10 Questions with ... Rob Hart
August 25, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WTMJ, Milwaukee (2000-2005)
WGN, Chicago (2005-2011)
WIQI-FM, Chicago (2011-2012)
WLUP-FM Chicago (2012-2015)
Rivet News Radio/WGN, Chicago (Present)
1. What got you into radio? Why radio, and when did you decide it was what you wanted to do as a career?
There was some great talk radio in Chicago when I was growing up. Steve and Garry, Jonathon Brandmeier, Kevin Matthews, and Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff were still going strong on WLUP. WLS had just flipped to talk with Don Wade and Roma, Catherine Johns, Jay Marvin, and Roe Conn. WGN still had Bob Collins, Spike O'Dell, and Roy Leonard. WBBM and WMAQ were great news stations. Despite that, I went to Marquette University with the goal of being on TV. I spent Christmas break of my Freshman year listening to Roe and Garry on WLS, and I went back to school and immediately changed my focus to radio. It was a great show, and I wanted to do something like that.
2. You've been both a host/commentator and a news anchor -- not to make you choose, but what about each job appeals to you? Do you personally feel a need to have an outlet for your opinion as well as to "just do the news"?
I still love the opportunity to assemble a great story that's loaded with production. The great thing about hosting is being able to lead the conversation about the story of the day. Because I started in news, I'm not a fan of the "scorching hot take." My shows tend to be more of a backyard conversation between friends. Air a bunch of different perspectives and hope the audience learns a thing or two.
3. You were part of the ill-fated Merlin all-news station in Chicago and filed reports for the other markets; do you think, with that experience in mind, that there's room for all-news from the ground up, or is something like Rivet the future of the format?
Rivet is the future of the format for two reasons: It's built for people whose lives revolved around their smartphone or tablet. If a station wants to jump into the all-news format, they could tap into what we've already built at Rivet. Rivet's roster is also packed with veteran broadcasters. All we're missing is a transmitter. Such a station would have a polished staff, an established brand, and a robust online presence on Day One.
4. Speaking of the future, as someone who has a foot on both sides of the divide, traditional radio and new media, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of news and talk radio? What do you think it'll look like in, say, five or ten years?
Extremely optimistic. Locally focused news and talk radio will become more valuable over the next decade. The audio entertainment universe is growing by the day, but the amount of unique local content is relatively small - and getting smaller. News and talk radio can fill a significant need.
5. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
One of the neat things about working at WGN was that it allowed me to get in touch with a number of the radio personalities I listened to when I was growing up. It's still cool as hell to trade emails and tweets with Fred Winston. My mentors and influences are the people I worked with at WTMJ when I was first starting out. I wouldn't be where I am today without Dan Shelley, Mark Reardon, Cheri Preston, Phil Cianciola, John Jagler, Gene Mueller, and Jon Belmont.
6. Do you use social media in conjunction with your work? You don't tweet much, but do you follow Twitter for topics and leads? Facebook? Or not?
I probably spend too much time on social media. Facebook and Twitter pretty much tell you what's on the audience's mind on a given day. Twitter is a great way to keep a show going. By the way, I'm at @RobHart1980.
7. What kind of criticism and review of your on-air work do you find most helpful? Do you like the feedback from aircheck sessions, do you prefer notes, or are you most comfortable with listening back to yourself and judging that way?
Aircheck sessions are the most helpful. I find that listening back to myself is a terrifying experience. I go from being very pleased with my own work to hating my work to eventually reaching some kind of grudging acceptance. Aircheck sessions usually involve the PD telling me I wasn't as bad as I thought I was.
8. Of what are you most proud?
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...coffee and my iPhone. All of the world's knowledge is available in your pocket. How can you live without that?
10. What advice would you give someone looking to break into radio news right now?
Don't panic. What we know as "radio" is actually audio entertainment and it's available in a number of different places. If you are enthusiastic and work hard at improving your craft, there will always be a market for your skills.