10 Questions with ... Joe Votruba
September 29, 2015
1. First, how did you get into radio? Why radio?
I knew I wanted to get into radio from the time I was in elementary school. I would fall asleep every night to Steve Somers and Joe Benigno on WFAN. I thought working in this industry was a farfetched idea, but my English teacher during my senior year of high school told me that I should follow my dream... so I did! Thanks Mrs. Ottone!
2. Your duties encompass more than just producing the afternoon show at New Jersey 101.5, from digital to weekend hosting. What's a typical day like for you at work?
The beauty of working in broadcasting is that every day is different. I don't like the typical 9 to 5. My most consistent hours fall between 2pm and 7pm when we are on the air, much of the focus is on making sure every caller is a perfect 10 as far as being suitable for the air is concerned, as well as monitoring our social media accounts and getting highlights from the show onto the website.
3. As a producer, what, to you, makes a good show? What elements do you look for in a successful show?
Personal stories that you can turn into debatable topics are always a winner, but the callers steer the ship. The job responsibilities of a producer vary from station to station. Some radio stations have a designated call screener and that's all they do. For other stations, it's part of the many responsibilities a producer has. Either way, no caller should be allowed on the air during any daypart unless they are alert, on-topic and ready to engage the host in conversation. A bad call can bring a radio show to a screeching halt.
4. You recently came out on the air; what was the thought process that went into deciding that this was the time and moment to do so? Why did you decide to go public? And although it just happened, how has the public reaction been? Were you worried at all about how the audience would react?
I believe in transparency. I don't want the only thing the audience associates me with to be homosexuality, but I also don't want to withhold that information from them. Moving forward, this gives internal and external issues within the LGBT community an opportunity to be talked about on the largest FM talk station in America. The Supreme Court marriage ruling was a huge win for us, but there is still a long way to go as far as acceptance is concerned within New Jersey and around the country. The public reaction so far has been positive for the most part. I know that I will have people that are against it or don't care, but that's okay.
5. Long-term, what's your career goal? What do you see yourself doing in, say, 10 or 20 years?
My goals change so often. For years my end goal was to host my own sports radio show. Then I went through a phase where I wanted to transition to TV. Working as a jack of all trades at New Jersey 101.5 for the last four years has changed a lot of that. I want to be a voice that people can relate to and want to interact with. I want to help people. I want to make people smile. I want to make people think. Not just about homosexuality or politics or any one subject in particular, just in general.
6. You're on the front lines of talk radio as it grapples with reaching younger audiences. If it's up to you, what does talk radio do to reach Millennials and even younger generations?
We need to meet the younger audience where they are in the digital world. Radio is still an extremely quick and viable source of information for people of all ages, but we live in such a fast paced world now, it's up to us to keep them involved. That means more emphasis on social media. And not just posting links on Facebook and Twitter to blogs and links from your radio station's website. Let the audience connect with you, the personality, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Continue to be yourself. Show them the different aspects of your life that make you stand out and remind them why they wanted to interact with you in the first place.
7. Who are your mentors, inspirations, and heroes in the business?
Every personality from the late 90s-early 2000s on WFAN inspired me in a different way. I am obsessed with the New York sports scene and each and every host on WFAN at that time had such an incredibly unique and entertaining way of communicating with the audience. I have three incredible mentors in this business. Tim Herbster was my first program director and taught me how to remain calm when the you know what hits the fan. He also taught me everything there is about being a successful jock. I gained experience doing Top 40, modern rock and classic rock radio under him and I would not have been able to do it without his guidance. I would not be here today if it wasn't for Matt Ryan at WJLK. He saw something in me when I was a board-op for block programming at one of our AM affiliates. He gave me on air and producing opportunities that ultimately led to me joining the team at New Jersey 101.5. Last but certainly not least is my current brand manager Eric Johnson. I wish I could bottle up his thoughts and sell them on one of the Jersey shore boardwalks. He's such an incredibly unique thinker and knows our audience like no other. He has also believed in me every step of the way. Sometimes I feel bad for him because he's on the frontline whenever I'm in need of advice.
8. What do you do for fun?
Going on spontaneous road trips with my friends. I recently got back from a 6,900 mile trip that took us out to the Grand Canyon and back east through Austin and New Orleans, while seeing games in three MLB ballparks on the way back. One of my bucket list items is to see a game in all 30 stadiums and I'm now at 24! I love watching and playing sports, particularly baseball and football. Big time Yankees, Giants, Rangers and Knicks fan. I'm a music nerd as well. Going to concerts is a big hobby of mine.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ______________.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned thus far in your career?
Never stop looking forward. Just because you hit a ratings or digital goal doesn't mean you pump the brakes. There is always an opportunity to do better. It's also important to never forget that somewhere, someone is listening to you for the first time. Give them a reason to stay.