have a ho-hum job as long as you do it with dignity.